Harman Kardon Debuts an Alluring Portable Smart Speaker

They are popping up everywhere, smart speakers, that is. Harman Kardon has already sworn allegiance to the Cortana cabal with its Invoke, and now it is cozying up to Alexa with the Allure Portable. There is no honor among thieves or audio companies.

Unlike the Cortana Invoke, the Alexa Allure Portable is a portable speaker. Also, whereas the Invoke has a somewhat conservative look, the Allure Portable's cosmetics are a little more daring. Its steel speaker grille and semi-transparent top cover are quite attractive but personally, I prefer the look of the Invoke. There is no accounting for my taste.

The Allure Portable's slightly bigger size lets it pack a decent amount of audio tech. In particular, it has two 1.75-inch full-range drivers and two passive radiators. The speaker supports Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi streaming up to 24-bit/96 kHz. Confusingly, Harman Kardon already offers an Allure smart speaker with Alexa and with crowd-pleasing colored lights; but it is not portable. The sleeker Allure Portable, of course, is portable, and eschews the fancier light show.

Conveniently, a charging cradle is bundled with the Allure Portable. For its Alexa voice capabilities, there are two embedded microphones (provided by Synaptics AudioSmart Far-Field Voice Technology) and noise cancellation technology to expedite voice commands. For comparison, the original Allure used four microphones.

From a portability standpoint, the speaker can run for 10 hours on a charge. It is interesting to note that portable smart speakers pose a particular challenge to designers. To be effective, the speaker must always be listening for its next voice command; that, of course, is a current drain on the battery. To alleviate this, the microphones and listening technology must be as energy efficient as possible.

The Allure Portable will retail for $199 and will be available in Spring, 2018. The original Allure is currently available for $250.