Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100 review: Multi-talented - MrLiambi's blog


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Thursday, 3 November 2022

Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100 review: Multi-talented

The Citation Multibeam 1100 is far from Harman Kardon's first soundbar rodeo. As well as launching a well received but fairly budget model, the Citation 700, back in 2020, it racked up extensive soundbar experience through its long-running relationship with Samsung's soundbar division. The Citation Multibeam 1100 is, though, the first really serious soundbar to be released under Harman Kardon's own name. 

There's a problem with Harman Kardon's ambitions for the Citation Multibeam 1100, though. Namely that its £800 price throws it right into the ring alongside multiple highly acclaimed rivals like Sonos Arc and Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3. Can the Citation Multibeam 1100 really stand out from such an accomplished crowd?

Design and build

  • Soundbar dimensions: 1150(w) x 65(h) x 130(d)mm
  • Weight: 4.6kg
  • Black or grey finishes available
  • Can add subwoofer and rear speakers as options

Compared with the macho, aggressive looks of most serious soundbars these days, the Citation Multibeam 1100 looks engagingly delicate and polite. Its top and pleasingly rounded front edges are covered in a high quality Kvadrat fabric made from real wool, and this is offset very effectively by some bold metallic detailing. It's available in a seriously attractive grey finish as well as black, too.

It's wide at 1150mm, but sits low enough to fit comfortably under the vast majority of TV screens, and it throws in a couple of really striking design elements in the shape of deep ports on its left and right ends, used to funnel out side-firing beams of sound. There's also a colourful, high-resolution LED display on its top edge that doubles up as a touch-sensitive control pad.

This highly unusual touch control support has persuaded Harman Kardon to place the Multibeam 1100's LED display on its top edge rather than on its front where the information it shows might have been more useful for people trying to control/monitor the soundbar's settings from the comfort of their sofa. The sheer quality of the display, though, does its level best to compensate for its controversial placement. Plus Harman Kardon has provided a simple coloured LED bulb system on the front edge that lets you know which input you're using and helps keep a vague tab on volume levels.

The Multibeam 1100's build quality is excellent throughout, giving the soundbar a premium feel and suggesting that it's robust enough to handle the 630W of power its speakers are capable of generating without breaking down into distortions, chassis buzzes or crackles.

While the Multibeam 1100 is designed to work perfectly ably by itself, you can add optional extra Harman Kardon wireless sub and rear speakers to create a 5.1.2 system if you feel like pushing the boat out.

Connections and control

  • HDMI output with eARC
  • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/Airplay/Chromecast/Alexa Multi-room Music streaming support
  • Remote control supplied
  • Works With Alexa voice control support
  • Touch-control LED display

Unlike some rivals at its price point, the Harman Kardon Citation Multibeam 1100 carries an HDMI loop through. There's only one rather than the two you get with a few more premium soundbars, but one is definitely better than none. Especially as the Multibeam 1100 HDMI's loop through supports not just 4K and HDR, but both the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision premium HDR formats. These carry extra scene-by-scene picture information to bolster playback performance compared with the basic HDR10 format.

There's no official support for the latest gaming features of 4K/120Hz and variable refresh rates through the HDMI loop through, though I did actually manage to get 4K/120Hz to pass through from an Xbox Series X. Albeit only in standard dynamic range. Precious few other soundbars, to be clear, currently support 4K/120Hz or VRR either.

Gamers with the latest consoles and premium PCs will therefore need to attach their gaming devices direct to a 4K/120Hz-capable TV and take advantage of HDMI's audio return channel (ARC) feature to pass sound out to the soundbar. As you'd hope these days, the Multibeam 1100 supports the higher-bandwidth eARC version of ARC, meaning that it can receive full, uncompressed Dolby Atmos soundtracks from suitably capable TVs.

For many people the ARC HDMI system works so well they may well choose to send the sound from all their sources via their TV to the Multibeam 1100. Experience shows, though, that ARC can cause audio lag problems with some systems - which is why it's always handy to find a soundbar carrying a lag-free HDMI loop through as a back up option.

The HDMIs are joined by an optical digital audio input, along with the now pretty much de rigueur Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options. You can use these wireless options to enjoy direct Airplay, Chromecast, Alexa Multi-room and Spotify playback.

A decently user-friendly remote control is supplied with the Multibeam 1100, while 'on-bar' controls are provided by the highly unusual touch-control LED display on the top edge. You can also control it with your voice if you've got an Alexa device to partner it with. 

The only thing missing from the Multibeam 1100's control options is an app that might allow you to issue commands to it via your mobile phone or tablet.


  • 11-driver sound system with Beam technology
  • Dolby Atmos playback
  • Touch-control display
  • 630W of audio power
  • Auto calibration

Inside the Multibeam 1100's elegant bodywork can be found a promisingly potent and high-tech speaker array comprising 11 drivers capable of munching through 630W of power. These drivers include six 55x90mm drivers designed in a 'racetrack' shape to get as much sound and dynamic range out of them as possible; three 25mm tweeters; and, crucially given the Multibeam 1100's Dolby Atmos ambitions, two up-firing drivers on the soundbar's top edge.

All these drivers and Watts are combined with Harman Kardon's proprietary Beam technology, designed to enhance the multi-channel effect and place details in a mix - especially a Dolby Atmos mix - more accurately and dynamically. 

