A partnership between Sprint, HTC, Harman/Kardon and Spotify has yielded the HTC One M8 Harman/Kardon Edition. The name may be a mouthful, but the phone itself is as elegant as the original M8, with identical internals. The new, urbane styling oozes class with its restrained champagne accents and a fetching black finish.
Cosmetic differences aside, the main difference between the regular M8 and the Harman/Kardon edition is the inclusion of Harman/Kardon's Clari-Fi and LiveStage software, technologies designed to enhance compressed audio sources such as MP3s, radio or music streams.
Clari-Fi aims to restore lost information at the high and low ends lost due to compression. In the company-provided demo, sound was notably enhanced with Clari-Fi turned on, but we've seen too many of these supposed miracle technologies to pass final judgement on the feature's worthiness at this point.
LiveStage is designed to spatialize music sources. In addition to losing highs and lows, compressed music can end up sounding flat, as though all the instruments are squashed together. LiveStage aims to restore the sense of space and ambience in a musical recording and to put the emphasis of the mix where it should be. The difference in the company-provided demo was subtler than with Clari-Fi, but noticeable. Again, we'll wait for futher testing to weigh on on whether this feature is as remarkable as Sprint claims.
Both technologies work in real-time, converting on the fly without writing new files or taking up additional space. The phone's 24bit/192kHz digital audio converter will also play back uncompressed FLAC files for true audiophiles. Clari-Fi and LiveStage only activate when the phone detects that a sound source is lower than CD quality.
In addition, when it ships May 9, the HTC One M8 Harman/Kardon Edition will include a set of Harman/Kardon in-ear headphones. A Harman/Kardon rep compared them to the company's AE headphone, which retails for $180. With the phone carrying only about a $30 premium over the normal M8, the headphones (which match the phone's black and champagne color scheme) are a significant value-add.