AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 20, 2015 2 comments

Performance
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X on board
HDMI 2.0a with HDR video
Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction
Minus
Like other seven-channel AVRs, just two Atmos height channels
Remote volume keys undernourished

THE VERDICT
Triple wireless connectivity and excellent room correction may lure more listeners to this top-performing budget receiver than its limited 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X capabilities will.

The Denon AVR-X1200W is among a growing trickle of receivers that name-check DTS:X surround sound. By the time you read this, it might even be operational.

For every one of Dolby’s home surround standards, there has been a DTS equivalent. The competition began in the mid 1990s, when Dolby Digital and DTS first went head to head on laserdisc, with DVD following soon after. Dolby then added back-surround channels for Dolby Digital EX; DTS responded with DTS-ES. Dolby upgraded to lossless encoding with Dolby TrueHD; DTS shot back with DTS-HD Master Audio. Object-oriented surround—which uses metadata to map objects in a dome-shaped soundfield—is no different. In response to Dolby Atmos, which has just begun infiltrating surround receivers, DTS offers DTS:X. This is a transitional time, and you’ll find some models supporting Atmos without supporting DTS’s answer. Others are “DTS:X ready,” but not yet functional as they await the release of new firmware.

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Sep 29, 2016 6 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very solid amplifier performance
DTS:X, Dolby Atmos on board with seven-channel power and nine-channel processing
Good streaming-audio client performance and ergonomics
Minus
Ho-hum remote
Firmware/feature upgrade process is clumsy

THE VERDICT
Denon’s latest-generation upper-echelon AVR does all of the most current modes, sources, and processings very competently indeed, with ample audio power and fully up-to-date video abilities.

Full disclosure: Denon holds a special place in my hi-fi heart, because the brand’s former parent company, Nippon Columbia, brought me to Japan for my first time, on a sort of mini–press junket cooked up by the firm’s U.S. marketing guru. When I say mini, I mean it: It was just myself; Ken, the marketing guy; colleague Ken Pohlmann; and the late consumer electronics editor Bill Wolfe, whom I already knew well through long associations at titles like Video, Car Stereo Review, and (Plain Ol’) Stereo Review (S&V’s precursor).

Filed under
Daniel Kumin Posted: Nov 19, 2014 6 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos surround
4K-ready/upscaling with HDMI 2.0
Nine channels of flexible power
Top-tier Audyssey room/speaker correction
Minus
No HDCP 2.2 for future UHD content
Fairly basic supplied remote
Some mode-selection options a bit cumbersome

THE VERDICT
Outstanding audio capabilities and thoughtful ergonomics underpin our first Dolby Atmos–capable A/V receiver.

It’s been several years since I’ve had the opportunity to “do” a big Denon A/V receiver. So when a sample arrived of the company’s behemoth AVR-X5200W, one of the very first receivers ready to decode and distribute Dolby Atmos in a home theater setting, I was ready to begin. Atmos is the San Franciscans’ latest, “object-based,” scalable-multichannel surround format.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: May 19, 2016 14 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Gobs of power for almost any situation
Audyssey MultEQ XT32
Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro 3D
ISF certified
Minus
Daunting price

THE VERDICT
The Denon AVR-X7200W is pricey, but this flagship is loaded with power, features, and performance.

Ticking off all the feature checkboxes does not automatically confer popularity on a flagship audio/video receiver. Some prospective buyers will look at the four-figure price tag of the Denon AVR-X7200W and just say, no, sorry, not for me—despite the fact that many other high-end audio products, and luxury products in general, sell for far more. The AVR category is the spiritual home of those who love to get more for less. Why, asks the hardheaded audio buff, do I need to pay three grand for all those features, all those jacks—all that stuff I’ll never need? The answer is that the features you do need may be worth the price. If your speakers are a little more demanding than the home theater norm or you have a large room, you’ll want as much power as possible, and this receiver is Denon’s best shot.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 25, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray drive • Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • USB port for direct iPod connection

Looking for the Right Fit

Let’s say you hit the mall looking for a leather jacket. You find a store with an especially nice selection and immerse yourself in the joy of leather. At first, you just walk around enjoying the sights. But then you refine your search: by color, style, material, lining, presence or absence of shoulder padding, the mechanical integrity of the zipper, and the little things, like whether there’s a fastened interior pocket the right size for your iPhone. Finally you hit the target, finding the jacket line that meets all of your specifications. You begin pawing through jackets, at first enjoying the little thrill of handling something you actually may buy. You paw through some more, getting nervous. Finally, you reach the end of the rack, and you’re frantic. You turn around, find a salesperson standing there, and ask: “Is this jacket available in a small?” The salesperson smirks and answers: “Sorry, sir, we only have that in large or extra-large.”

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 23, 2007 0 comments
Little big man.

Why do people who spend for- tunes on their cars look askance at high-end audio equipment? They wouldn't be seen dead backing a budget SUV out of their driveways. But, when they choose the gear that mediates their relationship with music and movies, they condemn themselves to poverty. Audio systems are shadows to them. They're all the same, so why pay more? These sad people drive their $70,000 cars to Circuit City and pay three figures for a mediocre HTIB. I once wrote about portable audio for an outdoorsy men's magazine. When I suggested that high-end headphones are as valid as high-end hiking gear, the editor gave me a perplexed and somewhat dirty look.

