Business professionals need true wireless earbuds too. At $149.95, Harman Kardon’s Fly TWS earphones are priced to compete with some of our favorite pairs, and feature a design that looks more boardroom than treadmill. Sonically, they deliver a powerful, bass-forward sound signature that manages to maintain balance with some high-frequency sculpting, and you can adjust things to your liking with EQ in the companion app. Throw in support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and this is a strong pair for the price.
Available in black with grain leather-like panels on the outer earpieces and the charging case, the Fly TWS earphones have a sophisticated look. Internally, 5.6mm drivers deliver a frequency range of 10Hz to 20kHz. The earphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 and support AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX.
Surprisingly, the earpieces have an IPX5 rating. They certainly don’t look water resistant, but they have a higher rating than plenty of true wireless pairs we test. That said, IPX5 is still modest for use at the gym—it means the earpieces can withstand splashes of water projected from any direction, but they can’t handle serious water pressure or being submerged. Additionally, the earpieces fit securely when you’re sitting around or walking, but during a test jog, they had trouble staying in place, so this pair isn’t your best bet for a trip to the gym.
The charging case is a rounded, flip-top design with the Harman Kardon logo up top and a USB-C port on the back. A USB-C-to-USB-A charging cable is included.
The outer panel of each earpiece is sensitive to touch. The left ear’s panel controls voice assistants (Alexa or Google Assistant) with a single tap, or Ambient Aware mode with a swipe. The right earpiece handles playback, track navigation, and call management, depending on how many taps you give it. Holding a finger in place summons your mobile device’s built-in assistant. Swiping up or down raises or lowers volume.
In order for the swipes to work, however, you need to enable them in the My Harman Kardon Headphones app (for Android and iOS). Once this is taken care of, you can also assign different functions to swipes, as well as other functions to double and triple taps. The controls themselves aren’t always super responsive, but once you get used to them, operation goes a little more smoothly.
Alexa and Google Assistant support is built in. Once the Harman Kardon app recognizes the paired earphones (which happened for us immediately), it asks whether you’d like to set up Alexa or Google as your voice assistant. Tapping on one opens the corresponding app on your mobile device, and we had no problem getting Alexa up and running. Once this is set, a simple press of the left ear’s button summons the voice assistant, and the mics had no issue picking up our various vocal commands in testing.
The app also offers five-band adjustable EQ with presets, as well as the ability to save your own settings. You can switch between Talk Thru and Ambient Aware modes in the app—both allow you to monitor your surroundings, but the former dims the music volume dramatically while the latter doesn’t.
Harman Kardon estimates battery life to be roughly six hours, with roughly 14 additional hours in the charging case, but your results will vary with your volume levels.
We tested audio with the EQ set to off to provide an idea of the baseline performance. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the drivers deliver some serious thump without any help from the EQ. This is a bass-forward sound signature that should appeal to bass lovers, but the mix is also relatively well balanced, as there’s also sculpting in the highs.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on bass-forward in-ears, but here, they sound full and round without veering into unnaturally heavy territory. Callahan’s baritone vocals also receive a healthy dose of low-mid richness, and thankfully get enough high-mid and high-frequency presence to remain clear and crisp. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits also benefit from the sculpted highs. Generally speaking, this is a bass-forward, bright sound signature—the mids feel a bit scooped out, as is often the case with bass-heavy audio.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain its punchiness, but it could use a little more high-mid presence. The vinyl crackle and hiss that’s usually relegated to background status takes a slight step forward here, indicating some boosting in the higher frequencies. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with powerful bass depth—it’s not the most intense sub-bass response we’ve heard, but it’s plenty powerful and can be dialed up even more with the app’s EQ. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid clarity and no added sibilance.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get a little extra bass push, bringing the lower-register instrumentation a bit farther forward in the mix than it needs to be. Luckily, the highs are also quite boosted, so the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals maintain their crisp presence. Again, this sound signature is probably not for purists, even when employing the app’s EQ. But for those who favor a little extra bass response, the earphones deliver without going overboard.
The mic offers decent intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded, but there was typical Bluetooth distortion fuzzing up the edges of words. Regardless, the audio was clear enough, and the mic’s signal is strong, which isn’t always the case with true wireless mics.
Without even touching the EQ, Harman Kardon’s Fly TWS earphones offer a solid audio experience—for those who like rich bass depth, there’s plenty to love here. That said, this is a crowded field. If you’re looking for a higher IPX rating and a more stable fit, the $150 JBL UA True Wireless Flash (IPX7) and the $200 Jabra Elite Active 75t (IPX5, but a more secure fit) are two solid true wireless options for the gym. For less money, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air earphones deliver solid audio and an IPX5 rating for just $80. None of these pairs looks quite as professional as the Fly TWS, however, which might be the factor that drives your decision.
Harman Kardon Fly TWS Specs
|Active Noise Cancellation||No|