Harman Kardon Citation Bar Review

Does this high-end soundbar deliver a performance that justifies its hefty price tag?

Verdict

This well-made and stylish soundbar isn’t cheap but it looks great, sounds excellent, and is genuinely smart thanks to the inclusion of Google Assistant. There are plenty of other features, too, but the lack of a separate subwoofer means the bass loses some of its impact

Pros

  • Great sound quality
  • Stylish design
  • Excellent build quality
  • Multiroom capabilities

Cons

  • No object-based audio
  • Bass could be deeper
  • Expensive

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £899
  • 3ch audio
  • Google Assistant
  • Chromecast
  • Dimensions: 115 x 6.4 x 11.5cm
  • Weight: 4.1kg
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 4 x HDMI, 1 x optical, 1 x analogue, 1 x Ethernet

The Harman Kardon Citation Bar is a three-channel soundbar designed to deliver a combination of sophisticated design and state-of-the-art performance. It forms part of the company’s Citation range of products, and includes Chromecast and Google Assistant

The Citation Bar has three HDMI inputs, a full remote control for those who prefer to be more hands-on, and a full-colour LCD touchscreen. This soundbar comes as a single unit, although an optional subwoofer and wireless rear speakers are available.

Harman Kardon has included a solid set of features, then, but the lack of a subwoofer or object-based audio support make this soundbar an expensive proposition – so it had better sound good.

Related: Best soundbar deals

Harman Kardon Citation Bar design − A premium soundbar that looks the part

The Harman Kardon Citation Bar certainly looks like a premium soundbar, with metal end plates and a blended wool fabric that covers the front, top and rear. The latter comes in a choice of grey or black and is both dirt-repellant and fire-retardant, resulting in an elegant appearance that will blend seamlessly into a modern living space.

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

The Citation Bar boasts some lovely design touches, such as a full-colour LCD touchscreen that allows you to select features, choose outputs and control playback. It’s responsive and informative, and even displays album art when available. However, the screen is located on the top of soundbar, which makes it hard to see when you’re sat down.

There are two physical buttons just beneath the display for adjusting the volume, although these are difficult to see on the black version. There are also four LEDs at the front, indicating the status of Google Assistant: white and slow-flashing means Google is listening; white and fast means it’s responding; a constant amber means the microphone is muted.

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

The included remote is sensibly laid out and styled in either black or grey to match the soundbar itself. There are input buttons at the top, a central volume control, additional keys for mute, microphone on/off, sound modes, and Google Assistant. At the bottom are playback controls, surround and night modes, and buttons for adjusting the bass and audio sync.

Related: Best soundbars

Harman Kardon Citation Bar features − Arrives well-stocked in terms of connections, but no room for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X

The Harman Kardon Citation Bar is well specified and sports a solid set of features. The three-channel layout uses a 20mm tweeter and two 100 x 50mm racetrack woofers for each speaker, with 150W of amplification powering all nine drivers. As a result, the soundbar not only delivers excellent stereo separation, but also clear dialogue thanks to a dedicated centre speaker.

The headline feature is the inclusion of Google Assistant, making this soundbar is a fully functioning smart speaker. Not only does this provide hands-free control using your voice, you also get all the benefits of a smart assistant. As a result, you can ask the Citation Bar questions, play music, organise your day, control your smart home, enjoy your entertainment and more.

Related: Google Assistant Guide – Features, entertainment, smart home and more

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

The Citation Bar can handle both Dolby and DTS multichannel audio, but doesn’t support object-based audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. If you want to run a basic 5.1-channel system, you’ll need to add the optional Citation Sub (£699) and Citation Surround (£399). At a total cost of just under £200, this is a lot for a system that doesn’t even support immersive audio.

The soundbar works with Google Home for easier setup, and can stream music via a connected Bluetooth device or your local Wi-Fi network using Chromecast. The Citation Bar will enter sleep mode after 20 minutes without operation, but as long as the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections remain constantly active, it can be instantly turned on to play music at the drop of a hat.

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

All of the physical connections are located in three recesses at the rear. The first has an Ethernet port for a wired connection, and the second recess has a connector for the included IR repeater, an optical digital input, a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and two HDMI 2.0 inputs. The third recess has another HDMI 2.0 input, and an HDMI 2.0 output with support for ARC (Audio Return Channel).

