It’s fair to say we’ve been anticipating the Citation range for some time now. Harman Kardon announced the launch of its family of hi-res-capable wireless speakers in August last year, and it was never too far from our minds over the year or so that followed.
These Citation Towers, a pair of wireless floorstanders that slot seamlessly into the Google Home multi-room ecosystem, are the standout product. They’re big, bold, and offer a broad range of possibilities, including the option to form part of a 5.1 surround sound system.
To facilitate the latter, Harman Kardon presents the Citation Bar, Citation Sub and Citation Surround speakers that will connect and converse with the Towers to create an immersive home cinema system. You can also pair with other Citation speakers - the single-box One, 100, 300 and 500 - and have the brand’s full-bodied sound signature ringing throughout your home.
The Towers are quite an investment on their own when you consider their £2199 ($3000) price tag, but you are getting a lot of technology for the money. In engineering terms, each Tower comprises a 25mm tweeter, a pair of 10cm woofers and a downward-firing 20cm sub, with 200W of power being fed through them.
As well as the ability to become part of a wireless 5.1 system when connected to your TV or video source, you can send music to the Towers via Bluetooth 4.2 or Chromecast. Hi-res audio playback up to 24-bit/96kHz is possible, and supported formats run to MP3, WAV, FLAC, HE-AAC, LC-AAC, Vorbis and Opus.
Drivers 25mm tweeter, 2x 10cm woofers, 20cm subwoofer (per speaker)
Output power 2x 200W
Bluetooth version 4.2
Dimensions 116 x 34.7 x 34.7cm (each)
Weight 19kg (each)
Google Assistant is on board, too, which frees you from your device when it comes to selecting a playlist or album, changing volume or skipping tracks. You can always turn the microphone off if you don’t want to be heard.
The Towers connect to your home network via dual-band wi-fi, though there’s no ethernet connection for wired internet. How big an issue that is will depend on the strength of your wi-fi signal, but it isn’t ideal, especially if you’re using it to feed a horde of devices.
We suggest enlisting the help of a friend to set the Towers up. They weigh a hefty 19kg per speaker and come in the same box, so you’re likely to do yourself an injury transporting them alone.
These are big speakers – each one measures 116cm tall – so they might overpower smaller rooms both in terms of aesthetic and sonic output. However, there is a choice of light or dark grey fabric finish to help them blend in a little better to their surroundings.
And other than the potential for lumbar injury and the issue of them needing a lot of space, the Towers' size can only be a good thing. For starters, it's testament to the collection of drivers and amps contained within, and reinforces that feeling of value for money. Certainly they feel like premium speakers.
They connect to each other automatically, with the right-hand speaker acting as master to the left-hand slave unit, leaving you only to set them up using the Google Home app.
The right speaker is also where you’ll find the touch-screen controller, a strip located on top of the speaker, which allows you to select your source and change volume without the aid of your device or Google Assistant.
As well as allowing you to connect sources and speakers from various different brands, the Google Home app is mightily simple to use. It takes only a few minutes to connect the Citation Towers to a network and run any updates – after that, they’ll update automatically whenever necessary – and you’re ready to begin streaming from whichever service you choose.
Despite the size of the Citation Towers, our first impression is still that it’s a sound of surprising proportion. Even at half volume, the Towers fill our listening room with authoritative weight, dishing out deep bass and a gloriously rich midrange that is still well balanced by a smooth and even presentation in the treble frequencies.
The low end could be more clearly defined, never quite digging out detail you’d expect from a more traditional hi-fi product, but it’s far from flabby and still manages to punch out basslines as it shakes the floor with glee.
Mids are where the Towers thrive, though. Voices are full of body and often a joy to hear, and there’s a confidence to the whole presentation that can be infectious, especially with more upbeat tracks. It is difficult sometimes not to be swept away by the Towers’ enthusiasm for power.
Stereo imaging is good too, which is important when opting for a product such as this over a premium one-box solution such as the Naim Mu-so 2. Instruments can be heard at either side of the soundstage, but the performance is drawn together so well that it doesn’t feel like two separate speakers, rather a pair working together.
Much is made of the Citation range’s ability to work as a 5.1 system, but having tested the Towers with TV content as well as music, we can safely say the extra outlay is entirely optional. They’re weighty enough so as not to need a separate subwoofer, and that ability to deliver luscious vocals is easily transferrable to dialogue. Placed in the same room as your TV, the Towers will outperform most mid-range soundbars almost across the board.
That’s not to say these speakers are without weaknesses, though. For all their power and scale, it is often with the more delicate handling of a track where they suffer.
Organisation is one such aspect. In terms of depth, everything is just a little flat. The Citation Towers struggle putting space between sonic elements, with ornamental lines often as far forward in the mix as the melody, giving us an up-front and confident presentation but without much in the way of nuance.
Timing doesn’t quite snap, either, but generally we can live with that. More disappointing is where the Towers ignore dynamic subtlety. There’s plenty of punch and drive to proceedings, but they struggle to dial it back with more intimate recordings, nor do they paint the finer lines of expression that truly draw the ear. It leaves certain recordings primed more for background listening than analysis, meandering rather than holding our hand through a journey.
For that kind of performance, at this kind of money, you’re looking at the KEF LS50 Wirelesses. But that would be to ignore the fact these are different products for different audiences. The Citation Towers’ modish design is enough to tell you that, but they also have a broad collection of sonic talents to back it up.
If you love the look, and you have the cash, these represent a fine way to bring quality wireless music and TV performance into a sizeable room.
It might not be an absolute case of [Citation needed], but they’re a lot of fun all the same.
- Sound 4
- Features 4
- Build 5
Read our KEF LS50 review
Read our Naim Mu-so 2 review