Harman/Kardon AVR 2650
Ever since we saw (or better yet heard) our first demo of Dolby Volume we couldn’t wait to find a reason to upgrade one of our receivers with this capability. That’s going on four years now! So when Ara’s Yamaha “Broke”, he thought what better excuse to buy a receiver with Dolby Volume. The receiver he settled on was the Harman Kardon 2650 (Buy Now $650).
Setup was typical for any modern AVR. Plug in your video sources, connect speakers, and power and you are ready to calibrate. The first thing we did was rename the sources to something that made sense. The AppleTV was connected to the Game input so that was renamed to AppleTV. Cable/Sat was renamed to DirecTV and Blu-ray was left alone. The menus are simple to navigate and simple to use. Being on screen makes life so much easier to do your setup. When you change volume, inputs, or modes the 2650 superimposes the information on the screen. No more squinting to see how loud or what processing mode you are in.
Next up was to run the automatic calibration function. Like other AVRs you are given a microphone that you plug into the front of the receiver and place where you want the audio to be tuned for. The whole process takes about five minutes and then you are up and running!
The performance of this receiver is outstanding but with caveats. The calibration sets the EQ as well as levels. We found the level setting to be fine. But the audio processing really muddied the sound. The dialog got lost in the effects and music. Once we turned off audio enhancements and set the EQ to flat everything sounded much much better! We left the audio processing in auto and the 2650 was able to find the right mode, Dolby Digital, DTS Master Audio, Pro Logic and so on.
A nice feature of the 2650 is that it allows you to have a different setting for Dolby Volume per input. This is a good thing. The Derderian’s don’t have any sleeping babies in their house and most of their viewing is done at a time when the neighbors wouldn’t be bothered by loud noises. So their default mode on movie inputs (AppleTV and Blu-ray) are Dolby Volume set to off. For TV it was left on because it does a great job dealing with super loud commercials. If you have a Harmony Remote we recommend putting the Audio Effects button into your soft keys. This way if you do watch a movie late in the evening its very simple to turn on Dolby Volume. For Ara, Dolby Volume is the best feature on the $650 receiver.
Odds and Ends
The 2650 has a bunch of features that you may or may not find you need:
Should I Buy the 3650 for $200 more?
The additional $200 get you 15 more watts (which is imperceptible to the human ear), an additional HDMI input on the front panel and the iPod dock is included. As far as we are concerned there isn’t enough there to warrant paying the additional $200. If you want iOS connectivity buy an AppleTV for $99 and connect wirelessly through Airplay. You’ll get way more for your money.
The Harman Kardon 2650 is an excellent sounding receiver that will fill your room with sound. If you want a receiver that supports HDMI1.4 for 3D and Dolby Volume to avoid riding the remote $650 is not much to ask, There are other receivers out there that will do more for the same price. but none of them will sound any better.
Posted by The HT Guys, May 10, 2012 10:40 PM
About The HT GuysThe HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.