Pros: Outstanding sound quality, EZSet setup, numerous connections
Cons: Bit pricey, no HDMI connections
As part of upgrading my home theater, I recently decided that a new AV (audio / video) receiver was in order based on the lack of features found on my old AV receiver. My old Pioneer VSX-D510 did not have a lot of the features I was looking for, and I also wanted to try out another brand of receiver to see if the sound quality would be improved upon.
My primary use for the AV receiver is for watching movies in my home theater, but it is also used for listening to music in the form of CDs and MP3s my iPod. I did a fair amount of research prior to purchasing this receiver, mostly by listening to various receivers in local electronics stores and by reading reviews online.
Basic info on Audio / Video Receivers
The AV receiver is one of the most important components in any home theater or music system. All of the main functions are controlled through the AVR selecting source components, processing the source signal, amplifying the signal and finally sending the signal to the correct speakers. The most important function is the processing of the audio signal from the source component. What this all boils down to is that all of the sound you hear from your speakers has first been processed by the AVR, which leaves no doubt about just how important the AVR is to a great sounding audio system.
Basic info on the Harman Kardon AVR 245
The AVR 245 is one of the lower priced 7.1 receiver from Harman Kardon, with the model line going all the way up to the AVR 745. The main features of the AVR 245 include 7 channels of amplification at 50 watts RMS each, or 2 channels of amplification at 65 watts RMS each, Dolby Digital 5.1, PL-II, PL-IIx, DTS 5.1, DTS-ES 6.1 Matrix, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete, and Logic 7 surround sound formats. This receiver also features the EZSet system and a wide assortment of sound setting options. Additionally, it is XM Ready (when paired with an XM antenna module) and has The Bridge iPod connection (separate iPod dock that is not included).
It includes a huge assortment of input and output connection options. Input options include 4 composite video, 4 S-Video, 2 component video, 2 digital inputs coaxial and TOSlink optical. Output options include 3 composite video, 3 S-Video, 1 component video, and 2 digital audio (choice of either coaxial or optical). There is also a full set of 7.1 pre-outs, so you can connect the receiver to a separate power amplifier. It also includes an RS-232 serial port connection for future firmware upgrades. Finally, one of the sets of composite video and S-Video outputs is located on the front of the unit. This makes it easier to connect any components that will be used temporarily, such as a camcorder or digital camera.
The overall frequency response of the receiver is 10Hz 130kHz. It weighs in at a hefty 30 lbs. and measures 6.5" H x 17.3" W x 15" D.
The warranty for the receiver is 2 years, which covers both parts and labor.
My Use of the AVR:
Setup of the AVR is fairly easy if you know which speakers to connect to which output connections, and if you are not planning to connect any external amplifiers. On the back of the unit, all of the speaker connections are color-coded and this makes it easier to find the right connection for the right speaker wire. All of the various video and audio inputs are also clearly labeled, so connecting my DVD player and cable box was simple. I used the 5.1 analog inputs to connect my DVD player, and the TOSlink digital audio input for my cable box.
Once everything is connected, the next step is to configure the various speaker settings. This AVR has the EZSet feature, which allows you to use a microphone included with the receiver to automatically set the speaker levels. If you dont want to use the automatic setup feature, the next easiest way is to use the on-screen display (OSD or On-Screen Display) to manually adjust all of the speaker settings.
I chose to use the EZSet feature for convenience and to save time. The EZSet feature is essentially a microphone that plugs into the receiver that measures the SPL (sound pressure level) of each speaker. Upon activating the feature, the receiver plays a set of test tones through each speaker that has been connected and then automatically adjusts the various settings based on the readings taken from the microphone. This feature worked very well, and was extremely easy to complete. In my case, the EZSet lowered the level for my front left and surround left speakers by -1 dB, and it raised the level for my center speaker by +2 dB.
More advanced settings can be adjusted by using the on-screen display menu. The receiver can adjust the delay for each speaker (settings are in 1 foot increments), and can also adjust the bass management settings for each speaker. This is done either by setting the speaker size to Large or Small, or by independently adjusting the crossover value between 40 Hz and 200 Hz. This is very helpful for fine tuning the sound of your system to your individual preferences. In my case, I have set the front left and front right speakers to Large and left all other speakers at Small. The on-screen menu has a whole lot of options and settings, which makes it a bit confusing to navigate through, but overall it is a fairly straightforward way to fine-tune your audio system.
Sound Quality -
My most important attribute for the AVR was a step up in terms of features over my previous receiver. I had listened to Harman Kardon receivers in electronics stores, and I liked the sound quality that I heard. So, the sound quality improvement was a secondary upgrade that I had hoped would be the result of a new AVR.
With that said, I can say that I am very impressed with the sound produced by the AVR 245. I have watched at least a half-dozen movies and listened to at least 15 hours worth of music (CDs and through my iPod), and my experience has been very positive. The AVR produces an articulate, clear sound that has more detail than other receivers that I auditioned in this price range. The difference in sound quality very apparent compared to my previous receiver. The soundstage is wide and open, and I do not hear any harshness or graininess in high or mid-level frequencies. The power from the receiver is clean, and I have turned the volume up to approximately 3/4 of full power and have not experienced any clipping or distortion in the sound. This receiver has no trouble filling my 12 W x 20 D x 9 H basement with clear sound.
In watching DVD movies and listening to CDs, the sound effects and musical scores have been very clear and accurate. Battle scenes from some of my favorite movies (such as 300 and Gladiator), show that the receiver is easily able to handle multiple sound effects and versatile types of sound. The mid-range sound is warm and not harsh, and intricate details from each speaker can be clearly distinguished. The low-range sound effects were clear and were not boomy or muddy.
Remote Control -
The remote is silver colored with white buttons using black lettering throughout. It can be programmed to control up to 11 devices in addition to the receiver. The numerous buttons on the remote allow you to control each and every function of the receiver. My use has been limited to the EZSet initial setup and the basic controls (such as volume up/down and changing to different source inputs). In my experience, it has good range of operation (at least 15-20 feet) and the buttons do not wear out easily. All of the buttons continue to work as new even after a few months of use.
According to the user manual, the remote is supposed to be backlit. I have not figured out how to activate the backlight function, so the only buttons I typically can use in the dark while watching a movie is the volume up/down controls. Other than this minor issue, the remote has been adequate and has remained reliable.
The Harman Kardon AVR 245 has performed well and includes all of the connections, surround sound format processing and other features that I could ask for. It does lack some features found in higher-end AV receivers, such as HDMI inputs, video upconversion and 100+ watts per channel, but those were not on my list of needed features.
The price was probably middle-of-the-road when compared to other receivers from Sony, Onkyo, Pioneer and Denon, but so far I feel like the HK AVR 245 has been worth the extra money over a cheaper receiver. The impressive sound quality and expansive input/output connection options, as well as the EZSet feature, make the AVR 245 a winner in my book. When paired with a good set of speakers and some quality wiring, it makes for an impressive home theater experience --- which is exactly what I was looking for.
My other home theater reviews:
- Polk Audio R300 Floorstanding Speakers
- Polk Audio PSW12 Subwoofer
- Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD Player