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The Harman Kardon Saga

The story of Harman Kardon is largely the story of Sidney Harman. Harman, born in Montreal in 1918, grew up in the city of New York. From an early age, he showed a flair for business. But, Harman had other talents as well - Science. He majored in physics from New York’s City College.

In 1939, he found a job in the engineering department of the David Bogen Company, a firm that made public-address sound systems. He and his boss, chief engineer, Bernard Kardon, quickly became friends. Harman then moved from engineering into sales where he discovered the importance of customers and responding to their needs via innovation.

In 1953, Harman resigned and took Kardon with him.

The Birth of Harman Kardon

Both Harman and Kardon invested USD $5,000 and formed a new company - Harman Kardon. Initially, Harman Kardon manufactured high-fidelity machines for playing music at home.

New York Times reporter William Holstein wrote, “At that time, the conventional wisdom was that to listen to music from the radio, you needed a tuner to capture radio signals, a preamplifier, a power amplifier, and speakers.” Instead, Harman and Kardon combined multiple components into one easy-to-use unit that they called a receiver.

Built into an attractive housing that looked more like stylish furniture than complex electronics, the receiver – Festival D1000 – was a huge success. It was especially popular with young listeners.

Harman Kardon Festival D1000

In 1956, Harman and Kardon’s initial investment of USD $10,000 was worth USD $600,000. When Kardon wanted to retire, Harman bought-out Kardon’s share of the company and kept going. Two years later, Harman Kardon produced Festival TA230, the world’s first stereo receiver. And again, the audience loved it.

The growth trajectory

Harman Kardon continued to create popular products. Starting in the late 1950s, for instance, Harman Kardon’s Citation series of amplifiers and other components, included some of the most technologically advanced equipment in consumer audio. Today, these Citation machines are a collector’s items among audiophiles.

Harman Kardon Citation Amplifiers

Harman Kardon continued to seek out new technologies. In the late 1960s, the company began working with a young, high-tech firm named Dolby Laboratories, for reducing audio noise. To date, Harman Kardon products continue to feature Dolby equipment.

From the late 60s to the early 70s, Harman Kardon grew larger and more profitable. And, by the mid-70s, Harman Kardon was a leader in American consumer audio.

No Looking back

In 1999, Harman Kardon presented the CDR 2, the world’s first CD audio recorder with 4x dubbing speed, allowing music fans to accumulate more sounds and songs quickly with no loss of audio quality.

Also, that year the company produced SoundSticks®, a combination of science and sculpture, so beautiful that the New York’s Museum of Modern Art added it to their design collection.

Harman Kardon Sound Sticks

In 2000, Harman Kardon teamed with Microsoft to develop a high-tech remote control for computers. Another advanced remote control came along the next year, as Harman Kardon’s patented EzSet™ remote that allowed owners of multichannel audio systems to calibrate their speakers automatically for superb surround sound. Additional inventions followed.

By 2003, the company’s 50th anniversary, Harman Kardon was going stronger than ever.

The Torch Passes

In May of 2007, as Sidney Harman approached his 88th birthday, Harman recruited Dinesh Paliwal as HARMAN International’s Chief Executive Officer. About a year later, he succeeded Harman as the company’s chairman.

Harman Kardon CEO: Dinesh Paliwal

The engineers, executives, and the other employees of Harman watched these changes with considerable interest, but none of the changes swayed them from their usual work: making great audio products. In 2007, for instance, the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design gave its Good Design™ award to Harman Kardon’s DMC 100 digital media centre. And in 2008, the prestigious Electronic House magazine bestowed Product of the Year honours on Harman Kardon’s AVR 354 audio/video receiver.

Harman Kardon products continue to receive design and innovation awards from various prestigious platforms like Red Dot, EISA, iF Design Awards, and more.

CES Innovation Awards 2019 Red Dot Design Award EISA award for Best Product 2020-2021 IF Design Award 2020

What’s ahead?

More of the same. At Harman Kardon, ‘more of the same’ means more innovation, more attention to its customers’ needs, and more great sound. Those are the principles on which Sidney Harman started the company. And they’re the principles that continue to guide it into the future.