On the rear of the primary cabinet, you get some physical EQ dials, of which Bass is one. I love my bass, so naturally, the first thing I did was crank it to the max to see what it is capable of and I must say that I am underwhelmed with it.
Even powered through the RCA connections, with a nice bass output via a source, the bass quantity is less than impressive for a $1499 speaker with a dedicated bass dial.
If there were to be a bass toggle on the unit, I would want that to shine and really impress me with bass output power. But the speaker is timid at the very most on this section of the spectrum.
Now, I am not saying there is no bass. There is! This speaker is a split horn design between an active tweeter handling top side and a dedicated low/mid fully powered unit under that. So, I can tell you that the bass experience is still in the moderate zone.
And I think my own personal bar for what constitutes basshead levels of bass was freshly obliterated when I first received those Harman Citations. They have so much bass, that I have to turn down the bass, and I am a bass head.
So that is really saying something. Compared to an actual bass canon, the A300 is pleasant and serene even on max setting.
The fidelity factor is sublime. My god, well, side by side with the Magnepan LRS, the A300 sounds noticeably cleaner and less funky with bass projection.
True, the LRS is a Planar design and the A300 is not, but that should mean the LRS would project bass “better” than the A300, right? Well, not in this case. The LRS has a pension for projecting depth of field and not forward projection.
Meaning, the bass requires airflow from the rear of the unit to pass through and causing the imaging to project behind the speakers and rebound off the walls behind the speaker.
The A300 does not do that and blares the bass right at you as you sit in front of it. It is fun to move them forward a bit and feel no bass reverb in your chest when you stand behind them, but then move forward in front of them and feel the iron hammer smack you.
The reverse feels true with the Maggies, stand behind them, a better sense of bass due to double two-hit combo reverb off the wall, but stand in front, and it’s a bass-light speaker that requires a separate sub.
I really do enjoy great horn designs like this because the bass is so solid in texture and tactility, it feels completely different from my HDP6’s, for example. And it is a bass texture type that only appears in very expensive speakers.
The A300 projects vocals in a moderately balanced manner in terms of presentation. Physically, the midrange feels precisely in line with the treble and offset from the bass.
Mids are not forward, and neither are the treble instances, but the less than moderate quantity and potency of bass, while in a totally flat EQ without any additive dialing up anywhere across the entire spectrum, ends up making the A300 feel a tad lacking in the lower mids.
You can alter that, as mentioned, with some toggling of the bass dial. But, otherwise, without anything active, the mids feel a tad thin for a speaker of this caliber.
Thinness in presentation has nothing to do with fidelity or clarity, which are both stellar for the price. The A300 sounds on par with the Citation Towers (originally over $2000 and now discontinued, hopefully forever) in raw fidelity.
However, again, the Citations are very thick and weighty feeling even with the bass dialed down. The total heft factor on the A300 is my biggest gripe, and I find it to be roughly on par with the Magnepan LRS. Have you heard of the lower-end Magnepans? Well, this A300 has a similar tactility in the mid-range vocal presentation.
The upper mids are superb, lacking a sense of nasalness and weirdness that makes you tilt your head and say, “did I just hear that…what was that?!!!” which is common in bookshelf speakers in the budget tier.
Upper mids separate from the central portions and are highly accentuated in jazz tracks. I will rave about him every chance I get; I love Seth MacFarlane.
Yes, the guy who makes the cartoon Family Guy and American Dad. Did you know he was also an incredibly accomplished singer and musician? This is heavily underrated and has 4 incredible jazz standard albums, all of them fantastic.
His voice carries so well in the lower tone, but when he belts it out, it feels so separated from the rest of the orchestra behind him with blaring low-frequency horn usage in the band. Amazing really. This separation of central mids and upper mids are just fantastic to hear.
On the top side, the A300 is tame and lacks a sense of sparkle that I find to be my tonal preference these days. I would call it dry, but also suddenly there too when it calls for it.
Sometimes, speakers and headphones do not portray bass depth but will slam and sound heavy when the tracks are called for it specifically.
So too, in this case, the top side is not offering an omnipresent sheen that I desire all too often. Instead, it hits that brightness factor only when the track really calls for it.
You can elevate this further into a bright tier with the treble dial on the back of the primary speaker, but this does nothing for the tonal sparkle factor. It just creates more treble, not a better or more beautiful tone and texture.
It took a lot of tinkering with sources to get the right EQ set up to promote more instances of that type of treble I desire. It is achievable, but the only way I could push that through was with an SMSL M400 DAC outputting XLR balanced into the A300.
This only happened because the SMSL M400 is a bright shimmering treble-toned product. So, for rig pairing, if you want more treble, skip the dial on the unit or any source EQ, and opt for a high-tier nice treble reputation amp.
