Last year, I picked up the Harman Kardon HKTS 14 6-Piece Loudspeaker System and have been quite pleased with the sound they produce. Oh, what a difference a receiver makes.
Now, this isn't to say the Yamaha HTR-5140 it replaced was bad. However, it is to say that the HK AVR245 is very, very good.
The last time I remember being so conscious of a sound upgrade was when I replaced the standard-issue head unit in my Honda Accord with an Alpine head unit. After picking up my car from the install shop, I sat in the parking lot a good 20 minutes with my mouth agape marveling at the quality of sound.
Flash forward a decade, and the Harman Kardon is having a similar effect on me. I know it doesn't make much sense, but the quiet pieces of songs are actually quieter, and that's what makes the difference in the listening experience. I didn't notice, until hooking up the AVR245, how much noise had been coming through the system to pollute the music I was listening to.
I can get into the technical mumbo-jumbo in a future post, but for now, here are the highlights:
- This is one hefty piece of equipment: all 30 pounds of it. And it's worth every ounce.
- The front of the receiver is beautifully designed with a simple interface: one big wheel to control the volume and a slim line of buttons in a row. Functional simplicity, and the lights are all cool blue.
- There's not an inch of the back of the receiver that's not set up for an input or an output of some kind. I'm almost embarassed at how few cords I have running through the system (for now). I'm confident that'll change over time.
- The included EZset calibration tool is too cool. It's a mic that you put where you plan to do the majority of your listening from, and the receiver calibrates the output level of all speakers to deliver perfect sound to exactly that point of the room (whether you live in a cavern or a padded cell). Sweet.
- Lots of room for upgrades to the system, including the Bridge for my iPod and adding an additional two speakers to upgrade to 7.1 sound.
- The receiver does a great job of outputting Dolby II sound from an analog input.
- Amazon has it for a great price (compared to Best Buy or Fry's), and you can get it for the same price at the link above.
- All the speaker knobs on the back of the receiver are color-coded to match the wires included with the HKTS 14 system. No more crossed wires.
- There's built-in HDMI switcher for video only, and the AVR245 processes the sound through
hard-wireddefault inputs, one a digital optical, the other a digital co-axial. This is fine if your two pieces of HDMI equipment output via the same media. Unfortunately for me, my HR20 HD DVR and my Mac Mini both have digital optical outs only, so I can't use the built-in HDMI switcher (no sound) and am stuck using the manual HDMI switcher.see Feb 10 post (above) for the good news update!
- The remote for the AVR245 has over 70 buttons, and some of them are multi-function buttons. I use a grand total of 7 buttons. 90% too many buttons for my tastes.
- There's still so much to learn about the receiver, I feel like I've only scratched the surface of possible uses.