Harman Kardon HK 3490

Powerful and stylish stereo receiver.

Harman Kardon HK 3490
  • Harman Kardon HK 3490
  • Harman Kardon HK 3490
  • Harman Kardon HK 3490
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Powerful, clean amplification, great looks

Cons

  • No universal remote

Bottom Line

If you need a powerful stereo audio receiver, then look no further than the HK 3490. Teamed up with some capable floor-standing speakers it’s able to reproduce high-quality audio with no flaws whatsoever.

Would you buy this?

Harman Kardon is a legendary name in the home theatre business. The products it releases are by and large of exceedingly high quality. The HK 3490 is no different. It’s a stereo receiver that provides fantastically clean and crisp amplification, as well as a host of extra features that make it an attractive prospect.

It’s a great product to look at: a modern yet classy A/V component with a minimalist style. The clear, simple LCD screen is integrated into the fascia of the unit, with a hollow volume control wheel taking pride of place on the right side of the face. There are plenty of buttons — we counted 20 — on the front, but thankfully they are organised into a small row. The labels are difficult to read, but we don’t foresee these buttons being used particularly often — that’s what the complex and comprehensive remote control is for.

The remote control has plenty of buttons, but it isn’t a universal model like we’ve seen with other receivers. Unfortunately, this means it can’t be used with other products in your home cinema; if you’re really serious you’ll have access to a dedicated universal remote like the Harmony One anyway.

As you’d expect, you can switch between a multitude of audio inputs: two digital audio inputs (both coaxial and optical) as well as seven analog stereo inputs, including a phono input for connecting a record player. Only composite video switching is available, but this speaks to the HK 3940’s focused role as an audio receiver rather than a jack of all trades.

There are also several analog outputs and two subwoofer pre-outs, so you’re able to daisy-chain plenty more audio equipment if you have it. There is a connector for Harman Kardon’s Bridge II iPod dock, for easy playback from compatible Apple products like the iPod touch (2nd Generation). Also present is an AM/FM tuner which has exceptionally good reception; even in difficult conditions it was able to resolve a clear signal.

The HK 3490 can handle a continuous output of 120 Watts to two channels simultaneously. This is a great number, and it’s bolstered by the fact that Harman Kardon quotes its ratings with both channels driven — some other manufacturers make quotes with a single channel driven for bogus figures. The amplifier can handle an output from 10 Hertz all the way to a ridiculous ceiling of 110KHz. Human hearing rolls off above 20KHz at the best of times — so there’s a lot of head-room — but it’s generally accepted that higher-order harmonics from these inaudible notes filter down to audible levels. In layman’s terms, it’s never a bad thing to have such a high range of frequency response.

All this translates into perfectly smooth and powerful audio reproduction. Maybe it’s just placebo effect, but we did find higher-range treble notes a little clearer and brighter when played through the HK 3490 as opposed to our benchmark TX-SR805. We used a set of AAD M Series front speakers for our testing and while these are relatively cheap they were still able to uncover a few subtle differences in sound. The HK 3490 has more than enough dynamic range to power even the most demanding floor-standing speakers.

The receiver does get quite warm during its operation, but thankfully not hot enough that it needs to be placed separately from your other home theatre components.

With a very reasonable price of $799 the HK 3490 is a great proposition for anyone wishing to enjoy pure, simple stereo sound.

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