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Brief Review: Harman Kardon CL

MSRP: $199.99
Current Price: $90 from amazon.com

Frequency Response: 16-20,000 Hz | Impedance: 32 Ω | Sensitivity: 119 dB SPL/1mW
Form factor: on-ear | Space-Saving Mechanism: Flat-folding
Cord: detachable (2.5mm connector), 4.6ft (1.4m) length, straight, 3.5mm I-plug termination, with mic + 3-button iOS remote
Accessories: Padded carrying case; 2 headbands in different sizes; 2.5mm-3.5mm cable w/mic + 3-button iOS remote 

Build Quality (9/10): The construction of the Harman Kardon CL is impressive – over-engineered, even. At first glance it’s a simple floating-headband design with flat-folding earcups. Rotate the earcups a full 180 degrees, however, and they disengage from the headband and simply pop out. The stretchy suspended headband pops out, too, allowing the metal part of the headband to be replaced. Two sizes are included in the box – a small and a large. It’s a very good concept and quite well executed. It doesn’t hurt that most of the parts are metal – the outer band, the frames of the earcups, and even the hinges. The cable is detachable, though it uses a 2.5mm connector instead of the more common 3.5mm. The pads are magnetically attached, as with a couple of the Bowers & Wilkins sets I’ve reviewed previously.

Comfort (8/10): The cups pivot about the vertical axis. Together with the two headband sizes, this makes it possible for the CL to be comfortable for several hours at a time – more so than the average portable headphone. There is one caveat, however – for some reason they are not very tolerant of glasses and create pressure points that other on-ear portables do not

Isolation (6.5/10): About average for an on-ear headphone

Sound (7.75/10): The Harman Kardon CL produces a warm sound with impressive bass performance. The low end is very well-extended and moderately enhanced – the CL is far from a basshead headphone, but there’s plenty of low-end punch in general listening. Bass control is excellent and the midrange is pleasantly warm without sounding veiled

little dry

little bit of treble liveliness, can sound tizzy on some tracks compared to a reference set – same type of tizz as HD25 but less of it

One of the strengths is the end-to-end extension

Good sense of space for a warm-sounding headphone

The sound of the Logitech Ultimate Ears 4000 is colored and “fun”. The low end is punchy and enjoyable, but overall the headphones are a little mid-bassy and bloated. It’s probably the right sound for an inexpensive, youth-oriented headphone that will be used primarily for pop, EDM, and hip-hop, but it is lacking in the way of bass quality. As a result, clarity in the midrange is at best average (okay, maybe firmly average at the new $20-30 price point).  A lot of the time the mids sound noticeably muffled, especially when compared to higher-end sets (uncluding UE’s higher-end UE6000 model. Overall, the UE4000 is far from the most resolving and detailed headphone but does well enough for the price and purpose. The top end is likewise not the smoothest, but it ends up being the least bothersome component for me. The presentation is alright for a small closed-back headphone but there would certainly be less congestion if the lows were tighter.

Value (8.5/10): Like a lot of headphones, the Harman Kardon CL has dropped in price by more than 50% since its 2012 release. The first time I heard these was at a Best Buy retail store. With a sticker price of $200 or thereabouts, they left me unimpressed. Now that we’re seeing them under $100, however, it’s a very different story.

The good: very cool interchangeable headbands; solid construction with lots of metal parts; detachable cable; pretty comfortable for a small on-ear headphone; good sound at <$100
The bad: 2.5mm connector on detachable cable; fit somehow doesn’t play well with glasses

Note: this brief review was based on just a few days’ worth of listening impressions of a headphone that otherwise wouldn’t have been included at all.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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