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Harman Kardon AVR 520 review


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120 replies to this topic

#1 of 121 OFFLINE   JoeMac

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Posted November 26 2001 - 12:06 AM

Hi All, long time lurker, first time posting...and what better way to start off brand new than with something brand new!

I received my 520 on Friday, the 9th, and was one of the first people in the country to have one thanks to Jason at OneCall. Thanks again Jason!

I spent most of last weekend setting it up and trying different things. The amount of flexibility you have is amazing, especially in the area of channel setup for different functions. This past week found me fine tuning and trying different sources.

I am using this with Klipsch KLF-20 fronts, a KLF-C7 center, LF-10 subwoofer, and Klipsch surrounds.

2 major initial impressions:

1) QUIET ! pay attention, no what I mean is this unit is QUIET ! No matter what the source selected, no matter how loud I turn it up, as long as the media itself doesn't have noise you won't hear any. This is a night and day difference from the Marantz SR7200 that I just returned a few days before I got this. Yes, I had all the problems with the Marantz that everyone else is having, with the exception of the S-video noise.

2) LOW END ! The LFE channel is noticeably better. I'm not sure if it's the bass management or just the crossover frequency, or something else. I have tried it both ways, with the fronts set to both large and small, and there is a greater feeling of impact then I've ever had before. You can select freqs of 100, 80, 60, or 40. When I balanced the system using Avia and the ratshack SPL meter, I didn't have to change the gain of the sub much at all. It was only about 2 db different than the Marantz. I set the fronts to small with a xover of 100, to try and duplicate the Marantz. I then played some of my 'reference DVD's', with the scenes I prefer for rattling the room. It is fantastic, I don't know how or why, but it's great.


This receiver will play extremely loud without breathing hard. It helps that the Klipsch speakers are so efficient, but I have not noticed any distortion problems whatsoever. When I played this loud with my old Onkyo 575 and the SR7200, I could tell they were straining, and with the Marantz it actually started to hurt! I played the bonus track on the Eagles 'Hell Freezes Over' DVD, 'Seven Bridges Road', which has a different voice coming out of each speaker. When played loud I feel it pushes all the amps simultaneously. With the 520 there was a quality of effortlessness (that a word?) that dared me to turn it up louder. On the SR7200 it was more like, Okay, this really is starting to hurt my ears. The feeling was somewhat similar on the Onkyo but that was only rated at 70 watts per channel. Wait, the 520 is only rated at 75 ! I still can't believe the Marantz was spec'd at 105 watts. How about the quality of sound? Well, the Marantz was a definite improvement over the Onkyo, even though it was noisier. The HK is at least as good at low levels, with a better sense of spaciousness and localization (soundstage?). At louder volumes there is no comparison, the HK sounds more 'live' than the Marantz.

I'm sure I'll never use all the surround modes, but Logic 7 is a better implementation that Prologic II. The remote I think I like so far. It's easy to program, is backlit, and the EZ-Set function really works! I originally used the SPL meter and noted the level settings, than tried it using the remmote. Pretty cool! It was within 1 db of my manual levels. I even used this method to set many of the different modes that I didn't consider critical. You can set the speaker size and levels not only for the different sources, but for different surround modes using the same source! Again, amazing flexibility.

I haven't tried the MP3 or HDCD decoding yet. I have tried the 7.1 input. I have a JVC SA75 with DVD-audio and it is the best music I have ever heard. I wish I had a separate quality 5 channel amp to compare it with. I feel the amp section of the HK is more than I'll need for a long time.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. Overall I think it's the start of a new love affair. I'll try to answer any questions you might have. Posted Image

(...previously posted at Home Theater Spot)
***********************************
How the DVD process works:
The imperfections of the original ANALOG Monty Python shows have been analyzed and painstakingly reproduced as DIGITAL imperfections.
...monty python's flying circus
***********************************

#2 of 121 OFFLINE   Jerome Grate

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Posted November 26 2001 - 12:25 AM

Great review, one question, does Logic 7 work with 5.1 material DVD, Satellite or DVD-Audio?
Listen Up People.., Rack Em and Pack Em.., We're Phantoms in 15.

#3 of 121 OFFLINE   JoeMac

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Posted November 26 2001 - 01:03 AM

Logic 7 wil work with any surround encoded or conventional stereo material. There are 3 modes:

Cinema - for sources already surround encoded
Music - for normal stereo
Enhanced - primarily music with greater bass enhancement to all speakers for a less localized soundstage.

