Harman Kardon AVR 340
- Heaps of components, automatic speaker adjustment
- Ugly on-screen display, No DVI or HDMI
The ideal AV receiver for a home theatre enthusiast
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
In an age of home theatre, where it's possible to have a DVD player, VCR, Playstation, XBOX, set top box and a multitude of other devices all hooked up simultaneously, your poor old television may be groaning under the strain of all those cables. The answer is to buy an AV receiver, a one-stop solution that can handle all those wires plus a whole lot more. Harmon Kardon's AVR 340 is one such device and handled everything we could throw at it without breaking a sweat.
One of the most important aspects of any receiver is the simplicity of the setup process. With all those boxes, speakers and their associated wires this can be easier said than done. The AVR 340 also supports 7.1 surround sound, potentially meaning you'll be connecting eight speakers in total. Thankfully, Harmon Kardon has simplified the procedure as far as possible so we were able to install everything without too much difficulty. The easiest part is attaching the speakers; though the AVR 340 doesn't come with any speakers, Harmon Kardon has used the standard colour coding system to ensure that you don't end up attaching your front right speaker to your back left port.
The AVR 340 comes complete with a slew of inputs. There should be more than enough room for all your home theatre gadgetry, with three sets of component ports, five S-Video, five optical and five coaxial in addition to a bewildering number of composite inputs and outputs. The only things that are lacking are support for DVI and HDMI connections. At the moment this isn't an especially pressing problem but in the next couple of years these will prove to be essential. There is also an extra input for Harmon Kardon's iPod dock, "The Bridge."
Once all this is complete you can move on to configuring the system. Most of this is achieved through the decidedly ugly on-screen menu. Harmon Kardon has taken a functional approach here with no pretty graphics or bright colours. Plain text on a blue background is the order of the day. This isn't really much of a problem, but it's always nice when dreary old menus are livened up with a bit of colour. In any case, using the AVR340 menu is fairly easy as everything is nicely segmented into various categories. From here it's possible to group the various inputs with one another to ensure the correct configuration when using a DVD or playing on your XBOX.
One of the most important features is the ability to tune the speakers correctly. This is usually a time consuming task whereby you must measure the distance between the speakers and the sofa and enter it into the system. Harmon Kardon has drastically simplified this procedure by including a small, pyramid-like microphone. Using this microphone it's possible to run an automated test to program all the speakers. If you're really going to be fussy Harmon Kardon has even included a tripod mount to ensure that optimum positioning can be achieved. It's good to see that Harmon Kardon have included a wide range of surround sound modes including Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS, and a proprietary format, Logic 7. These are backed up with various equaliser modes such as 'theatre' and 'hall'.
Like many of their other products Harmon Kardon has really nailed the aesthetics on the AVR 340. AV receivers can be big, bulky and ugly but with the AVR 340 Harmon Kardon has managed to forge a stylish machine. It's still big and bulky but at least it looks pretty. A combination of sleek lines, a deep black finish and an attractive glowing bezel make the AVR 340 a unit that will look good in any living room. Harmon Kardon has even thrown in two remote controls. Apart from the usual remote with dozens of buttons, an auxiliary device is provided that can either be used with a multi-room system, if you have one installed, or as a simplified second remote.
All in all, the AVR 340 makes an excellent purchase for the home theatre enthusiast. It's easy to use, has more than enough inputs, looks pretty and is reasonably priced. We can't really ask for much more.
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