Wide Receivers

Sure, many people's entire music library is now in their jeans pocket, and the playback space is somewhere between their left and right earbuds. That's cool. Other folks are into fancy home theaters and surround sound. Cool. But a few old-school die-hards still actually listen to stereo music sitting in a La-Z-Boy firmly planted between two speakers - the way God probably intended music to be listened to.

For those traditionalists, Harman Kardon offers two new traditional stereo receivers. The HK 3490 and HK 3390 receivers (2 x 120 watts, and 2 x 80 watts, respectively into 8 ohms, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, <0.07% THD) present a minimalistic appearance that seems elegant compared to the hyper-busy front panels of most surround receivers. These throw in rounded corners, a gloss-black and graphite front panel, and soft white illumination as well.

You'll find the usual stereo audio and video I/O including the all-important, old-school turntable input. The upper-class HK 3490 (pictured) adds optical and coaxial digital audio inputs for two-channel digital sources, and Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Headphone signal processing to deliver virtual surround from stereo speakers or headphones. Non traditionally, it also provides XM Satellite Radio compatibility (XM Radio not included) and iPod connectivity using the Bridge II docking station. (iPod and docking station not included.)

With the audio world polarized between iPods on one end, and home theater on the other, I figured stereo receivers were goners. I'm sincerely glad to see two new ones come along. Sometimes you don't need surround playback, and wiring a stereo pair to a surround receiver seems like a waste. So, having a stereo option is a good thing. -Ken C. Pohlmann

Harman Kardon