Logic 7 will not work with DVD audio because it will not affect the 5.1 discrete inputs.
***********************************
How the DVD process works:
The imperfections of the original ANALOG Monty Python shows have been analyzed and painstakingly reproduced as DIGITAL imperfections.
...monty python's flying circus
***********************************

#4 of 121 OFFLINE   Lewis Besze

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Posted November 26 2001 - 10:06 AM

Hey Joe,
Nice review,I'm glad you like this piece,I've been waiting for some type of review on this unit.
Is this a 5 or 6/7 channel receiver[built in amps]?

#5 of 121 OFFLINE   Einar

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Posted November 26 2001 - 11:16 AM

iv been looking at this unit for some time now, but the reps on "quality control" kept me waiting.
i currently have a 474 onkyo, and i think the amp section sux.
i have also tryed the 575 and it sounded more powerfull and wide.
but still thats not enough...will the hk be enough for me u think?
how is it with classical? i hear thats its bad side..
strangly the new 595 beat the hk in a magazine here, and with 200 bucks off.
while the other norwegian magazine the hk crushed the onkyo, who too trust? too many choices out there.
some i also consider, is the denon avr3802, but its more expensive.
Posted Image

#6 of 121 OFFLINE   JoeMac

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Posted November 27 2001 - 01:58 AM

Lewis: It is a 5 channel only. I'm willing to bet it is the exact same amp section as the 510. It is rated 5 watts higher, but I believe they went with that only because the 510 was so underrated.

Einar: I had a 575 before I bought the Marantz SR7200, which subsequently went back. There is no comparison between the AVR 520 and the Onkyo. Don't let the similarity of the power rating fool you. This H/K shines with any kind of music I've thrown at it so far. The soundstage I get with any kind of orchestral piece is amazing! (provided it was recorded and mixed with some degree of care).

Again, the type of source you give it has a lot to do with the results. My DVD-Audio collection is up to 5 and growing! The only one I'm dissatisfied with so far is Joni Mitchell.
***********************************
How the DVD process works:
The imperfections of the original ANALOG Monty Python shows have been analyzed and painstakingly reproduced as DIGITAL imperfections.
...monty python's flying circus
***********************************

#7 of 121 OFFLINE   Jeff Savage

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Posted November 27 2001 - 06:24 AM

JoeMac -

I have had the HK 510 (the only difference being the surround modes and 5 Watts more power) for some time now and I agree with all of your statements. I am also using it with Klipsch speakers (Cornwall mains and Heresy surrounds and center). Simply an awesome piece of equipment. The HDCD and MP3 decoding work as advertised. I am surprised that it does not get mentioned more.

Laters,
...wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world...

#8 of 121 OFFLINE   Bryan Acevedo

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Posted November 27 2001 - 09:42 AM

How does the volume control work? I remember on some of their older models (beginning of this year) that they had problems with them. They would turn up the volume if you turned it down too fast, and vice versa. That was a real turn off for me. I have heard the sound quality is great, and would give these a look in the future when I decide to upgrade my 3802 some day (way in the future).

Bryan
"As far as I am concerned, the only level is reference level."
- A quote from my wife - who likes to poke fun at my hobby!

#9 of 121 OFFLINE   Ben Yang

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Posted November 27 2001 - 11:14 AM

Ditto on my experience with the HK 510. Amazingly clear and smooth. Listened to a Denon 3802 yesterday and still feel the HK is cleaner and more transparent. Logic 7 is a bonus but haven't had the chance to compare with PL2.
The front panel interface is excellent and provides a lot of info. Classy looks. The denon is a great product and perhaps better QC, but I don't need the bells and whistles, and prefer the $ going to quality sound / amp.

Fortunately, I've been spared the QC issues of prior HK's. After ~1 year, so far so good. Now, if I could sell my 510 on Ebay and upgrade to the 520...

My 2 cents.
Ben

#10 of 121 OFFLINE   Rob Robinson

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Posted November 27 2001 - 12:02 PM

i've got a 110 as my starter HT reciever- when i upgrade my speakers, I'm prolly going ot go with the 520 as well. I've been super impressed with the clean sound as well as the clean looks.

#11 of 121 OFFLINE   Dan_C

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Posted November 27 2001 - 02:03 PM

I'm another satisfied AVR 520 owner. I'm also updating my speakers to PSB 6Ts and the 9C center as well as the HSU VTF-2 subwoofer.

