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For Real Cooking Success, You Need a Good Speaker

It’s all about setting the vibe

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More than any specific cooking tool, the most valued item in chef JJ Johnson’s kitchen at his pan-African New York spot, Henry at the Life Hotel, is his Harmon Kardon Portable Bluetooth Speaker. “The first person that comes into the kitchen that day is allowed to link their music to the speaker, and they set the vibe as the day goes on,” says the Eater Young Gun. “It is this universal setting that allows people to get to know everybody, and keeps everyone motivated.”

But not just any speaker will do the trick. Johnson was first referred to the Harmon Kardon by a friend, and he says it checks all of the boxes: “The music comes through great, it connects to Bluetooth, it doesn’t get too loud, but it gets loud enough, and it is not too big, but not too small — it projects the music perfectly and it’s clear.” The speaker is also exceptionally good for a wide range of music styles — Johnson says he particularly loves the bass.

But what Johnson appreciates most, particularly for the kitchen, is the speaker’s lack of complicated bells and whistles. “It is really simple with not a lot of finagling,” he says. “It allows me to use it for what I need to use it for,” without dozens of settings and adjustments — ideal for an environment in which sticky hands and messy countertops abound.

The speaker is now a permanent fixture on a shelf in Johnson’s kitchen at the restaurant, and he strongly recommends it for home cooks, too. “This is perfect to have in your kitchen when you are having people over for parties,” he says. “It sets the tone, but it doesn’t take up too much space. It’s great.”

Buy Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 Portable Bluetooth Speaker, $158

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