Integrated Amplifiers

Harman Kardon HK 990 Integrated Amplifier and HD 990 CD Player



After appreciating the build quality and overall design of the HK 990 and HD 990, I have to admit that my expectations had been raised significantly and I could not wait to get both components set up and running. As this would be a strictly 2-channel review, I slid the HK 990/HD 990 into the rack in my den listening room and connected my Paradigm Reference Studio 20 V3 speakers mounted on Dynaudio Stand 4 speaker stands via Tributaries 12 gauge speaker cable. Source components were my faithful Yamaha DVC-750 5 –disc SACD/DVD-A/CD player and of course, the HD 990. I hooked the Yamaha up via analog RCA so that I could enjoy 2-channel SACD and DVD-Audio discs and connected the HD 990 via analog RCA, digital coaxial, and HRS-Link so that I could compare the differences between the three connection types. With all of the connections made, I went through the easy to use setup menu to associate the named inputs with their requisite analog or digital source. The front panel of the HK 990 shows all of this information clearly, so if you've been spoiled by the on-screen GUIs of recent home theater-geared equipment, don't worry. I also appreciated the HK 990's ability to set a level for each input. This allows you to adjust the "gain" for each source input to ensure that you get the same overall volume level when switching between sources. Every receiver/pre-amp/integrated should have this extremely useful feature.

With all of my sources configured, I moved on to the EZSet/EQ feature. Similar to other automated room EQ systems like Audyssey, the EZSet/EQ attempts to correct the sound at your listening position for any anomalies caused by your listening environment. After connecting the included microphone to the front panel jack, the process is simple. Press the "Speaker Setup" button on the front panel of the HK 990 or the remote and the calibration process beings with the choice of a manual or automated setup. Manual is good if you only want to set the crossover point for your subwoofers (if you have any). If you select the automated routine, tell the system if you have one or two (or zero in my case) subwoofers connected. If you do have a sub, you have the option of configuring a crossover point manually or letting EZSet/EQ decide for you. If you chose the manual option, you'd set the crossover point now. Choices range from 40Hz to 200Hz at 10Hz intervals. With the crossover set, the system asks you to place the included microphone at the listening position. Be sure to set it at ear-level for best results. After two frequency sweeps, you will be asked to place the mic two feet in front of the left speaker for additional measurements. You finish up by placing the mic two feet in front of the right speaker and letting the frequency sweeps run again. Don't forget to hit the "enter" button on the remote to save the configuration once complete.

Once you've completed the EQ setup, you gain access to four sound modes for digital sources. The first is "DSP," which runs the signal through the A/D converter, DSP chip, and D/A converter prior to volume adjustment. DSP mode allows access to the tone control circuitry if you wish to adjust bass or treble response. Next is "EQ1," which only applies room equalization to the subwoofer (if connected) frequencies. Then there is "EQ2" where subwoofer and midrange frequencies up to 1kHz are corrected, leaving the treble response unaltered. Finally there is EQ3, which applies compensation over the entire frequency spectrum. You can also go back into the "input setup" menus to apply DSP to analog sources, which then allows you to adjust gain, bass, and treble or apply any of the three EQ settings.