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Harman Kardon Citation 200 review

The smart speaker goes portable

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Our Verdict

The Harman Kardon Citation 200 takes a Google Assistant smart speaker and makes it portable, without losing the stylish looks that we love about the rest of the brand's wireless speaker range. However, it’s overly bassy sound profile lets it down where it matters most.

For

  • Stylish looks
  • IPX4 water-resistance
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity

Against

  • Overly bassy sound
  • No voice assistant support without Wi-Fi

Two-minute review

Smart speakers are becoming a fixture in the modern home – but models like the Harman Kardon Citation 200 demonstrate that these hardworking devices have their place in the garden and on the move, too.

Now there’s one caveat with the Citation 200 – the onboard Google Assistant only works when you’re connected to the Wi-Fi, so you can forget any dreams you had of using it to turn on your smart thermostat at the park before you get home.

Once home though, you have all the functionality of a Google Assistant speaker – and that means you can ask it questions, give it commands, and control your other smart home devices

It looks great in the home, too; with a chic fabric grille, luxurious leather carrying handle, and subtle charging cradle, the Citation 200 looks just as stylish as the other speakers in the Citation range. 

Despite it’s high-end looks, you can comfortably take it outside thanks to an IPX4 water-resistance rating – just hook it up to your phone via Bluetooth if your Wi-Fi doesn’t extend to your garden. 

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Battery life is pretty good at eight hours – though that doesn’t beat its biggest rival the Sonos Move (saying that, the latter is far more expensive). 

That's true in terms of audio performance, too. Unfortunately, the sound quality doesn’t quite measure up to the Citation 200’s good looks and smart features; the bass is far too extended for our ears, and it tends to muddy the other frequencies.

We’re told the bassy sound profile is intended to make the speaker sound good outside, and it admittedly works rather well for bass-driven music genres like dance and reggae – but for rock, pop, and RnB we found ourselves wishing for something more finely balanced, and for a company that prides itself on its audio prowess.

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Harman Kardon Citation 200 price and availability

  • Available now in the US and UK
  • Australian availability TBC
  • £299.99 / $299.95

The Harman Kardon Citation 200 is available to buy now, having been first announced at CES 2020 back in January. It’ll set you back £299.99 / $299.95, which works out at around AU$430 – though right now, availability is still to be confirmed in Australia.

That price makes it more expensive than the non-portable Citation One – however, it's far cheaper than the Sonos Move, which currently sits at the top of our list of the best portable speakers you can buy in 2020. 

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Design

With a carrying handle and bucket-shaped build, the Harman Kardon Citation 200 is designed to be moved around your home, and if you want to take it outside, it's protected from the elements thanks to an IPX4 water-resistance rating. You won't be able to take it into the pool as you can with fully waterproof speakers, but it should be able to withstand a spot of rain. 

Like other speakers in the Citation range, it’s covered in a gray blended wool grille, offset by the leather handle, which is secured to the speaker with metallic buttons – and true to Harman Kardon’s aesthetic, it encapsulates Scandi-cool design. 

While we love the way it looks, the Citation 200’s expensive looks made us hesitant to take it outdoors at first; but, while not the most rugged portable speaker out there, Harman Kardon does promise that its wool exterior is “dirt repellent, flame retardant, and features a special coating for easy cleaning”.

Unlike some speakers, it’s not a magnet for dust, fingerprints, or pet hair either, which means it should stay looking good no matter how much your home is craving a run around with the feather duster. 

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On the top of the speaker you’ll find the control panel, which features power on/off, Bluetooth pairing, and volume buttons, as well as a button to play/pause your music, stop timers and alarms, and summon Google Assistant.

That control panel also houses two microphones designed to pick up your voice when interacting with the built-in voice assistant, and an array of four LEDs that give an indication of your remaining battery life. 

There are also LEDs built-in the front of the speaker that light up when you change the volume and summon Google Assistant.

On the back of the Citation 200 is a Wi-Fi indicator light, a USB-C charging port for when you need to top up your battery on the go, and a physical switch that allows you to turn off the inbuilt microphones.

