Chances are high that you can find a pretty good Bluetooth speaker for under $200. Whichever option you settle with, it’s nearly impossible not to wonder what an extra $100-200 tacked onto the price can get you. At worst, you’d get a speaker with unnecessary flair and a few features tacked on. But if you’re lucky, you’ll get something like the Harman Infinity One.
This thing is expensive at $300 (about £254, AU$368), so it must be good, right? There’s never any sense in that logic, but read on to find out why I think the Infinity One is able to stand its ground as a worthy investment in a market of Bluetooth speakers where "just good enough" is the unfortunate status quo.
Despite costing a few more Benjamins, the design of the Harman Infinity One beckons to be compared to the cheaper JBL Pulse and JBL Charge 2. After all, it fits in with the soda can design, but is more accurately the size of a large, heavy-duty Thermos.
The similarities to the Pulse and Charge 2 don’t stop there. The chassis of the speaker prominently features a fashionable grille that encircles the device, covering up the internal hardware with brushed aluminum coated with a grippy, black coating that adds to its appeal.
Each end of the Infinity One’s cylindrical design is stocked with passive radiators, which act to perk up the sound coming from the drivers to seem as if it were created by a much larger system. On this speaker, they look nice to boot. Recessed a few inches into the opening, you’ll see them bouncing actively with bass response as you jam.
Most Bluetooth speakers offer support for multiple orientations, but the Infinity One offers no such accommodations. In addition to the horizontal orientation, I like that the Dell AD211 provides a bottom on one of its sides in case you want to prop it up vertically. But with rubber feet on the bottom and controls on the top, it’s too clear that the Infinity One is limited to a horizontal orientation.
To call the Harman Infinity One travel-friendly is a misnomer. Sure, it can be stuffed into a bag and taken on the go. But it was made painfully clear to me that this speaker, which is quite the investment for most, is better left still and unmoved. That’s mostly because of its overly-fragile paint work.
I lightly tapped the speaker against my desk while moving it from here to there and regrettably scraped some of the "durable" ceramic coating right off. Fortunately, this was just a review unit. But even so, I nearly cried real tears.
With the Infinity One, the sound performance kept delivering surprises. Wherever I was in the room (I live in a studio flat), the sound from the four 1.75-inch active drivers found my ears. The sound actually fills the room so well that I couldn’t use it in TechRadar’s shared office space. Whenever a new song came on and sounded particularly great, I found myself looking over to the speaker in amazement, winking at it.
But what good is sound without range capabilities, battery life and other features? Line of sight, usually the biggest hang-up for wireless speakers, was of little concern for a hitch-free listening experience with the Infinity One.
In fact, I often took the speaker upstairs to act as a dinner-side boombox, all while my connected device was hanging out downstairs, 20+ feet away through floors and walls. The Infinity One also had no problem at all meeting its advertised battery life of 10 hours.
Other features that may or may not influence your decision to purchase include the ability to charge a device via USB. The battery can charge a zapped iPhone in about an hour, but it will severely lessen the speaker’s battery life.
If you fancy an even faster method of pairing than Bluetooth, tap your NFC-enabled phone – but not too hard, or you’ll chip the finish – and you’ll be connected. Lastly, the speaker has an internal microphone and controls that allow you to take calls without bringing the phone up to your ear.
Bluetooth speakers are usually riddled with "ifs" and "buts". Like, if you don’t mind keeping your device in direct line of sight, you’ll have a great experience. Or, the sound is great, but the battery lasts for 2 hours. Fortunately, the Harman Infinity One isn’t conflicted. The sound is fantastic, and its design doesn’t trip over performance and vice versa.
The Harman Infinity One is a portable speaker that confidently pumps out the performance of a soundbar/subwoofer combo, and that alone should be commended. On top of that, all of the features a consumer would expect in a modern Bluetooth speaker are here and perform like a whistle.
It’s a bit of a bummer that the Infinity One doesn’t support vertical orientation. That, along with the fragility of its "durable" ceramic coating puts into question how serious (or not) Harman aims at making this speaker a true travel companion. Also, like most Bluetooth speakers, the Infinity One lacks controls to change songs, so you’ll need to make the occasional trek to your device.
Someone recently asked me, "If the price of the Harman Infinity One is twice that of most Bluetooth speakers, does that mean it’s twice as good?" "Good" is hard to define, as it’s different for everyone. But I’d say, as far as Bluetooth speakers go, the Harman Infinity One is nearly as good as it gets.