Harman Kardon will offers its first A/V receivers (AVRs) with HDMI 1.3a connections, internal decoding of all Blu-ray surround-sound formats, 1080p upscaling, and a new graphical onscreen menu system when it ships three new models in late spring.
The brand also plans May shipments of two new stereo receivers, one of which will be its first stereo receiver with Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Headphone to simulate 5.1 surround sound through two speakers and through headphones.
All five receivers feature a front panel that's gloss black on the top half, dark graphite on the lower half and accented by soft white illumination.
Also new: a next-generation iPod dock, the Bridge II, which connects to select Harman Kardon receivers and to its hard-drive-equipped DMC 1000 digital media center. The $129-suggested dock, due in early summer, has been upgraded to display an iPod menu on a connected TV and, when connected to one new AVR, display iPod-stored video on the connected TV. The new model also enables remote iPod control through the receivers' supplied remotes.
In AVRs, the brand unveiled the 7x75-watt AVR 354 at a suggested $899, the 7x50-watt AVR 254 at $649, and the 5x30-watt AVR 154 at $399, all with power outputs rated into 8 ohms from 20Hz-20kHz with less than 0.07 percent THD. All three AVRs feature HDMI 1.3 with three HDMI inputs to pass through 1080p video.
The opening-price AVR 154 lacks the ability to decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio or ability to process 7.1-channel PCM audio delivered to its HDMI inputs. The AVR 254 and 354, on the other hand, decode all Blu-ray audio bit streams via their HDMI inputs.
The AVR 254 and 354 also add 1080p up-scaling of all connected video sources, HDMI Deep Color support, XM-ready inputs, Faroudja DCDi Cinema processing and a new proprietary high-definition onscreen graphical user interface. The menu system uses pictures and text to help consumers set up a home entertainment system and verify their components are connected and configured properly. The interface features a technique, called alpha blending, that renders menus partially transparent so that video images remain visible on screen while the menu is being used.
The $899 AVR 354 comes with The Bridge II iPod-docking station at no additional charge. With it, a docked iPod or iPhone can be operated by the AVR 354's remote control, and iPod operating menus and iPod-stored video will appear on the TV. The menu will also appear on the receiver's front-panel display. The AVR 154 and AVR 254, in contrast, feature mini-jack input for iPod audio playback.
The AVR 354 and 254 also add multiroom audio capability for connected A/V sources, including a docked iPod. In two-zone mode, the 7.1-channel receivers can simultaneously power a 5.1 home theater system and remote stereo speaker. They also include multiroom preamp outputs. A separate second-zone remote is included with the AVR 354.
The AVR 254 and 354 also feature EzSet/EQ automated room-equalization and system calibration. EzSet/EQ automatically measures the frequency-response peaks and dips in a listening room and applies a compensating equalization curve to achieve flat response. It also calibrates speaker output levels and delay times.
All three AVRs incorporate ultrawide-bandwidth amplifier sections, audiophile-grade 192kHz/24-bit DACs, bass-management systems, proprietary Logic 7 processing to derive 7.1-channel soundfields from stereo and matrixed-surround sources, and lip-sync delay to compensate for delay occurring between audio and video signals.
In stereo receivers, the HK 3490 and HK 3390 retail at a suggested $499 and $399, respectively. Both feature phono inputs and video switching, and the XM-ready 3490 is the brand's first stereo receiver with iPod-dock input [for The Bridge II], Dolby Virtual Speaker, and Dolby Headphone processing, which respectively deliver surround sound from two speakers and from any pair of headphones. The two models' ultrawide-bandwidth amplifier sections are rated, respectively, at 2x120 watts and 2x80 watts into 8 ohms from 20Hz to20kHz with less than 0.07 percent THD.
In outlining its new dock, Harman Kardon said The Bridge II connects to the Harman Kardon DMC 1000 digital media center, the AVR 354 A/V receiver, the HK 3490 stereo receiver, AVR 146 receiver, and to receivers in the AVR 47 Series, AVR 45 Series, and AVR 40 Series. The Bridge II, like its predecessor, enables control of iPod music and still images from the receivers' supplied remotes. Remote control and display of iPod-stored video is available only through the AVR 354.
Album, artist, track number and other information are visible on a connected TV and on an AVR's front-panel display.