Plastic Can Sound This Good?
For Christmas, my better half bought a Harmon Kardon Sound Stick III system for me to use in the kitchen. The original idea was to get a Boom Box so I could just plug in the iPod, but a bit of shopping around and auditioning led us to this contraption which has been around in one version or another for a good decade, but the current version really sparkled.
Truth be known, I was mean to most of the Boom Boxes and powered speakers on display in JB Hi-Fi – I ran original instrument violins and cellos sawing their way through J.S. Bach, which is not the kind of music those things are generally designed for. All the same, the Sound Stick IIIs were able to give a sense of timbre beyond the squeaky ‘squeeeeeee’ of the original instruments and the shop demo doof music seemed to have some kind of shape. it wasn’t much to go on, but it was a loud shop at Christmas Shopping time.
Even then you could hear this thing was head and shoulders above anything in its price range, let alone stuff for which they were asking twice the money. It was the only system where the strings sounded like strings and harpsichord sounded like harpsichord, and Glenn Gould moans sounded like Glenn Gould moans. The dude in the shop wasn’t particularly impressed I was pumping piano music loud just so I could hear Glenn Gould moan, but … you get that. Soon enough, we decided this one would do.
Once I got home and ran some full-blooded rock and full-hearted jazz through these things, the sound scape just expanded and filled the space like some bit of proper hi-fi equipment. And I found myself staring at the marvelous plastic object, honestly wondering from where in the good name of the lord, this sound was being summoned, because the clear bits of plastic just don’t look like they should be doing this well.
When you look at it closely you can see the sticks are in fact little baffled speakers in their own right, while the main sub unit is like an alien dome with its own baffle design. The design itself has been around for a few years now and it’s allegedly in the New York Museum of Modern Art for its design, which tells you it ticks the Modernist chic box nice and well. I remember seeing the original ones thinking, “oh, yeah, that looks interesting… but all that plastic?” I’ve got a lot of prejudice about materials that way – But the marvel is when you run a bit of King Crimson or Herbie Hancock or even the remastered Sgt. Peppers through it from the iPod. Yes, the damn iPod Classic running 192kbps AAC files. Plastic? You can not hear the plastic. Honestly, this thing has got me baffled with how well it works.
A clear plastic thing hurling out monster sound. Go figure that one out.