Harman Kardon updates its midpriced A/V receivers

Building A/V receivers might be the toughest job in the audio industry. The technology seems to change on a monthly basis—and if you don’t have the latest features you're in big trouble. Harman Kardon hasn’t exactly been on the cutting edge of late with its receivers, but it’s hoping to get back to the front with a line of three affordable new models.

According to Chris Dragon, director of consumer and field marketing for Harman Consumer, “We’ve been a little behind in features for the last couple of generations [of receivers], and we did a lot of due diligence to make sure these have the features that the custom installers and the home enthusiasts want.”

The top of the new series is the $1,199 AVR3600 shown here, followed by the $799 AVR2600 and the $599 AVR1600. All of the receivers feature HDMI input and output; DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD; 7.1 capability; and Harman’s EZSet/EQ, which automatically balances the channel levels and equalizes the sound for a single listener position.

One of the most notable features in the AVR3600 and AVR2600 is Dolby Volume, which keeps the sound at a safe’n’sane level no matter what you’re listening to. “The AVR2600 is the first receiver priced below $1,000 to include Dolby Volume,” Dragon stated.

Both receivers also feature an advanced iPhone/iPod interface, which displays album/artist/song/etc. info from a docked iPhone or iPod on both the receiver’s front display and on the onscreen display it delivers through its video outputs. The receiver’s remote controls the iPhone or iPod. “We’re truly treating the onscreen display as more than a setup screen,” Dragon noted. “The display can even stay resident onscreen like a picture-in-picture window when you’re watching a movie.”

The AVR3600 includes Harman Kardon’s new The Bridge III iPhone/iPod dock. The dock is a $129 option with the AVR2600. According to Dragon, the dock’s inclusion of an iPhone authentication chip gives it a big advantage over many other docks that accept iPhones. “When you put the iPhone in a docking product that doesn’t have the authentication chip, the iPhone’s transmitter turns off; it goes into airplane mode,” he said. “With the chip, the transmitter stays on when the phone is docked, so the phone will still ring when a call comes in.”

In the AVR3600 and AVR2600, Harman Kardon used STMicroelectronics' Genesis Torino video upscaling chip, which converts any incoming video source to resolutions as high as 1080p.

Power ratings are 50 watts per channel for the AVR1600, 65 watts per channel for the AVR2600, and 80 watts per channel for the AVR3600.

All three receivers feature the same strikingly simple industrial design. “Clean is where it’s at with us,” Dragon said. “We’re very much against clutter. We wanted something elegant and intuitive that doesn’t put consumers off—something that doesn’t look like the cockpit of a 777.”—Brent Butterworth