Back in the late 1950s, Harman Kardon (which was then an American company) launched the Citation I and Citation II. A feature-laden preamplifier and valve-driven power amplifier respectively, they established the Harman Kardon brand as a force to be reckoned with – at least, in what passed for home entertainment in those days.
Fast-forward 60-odd years and Harman Kardon is but a cog in the Samsung Global Domination Machine. The company obviously considers it an important and prestigious cog, mind you – that’s why it’s been more-or-less left to its own devices since the Korean company took over nearly three years ago. That’s why its new range of wireless multi-room/surround-sound speakers is called ‘Citation’.
The biggest (and most expensive) Citation speaker of the lot is this, the Citation Tower. A pair of Citation Towers is supposed to be suitable for every application: as a stereo pair, as the front left/right channels of a home cinema system (there’s a Citation Bar to sit between them), as part of a multi-room set-up.
- Looking for something smaller? Read our Citation One review
Price and availability
The Harman Kardon Citation Towers are available to buy as a pair for $2499 / £2199, which works out at around AU$3600. However, the Citation range is still to be launched in Australia, with the Harman Kardon website saying that it's "coming soon".
At 45 inches tall and 13.7 inches in diameter (they’re a broadly conical shape and so taper towards the top), the Citation Towers are fairly imposing.
Harman Kardon has attempted to alleviate the bulk by having the Towers appear to float above their circular plinths, as well as by covering them from top to bottom in Kvadrat blended-wool fabric.
Two finishes are available: black or grey. Black is straightforwardly black, while the grey is a classic mid-80s shade that’s either thrillingly or tragically retro depending on how old you are.
For a couple of outwardly featureless objects, the Citation Towers pack the features in. Each is fitted with 200 watts of Class D amplification (100 to power the upward-firing 20cm woofer sited near the bottom of the cabinet, the other 100 split between two 10cm mid/bass drivers and a 25mm tweeter near the top), and each has a 24bit/96hHz DAC embedded in the amplification circuitry.
Each speaker plugs into the mains via a figure-of-eight connection just below the rear-venting bass reflex port.
The right-hand Tower is the real brains of the operation. It’s this Tower that includes the mics for Google Assistant voice control on its top panel, along with a small touch-screen display that gives some (slightly lethargic) physical control.
Otherwise the Citation Towers are controlled by voice or the app of whatever music service you’re streaming. These speakers have Chromecast built-in, so there are literally hundreds of streaming services, internet radio stations, podcast providers and so on to choose from.
The Towers can also connect to your local Wi-Fi network, and have Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity incorporated too.
Like any hefty stereo speakers, the Citation Towers need positioning sympathetically. They’re not phobic about being in a corner, but they’re far happier out in a little free space – say 12 inches from a rear wall as a minimum.
We got them up and running with a Tidal Masters stream of Prince’s The Glamorous Life (the Towers, sadly, aren’t MQA-compatible so that hefty Masters audio file is downscaled to a less exciting 16bit/44.1kHz) and the Harman Kardons provided a wide and spacious listen. They organize a sound-stage really well, placing individual instruments and performers on it solidly.
The balance the speakers are shooting for is of the easy-going variety – and, broadly speaking, they pull it off in style. They have plenty of confidence and authority during Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, and they’re far from passive.
Bass frequencies are deep and well controlled, starting and stopping more accurately than is a given, without losing any power. The resulting lack of drama might at first sound like a lack of excitement, but the Citation Towers are dynamic enough to motor through Ocean's Pyramids convincingly.
The top end is slightly rolled off in a predictably grown-up manner, though there’s still plenty of shine and bite in a 24bit/48kHz file of Bjork’s It’s Not Up To You. The same tune demonstrates the speakers’ deft treatment of voices – Bjork's unmistakable vocal is full of details conveying her unique technique.
In general, all the information is integrated together – timing is better than a few other pricey wireless speakers can manage. However, there are some issues with the way the Harman Kardon manages the crossovers points where the woofer hands over to the mid/bass drivers, and where the mid/bass drivers hand over to the tweeter.
At these crossover points, the Towers’ positivity deserts them somewhat, rendering those two very specific parts of the frequency range just a little vague compared to everything else.
For the best results, stick to casting music from a mobile device. The sound via Bluetooth is impoverished and weirdly lifeless, to the point where a lowly 192kbps stream of FIP internet radio sounds more animated than the equivalent Bluetooth performance.
There’s no doubt Harman Kardon could have specified a more capable version of Bluetooth, like Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD, but the emphasis here is all towards casting from streaming services or via a local network.
Nearly $2500 is a lot of money for a pair of speakers – but it’s not a crazy amount to pay for an entire speaker system.
Which is, up to a point, what the Citation Towers are. Add in the individual looks, the multi-room and home cinema possibilities and the sheer convenience, and they’re well worth further investigation.
Just be aware that they’re not absolutely flawless performers when it comes to playback over a Bluetooth connection.
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