I was a bit skeptical when I first heard that Sprint had announced a special edition Harman/Kardon version of the HTC One (M8). I like the original One, and I'm already very impressed with its audio capabilities.
But apparently, the Harman/Kardon Edition is capable of making even low bit-rate music files sound like high quality concertos. Since I collect mix tapes—yes, the digital kind—and I love to stream music through services like Digitally Imported. I was curious about the capabilities of the software packed on this special edition handset. I pitted the two versions of the One against each other to hear if there is actually any difference between the two nearly-identical devices. And, surprisingly, there is.
A clearer sound
At its launch event New York City, Sprint said that Harman/Kardon edition of the HTC One is equipped with software that can transform any compressed MP3 file into high-quality CD sound.“There are scientific algorithms that analyze in real time and put back music notes, the highs and lows, the reverbs,” Harman/Kardon CEO Dinesh Paliwel had said at the event. “That’s what makes a magical difference. Boosting the bass or the equalization—that’s not a scientific solution.”
The feature is called Clari-Fi and it essentially smoothes out the audio track so that it sounds more crisp and clean. It worked impressively well. I downloaded a 320kpbs, 44.1kHz music file mix from my Dropbox into the phone's Downloads folder and played the 14-minute track through HTC's default Music app. I flipped the Clari-Fi on and off from the Settings panel as the track was playing and noticed a subtle improvement in audio quality. It also sounded like the special edition phone could also go a bit louder than the regular One. Regardless, both phones sounded great, but the audio quality on the Harman/Kardon edition was just a tad bit smoother.
Plugging in headphones elicits similar results. The original One already beefs up even the cheapest pair of headphones, while the Harman/Kardon's LiveStage makes whatever song is playing just a tad bit clearer. You'll hear a similar amount of bass from both variants of the One, but on the Harman/Kardon edition it's obvious that there's software trying to boost the quality of a muffled 40k AAC streaming music station. Also, Harman/Kardon helpfully added an option in the Settings panel to pick the brand of headphones you're using.
That black and gold chassis
The difference in sound between the regular and special edition of the HTC One (M8) is so subtle, that I'm not sure that it really warrants choosing one over the other just for a better listening experience.
If you're really considering one over the other, the Harman/Kardon edition sports a sweet black chassis with gold trim. It's super stylish and frankly I'm a bit bummed that this particular style is only available from Sprint.
If you're really interested in getting the Harman/Kardon capabilities of this Sprint exclusive, there's a hack floating around the XDA Developers Forums that enables it on your regular ol' handset. We should warn that it requires you to tweak the firmware on your phone's Advanced Digital Signal Processor, so proceed with caution, especially if you don't have a lot of experience doing that sort of thing.