With its Scandi good looks and powerful sound the Citation 200 certainly makes an impression, but its unpredictable bass performance can spoil some songs.
- Powerful sound
- Appealing design
- Surprisingly hardy
- Easy setup
- Unpredictable bass performance
- Quite pricey
- Smart skillsGoogle Assistant is onboard for voice control
- Water-resistantIPX4 rating guards against splashes of water
- Carry handleBuilt-in handle makes it easy to move around
Harman Kardon’s Citation range includes everything from a bedside DAB radio to a pair of £2200 floorstanding speakers, but perhaps one of the most appealing products is the Citation 200 – a semi-portable smart speaker that’s got the Sonos Move in its sights.
Like Sonos’s offering the Citation 200 is small enough to be moved around the house and hardy enough to venture out into the garden, but with a price tag that’ll leave you with an extra £100 leftover in your wallet. That makes it an appealing proposition to those who aren’t already onboard the Sonos train, but is it a worthy alternative?
- Classy fabric coat
- Handle for easy carrying
- IPX4 water resistance
With its leather handle the Citation 200 looks a bit like a bucket that’s missing its spade, although the brushed metal top will stop you from filling it up with sand. Up there you’ll find buttons for adjusting the volume, activating Bluetooth, turning the power on and off, and a multi-function button that controls playback if you press it, or activates Google Assistant if you hold it for more than two seconds. There’s also a set of five little lights to show how much battery is left, plus the two microphones.
The Citation 200 is swathed in a wool fabric that Harman Kardon reckons is dirt repellent, flame retardant and easy to clean, but it has that premium feeling that means you’re unlikely to want to treat it too badly anyway. In fact, it almost looks too nice to take outside, but it is IPX4-rated, which means it can cope if the heavens open unexpectedly or it gets splashed from the paddling pool. Just don’t expect it to come out unscatched if you drop it right in.
At 2.85 kg and measuring about the same size as your average kettle, it’s portable in the sense that you can pick it up and move it around the house or take it into the garden, rather than something you’d want to pack in a suitcase for a weekend away. That’s reinforced by the fact that it has a proprietary charging puck that fits into a recess on the bottom – you don’t need to line anything up, just plonk the speaker on top. You can also charge it using a USB-C cable if you have a powerful enough plug; it requires 5V/2.1A, so the one that came with your phone might not be beefy enough.
The Citation 200 comes in two colours: an inoffensive grey with a beige handle (pictured) or all black. It feels like it’s been designed to slot in with pretty much any home decor rather than make any kind of statement, but there’s a lot to be said for that approach. It’s certainly not an unpleasant object to look at.
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth onboard
- Voice control through Google Assistant
With both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth onboard, the Citation 200 has you covered for connectivity whether you’re inside or out.
While there’s no dedicated app, setup using the Google Home app is an absolute breeze and because it has support for Apple’s AirPlay and Google’s Chromecast you can control it directly from your music app of choice – handy if Google Assistant is refusing to play the exact version of the song you want.
It takes about 25 seconds to connect to Wi-Fi after you turn it on but after that it’s quick to respond to voice commands, with lights hidden beneath the fabric coating indicating that it’s listening. You can tweak the sensitivity within the Home app but considering there’s barely a beat between requesting a song and it starting to emanate from the speaker, that shouldn’t be necessary.
As with any battery-powered smart speaker, it must be turned on manually when you want to use it, so it’ll never fit into your life quite as seamlessly as a mains-powered, always-on alternative such as an Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod. That means that, while it’s capable of controlling smart home devices, it’s perhaps not the ideal tool for the job. It does support Google’s Voice Match tech, though, so results such as calendar entries and reminders are tailored specifically to you.
If you’d rather switch off the Citation 200’s mics completely, there’s a button on the back to mute them. It’s quite tucked away, so not ideal if you want to quickly cover its ears while you reveal where the bodies are buried, but that’s what the handle’s for, right?
In terms of battery life, Harman Kardon says the Citation 200 should last up to eight hours depending on how you use it and that proved to be fairly accurate. There’s no auto shutdown so you’ll have to remember to turn it off if you don’t want a prematurely flat battery, but that does also mean you can leave it switched on all the time if it’s sitting on the charger. That might not be ideal from an environmental point of view but does solve the aforementioned always-on issue and means you can use it as an everyday smart speaker.
- Big, bold sound
- Bass can be overpowering
Inside the 50-watt Citation 200 is a 25mm tweeter and a 120mm woofer. Combined with its solid build and relatively hefty dimensions that gives it a fair amount of power, much of which it seems to use for the bass.
Without even pushing the volume very high Disclosure’s Who Knew?, The Pharcyde’s Runnin’ and Colossus by Quicksand sound overly boomy, with the low-end overwhelming the rest of the range a tad. It only gets worse at high volumes, which the Citation 200 is more than capable of, but chances are you’ll need to steer clear of them to avoid bothering the neighbours.
That’s not to say it’s always an issue. There are plenty of tunes where the bass behaves itself, adding real punch to the bottom end without overwhelming, and others that definitely sound better because of it. Scruffizer’s Bender would lack bounce without it, it gives real depth to Justin Vernon’s heavily treated voice on Bon Iver’s 715 – CRΣΣKS, and means the sub-bass that kicks in towards the end of Everything Everything’s Warm Healer has real impact.
Presumably this bass-heavy approach is to improve outdoor performance, and it does help give it presence in the open air, but for something that looks like an indoor speaker first and an outdoor one second it’s hard not to feel like it’s been tuned for the wrong environment. There is an EQ that allows you to adjust the bass and treble by pressing a combination of the buttons on top, but because the bass response is unpredictable rather than being a persistent issue you can find yourself having to tweak it too often, so it doesn’t totally solve the problem. A Sonos-style auto-adjustment system should be on Harman’s to-do list for the Citation 200’s successor.
Should you buy it?
If you only need something semi-portable While it might be too big to take on holiday, the Citation 200 is the perfect size for moving from room to room, with enough power to fill the bigger ones. It’s good for the garden, too.
If you don’t like too much bass The Citation 200 goes big on bass and it can sometimes be a bit too much. If low-end rumbles aren’t your thing, you might be better looking elsewhere.
If you’re looking for something to sing along to in the shower you could do a lot worse than the Harman Kardon Citation 200. Its IPX4 rating means you don’t have to worry about it getting a bit damp and the voice control means you can change songs without needing your phone – the ideal combo.
It’s happy in any room of the house, though, or even outside in the garden. The bass performance can sometimes be a bit overenthusiastic, meaning it won’t suit everybody’s tastes, but it’s still an accomplished speaker with handy smart skills.
How we test
We test every wireless speaker we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Used as the main indoor speaker for the review period
Tested for more than a week
Tested with streaming services
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You can only get Google Assistant with this model.