AMITIAE - Wednesday 24 December 2014

Harman Kardon Esquire Mini Speaker: Well thought-out Accessory for Mobile Users (Bangkok Post, Life)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


A couple of years after the appearance of the original "Bondi Blue" iMac, the interesting Harman Kardon Sound Sticks appeared. With modifications, these are still available. I think they look as good now as they did then.

A couple of weeks ago, sources in the USA showed a new, portable Harman Kardon speaker, the Esquire Mini, which is slightly larger than the iPhone 6. This won the EISA European Mobile Audio System Award for 2014-2015. It immediately went on to my "Wants it" list.

Harman Kardon Esquire Mini

I looked in all the iStudio stores I visited on both sides of the river, but found nothing then. Last week, however, I was in iStudio Siam Discovery Center and the Esquire Mini was on sale. I bought one and have been running this at home and in my office since.

Although reports tell us that the device comes in several colours, including gold, only white, black and brown were available: I chose the black. The price in the USA is $149, and it costs 5,990 baht here. When VAT is factored in, the differences is $21: not unreasonable when considering transport and import fees.

Esquire Mini - Rear View Showing Support (retracted)

With its small size, and two 27mm, speakers of 4 watts each, it is never going to shake the walls and does not have wonderful bass levels. These solid state speakers are smaller than the two 45mm x 10w transducers in the square Esquire conferencing device, but in an office or other room will give a reasonable if limited output. Volume can be changed on the device itself, by using software controls, or with the hardware volume buttons on a Mac or iOS device.

Esquire Mini - Top View: On/Off, Bluetooth, Phone and Volume Controls

The unit gave good sound levels for my purposes: I could read in one room, yet still appreciate the music in another. At maximum, which is surprisingly high, there was slight distortion with some tracks. It gave the best sound at slightly lower levels. It coped well with Haydn and Mozart, with fair clarity: this was quite good with a Jazz classic like Nina Simone's "I put a spell on you"; but less satisfying with Miles Davis (Aura).

Connection options give the device considerable flexibility. Music input can be via Bluetooth, USB, or cable from speaker output of a device. I initially connected the iPhone via Bluetooth: that is what I expect to be using most. It was a simple operation: pressing the Bluetooth button next to the power button, made the device discoverable. Once that was seen by the iPhone, I pressed connect and the music began. From then on, the Esquire Mini was always recognised and it was a quick operation to start playing music.

Esquire Mini - End View: USB, Sound Input, Micro-USB, Strap Connection

Pairing was effected in an almost identical way on the iPad. With the MacBook Pro, I had to wait until the device icon appeared in System Preferences before pairing. I was also able to connect the iPad and iPhone to the speaker unit using the Apple Lightning to USB connector. That would also charge the iOS device, but of course, discharge the battery in the speaker unit.

Another feature of the Esquire Mini is that it can be used as a conferencing device with the iPhone. Those in a meeting can hear the speaker and reply using the inbuilt microphone.

When I connected it to the Mac using the USB to Micro-USB cable that was supplied by Harman Kardon, the light display showed that it was charging and was (initially) at about 20%. I charged it up to a level of around 80% with 4 of the 5 indicator lights displayed. That lasted several hours in my office and a few more at home in the evening; and it still showed level 3.

While I was playing music at work, several students came in and immediately noticed. Being sharp electrical engineers, they saw the unit and the lack of cables, but would not accept my explanation of "magic," correctly identifying it as a Bluetooth device.

Occasionally, the arrival of email on the iPhone made the volume drop or cut the music, but this happens when I am using the iPhone on its own, so is not a problem with the device. Oddly, when typing text on the iPhone, that sound was transmitted to the Esquire Mini speakers.

Esquire Mini and iPhone 6

The local web pages for Harman Kardon were not a positive experience, however. The Esquire Mini is not shown (see below). Annoyingly, I kept being redirected to the Thai pages for Harman Kardon. I later contacted Harman Kardon Europe via FaceBook and was given an email link for the local operation. As I write this, the pages are unchanged.

Apart from the website, I am content with the rest of the experience. A carrying strap was also supplied in the well-designed product box. I have now seen these in more iStudio stores. There are other speaker units that are cheaper, but this is balanced by the flexibility with input and charging, coupled with the battery performance.


Early this week, I had some communication from the importer, Mahajak, who provided a specifications sheet and a link to their own site, where I was able to find information on the Esquire Mini. Note that the colours shown here are black, brown, champagne gold and white (iStudio did not have the gold).

I also looked again at the Harman Kardon pages. Trying to access the US site redirects to the Thai site, but access to pages in other countries is possible. A search late Tuesday on the Thai site did find me a page with the Esquire Mini which has links to Downloads and Specifications (but not to the "View Product" page - 404 Not Found). This also shows all 4 colours, although iStudio only carried the 3 (above). I can still find no way (apart from the search) to access the relevant information from the home page.

See Also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2014