Challenger Singapore asked me if I am keen to review the new Harman Kardon Aura Studio 2, retailing at S$399. They are so nice to let me keep it, and such generosity does not come by very often.
Challenger is a retail brand that every techie in Singapore is familiar with and would have made at least one purchase from the store in their lifetime. As the retail scene changes over the decades, Challenger continues to reinvent itself to stay competitive. Not only are they faced with the new online retailers like Lazada, they also need to compete against other retail brands that are similarly increasing their brand presence to win the consumer dollar.
The Aura Studio 2 sounds as good as it looks. It appears imposing and visually appealing with the transparent plastic round dome and swirling lights that can be turned off. The design is based on the signature Harman Kardon SoundSticks, with the 112mm subwoofer firing downwards against the surface, and the upward-facing radiator pushes the sound pressure upwards. Six 40mm high/midrange speakers are positioned at the lower section to produce limited stereo outcome. The speaker connects to the audio source by either Bluetooth or 3.5mm audio cable. Power supplied to the speaker over a chunky DC adapter.
The treble is clear, though barely piecing through the thick bass. The sub-bass resonance depends on where you are positioned in the room. In most cases, except for a few sweet spots, it does not quite achieve that massive reverberation effect you would expect from a sub-woofer centric speaker. Like most 2.1 setup, the woofer easily overpowers the musical tones of bass instruments.
When listening to tracks mixed with wide-stereo sound, the effect is lost on the single Aura Studio unit. But it is possible to set up 2 units to play in left-right channels. The overall audio balance on the Aura Studio 2 is towards midrange and lower bass, which works great when you turn up the volume. The higher frequencies sing comfortably without sounding too harsh, while the lower bass fills up nicely. The tricky part is the mid bass which blossoms only within a specific band. Tracks whose bass pumps within this band will get the booms, and anything outside could lose the energy. Most of the chart-topping tracks of the year played well, with big bass and bright highs because of the modern way of mixing. Traditional Classical tracks sound less precise, while lighter pops, Jazz, and instrumentals get me the absolute thumbs up. Even at high volumes, the transducers hold up well without cracking.
The speaker supports voice calls, with a dedicated button to answer incoming phone calls.
Difference with Aura and Aura Studio
The Aura Studio 2 is the latest of the Harman Kardon Aura series. The difference with the first Aura Studio is the addition of ambient lighting. Compared to the Aura (no “Studio”), the Aura is larger and supports Wi-Fi for direct audio streaming from music sites. It also has an optical audio input to connect to the source.
What’s Not Likeable?
I’m quite happy with the sound and the imposing design. The minor quibble would be the touch-sensitive buttons located at over the middle strip. These buttons are faintly marked and would not be noticeable in the dark. Because they are touch-sensitive, I might accidentally trigger them while trying to find the right buttons to activate.
I would also hope that the ambient lighting patterns can pulsate according to the music. If it seems too cheesy, perhaps it could be an optional lighting mode that can be toggled.
Finally, due to the picky nature of the speakers, there is a lack of consistency in the audio produced compared to other speakers. Modern tracks sound really good with the right level of booms and shines, while others using organic instruments felt lacking in clarity.
The Aura Studio 2 is built to please the listeners of today’s pop hits. For the rest of us who looks for audiophile mix, the speaker exudes pleasingly warm classy sound that easily fills up the large rooms effortlessly. It may not be my top choice when judged by audio quality, but at least it sounds better than Beosound 1 and at a fraction of the price. Putting away my critique hat aside, the speaker is a lovely piece of audio furniture for the modern homes.
The lovely thing about owning the Aura Studio 2 compared to other speakers is that it is so attractive-looking that you would be more than happy to place it in the room prominently. The speaker is a great companion over quiet evenings, where the exaggerated sub-bass adds musical dimensions at moderate volumes.
Thanks to Challenger Singapore for the opportunity to enjoy the speaker at lengths. It is now permanently seated at my bedside table. It is not common for a retail brand to sponsor brand products for review, because the review talks more on the product than the retailer.
Discounts at Hachi.Tech and Lazada
I encourage doing your shopping at Hachi.Tech, a lifestyle shopping website by Challenger. Currently, Hachi is selling Aura Studio 2 at S$299 for ValueClub members. Finally, the speaker is quite bulky, so buy at Hachi.Tech to enjoy $0 standard delivery. Go check it out!
But if you are not a ValueClub member, you can also enjoy the same discounted price of S$299 over at Lazada (affiliate link).