The Citation 200 comes with its own sleek charging cradle that plugs into your mains – simply pop the speaker on top and it will charge.

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Audio performance

The Harman Kardon Citation 200 is packing a 25mm tweeter and a 120mm woofer; the latter being far bigger than the 89mm woofer found within the Citation One. 

And it shows – the Citation 200 boasts a powerful sound, is capable of reaching high volumes, and sports an incredibly bassy presentation – which we found isn’t always a good thing.

Listening to Little Simz’ No Offense, we found the bass was a little too boomy and tended to overpower the other frequencies. We were left craving a little more detail in the trebles, particularly the percussion, and a richer quality to the romantic string sections that sweep through the track.

It was a similar story with Radiohead’s Burn The Witch, where the stabbing strings where vastly overpowered by the low synth drones.

Listening to Fleet Foxes’ Wading In Waist-High Water, the hushed vocals came through beautifully, with the muffled guitar sounding warm and welcoming – again, the bass sounded over the top when the rest of the instruments kicked in, and we missed out on some of the subtle horn flourishes that pepper the track.

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Of course that bassy profile suits some genres of music down to the bone – Gorillaz’ Dracula sounded suitably spooky, with thumping bass lines, dissonant vocal melodies, and echoing reggae guitars. 

We’re told that the bassy presentation is designed to make the speaker sound good outdoors, where there aren’t walls for the sound to bounce off of – but for indoor use (which we daresay is where most users will be doing the majority of their listening), it’s too much. 

Like the rest of the Citation range, you can hook the 200 up to its siblings (which include soundbars, freestanding towers, and wireless speakers) to create a multi-room audio setup; you can also pair two Citation 200s for stereo sound.

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Smart features

With Google Assistant built-in, the Harman Kardon Citation 200 can double up as a control hub for your other smart home devices, from your smart lights to your connected thermostat. 

Even if your home isn’t kitted out with a ton of extra smart devices, having a voice assistant on board is super handy. It means you can ask Google Assistant general questions like, “what’s the weather going to be like today?”, or give it more personalized commands like adding events to your calendar. 

You can summon Google Assistant hands-free by either using the ‘Hey Google’ or ‘OK Google’ wake words, or by long-pressing the button on the top of the speaker.

One downside is that you can only get access to these smart features while connected to Wi-Fi, unlike the Alexa-powered Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd gen). Try summoning Google Assistant while connected to the speaker via Bluetooth, and you’ll be directed to connect the Citation to your Wi-Fi network via the Google Home app – though this is a mercifully simple process.

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Battery life and connectivity

Battery life comes in at eight hours, though you may find this dips lower if you play your music at high volumes – it's not quite as much as the Sonos Move, but it should be enough to get you by. You can top up the battery by using the accompanying charging cradle or USB-C cable, and it takes around three hours to reach full charge. 

The Harman Kardon Citation 200 comes with Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity – not the most recent specification, but it’s enough for you to comfortably stream music wirelessly from your phone or tablet when outdoors. If you’re using the Citation 200 indoors, you can hook it up to your home Wi-Fi network, which should offer a higher quality of wireless streaming, with Google Chromecast and Apple AirPlay both supported. 

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Should I buy the Harman Kardon Citation 200?

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Buy it if...

You’re looking for a stylish speaker to suit your home
The Citation 200 is undeniably attractive, and its subtle yet chic looks make it suitable for any home. 

You want flexible connectivity
With both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, you can choose the wireless connection that suits you and your settings best.

You’re locked into the Google Assistant ecosystem
If you have Google smart home devices or you use Google services like Calendar, the Citation 200 gives you an easy way to interact with the voice assistant hands-free.

Don't buy it if...

You need a balanced sound
The sound profile of the Citation 200 is very bass heavy, and that means other frequencies can sound muddied as a result. 

You want a portable speaker for the beach
While the Citation 200 does come with IPX4 rating, its fabric grille means it’s probably not suitable for more rugged settings.

You don’t want a voice assistant
If you don’t care about smart capabilities, there are better-sounding and more easily portable Bluetooth speakers on the market  – many of which are far cheaper, too.