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Joe Hageman Posted: Jan 25, 2000 Published: Jan 26, 2000 0 comments
Three bargain-basement receivers go head to head to see who's on top of the cheap heap.

Believe it or not, I wasn't always as tall and dashingly handsome as I am now (don't worry, guys, that comment was directed toward our female readers). I remember back in fifth grade when I was an awkward runt who got picked last in kickball. All the bigger guys would laugh at me. I'm not jaded, though—I now have the coolest job in the world, I'm a minor celebrity, and I've got the names and addresses of all my adolescent torturers (yeah, even you, Billy, in Colorado Springs).

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 31, 2001 Published: Feb 01, 2001 0 comments
Budget receivers can make anyone a home theater meister.

I'm a simple man. As I travel this great land of ours, for both business and pleasure, most of my conversations with others sooner or later lead to two topics: movies and their inevitable offshoot, home theater. I rarely discuss the specifics of what I'm packing at Rancho Chiarella; rather, I listen to the wide-eyed yearnings of the hard-working Everyman who dreams of experiencing all that a respectable A/V system can deliver. For so many of the folks I've talked with, an affordable home theater receiver is the key to their wish fulfillment.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 01, 2013 0 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $499 At A Glance: Switch-mode power supply • Full Apple functionality • Unique Media Manager app

If you don’t enjoy paradox, life is no more fun than a sack of dirt. Here’s a long-running paradox in the home theater sphere: Some folks are turned off by audio/video receivers because they are so complex and loaded with features. So how do the people who design AVRs make them more appealing? Add more features!

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 29, 2011 1 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $999 At A Glance: High-quality amplification • Logic 7, Dolby Volume listening modes • Distinctive gray and black look

The home theater system’s beating heart is the audio/video receiver. It supports a heroic workload: routing video and audio signals from source components to display and speakers, gussying up the video, decoding audio formats, massaging audio signals with listening modes, cabalistically correcting room acoustics—and last but not least, performing the heavy lifting necessary to drive loudspeakers. The final item on that list is among the AVR’s most significant attributes. But in the race to jam in as many features as possible, amplification is in danger of becoming an afterthought. In Harman Kardon’s AVR 3650, the top model in its new receiver line, the manufacturer took the road less often traveled and acts more like a high-end boutique manufacturer than a mass marketer. It went the extra mile to make this AVR sound great and rigorously stripped it of back-panel clutter. The result offers comfort to the music lover who cares about the fundamentals of performance.

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Lawrence E. Ullman Posted: Feb 13, 2005 Published: Feb 14, 2005 0 comments

For a company that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, Harman Kardon looks maahvelous. Consider the sleek industrial design of the company's new AVR-series receivers. With minimalist gloss-black front panels and distinctive, ring-shaped, blue-illuminated volume controls, these components look both strikingly modern and a tad retro—an appropriate synthesis coming from the company that introduced the world's first receiver back in 1954.

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Ultimate AV Staff Posted: May 24, 2006 0 comments

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 29, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray player • Energy-efficient digital amplifier • Good build quality • No video inputs

My review sample of the Harman Kardon BDS 5 Blu-ray receiver arrived shortly after the death of Dr. Sidney Harman. Let’s take a moment to celebrate the life of one of the audio industry’s founding fathers. Harman and partner Bernard Kardon pioneered the A/V receiver category in 1954 with the Festival D1000, the first audio product to combine the functions of a mono power amp, preamp, and radio tuner. The stereo version, the Festival TA230, arrived shortly afterward. By the time Harman retired in 2008, A/V receivers were wearing his name. Harman International eventually became an audio empire, not only continuing the Harman Kardon brand, but also encompassing JBL, Infinity, Lexicon, Revel, Mark Levinson, and others. Harman was a renaissance man: an activist, philanthropist, professor, and public servant, the quintessential tough businessman with a heart of gold.

Filed under
Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 23, 2014 7 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful yet lightweight
Fast, HD onscreen menus
Built-in Wi-Fi
Minus
Limited audio streaming formats
Unfriendly DLNA streaming navigation
Surround-mode selection a bit clunky

THE VERDICT
A highly competitive audio and video performer in the kilobuck range, H/K’s AVR 3700 should do any home theater justice.

Harman/Kardon is among the quartet of major brands of American audio launched following World War II. (McIntosh, Marantz, and Sherwood are the others.) It’s further distinguished as the only one continuously retained by its owners as a U.S. company—though H/K today is just one brand of the sprawling Harman International empire. (History sidebar: During the Carter presidency, H/K was sold to Beatrice Foods while founder Sidney Harman served as Carter’s Under Secretary of Commerce; Harman then reacquired the company.)

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 19, 2004 Published: Aug 01, 2004 0 comments
If you're shopping for a deal, you might find one on this stylish two-tone receiver. Its list price is not the lowest in this group. Search the Internet, though, and you'll find good deals on the AVR 630 from authorized dealers. (To make sure you buy from an authorized dealer, with a valid warranty, check the "where to buy" page at www.harmankardon.com.) The street-price differential between the AVR 630 and the others in this roundup is many hundreds of dollars. For some, that may prove to be the deciding factor.

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