Esquire 2 is what happens when a premium lifestyle brand enters an over-crowded Bluetooth market. For most brands, it is difficult to stand out, but with the Harman Kardon Esquire 2, it is a class apart. It is a premium Bluetooth speaker, from a luxury brand with a hefty price tag. But is it all about the looks and the association of premium-ness or does it really perform well in the sound department? Let’s find out.
Build and Design: 9/10
The Harman Kardon Esquire 2 is a brilliantly designed speaker. As with all Harman Kardon designs, it looks simple, refined and sophisticated.
It has a sturdy plastic grill on the front with leatherette at the back where the stand pops open. All around the speaker, you have an aluminium finish with lights on the left and buttons on top for operation.
The Esquire 2 is just 600 g, and a little taller than a clutch purse. In fact, it doesn’t conventionally resemble a speaker at all.
The top control buttons are minimal and to the point, they also double up as play and pause music buttons.
The right side of the device has a microUSB charging port, an aux 3.5mm jack and a regular USB port so that you can charge a smartphone or tablet with it. Pretty neat!
A Premium Skimp
Esquire 2 comes with many surprises no doubt, the biggest is that in spite of the huge price tag, it actually comes with hardly any accessories. All one gets is a flat USB cable in the box and that’s it. No charger, no aux cable and no bag to carry the speaker (bag sold separately). Devices for less than half the price throw in more accessories than Harman Kardon does with the Esquire 2.
We tested the Esquire 2 with our Android phone connected via Bluetooth and Windows PC through the 3.5mm aux cable.
Overall, these are fantastic Bluetooth speakers, and they are surprisingly loud without breaking much of a sweat. Sure we’ve heard more sound from bigger Bose Sound dock V2 portable speakers, but for their size, Esquire 2 does an excellent job.
The one complaint that most have from Bluetooth speakers is that they generally have a mono-sound as there is only one speaker physically in the body of such small units. The Harman Kardon Esquire 2 does away with this issue and has actually inserted not two but four different 'professionally-tuned' sound drivers and a passive radiator (reflex port) in the unit. The resulting sound is a satisfying rich stereo sound and not the constricted mono-sound spewed from most Bluetooth speakers.
You’ll notice the speakers can handle the bass really well. No matter which track I threw at it, the Esquire 2’s managed to handle the sound admirably well. Of course, the speakers do lack the extreme low-end bass, evident in Charlie Puth’s Betty Boop (Original Mix) which drops the bass real deep and can give any speaker a real workout. Surprisingly the Esquire 2’s handled this track well. Most Bluetooth speakers cannot produce the sub-bass at all, neither could Esquire 2 but what the Esquire 2 produced is rich bass while playing the track loudly without gasping.
All music thrown at it sounds full-bodied with a rich sound. While you are sure to get well rounded rich lows and low-mids, the mids and the highs aren’t lacking either. Expect crisp, bright and accentuating highs and mids. Vocals sound exceptionally good evident in Agnes Obel’s Aventine track which really brought out the singer’s voice and the violin score beautifully well with a full-bodied and well-rounded sound.
When testing the Esquire 2 at home, folks at home were quite impressed with the sound. Everyone was surprised to see the size of the speaker and the kind of sound and clarity it can output. Also, everyone wanted to have extended listening time with their favourite tracks from their mobile or MP3 player in their favourite places while having tea in the morning with the paper in their hand or lying down on the bed.
Call Quality: 9/10
The call quality is excellent, loud and clear although the caller on the opposite end could feel the hollowness or the “talking through tube” effect which all Bluetooth speakers exhibit. With “Quad mic”, the speaker could easily catch voice from all directions without issues, the Esquire 2 is made for call conferencing and it shows.
At the same time I was quite concerned that the speaker would catch any and all sounds, even noise, and surprisingly it doesn’t do that. Using what Harman Kardon calls “Harman VoiceLogic” and echo cancelling technology, the speakers did a much better job at catching the voice effectively eliminating background noise when tested against headsets/handsfree on the same phone.
The battery can last up to 8 hours and does take quite a while to charge up the 3200 mAh rechargeable battery. Though 8 hours is sufficient in most cases, Harman Kardon could’ve inserted a bigger battery of say 5000 mAh, as nowadays phones such as Asus Zenfone Max come with larger batteries without increasing the weight drastically.
Verdict and Price in India
I, for one, enjoyed the sound of the speakers a lot which I was not expecting at all. This speaker is a definite recommend in terms of sound quality alone (and of course the convenience of portability). However, there is a hefty price to pay. Rs 20,000 is quite a bit for a Bluetooth speaker and understandably out of the budget of most. At this price point, you can buy bigger speakers with entire sound system/Blu-ray player thrown in no doubt, but the convenience and portability are totally lost.
If the price is not the issue and you’d like really good sound, in a small portable package with an additionally capable voice conferencing system, give Harman Kardon Esquire 2 a spin; you won’t be disappointed.
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