Sunday, November 9, 2008

Harmon Kardon AVR 1550 Review - Affordable Classic AVR

Prior to this, I've never seen the Harmon Kardon brand being anywhere in Malaysia except West Malaysia. Particularly the audio shop at Sungai Wang .. or Harvey Norman would carry HK. I must admit that I'm not particularly familiar with AVR, Speakers or quality cables and stuff. I was more of a photographer than an audiophile freak. But I knew quality stuff when I see it or in this case hear it :)

Let me go way back to my university time, when I first bought a computer that came with a standard sound card and speaker .. I was less than thrilled. Back then I couldn't differentiate what's the fuss with having a quality sound card and speaker would do to enhance the overall enjoyment of the medium. Until I got my hand on counter strike. It was all the rage back then, a game whereby knowing where enemy is audibly makes a difference between life and death (in the game anyway).

I was using consumer level home theater system from Sony and some how the thing just sounded loud .. without clarity. The bass is good .. but I just couldn't hear what the actor was saying with that bass and treble and ultimately killing the mood of the movie. Luckily my friend just opened a HT shop that carry mid to high end HT system which might not be too familiar to hear unless you really are an audiophile freak. Over here general population only know Sony, LG, Samsung .. but when it comes to sonic enjoyment .. the names of Denon, Marantz and HK are synonymous with the terms "high quality sound". It wasn't long before I got my hands on the HK AVR 1550 which suited my tight budget.

The AVR was paired with a 5.1 Epiphany Speakers which looks small but really solid and heavy plus it packs a lot of punches. Each of the Epiphany speakers consist of 2 sub speakers .. so basically you will have 10 speakers and 1 sub woofer in one single package. Pretty neat.

The AVR is fairly simplistic and quite easy to setup. This is a 2002 model so don't expect to see a HDMI connector here. :) I didn't have a LCD .. so obviously I don't need HDMI for now. Astro programming just really sucks on a LCD and Plasma anyway unless they go HD with their broadcasting. We'll just have to wait for Measat 10 for that to happen.

Onced setup I whipped out my favourite movie on DVD, the Matrix Reloaded, upon playing it the AVR automatically set itself to DTS depending on the DVD disc. You will need an optical cable to get DTS to be activated. When I press play, as I sink down on my sofa .. my heart was pounding at the clarity and fantastic boom from the subwoofer whenever Keanu Reeves pulls the trigger on his gun. Hehe .. man I love this movie.

Besides movies, I also enjoyed playing my HDD enabled PS2 console. Prior to this, I never hear how Dolby Pro Logic II sound like... lol. Again with the optical cable I could enjoy PL II on certain number of games. Do take note that PS2 games usually have the PL II enabled mostly on cutscenes only. One fine example is the GT4. The sound of roaring VTEC on a 03 DC5 never sound sweeter. =)

Optical Cable(Sold Separately) behind the PS2

AVR 1550 Specs