Innovation in design and sound has kept Harman Kardon at the forefront of home audio since its founding back in the 1950s. Today, as the portable and mobile markets continue to bring heat to the audio landscape, we take a moment to discuss Harman Kardon’s process in design and audio with their VP of Marketing, Sean Kapoor.


Harman Kardon has remained a very well-known name in the home audio sector since its founding back in the 1950s. Many firsts have come through the engineering labs of HK, from stereo receivers to implementation of new technologies in hardware. How does Harman Kardon balance between pushing forward the new and keeping prices friendly?

Harman Kardon has always stood for enriching your listening experience and surroundings by delivering refined sound clothed in beautiful design. We keep this brand promise at the heart of everything we do. Constantly pushing to innovate and deliver products that are iconic in their time yet preserving the simplicity, intuitiveness and elegance and delivering a truly multi-sensory experience to our consumers.


We’ve seen the mobile audio explode over the last decade with the dominance of MP3 players and smartphones putting demand on the market for new products to compliment these players. Headphones are clearly the space for growth and innovation. How is Harman Kardon positioning to be a leader in the market?

Harman Kardon has a heritage of delivering beautiful, sophisticated, and premium listening experiences and that is still core to how we innovate. As the audio category evolves to meet the needs of the consumer, we continue to deliver beautiful, uncomplicated audio design that makes their world better, no matter how they consume their music, through headphones, or through portable audio solutions or in their car. To stay a leader in our category we continue to introduce new ideas to the market, create new desires for our customers that are fundamental to their lifestyle.

The Harman Kardon NC noise canceling headphone have won various awards in design. Can you tell us a little on how the model came into existence and how it is different than other headphones in the space?

We always start with the consumer and then challenge ourselves to create the perfect fusion of design and elegance that delivers uncompromising audio experiences for that consumer. That’s what drove the creation of the HK NC headphones. We want people to fall in love with their Harman Kardon product. Instead of just regarding it as typical consumer electronics. We want people to have experiences that are inspirational. We looked at the sea of plastic and just plain me-too headphone designs and set out to create something that would invoke the sense of being discerning, yet accessible, comfortable, utilitarian with a design that is truly a self-expression of our consumer, keeping what should be the essence of a headphone at the epicenter: an amazing listening experience.


With the rise of new technology, like Bluetooth and other wireless protocols, audio and music playback is entering a new era: where the loudspeaker was once an isolated addition to the receiver, we now see speakers, including your own Sabre SB 35 soundbar system, putting the technology right into the device. How has this changed how Harman Kardon approaches speaker design?

We look at every category we offer a solution in and ask ourselves, how can we do this in the Harman Kardon way? How do we take a current or new product and/or technology and turn it into an iconic object of desire? That’s what led to the development of the Sabre sound bar. Soundbars have traditionally been round or blocky and some of that is driven by the physics of delivering great audio, but we challenged ourselves to turn that into something that is complex on the inside, but simple and beautiful on the outside, and the Sabre does just that.

As mentioned, audio in the home is putting focus on wireless. What doors in innovation does this and other technologies open for Harman Kardon when considering new products that branch from the home theatre into full room experiences? How does the wireless home audio space look to Harman Kardon?

We recently launched several home audio products that embrace wireless audio technologies and deliver great sound in any room of your home. From the award winning Onyx, to the iconic Aura, coupled with the Harman Kardon app, we deliver great wireless audio listening experiences with uncompromising audio quality delivered through products that entice the discerning and passionate curator in you. In your home, Harman Kardon products cultivate a distinct expression, by making our products a unique experience that contribute to our consumer’s lifestyle.


Portable speakers sit somewhere between home and mobile use. Products like Onyx and Esquire bring strong design to Bluetooth speakers. What is the thinking in sound design here? Do all wireless speakers of this nature speak to all consumers equally?

Industrial Design is a key discipline within Harman Kardon product development, engaged in almost all tangible and intangible aspects that make a product. Design plays an important role in making our products a relevant experience for people. With productslike the Onyx or the Esquire, our mission is to create accessible luxury embodied in clean modern design: sim­ple-to-use wireless Bluetooth speakers that deliver exquisite sound and an overall quality that appeals to all our senses.


There is quite a balance between design, function and sound with Harman Kardon products. Is one aspect more important than another? How has Harman Kardon kept such a strong balance between the three in developing home and portable audio products?

The experience we deliver is intangible. Yet, we are dependent on some very tangible assets – our products. They have to be different and relevant – to differentiate us from our competitors while being relevant for our customers. Our goal with every Harman Kardon product is to deliver the ultimate fusion of beauty and sound. When deciding on shapes, colors, materials, usability and ergonomics of a prod­uct, we not only consider purely aesthetic needs, we think about how those choices will be perceived by our consumers, and in which way they will steer the user’s impression.

Talk to us about what excites Harman Kardon engineers and innovators in regards to home and portable audio. What is the next innovation audio category for Harman Kardon?

We are excited about the transforming audio landscape and we continue to innovate to introduce new ideas in to the market, create new perceptions and desires for our customers that are fundamental to their lifestyle. We want every product we introduce to strengthen the emotional bond between our brand and our customer. Wireless in your home and on-the-go experiences will be an area where you will see us push to deliver products and solutions that deliver a simple and comprehensible user experience. We continue to strive to deliver audio experiences that go beyond a typical consumer electronics and are truly special and recognizable, with the same timeless high aesthetic quality that has been the soul of every Harman Kardon product over half a century.


Managing Director N.A.

Jeff Carvalho is Managing Director for Highsnobiety N.A. in New York City. He holds a journalism degree from Northeastern University.

What To Read Next