2 Channel Audio Done Right

Oct 24, 2008 (Updated Nov 7, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Appearance
Volume
Price for peformance
No frills or excess switches, controls, etc.

Cons:Ability to pull in FM stations not as good as older tuners
Height of unit

The Bottom Line: The HK3390 delivers what HK is known for...high performance, high value, and high, subtle style...all in what is becomig a hard to find 2-Channel Amplifier Stero Receiver.


I am an old HK fan from the 80's and when my 460i finally started to lose one channel of the amplifier, I naturally looked around to see what was out there in 2-Channel. Really came down to a NAD, Outlaw and this HK 3390. Unfortunately, not many choices in the 2 channel arena...but the three I mention will all delivery audiophile quality sound...but at far different price range.

Many reviews go on and on about specs and rehash what you could find in any on-line site listing or even at HK's page. So I won't bore you with those details. Rather, I'll delve into some things you might not read anywhere else and give you a final recommendation.

APPEARANCE

Like all HK products, the 3390 exudes an air of premium, dare I say high end quality. While rather large for a 2-Channel (nearly twice as tall as my old 460i) I suppose for economy scale HK uses the same chassis and housings for the entire AV line to save $. SO, you end up witih perhaps a better looking unit for this likely low sales volume product. Brushed dark gun metal gray aluminum really looks nice. The blue LED display and ESPECIALLY the blue volume dial really look cool and high tech. When the unit is one the power button changes from an orange to same cool blue. All in all, the unit will look impressive in your home.

SET-UP

Fairly straight forward...but you really need to review the instructions carefully if you are old school and have an equalizer or digital processor. You can go standard route with connecting to Tape Monitor inputs OR they have a processing connection. I chose that and EQ sounds fine...esp since I had to remove the tape deck from my set up due to the aforementioned height increase...and that caused all the components to NOT fit into my custom cabinet. NOTE: make sure you measure your installation area BEFORE buying! I did this so I knew what I was getting into...I would have been pretty uphappy otherwise....

The other set-up issue for me was I didn't want to connect the Sub Out to my sub via RCA's. I like running my Klipsch 3.5G's thru the high pass output on my Definite Tech sub so I use the sub's low pass crossover to filter out low freq bandwidth to the Klipsch. The result is I'm able to drive system much louder without worrying about overdriving the Klipsch. They weren't designed for room shaking bass...the Definite Tech sub handles that just fine...enough to rattle aluminum siding!

PERFORMANCE

This is the hardest to quantify. I LOVED my HK460i as it had a warm, "heavy/full-bodied" sound. The HK3390 at first was missing something. It didn't get as loud and was lacking in fullness. I actually had the connections via the sub to the speakers backwards. Once I switched that, WOW. Full sound...and VERY LOUD. From what I have read, even modern electronics need a "break-in" period where heat cycles "loosen" some of the capacitors and other components up. It's almost like every time I listen to the HK3390, it sounds better and better...and getting close to that old beloved 460i. But still, it is just that much louder than the 460i ever could go...and I'm like that old Maxell guy...just put me in front of a very clean sounding and loud system and I'm good.

The ONLY negative thing I can say about the HK3390 is it (like most modern receivers) pull in half the FM stations my old 460i could. Same location, same antenna type and location, but not the same pull. I believe manufacturers think most people don't listen to the radio anymore (heck, I still listen to sports on AM sometimes) so they've cut the performance of the tuners. If memory serves, when comparing specs of my old HK to this new one, It was pretty close with any advantages going to the old. Hey...old HK WAS primo...I got $50 for the old HK model so that tells you something.

SUMMARY

Honestly, I would have loved to demo that Outlaw Audio 2-Channel model just to see if an extra $400 made a difference in sound. I could have afforded it...but everything I read on the HK 2-channel receivers for the last few years didn't make me think I would gain much. Also, not like old days where you could go down to stereo store...or even an electronics big box and have a listen. You can only get this HK from etailers. Only thing you'll find at Best Buy type stores are AV 5/8 channel units with a bunch of bells, whistles, and added controls that add price...and from what I read...do not provide the same stereo sound a dedicated 2-channel does.

I'm happy with my HK3390 and hope it grows on me more with every use. If it lasts 22 years like my last one did, I might not ever have to buy another unit during my lifetime! THAT's a pretty good investment in sound.

END NOTE

If you're curious as to what kind of music I listen to so you can determine if this unit will suit your tastes, I pretty much listen to a wide variety...classical, jazz, industrial, punk, metal, reggae, even gangster rap! As this unit is on the "bright" side, it shines with horns, vocals, Ray Charles for example. Where I feel (and am hoping with age it improves) it's a little lacking is mid to high bass. Even with my eq, there's just a slight fullness this unit doesn't provide that the 460i did. But, I guess I just compensate by turning it louder! And that made me realize...the 460i DID have a "loudness" feature whereas this unit doesn't. SO, often when playing at softer volumes, that could be the difference maker!

You'll be happy with this unit especially if you can let go of the past and enjoy some new conveniences along with clear, powerful sound.

***UPDATE 11/7/10***
Still love the receiver and new info...you CAN use an iPod with it...via the Video 3 inputs on front panel OR the other video inputs on back panel. You can do so with a mini jack adapter into iPod with RCA left and right jacks into the receiver. This only delivers analog sound though. And in investigating this, the 3490 DOES have a dedicated iPod dock for music play thru. Would have spent the extra $$$ at that time for the 3490 had I had an iPod...


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