The Harman Kardon SB 16 is almost a purist's sound bar; it is massive, elegant and delivers richer, wider and louder audio than most of its competitors. However, its features are sparse to the point that it doesn't even have a remote control.
The audio sings, whispers and booms. Several major reviewers sing the praises of the Harman Kardon SB 16's audio; it's clean and accurate, with a powerful yet balanced low-end and the ability to hit high volumes without distorting or compressing. The sound stage is fairly wide, as well, though it still can't come anywhere near the effect put out by a true 5.1-channel solution. As such, one source says the "room ambiance [is] lacking." There are also reports of interference between the wireless subwoofer and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi home networks.
Big, yet beautiful. The Harman Kardon SB 16 is larger than many sound bars, and that carries over to its wireless subwoofer as well, which has what CNET calls "a giant footprint." The sound bar lacks an LED display, which makes it difficult to keep track of volume levels, but reviewers appreciate its dark aesthetic. Connectivity-wise, there are a set of stereo analog jacks and singular coaxial and optical digital ports. Setup is fairly easy.
None to speak of, save one curious highlight. The Harman Kardon SB 16 has no features to speak of: no front display, no onboard decoders, no wireless support, no HDMI ports with fancy features, nothing. In fact, the sound bar doesn't even ship with a remote and is designed to be synced with your existing TV controller. That leads to an irritating issue for some; since you disable your TV's speakers when using a sound bar, CNET found that half the TVs in its labs flashed a prominent "Internal Speakers Disabled" message onscreen every time reviewers attempted to adjust the sound bar's volume with the HDTV's remote.
For audiophiles only. If you're fine with settling for very good sound rather than the excellent audio the Harman Kardon SB 16 provides, you can find perfectly acceptable sound bars with more features for less money.
Like the Boston Acoustics TVee Model 30 (*Est. $600), the Harman Kardon SB 16 is best suited for discerning listeners who, for whatever reason, don't want a full 5.1 home-theater system. The audio sounds great, but the lack of additional features and that irksome remote control issue could turn off more mainstream users. If you want a sound bar that sounds almost as good -- perhaps with just a bit less bass -- and more bells and whistles, the Best Reviewed Zvox Z-Base 580 (*Est. $500) is an excellent option and costs $100 less, though it's not wall mountable. Or, if you want to stick to simplicity but want even better audio, the MartinLogan Motion Vision (*Est. $1,500) delivers a sound that's so robust that it's hard to believe it's coming from a sound bar -- but you'll need to pay a premium for it.
CNET's audio team tests the Harman Kardon SB 16 and ends up awarding it an Excellent rating, despite some qualms about the high price tag and potentially problematic control scheme. "Its excellent sound quality and exterior design make it worth the extra cash," they write. Plenty of comparisons to other sound bars are made.
Review: Harman/Kardon SB 16 Review, Matthew Moskovciak and Steve Guttenberg, March 23, 2011
This review is in-depth, but written in a casual, friendly tone that makes reading it a breeze. It's backed up by a helpful video review, as well. The Audioholics.com team ends up heartily recommending the sound bar despite its absolute dearth of features. "If you want a great sounding soundbar and sound quality is the most important thing for you, we have yet to hear one that sounds better at this price," they write.
Review: Harman/Kardon SB16 Sound Bar & Wireless Sub Video Review, Clint DeBoer and Andrew Gash, May 8, 2012
The Harman Kardon SB 16 is one of several sound bars tested by the editors of ConsumerReports.org. A visual rating system helps readers quickly understand a sound bar's positives and negatives, but talk about the products is very short.
Review: Home Theater Systems, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
Reviews are a bit of a mixed bag at Amazon.com. Most owners are fairly happy with the Harman Kardon SB 16 -- especially its audio chops -- but several users run into the aforementioned remote control issue with their HDTVs or encounter interference with their home Wi-Fi networks. Several also say the sound bar doesn't get quiet enough.
Review: Harman Kardon SB16 Soundbar and Wireless 100 Watt Subwoofer (Black), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of September 2012
Only slightly more than a dozen users leave a review at Crutchfield.com, but they are highly positive, with all but three issuing a perfect rating. Some users run into issues with the remote here, as well.
Review: Harman Kardon SB 16, Contributors to Crutchfield.com, As of September 2012