Review: Harman Kardon's Citation MultiBeam 1100 soundbar offers soaring audio with great range

Harman Kardon's Citation MultiBeam 1100
Can a single soundbar deliver enough that you don't need a subwoofer too? Photo credit: Supplied / Harman Kardon

I like to think that I'm relatively open-minded, but until last year I scoffed at the idea of soundbars.

I was convinced for decent audio I needed a full-blown, wired surround sound setup, and my living room just is not big enough for all those speakers.

However after reviewing one for Newshub I was proven wrong. My partner was so taken with the effects of watching movies with one she practically ordered me to go and buy whichever model I thought appropriate.

Alongside the 4K television it offers a quality to our home watching I just didn't think possible.

But could Harman Kardon, one of my favourite audio brands, tempt me with their new soundbar as a potential upgrade on my current?

I've been using the Harman Kardon Citation MultiBeam 1100 for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

For something so prominently displayed, aesthetics are important and the MultiBeam 1100 doesn't disappoint.

The long, sleek fabric bar fits perfectly in front of the television and looks great, while those who prefer it can choose to mount it directly on the wall. 

I've been told off for calling gadgets 'sexy' before, but honestly I think that fits pretty well here.

There are 11 speakers on board the MultiBeam including two which upfire. Those enable it to be Dolby Atmos certified - the sound hits your roof and you get a virtual surround sound effect from it.

It also has something called Harman PureVoice technology which is designed to ensure crystal-clear speech at any volume.

In a head-to-head with my current set-up there was a difference, although not a massive one. If you hope this will help you understand Bane in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises then you're liable to be disappointed as it's not magic. But the audio on other movies was certainly impressive.

Watching television and playing games with the audio blasting through this is a terrific experience and I couldn't really fault it. I've got to admit I was a little surprised at just how much depth was able to be delivered by the soundbar, with some great bass as well as fidelity at the top end too.

Harman Kardon's Citation MultiBeam 1100
Photo credit: Supplied / Harman Kardon

It's also a multi-function device with handy touch controls on the top thanks to the luminous LCD display as well as supporting AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music and Chromecast.

It took just seconds to set up on my Android phone and then I was able to ensure everyone in the room heard my weird choice in music instead of just me with my headphones. I'm not sure if they appreciated the songs, but they certainly enjoyed the quality.

Even when I left my phone on the other side of the room, I was able to use the touch control to skip ahead on my playlist and pause when necessary.

When you first set it up, the MultiBeam 1100 does a sound calibration in order to balance the audio and 3D surround sound effect for your room. One tip, though - don't set it up at 5am like I did. The neighbours might worry about the alien-sounding effects that are loudly played in order to do this!

From setup to ongoing performance there is so much to enjoy about this soundbar and it has impressed everyone who listened to it with me.

The bad

There's very little to fault about the MultiBeam 1100, which I guess is positive for something that will set you back $1300.

The biggest issue may be what's not there, instead of what is. As someone with a subwoofer at the moment, I did miss the extra impact you get with a decent one of those.

So many times I've felt a movie through my feet as well as being able to see it and hear it thanks to the big box on the floor. You don't get that here.

And as good as virtual surround sound can be, it still doesn't have the same impact as having physical speakers behind you delivering the appropriate audio as far as I'm concerned.

My current set-up has detachable satellite speakers that work wirelessly and can easily be mounted behind the couch. That gives it a slight edge to a single soundbar, I think.

Harman Kardon's Citation MultiBeam 1100
Photo credit: Supplied / Harman Kardon

Of course, you can add your own extras to the Multibeam 1100 - the Citation Sub S and the Citation Surround speakers will convert it to a full 5.1.2 surround system. That's just going to have you forking out quite a bit more, though.

If money's no object? Go for it. I would.

Finally, a minor annoyance. While the soundbar integrates just fine with my television thanks to the eARC connection, there is no visible volume level indicator on the telly when the volume goes up or down.

When you're getting up at 2am to watch the mighty Glasgow Rangers play a game on the other side of the world, it can be less annoying for both your partner and the dog if you don't suddenly blast the game at the same volume you watched Top Gun earlier in the evening. Oops, my bad.

The verdict

If you haven't experienced the sonic joys of a soundbar to go with your 4K television, then I suggest you get on that forthwith.

It adds a real depth to the experience and I truly don't miss going to the cinema these days.

If I was looking to buy a soundbar now, then the Citation MultiBeam 1100 would be up there and I can heartily recommend it to anyone considering such a purchase.

Given its overall quality, there's only one thing to take into consideration and that's your budget.

Harman Kardon's Citation MultiBeam 1100
Photo credit: Supplied / Harman Kardon

With an RRP of $1299.95, you may well be able to pick one up on special for less, but it's still a significant amount of money.

Depending on what you want out of your system, the same amount could buy one with similar qualities, but with a subwoofer and satellite speakers too.

That's what mine offers, so I'm not considering a direct swap at this point.

If you're in a small home or have the television tucked into a bedroom then it may not be worth splashing out that much either - you might blow the windows out with anything but the lowest sound.

What I can say with confidence, however, is Harman Kardon makes high-quality devices and if you decide this one's for you, you're getting an absolute beauty.

The Sonos Arc might have a better name. It arguably doesn't have a better performance.

Newshub was supplied with a Harman Kardon Citation MultiBeam 1100 for this review.