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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition for Sprint hands-on and impressions

News by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday April 29, 2014.

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HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition for Sprint
HTC One M8 Harman Kardon edition for Sprint

Sprint today announced multiple initiatives, including a chance for subscribers to get 6 months of free Spotify service, as well as Sprint Spark launching in new markets. The most unique announcement today is the release of a special HTC One M8 model that has been tuned to work with Harman Kardon sound enhancements.

The three initiatives are meant to work in concert: Spotify supplies the music, Spark ensures it gets a delivers a fast and reliable connection, and Harman/Kardon builds up the audio quality so the music will sound better than the compressed files transferred through data services. The Harman component is the most important of that trio for anyone who listens to music, and it holds up its end of the bargain. I do not consider myself an audiophile, but I am definitely able to notice the difference between a high-quality audio file and one that's low-quality. The HTC One M8 helps make that a non-issue.

Digital music files are compressed in order to save space, but that comes at a loss of quality. Harman has developed an algorithm that can help reverse the effects of the compression process and make for better sound. I received a demo of its Clari-Fi technology two weeks ago and was taken aback by how much better music sounds when it?s turned on. The demo that I saw was for home audio speakers, but the same premise and effect is noticeable in the mobile implementation. Vocals sound more crisp and elements of songs are properly mixed. When listening to an EDM song on the HTC One M8, Clari-fi kicked in to suddenly reveal some sound effects that can't be heard comfortably when it's turned off. The build-up to the drop is more dramatic and clearer than one typically gets with music. An R&B song with LiveStage changed the audio to make the vocals more distinguished and the instruments sound as if they were recorded during a live performance, a unique but welcome parlor trick that I wouldn't mind returning to in the future.

Harman Kardon tells me that the impact of the special edition HTC One M8 will be felt most when songs are below 200kbps, typical of streaming audio and many MP3's. Sprint is planning to take things further by introducing lossless audio files that users can listen to, but even playing songs through Spotify will improve the experience. And while there are options to fine-tune audio settings to best suit a select group of Harman Kardon headphones, any headset will be able to deliver better sound.

You don't have to be an audiophile to pick up on the benefits of the HK edition, but you do have to be a Sprint customer. When I asked Sprint what will happen to customers who have already purchased an HTC One, I was informed that there's currently no plans to offer any special upgrade process. I'd say that the sound quality of the Harman Kardon HTC One M8 is unrivaled among mobile devices; I wouldn't say it's worth breaking a contract or purchasing a full-price phone unless you listen to music frequently. If you go to a Sprint store and listen to how it sounds, it may be tough to resist upgrading anyway.

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Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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