So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Harman Kardon AVR 635
- Excellent range of features, good number of inputs, powerful universal remote control included.
- Substandard on-screen display, lacks HDMI or DVI output.
Another excellent AV receiver from Harmon Kardon, easy to use with a wide range of features and a slick design.
Price$ 1,999.00 (AUD)
If you're one of those people who has more home entertainment devices than you know what to do with, then it's probably time you went out and bought an AV receiver. These handy boxes help de-clutter your living room by compiling all the inputs and outputs from a multitude of devices into one convenient unit. Harman Kardon's AVR 635 is one such receiver, with some great standout features that make it an ideal choice for the home theatre enthusiast.
Connections and Setup
It's important that an AV receiver caters to a wide variety of input and output combinations, and the AVR 635 includes a wide range of connection options with a requisite large number of inputs: five composite, five S-Video, three component, four coaxial, four optical, a set of six channel audio inputs and a front mounted headphone jack. The range of outputs is similarly vast, with the unit supporting speaker setups up to 7.1. The one disappointment is the lack of DVI or HDMI connections. While not essential for the moment, HDMI is rapidly becoming the standard for High Definition connectivity. To address this problem Harman Kardon will be releasing an updated version of the product, called the AVR 645, in the second half of 2006. This will ship with HDMI inputs and USB connectivity as standard for approximately the same cost as the AVR 635.
Each of the audio and video inputs can be independently grouped and assigned to one of seven functions, and the connections behind the front panel can be switched between input and output mode depending on what the user desires. When everything is connected, the speakers can be automatically calibrated using Harman Kardon's included EzSet/EQ microphone - the AV receiver plays a series of loud, sharp noises which the microphone picks up and uses to correctly calibrate the distance from the listening position. Before using the setup, we found the sound from the rear speakers had been drowned out by the front, but calibrating balanced things out perfectly. It's still necessary to program the subwoofer separately, however.
While the quality of the connections makes a big difference to the audio and visuals produced by an AV receiver, it's the quality of the amplifier and the sound processing options that matters most. The AVR 635 is well equipped in both areas, with a decent 75W per channel output which is more than enough for the average speaker. Sound quality was excellent from low to high volume with no signs of distortion. Similarly impressive was the huge range of sound processing options which includes the usual suspects such as Hall, Theatre, and Cinema. In addition to the standard Dolby options seen on most AV receivers (Pro Logic II, DTS, Neo:6) Harman Kardon has included a useful proprietary option called 'Logic 7' as well as Dolby Headphone (DH), which is great for more private listening sessions.
These additions mean that the AVR 635 caters for every kind of sound mode across a variety of inputs and outputs, a feat which few AV receivers attain. Headphone users especially will be pleased, as the DH processing gives movies and music a much more dynamic sound. The AVR 635 also includes a plethora of additional modes, including the ability to adjust the synchronisation between audio and video, and extra options for multi-room playback including an auxiliary remote control.
The primary remote control is a universal remote sporting a two line LCD. This means that it can replace the remotes from the attached devices, once trained. All the features we would expect to see from a universal remote control are provided, including the ability to learn commands and macro command programming. We found it useful that Harman Kardon has programmed the names and codes of manufacturers into the remote so that there is no need to refer to the manual to look up codes when programming devices. In fact, taken alone, the remote is far better than many standalone universal remote controls we've reviewed.
Following Harman Kardon's standard AV design aesthetic the AVR 635 looks very sleek with a simple two tone colour scheme contrasting gloss black against brushed silver, exemplified by a glowing volume control. A row of buttons provide access to the various input selection controls and also allow access to the surround mode options, while a flip down panel conceals some more advanced controls and extra inputs. One feature that is immediately noticeable about the 635 is its weight: a hefty 19kg. However considering the power of this unit and the amplification it provides, this is not surprising.
About the only fault we can muster for this system is the interface - while the two line LCD on the front of the unit is adequate, the system falls down when accessing the on-screen display (OSD). Built using just blocky white text on a blue background it's not easy to read.
Overall the AVR 635 represents an excellent option for the budding home theatre enthusiast. Its combination of good looks, intuitive design and powerful performance makes it a winner, with the only real let down being the lack of HDMI, a problem Harman Kardon is already addressing in the upcoming AVR 645.
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