Harman Kardon Go + Play iPod Dock Review

Normally I deal with JBL, one of the companies Harman Kardon owns, so it’s good to get a breath of fresh air one could say. Harman Kardon is known all over the globe as a wicked speaker manufacturer. Some of the HK systems in cars blow the competition away. So when I received the Go + Play to review, the bar was already raised high.

When you take out all of the stuff in the big box the Go + Play comes with, you’ll have to take a minute and check out the device itself. What looks like a creature with two big oval eyes staring back you is the Go + Play. It looks very 1930s mixed with contemporary features, like the round bottom it features. It’s essentially a boombox with a snug iPod cradle on top, volume and power buttons, and some ports. The ports are handy and you’ll find S-Video, USB, power, and auxiliary all waiting to take advantage of your iPod. The remote is very similar to the JBL Radial iPod dock and goes well with the system. In terms of looks, this thing kills.

Word is, however, that looks can be deceiving. I was worried this thing wouldn’t get as loud as I’d like it to. Then I looked at the spec sheet and saw that it has two 30-watt tweeters and two 30-watt woofers that use Harman Kardon’s Ridge and Atlas drivers. With speakers on each side of the device, everyone will hear the beat.

Excited, I grabbed my 5G 30GB iPod and put it in the slot on the Go + Play. Without using any of the included iPod adaptors, it fit well enough and snug enough that it doesn’t move whatsoever. I threw on some Chemical Brothers to try it out and the results surprised me. For a boombox that you carry around, this thing gets loud. Loud enough to use it for a party, an event, or breakdancing in the park. You will piss off your neighbors at half-volume and at full-volume you’ll risk going deaf and getting evicted.

Just because the Go + Play is loud doesn’t mean the sound is good though. Luckily, in this case it does. Unless you crank it at full-volume and play some trash metal or something, the Go + Play will not distort. Whether you fancy rock, techno, electronic, rap, or chamber music, you shouldn’t have to worry about the music degrading into awful noise. Chances are you’ll only use the Go + Play at quarter- or half-volume anyway.

The real party starts when you waste $8 at your local supermarket or deli to pick up the 8 D-cell batteries it takes to power this thing on the go. With an MSRP of $349, I’m very disappointed that Harmon Kardon didn’t include a built-in, rechargeable battery. Sure, this system sounds great, is pretty, and can be taken anywhere. But for the price of it, you could probably be satisfied with something less expensive and with a rechargeable battery.

What really gets me is that you only get “16 continuous hours of play when used at a normal volume”. The Go + Play does go into sleep mode when there’s no music playing or no iPod plugged in, so that’s nice. I didn’t get a chance to even find a place where I can buy D-cell batteries, so I can’t report on how long the batteries last. Either way, you’ll be the Radio Raheem of the 21st Century for sure.

It’s worth a quick mention that the brushed-metal handle bar on the Go + Play is fantastic. Carrying it around is easy, it’s solid, and it really makes the overall look complete. Funny how a bent metal bar can make a product.

So should you buy a Go + Play? The market for iPod docks is flooded, but the Go + Play steers off in the direction of a retro boombox. Is it worth $349 for good looks, great sound, and portability in one package? I’d have to say yes. After buying this, you won’t need to ever get a stereo system again until either your iPod or Go + Play break. Harman Kardon has another hit product on its hands and iPod owners are lucky enough to have access to it.

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