Harman Kardon CL Review: These Headphones Can Handle All Your Listening Needs

It's not remotely easy to create a pair of headphones that combine awesome audio quality, portability, style, and a favorable price tag. Could Harman Kardon's new CL headphones be the rare pair that does it all?

What Is It?

Lightweight, well-made, on-ear headphones.

Who's It For?

You know those people who really like music? It's for them.

Design

A steel band connects the matte black foam and pleather on-ear cups, and a leather inner band sits on top of your head. Plenty of cushion.

Using It

Designed to be used on the go, the Harman Kardon CLs are sensitive enough to deliver plenty of detail, clarity and bass from a smartphone, tablet or computer. But they also respond well to more power. When plugged into Audioengine's D1 DAC and headphone amp, 320 kbps tracks instantly sounded cleaner. Bass tightened, resolution improved, and highs sparkled. The low end frequencies were a bit too boomy, and the mids could be a bit more present, but nothing sounded bad. All in all, audio coming from the CLs is stellar.

The Best Part

Versatility. Use them at home or on the go. Use them with expensive gear or mass-market electronics. Shove 'em in a bag. Put them on display. There are few other headphones that work in as many situations.

Tragic Flaw

To detach the cans from the headband, you turn the ear pieces outwards and remove them. If they get twisted too far in a bag, the earpieces come loose on their own. It's annoying to have to readjust the headphones, and you question how durable the wiring could be.

This Is Weird...

The CLs were actually louder when connected to an iPhone 4S than to a MacBook Pro.

Test Notes

  • Tested with an iPhone 4S, MacBook Pro, and Audioengine D1 DAC/Headphone Amp using 320kbps MP3s and no EQ.
  • Compared against the Aiaiai TMA-1 and the Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones.
  • Listened to songs spanning hip-hop, jazz, rock, pop, electronic and R&B genres.
  • These may not bleed the same level of quality as the Bowers and Wilkins P5s, but the CLs hardly sound cheap.

Should You Buy It?

Definitely. Are there better sounding headphones out there? Of course, but they're all likely bigger and bulkier, more expensive, or open-air.

When you compare them to other lightweight, closed-back $200 pairs of cans, there aren't many that can top the CLs. The P5s may have superior construction and better imaging, and the TMA-1s may feel more durable, but neither combines price, design, portability and sound quality in quite the same way the CLs do.

Real people aren't concerned with the extreme nuances of audio. But they're sure that $20 pair isn't quite cutting it. For them, these Harman Kardons are a very good pair of headphones.

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Harman Kardon Cl Specs

• Design: Closed back, supra aural.
• Drivers: 40mm neodymium, dynamic
• Frequency Responce: 16Hz-20,000Hz
• Sensitivity: 119db
• Price: $200
• Gizrank: 4.0 stars