Ever wondered what a 21st century ghetto-blaster would look like? Harman Kardon's Go + Play could certainly fill the role – it's just the right dimensions, it's got a big steel carrying handle for hoisting it up on to your shoulder and the cost of batteries will ruin you over time.
And, of course, where you would once have found a cassette deck, the HK has a dock suitable for most iPods, including nano and 5G.
It's a good-looking, well made and tactile device, the Go + Play, and it feels built to last. There's something very purposeful about the way the main body of the machine is almost entirely given over to loudspeakers (the HK features a pair of drivers on each side of the cabinet), and the design is neat enough to include a 3.5mm auxiliary input and S-Video output for streaming video content, as well as a dedicated slot to keep the remote control in.
Our first listen to the Go + Play is using a 320kbps file of Ewan MacColl's The Manchester Rambler, and it makes a fine initial impression. The midrange is particularly nicely judged, MacColl's precise vibrato and prissy phrasing delivered cleanly and with bags of detail.
There's plenty of air around the voice, so it's easy to follow while being agreeably integrated into the song as a whole. The same is true of the high frequencies, which shine without tipping into harshness. There's admirable scale to the sound, given the physical limitations of the cabinet, and a fair degree of dynamic poke.
Big, bold low frequencies
It's down at the bottom end that trouble lurks. Harman Kardon's website refers to the Go + Play's "tight, thunderous bass", but we're afraid that when we played Handsome Boy Modelling School's The Truth, we found only half of that statement to be accurate.
Bass is thunderous, all right, but "tight" is not a word that sprang to mind. The low frequencies are altogether too big and bold, and the effect is not unlike that of serious in-car audio.
The HK goes good and loud without becoming abrasive, but the more you push on, volume-wise, the more over-confident and imposing the bass becomes. Remarkably, the Go + Play remains decently rapid through tempos despite the corpulence of its low frequencies – in all circumstances, though, the bass sounds like it's from a different system.
Of course we're aware that, for many people, too much bass is preferable to too little. If that's you, give the Go + Play a go – it's got a lot to recommend it.