And again, you don’t need the amplifier to have high output, you just want it to handle treble in a way that meshes with the A300. So, I recommend higher-end clinical amps and sources for the A300 to get the best out of the treble it is capable of giving you.
The A300 feels like a standard high-end bookshelf speaker, in terms of the raw size of the image it presents. Compared with the LRS, the A300 is tiny and projects significantly less height and width.
However, it matches the LRS in depth and realism factor. The HDP6 and the A300 sound basically identical in this regard, but the A300 is superior in fidelity and forcefulness of the entire presentation vs the quieter and more thin presentation of the HDP6.
It isn’t until we get to the Citations that the A300 is completely outclassed in imaging. The Citations toss an incredible soundstage, with a stage height and depth that literally is too much for my listening room.
What is the problem then? The A300 has way better depth of field and realism as well as coherency. That, vs the Citations lacking depth of field and generally overly rounded feel too damned near everything.
Citation = huge width and height but lacking definition.
A300 = stellar coherency and realism factor, but far less height and separation qualities.
HDP6 = far less substance factor than the A300, but similar width and height factor.
LRS = generally on par and similar feeling imaging to the A300 but actually does feel a tad bit deeper.
The A300 is so quiet that I thought they were broken for a moment. I can hear a constant gentle hum on all of my speakers, even the Citations and the LRS (well, especially the LRS).
Yet, I heard nothing on the A300 until I plugged it into my laptop via USB and heard an awful screech sound. I immediately found out that my laptop has some new ground noise issues that are brand new to my experience with it (it’s a nice gaming laptop that is a few years old).
So, I had to outsource and get a new rig to make sure that doesn’t happen again. And now, no noise. The same hum on the other speakers, but no hum on the A300, so this speaker is damned dead quiet and seemingly intended to be exactly that.
This bad noise didn’t happen with the wired inputs (only the USB connection) so it was my laptop that was the culprit and not the speaker. I just thought it would be fun to hear the electrical hum of the Citation when I get close to it, and then do the same to the A300 and hear literally nothing but my cat playing downstairs.
Harman Citation Towers
The Citations are literal canons for bass and shake my entire condo, but they were a massive pain in the ass for years and unusable until about half a year ago when a new firmware update “fixed” some problems that previously caused the units to literally refuse to connect or stay connected.
They sat for years until I stumbled across a thread and someone said they released fixes via a new firmware. And they did. They connect, finally.
The Citations are Bluetooth connection ONLY. The A300 has tons of input types. The Citations are mega bass canons, but also toss a lovely sparkly treble and a meaty sound signature overall. The imaging is positively huge and dwarfs every other speaker I’ve tested. However, it lacks the coherency that is abundant in the A300.
One of my favorite active bookshelves, if not my absolute fav for being a general all-around great unit.
The image is slightly warm, vs the A300s’ more neutral approach. The A300 has EQ dials on the rear side, and the HDP6 has none but responds immensely well to EQ on your source. The A300 responds less well to EQ alterations than the HDP6 does.
The A300 is also significantly better sounding in terms of fidelity, the raw purity factor from the bass up to the top treble areas is almost comically superior. The A300 is a powered speaker that requires no amp, but the HDP6 requires a dedicated speaker amp to use.
The LRS is bass anemic no matter what you do, it’s a bass light speaker and there is no getting around it. You’ll need to get a dedicated sub just to balance out the spectrum, whereas you don’t need to do that at all on the A300. It has a sub already technically inside, and it can bam out some nice bass quantity with excellent clarity.
The LRS image is a natural feeling and just as coherent as the A300. However, it is the tonal heft that is the problem for me on the LRS, it’s too thin feeling. It’s a Planar that feels thin, whereas the A300 feels much thicker and weightier.
The LRS requires massive amp voltage to sound its best, the A300 requires a normal power wall outlet and nothing more.
The AirPulse A300 is a slam dunk win of a speaker, so long as you are a generalist and don’t require a specialized sound.
This speaker is stubborn and doesn’t play nice with EQ even though the unit itself has EQ dials on it. To be able to change the sound via any EQ is a struggle, but it can be done with the right rig pairing and patience.
Beyond the plethora of inputs, the units are immensely attractive and absurdly well-built. These horns push a powerful midrange and have a lovely desirable cutoff between central and upper mids that is sometimes addictive when you listen to slow jazz standards. Beautiful is a simple term that describes it.
Overall, the A300 is a bit of a Swiss army knife of a speaker that is right on point for the price-to-performance ratio.
Airpulse A300 Specifications
Tweeter: Horn Loaded Ribbon Tweeter
Mid-Woofer: 5inch Aluminum Cone Underhung Design Neo. Power Mid-Woofer
Amplifier System: Digital Amplifier With XMOS Processor
Power Output: L/R(Treble):10W+10W, L/R(Woofer): 70W+70W