It's a shame the Dolby Atmos support isn't partnered with support for the other 'object based' sound format of DTS:X, but it's fair to say that Dolby Atmos content is much more widely present in the gaming, music and video (especially streamed video) worlds than DTS:X is. 

We've covered many of the Multibeam 1100's star attractions already in other parts of this review, so we won't go over things like the touch control display and connectivity again here. The soundbar does have a couple more tricks up its sleeve we should talk about, though, starting with a very effective auto calibration system that you should definitely run as part of your initial installation process. This takes excellent account of where the soundbar is relative to your walls, and the furniture you have in your room. Post calibration, the sound instantly felt more balanced and cohesive.

A Smart Sound mode, meanwhile, applies proprietary Harman Kardon processing to sources with relatively few channels of sound so that they can take advantage of all the drivers at the Multibeam 1100's disposal while, finally, vocal clarity can be enhanced by a PureVoice processing option.


Despite its cuddly 'lifestyle' design, it doesn't take listening to many blockbuster action scenes to realise that the Multibeam 1100 is actually as hard as nails when it needs to be.

Impact sounds, for instance - gun fire, punches, crashes and so on - are delivered with real force, pushing aggressively out into the room without sounding harsh, over-dominant or poorly timed.

There's more than enough power on hand, too, to ensure that the rest of even the most noisy, dense actions scenes is delivered with enough dynamic range and balance to stop even the punchiest impact sounds standing out too starkly. 

It's a similar story with dialogue. Despite being consistently clear and crisp (without any need to bother with the PureVoice feature), vocals always sound perfectly contextualised within the wider movie mix, rather than emerging too brightly. Voices also benefit from a mild height lift, so that they seem to be coming from the onscreen action rather than being stuck in the soundbar below the screen. 

Although the Multibeam 1100 ships with neither an external subwoofer or any dedicated bass drivers, it manages to produce seriously impressive low frequency sounds in terms of both the depths they reach and the way it can maintain even sustained bass sounds without them sounding too flimsy or dominant. This is helped by the clever inclusion of substantial ports on the soundbar's rear edge, which shift so much pressurised air that they blew up clouds of dust from my TV stand the first time I drove the soundbar hard.

The Multibeam 1100's mid-range, meanwhile, is expansive and dynamic enough to ensure that the bass doesn't sound forced or detached from the rest of the mix. There's plenty of breathing room for action movie sequences to gradually build to their epic conclusions without starting to sound thin, compressed or 'capped off' when the going starts to get really tough. 

Maybe the single greatest proof of just how potent but also refined the Multibeam 1100 is, though, is how spectacularly busy and detailed it sounds. No element in a film's mix, especially an Atmos mix, passes the Multibeam 1100 by, no matter how quiet or subtle it might be. 
Even better, the combination of forward/side/up-firing drivers and Multibeam technology distributes and places Dolby Atmos effects exceptionally well, building not just a wall of sound but a genuine three-dimensional sound space into which effects are placed so well you feel as if you could reach up and pluck them from the air. 

There are a couple of limitations with the Multibeam 1100's movie efforts. First, not even the Multibeam system can create a sense of any soundstage coming from behind you. So the full Dolby Atmos effect of enveloping the viewer/listener in the middle of a full wrap-around three dimensional soundstage doesn't happen. This is pretty much inevitable with any single-bar soundbar solution, though, and actually the Multibeam 1100 does an unusually good job of creating a three-dimensional sound space in front of you, at least. 

You could fix the lack of surround sound, of course, by adding Harman Kardon's optional rear speakers. Though if you're thinking of doing this, take note that these optional rears aren't multi-channel models like those you get with the latest flagship soundbars from LG and Samsung.

The other little niggle finds sudden heavy bass hits sounding a little coarse and hemmed in. They soon recover, but in a soundstage as otherwise immaculate as that of the Multibeam 1100 these brief moments of bass weakness ironically stand out more than they would on a less accomplished soundbar.

As with the best of its single component soundbar rivals, the Multibeam 1100 manages to be as authoritative, transparent and deft with music playback as it is muscular and expansive with movie soundtracks. 

Detail levels are again a real highlight of its musical playback, but again this is achieved without leaving any part of the mix sounding over-exposed or off-kilter. 

Music vocals are handled beautifully in terms of both their placement at the heart of a stereo mix, their clarity and their context - regardless of whether they're male or female. Swelling strings expand beautifully with no harshness in the upper frequencies too, while heavy bass sounds appear potent but controlled and involved rather than disarticulated from the rest of a mix. 

Soundbars with external subwoofers can inevitably drop lower and propel bass further around the room with dance music, but the Multibeam 1100 actually does an excellent job of modifying its bass output to music of all sorts by integrated soundbar standards.

The Multibeam 1100 is so good with vanilla stereo music that most users likely won't feel any need to play it in any other way. However, if you do fancy (literally) mixing things up, the Smart Sound mode is available to convert stereo music into a more three-dimensional, more room-filling sound that's much less unpleasant than you might think. Especially with orchestral tracks. Peak trebles can sound a bit too shrill with Smart Sound processing active, but otherwise it's a mode that's at least worth trying out. It's also a safe bet with DTS sources if you're looking to get them sounding a bit closer to Dolby Atmos.

Source : https://www.pocket-lint.com/speakers/reviews/harman-kardon/163221-harman-kardon-citation-multibeam-1100-review

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