It’s refreshing to see a soundbar with a decent number of HDMI inputs, and all the HDMI ports support 4K/60p, High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), and HDCP 2.2. However, it should be pointed out that the Citation Bar doesn’t support eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel).

Related: What is HDR?

Harman Kardon Citation Bar performance − A soundbar that delivers an accomplished sound

The Harman Kardon Citation Bar is easy to set up: just download the Google Home app for iOS or Android and follow the instructions. After that connect any physical sources, pair any Bluetooth devices, and finally connect to your TV via HDMI-ARC using the provided high-speed cable.

When connected over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you can activate Google Assistant by speaking directly to the soundbar using the normal wake-up commands. However, if you’re connected via aux, optical or HDMI, Google Assistant will be muted, so just press the dedicated button on the remote to activate it.

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

For Chromecast just run a suitably enabled app on your smart device, press the Chromecast icon, select Citation Bar, and then press play. You can also create groups with Google Home and use Chromecast to play music on different speakers in multiple rooms.

You can adjust the brightness of the LCD panel, and once connected to your Wi-Fi network the Citation Bar will automatically update the firmware when a new version becomes available. You can also restore factory settings, and check system information such as the current firmware version.

This soundbar doesn’t just look stylish, it sounds classy with an accomplished sonic performance. That shouldn’t come as a surprise because Harman Kardon knows how to put together a superior and great-sounding product.

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

The Citation Bar’s audiophile credentials are established immediately with three distinct speakers, all driven by 150W of amplification. This results in excellent stereo separation, with a wide front soundstage and some precise imaging. Harman Kardon’s years of acoustic experience come to the fore with a remarkably musical performance for a soundbar. This is good news, because this soundbar is designed to be part of a multiroom system, and music streaming is a core part of its feature set.

However, the ace up its sleeve is the dedicated centre speaker. This means the Citation Bar is also excellent for watching TV shows and movies. The musicality and width at the front remains present and correct – but, crucially, dialogue is clear and focused on the screen.

As a result, news broadcasters, narrators and sports commentators all come across clearly. When it comes to more complex mixes such as TV dramas and movies, the Citation Bar is able to deliver the music and effects across the front of the room while ensuring dialogue retains clarity.

Harman Kardon Citation Bar

There are six sound modes: Standard (uses original sound), News (emphasises dialogue), Music (optimises two-channel), Movies (enhances all three channels), Night (reduces volume with Dolby audio), and Virtual Surround (creates surround effect with standalone soundbar).

The News mode can be useful if you want to make dialogue clearer (perhaps for those who are hard of hearing), and the Night mode is handy for watching your favourite movie without waking the rest of the house. However, in general the Standard mode usually proves the best choice.

In terms of weaknesses, the Citation Bar is obviously unable to deliver any genuine surround presence, despite the Virtual Surround mode. In addition, the lack of object-based audio support is also surprising in a soundbar at this price point. The absence of a separate subwoofer means that the bass is limited, and while this is less of an issue with music and TV shows, it’s more apparent with movies.

There’s a degree of low-end presence, but if you put on a bass-heavy modern blockbuster then that ultrasonic presence just won’t be there.

Should I buy the Harman Kardon Citation Bar?

The Harman Kardon Citation Bar is a well-made soundbar that isn’t only smart to look at but also smart to use thanks to the inclusion of Google Assistant. This high-end model boasts an eye-catching touch display, three HDMI inputs, an effective remote and built-in Chromecast. It also delivers the goods sonically, with a three-channel speaker layout and plenty of grunt.

However, it lacks a separate subwoofer so the bass is limited, and while it can decode Dolby and DTS, there’s no immersive audio support. There’s the option to add a subwoofer and wireless rear speakers, but this just adds to the cost of what is already a pricey soundbar. Overall, the Citation Bar is a class act, but it might struggle against better-specified competition.

A good example is the Polk Command Bar, which might not be quite as impressive acoustically but it does have superior bass thanks to a separate subwoofer. It also has Amazon Alexa built in and costs only £199. The Sonos Beam is more expensive at £399 and doesn’t include a sub, but it sounds great with movies and is superb for streaming music.

As a full Citation 5.1-channel system would set you back nearly £2000, it’s worth considering the Samsung HW-Q90R. This awesome soundbar system from Harman Kardon’s parent company sports a full 5.1.4-channel setup with a separate subwoofer, wireless rear speakers, and four upward-firing drivers. It might cost £1499, but it sounds fantastic and is genuinely immersive.

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