Harman Kardon Citation 200 review

The Citation 200 is the latest member of the Harman Kardon Citation range, and portability is its biggest asset. This beautiful speaker is unique, as it can be used as a fixed speaker indoors – without compromising on sound quality – and also be picked up and taken with you wherever you go. I’ve fallen in love with its brilliant Scandinavian design and  powerful,  customisable sound. The fact it has all the smart features you need is a bonus too.

With a mid-range price point, Harman Kardon’s Citation 200 is one of the best portable smart speakers on the market.

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Price and Competition:

With the Citation 200, you’re getting a great looking portable smart speaker at NZ$530 (US$299.99; £299.99) which is an excellent price.

When compared to other portable smart speakers, this price point is right in the middle. The price is comparable to the Bose Portable Smart speaker at NZ$499 (US$349; £299.99). It’s significantly cheaper than the Sonos Move at NZ$749 (US$438; £399.99) and more expensive than the lower end JBL Link 20 at NZ$349 (US$200; Unavailable in the UK) 

Its ability to be a portable speaker and a home speaker does boost the price. Compared to the Citation ONE, a home base smart speaker costing NZ$329 (US$229; £299.99) the Citation 200 is more expensive. This is to be expected because the Citation 200 allows for more functionality being portable and the added cost of a long-lasting lithium battery

Design:

The design of the Citation 200 is fantastic. It’s a great-looking, clean speaker that would fit in any room in the house. It has a bucket shape with 219x178x172mm dimensions with the strap down. This shape does make it difficult to store when you are taking it away with you. It doesn’t tuck away nicely as a smaller portable speaker might.

It has a leather handle on top that is sturdy and easy to use. The handle feels strong, and it needs to because the Citation 200 is a heavy speaker weighing in at 2.85kg. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary, though; in fact, it weighs less than the Sonos Move, which is 2.9kg.

Harman/Kardon has maintained the wool aesthetic that is a mainstay in the Citation range. The speaker is wrapped in a “winter grey” or “classic black” blended wool grille attached with metallic buttons on the sides. The look is excellent. It’s clean, and the Citation 200 maintains the Scandinavian design of the Citation family of speakers.

This, oddly, has its issues, though. Because the speaker looks so lovely, I was very hesitant to take it outside and use its portable functions. Harman Kardon has stated that the wool exterior is “dirt-repellent, flame retardant, and features a special coating for easy cleaning.” It is IPx4 water resistant meaning it could handle a rain shower. However, I never felt comfortable having it outside. This is obviously a personal issue because the Citation 200 is more than capable of being outdoors. I just never wanted to take it to the garden or the beach as I felt it would get damaged or dirty (which it wouldn’t).

There are five buttons, volume up and down, Bluetooth, power and voice assistant on top of the speaker. These are presented cleanly, and the surface isn’t cluttered. There is plenty of space between them, and the layout is aesthetically pleasing and functional. 

Several LED lights accompany these buttons, so it is easy to understand what the speaker is doing. The lights on the speaker’s front will turn blue to show Bluetooth is on; there are lights on the top showing remaining battery and lights will come on when you summon Google Assistant. It’s simple to understand and makes it a breeze to use. I never ran into connectivity issues where I wasn’t sure if the speakers Bluetooth was on, nor was I ever surprised by how little battery the speaker had because the lights were easy to understand. 

There are two microphones built into the speaker which were responsive and were able to pick up my voice from the other side of my room. 

The Citation 200 comes with a charging port that shares the same sleek look of the speaker. It looks great in any room, and the speaker can be easily placed on the dock for charging.

Sound:

The Citation 200 has a 25mm tweeter and a 120mm woofer inside. This combination allows for a strong sound. The speaker can reach high volumes that I could easily hear over 50m away, and it provides for punchy and effective bass. 

Playing hard-hitting hip hop tracks by Run the Jewels was intense and satisfying. I could feel the bass pumping, and it didn’t muddy any of the mid-range or high range frequency sounds. 

Obviously, this hard-hitting bass doesn’t suit all music genres, and I found that the EQ levels out of the box didn’t suit more mellow genres like country or even rock. 

Fortunately, the Citation 200 allows for personal EQ adjustments. To adjust the bass, you short press the Bluetooth and volume minus button simultaneously, until you have it the way you like it. To change the treble, press the Bluetooth and volume plus buttons. This customisation takes away the audio issues as you can customise it the way you want. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the speaker’s powerful sound makes it easy to hear the changes in real-time. 

Be aware that the ability to change the EQ came with an update in December 2020. To use this function you need to update your Citation 200 to its latest software version. You can do this through the Google Home app. It is effortless and straightforward and doesn’t take very long.

Overall the sound of the Citation 200 is impressive. It’s clean and it’s easy to hear all the separate elements of a song. The Citation 200 would easily accommodate a party and is equally useful when you are listening to music while working.

Features:

The Citation 200 comes with Google Assistant built-in. You need the Google Home app to set up the speaker, and the instructions it provides are easy to follow. 

The Google Assistant integration allows the Citation 200 to be a control hub for any other smart Google devices you have in the house, which is beneficial. 

The Citation 200 supports both Google Chromecast and Apple Airplay, accommodating both Apple and Google users.

You can use voice commands like “Hey Google,” or “Ok Google,” to wake the Citation 200. The two microphones built into the speaker are responsive and could hear me from far away, but in some cases, they did play up a little and didn’t recognise what I was saying. This wasn’t a significant issue because there is a button on top of the speaker that I could long press to wake up Google Assistant, and that never failed.

Unfortunately, you have to connect to Wi-Fi to use the smart features on the Citation 200. Although it is rare, speakers like the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) allow for smart features offline through Bluetooth. With the Citation 200s portability, this would have been a great addition to the speaker and is an opportunity missed.

Battery:

The Citation 200 can last for 8-hours on a full charge. This is an impressive length of time for a speaker this powerful. It’s not quite as long as the Sonos Move which boasts an 11-hour battery life but 8-hours is still plenty. Playing music at higher volumes will drain the battery faster, though.

Fortunately, the Citation 200 has two ways of charging. The dock allows for easy at-home charging and Harman Kardon has cleverly included a USB-C charging port. If the speaker is running low on battery while away from home, you can plug it into your car or a portable charger for that extra boost of power. A full charge takes about 3-hours from zero to 100 per cent.

Verdict:

The Citation 200 is the best-looking speaker on the market. Its Scandinavian style looks great at home and will turn eyes when used in portable mode.

It has a fantastic sound that can be customised to how you like it and has incredibly easy to use smart home features.

The lack of smart features offline is the one opportunity missed  – however when using the speaker in its portable mode, nine times out of ten you will have connected your phone to it through Bluetooth so you can use the smart features on your phone instead.

It has a decent battery life off a single charge and is great value at NZ$530 (US$299.99; £299.99). 

It’s more expensive than some other portable smart speakers, but the Citation 200 is one of the best portable smart speakers on the market right now and is worth that extra investment. I love it.

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