Harman Kardon SB30 Performance
The Harman Kardon SB30’s sound quality is, in a word, sensational. You don’t often find a soundbar that’s able to match the muscularity and finesse of a good separates system, but the SB30 certainly does that.
With a boisterous soundtrack like The Dark Knight on Blu-ray (fed into the SB30’s optical digital input) the sound is vibrant and punchy. The opening bank heist is a pulse-racing riot of aggressive effects and thumping bottom-end, interjected with dialogue that easily cuts through the carnage.
Gunshots snap powerfully into the room, underpinned by tight jabs of bass, while shouty voices boom with authority and echo atmospherically across the soundstage. At the end of the scene, the bus bursts through the wall with a substantial wallop, peppered with the sumptuously crisp sound of tinkling glass.
In fact detail reproduction is one of the SB30’s main assets. It’s a consistently open and airy listen, with even the tiniest background details receiving close attention from the soundbar’s competent tweeters. When married to the smooth midrange and tightly integrated bass output, this is one assured performance right across the frequency spectrum. The soundbar’s left, right and centre drivers are all voice matched and work coherently together.
Turn up the volume and the SB30 doesn’t buckle either. It’s as comfortable blasting out a movie at three-quarter volume as it is playing TV shows down low – a sign of the SB30’s versatility. It’s also worth noting that there’s a distinct shift in the sonic dynamism when you flip between the Beam Energy modes.
If there’s a flaw, it lies with the unconvincing surround performance. The HARMAN Wave mode certainly opens up the sound and spreads effects much wider than the stereo and Virtual modes, yet there’s no real sense of being enveloped. Chances are you’ll be too transfixed by the speaker’s other virtues to care too much, but it does underline the fact that soundbars are rarely a match for a full 5.1 system.
Harman Kardon SB30 Verdict
There’s no question that the Harman Kardon SB30 is a classy soundbar system, boasting stunning looks and sumptuous build quality – not to mention powerful and polished sound quality that puts the vast majority of soundbars to shame.
Where it falls down is its lack of HDMI sockets and HD audio decoding, its fiddly operating system and the lack of surround presence with movie soundtracks, which falls below our expectations at this price. But with sound, build and looks this good, we’re prepared to cut the SB30 some slack.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9