Product Review by Sam R

Harman International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., LTD. announces the Harman Kardon Invoke™, an elegant voice-activated speaker featuring the intelligence of Cortana, your personal digital assistant, from Microsoft. This is the first Smart Home Speaker with Cortana as its AI.

Harman Kardon’s reputation as a premium speaker company that delivers good sound quality and partnering its technology with Microsoft Cortana’s AI would seem to make it a worthy competitor to Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. However, does it deliver?

Let us explore this product design and its features.

PRODUCT FEATURES

According to Michael Mauser, President, Lifestyle Audio Division at Harman, “We’re excited to work with Microsoft to develop a premium speaker that will deliver an exceptional experience to every customer using 360-degree Harman Kardon sound and the intelligence of Cortana. Voice-enabled technology is the future; by teaming up with Microsoft, we’re delivering on our promise of elevating a connected life through smart technology, superior sound and the stunning design that is Harman Kardon’s hallmark.”

In turn, Jordi Ribas, CVP, AI Products at Microsoft said,” We are excited to partner with Harman Kardon to create a speaker that combines premium audio and stylish design with the intelligence of Cortana. This is our next step in bringing Cortana to even more devices to help users be more productive wherever they are.” Cortana is used by more than 145 million people across devices and platforms with best-in-class natural language recognition and deep integration with Microsoft’s suite of knowledge and productivity tools. You probably have this on your PC if you are running Windows 10.

Therefore, you have two world-class partners combining their technologies into a new product. Did it work?

Specifications and Design

The far-field microphone array seems to do a good job in isolating your voice from background noise and performs well.

* DISCLAIMER: Set up requires Cortana app for Windows 10 PC or phone, Android or iPhone (requires Android version 4.1.2 or higher, or iPhone 4 with iOS 8.0 or higher

The Sound from the speaker is better than Amazon Echo and Google Home at normal listening levels. The bass is good and it is very easy to listen to this speaker and enjoy your music. It will soon have you dancing. However, if you listen to your music louder than normal, then the music breaking up and being distorted will disappoint you. This is far from a great Bluetooth speaker let alone a premium speaker from a premium brand. In the end I was not impressed with the sound quality.

The look of the speaker and the touch controls are outstanding and noteworthy, the sound quality, not so much.

Cortana as AI and system control central

Cortana does not compare to Google Assistant nor Amazon Alexa. The number of 3rd party products that work with Cortana is a lot less than Google or Amazon and voice recognition is not as good.

The Invoke Speaker Falls Short

While neither the Home and Echo sound quite as rich as the Invoke at lower volumes, both speakers are better equipped with streaming services and are in better positions to rule your smart home thanks to existing partnerships.

If this product was released in 2015 when the Echo or Google Home were, the Invoke would be an interesting, unique product that might be worth the investment.

I do not recommend the Harmon Kardon Invoke Smart Speaker. However, in 2017, your money is better saved by choosing one of the more popular smart speakers. They have more extensive capabilities of controlling other devices in your home and in your life.


 

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