The Onyx Studio series from Harman Kardon has included some classic and beloved portable speakers. Now on its 7th iteration, many customers are wondering whether it makes sense to purchase the newest model.
If you already own a functioning Onyx Studio 6, there isn’t enough improvement on the Onyx Studio 7 to spend a couple hundred dollars.
On the other hand, if you are shopping for a new speaker, I would choose the Onyx Studio 7 over the older version if the prices are similar.
The Onyx 7 adds a second tweeter, resulting in a sharper and more clear sound. Some users feel it improves the soundstage as well. However, it loses the waterproof rating that was present on Onyx 6.
Below, we will provide a category-by-category breakdown, so you can choose the speaker that best fits your needs for sound, design, durability, battery, and software.
Sound quality is pretty similar between the two devices.
The biggest change with the new iteration is that Onyx Studio 7 has two tweeters, rather than the single tweeter on Onyx Studio 6. This results in a more crisp sound on Onyx Studio 7, especially in the mids. Theoretically, the soundstage will be wider as well. In my testing, I couldn’t hear the difference in soundstage or width.
The max volume output is roughly the same, with the slight advantage going to Onyx Studio 7. This difference will only be seen on side-by-side testing. Both speakers have total output wattage of 50 watts, if this metric matters to you.
Onyx Studio 6 actually has slightly stronger bass, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Some users feel the bass is too “boomy.” But again, this difference is only perceptible if you are testing both speakers alongside one another.
If you can find either of these speakers on sale, they can compete on sound quality with almost any portable speaker in the sub-$200 range. If you are paying full MSRP, there are better options at that price.
Sound winner: Onyx Studio 7 (slightly)
The new version received a massive overhaul in terms of design. Whether this is a positive thing depends on personal preference.
Onyx Studio 6 has a built-in handle that allows it to be carried like a clutch purse. The styling is unimpressive with this design, but it is well-built for maximum portability.
Onyx Studio 7 has a handle that encircles the speaker, giving it a futuristic appearance (it looks like a planet with a ring around it).
When the device is being used in a stationary position, I think I prefer the styling of Onyx 7. But for portability, Onyx 6 makes a lot more sense.
In addition to the handle differences, Onyx Studio 6 is also lighter than the 7 (by almost a pound).
Each speaker has a 3.5 mm aux input. And each has the same Harman Kardon badge logo.
The button placement is better on the Onyx Studio 7. Using the controls on the Onyx Studio 6 is tedious, but the Onyx 7 redesign did a good job of correcting this.
Design winner: Tie (Onyx 7 for style, but Onyx 6 for function)
Unfortunately, the newer device (Onyx Studio 7) took a big hit in terms of durability. It has no IP waterproof rating. Most of the portable speakers we review have an IPX7 (waterproof) rating at minimum. Many newer speakers add the dust-proof rating, as well.
Onyx Studio 6 has an IPX7 rating. This means it is submergible and should be waterproof enough for any recreational use.
In other words, Onyx Studio 6 isn’t the most waterproof portable speaker on the market — but it is much better than the Onyx Studio 7.
Both speakers are built with some plastic construction, aluminum handles, and fabric covering the speaker. They aren’t the most durable bluetooth speakers you can find, but they should hold up well to frequent use.
Durability: Onyx Studio 6 (due to waterproofing)
Battery life is comparable between the two devices. Sadly, neither one performs very well.
Onyx Studio 6 has a 3,250 mAh battery that is rated for 8 hours at 50% volume. This battery life doesn’t hold up to competitors like JBL Charge 5 (12+ hours on a 7,500 mAh battery), Soundcore Motion+ (12 hours on a 6,700 mAh battery), or even the smaller and more portable JBL Flip 5 & 6 (12 hours on a 4,800 mAh battery).
Generally, a bluetooth speaker will score well for battery life or score well for portability. Onyx Studio 6, sadly, doesn’t rate well for either. The combination of a heavy speaker with an unimpressive battery just doesn’t excite many users.
Having said all that, we were hoping that the Onyx Studio 7 would present a significant upgrade. No such luck! The Onyx 7 still has the same 3,250 mAh battery that is rated for just 8 hours at fairly low (50%) volume.
At normal listening volumes (70-90%), you get about 5 hours of playtime from either speaker. Not terrible, but unspectacular to say the least.
Both speakers charge via an included power adapter, and also feature a 3.5 mm aux input.
Neither device has a power bank that allows you to charge phones or other devices via USB. Considering the limited battery, it was probably a calculated decision not to include this feature. Most of the speakers that have a power bank also have a larger battery than the Onyx Studio. This means that they won’t run down as quickly when being used to charge other devices.
Many people will expect these devices to have a power bank, since it does have a USB-C port. Interestingly enough, this port only serves as a connection for firmware updates, rather than charging other devices.
Battery winner: Tie (both products are lacking)
Software on these speakers is decent but unspectacular.
Both versions have Bluetooth 4.2. Considering the Spring 2021 release date, this feels dated for the Onyx Studio 7. However, both devices have reliable bluetooth connection, so we won’t fault Harman Kardon for the dated bluetooth version.
Neither speaker has an equalizer, and neither is compatible with aptX. As mentioned above, firmware updates utilize the USB port on the device.
Both devices can pair with another Onyx Studio for wireless sound. But there really aren’t many other features to speak of. These speakers function smoothly and without any interference. But you shouldn’t expect any bells and whistles.
Software winner: Tie (function well, but feature-poor)
If you want to purchase a new speaker in the Onyx Studio series, the Onyx Studio 7 provides the best sound due to the added tweeter. However, if you prefer to have a more durable speaker, the Onyx Studio 6 has an IPX7 waterproof rating, while the new version isn’t waterproof rated at all.
Although the Onyx Studio series has produced some great speakers, we still feel that the 6 & 7 are lacking in some key areas.
Sound quality, clarity, and bass are great, and those are ultimately the most important aspects of a speaker.
But the battery lags behind most of the competition, and the new iteration didn’t address this deficiency. Bluetooth is dated, and the speakers don’t support aptX or AAC codecs. The new version (Onyx Studio 7) lacks a waterproof rating, which is a downgrade from the previous generation.
At the MSRP, I wouldn’t touch either of these speakers. But if you are primarily concerned with sound, these are both excellent speakers if you can find them on sale.