Harman/Kardon AVR 230 7.1 Receiver
There are an awful lot of receivers available in the $500 - $600 range. This multitude of choices fuels the technology trickle-down. Bottom models of today now have features that were sought after in mid-priced receivers last year. Mind you, not all the features are really useful (such as some of the sound fields), and not all are found in every receiver. To add to the fun, most features are not set up properly by the average consumer (who happens to be the person to whom it is marketed).
I like features. More importantly I like the ability to customize the features and have them sound the best with my equipment, in my room. This is a one of my favorite points of the HK 230. You have the ability to alter how the remote functions, set up different calibration levels for each source, and even choose different crossover points for each speaker. In that regard, I loved this receiver. However, it does require a thorough reading of the instruction manual, something that most people just don't do.
review follows on the recently reviewed
so that you can see what you get for more or less money between the two
When I unpacked the
120, I was definitely impressed by the change in
appearance. Reading through the instruction manual, I became even more
interested. Packed inside this silver/black box was a whole lot of fun. It
may seem strange, but I actually enjoy reading user manuals and setting up
equipment. Unfortunately not everyone shares in my strange delights, and
this is important with the AVR 230.
This receiver has more customizable features than any other I have tried in this price range. You can individually adjust the channel levels and bass management for every source. Well, not so much "can", more like "have to". Every source needs to be set up independently, as the settings are not copied over from one to the other. Speaking of bass management, this unit allows you to have different crossover points for front, center, and rear speakers. This is great for the ever-upgraded system.
One feature left out of the 230 is the internal test tones for subwoofer calibration. While I prefer to use warble tones and frequency sweeps to determine my subwoofer's optimum output level, it still would have been nice to have the test tones in this basic receiver.
There are a couple of key
things a remote needs to have to be usable while watching movies in the
Sadly this remote has neither. It is a large remote jammed full of buttons,
yet it seems to be missing some essential ones, such as master volume
control (a pair of buttons that adjusts the overall volume). This
remote does, however, give you the option to program volume "punch-through".
This allows you to force the remote to use the receiver's volume when on
EZ Doesn't Do It
CDs I use to evaluate equipment are Tom Waits - Rain Dogs, and Primus -
Soda. Those two, while far from mainstream, are both wonderfully intricate
recordings. The Tom Waits CD is loaded with bizarre instrument combos,
strange beats, and of course Tom Waits' raspy vocals. The Primus disc is what
I consider to be my best mid-bass test CD. Les Claypool uses everything from
6 string fretless bass to a cello! And I can't forget the kick drums
supplied by Herb Alexander, very revealing and wonderfully tight. With the
Tom Waits CD, the midrange bloat was not nearly as noticeable, and the
glorious imaging was defiantly intact. As well the Primus CD didn't fail to
deliver, especially with the dynamic "Mr Krinkle". This receiver defiantly
has more power that its ratings suggest.
- Jared Rachwalski -