WOW! The sound brought tears to my eyes. For 75W per channel the receiver kicks. Playing Phantom Menace literally (I mean it!) blew pieces of foam off the woofers from my older 150W 10" towers.

I'm giddy just thinking what the system will sound like when my 6Ts and the VTF-2 arrive. I couldn't be happier. H/K has hit a homerun. Again.

I'm waiting to test the MP3 capability with the new H/K USB to coaxial digital adaptor that will be available in December (according to the H/K website). I've seen the specs on OneCall's website as well.

In my opinion you can't go wrong with this receiver (unless you have complaining neighbors!).

#12 of 121 OFFLINE   DavidAM

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Posted November 27 2001 - 02:46 PM

You guys are really amping me up for my 520!!! I ordered it from JandR.com yesterday so I'm hoping I get it before the weekend. I'm currently using an 11 year old Pioneer Dolby Surround reciever. Will the sound really come to life and be that much different or am I just buying into the hype? I did demo the reciever but nothing was hooked up right and I could only hear them out of these crappy little speakers so all the recievers sounded like shit. I'm anxiously awaiting my 520 to see how much of a difference a new high quality reciever makes!
Gamertag = Ferguson77

#13 of 121 OFFLINE   JoeMac

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Posted November 27 2001 - 02:48 PM

Hey Jeff Savage

How the heck are you using a Heresy as a center channel!

I'll bet those Cornwalls sound sweet with the H/K high current amp section. My friend brought over his Parasound 855 amp, which is a pretty good home theater amp from what I've read. I could not tell the difference between the H/K and the Parasound (using the 520 as a front end for the Parasound). My friend was impressed too, although he says his amp makes the Klipsches a little smoother.

Cornwalls, someday I'll find a decent pair and snap those babies up. Belle Klipsch or La Scala's would be nice too! Do you have the originals or the two's? Modified?

Anyway, to get back to the AVR 520 and stop dreaming...
I think the H/K has overcome the quality problems that started with the 500 series. I'm not sure when they made the move to Chinese manufacturing, but the 510 series was much better, except for the control noise problems and the remote. After almost non-stop use of mine for 3 weeks I don't have a complaint yet! Here's hoping the 520 lasts for awhile!
***********************************
How the DVD process works:
The imperfections of the original ANALOG Monty Python shows have been analyzed and painstakingly reproduced as DIGITAL imperfections.
...monty python's flying circus
***********************************

#14 of 121 OFFLINE   lester

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Posted November 27 2001 - 03:16 PM

Wow thanks for the review. I was all setup to get the Denon 3802, but now my decision has been made to get the 520. For you guys that have one which amp are you running for the two rear channels?

Thanks again,
Les

#15 of 121 OFFLINE   Mal P

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Posted November 27 2001 - 11:46 PM

Thanks for the review!

I've just finished reading the owners manual, and it seems on this receiver, you can't set your front speakers as small and use the lower cross-over frequencies (40hz, 60hz)? This is a damn shame, as this means if I want to off-load the deep bass from the fronts, I can only use the 80hz or higher cross-over.

I hope I'm mistaken here... could someone please prove me wrong? Posted Image

Thanks,
Mal

#16 of 121 OFFLINE   JoeMac

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Posted November 27 2001 - 11:58 PM

Mal, you are not mistaken. When the mains are set as small you are limited to using 80 or 100 Hz. When large you pick between 40 or 60 Hz. This should cover most circumstances. I'm not really sure what you wish to accomplish.
***********************************
How the DVD process works:
The imperfections of the original ANALOG Monty Python shows have been analyzed and painstakingly reproduced as DIGITAL imperfections.
...monty python's flying circus
***********************************

#17 of 121 OFFLINE   Jeff Savage

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Posted November 28 2001 - 07:40 AM

JoeMac -


Quote:
How the heck are you using a Heresy as a center channel!
Hehe well there is this new invention called wires... Posted Image Seriously though I understand what you are saying. It does make for a BIG center channel. I have a 46" 4:3 Non-HDTV RPTV. On the top of the tv I placed a 1/2" 18"x18" piece of MDF (painted black) I placed the Heresy upside down on the board (tweeters closest to tv) and a little angle block under the back to properly angle the horns at the listening position. It really sounds awesome with the Cornwalls!! I used to have a RC3 center but the Heresy is really a much better tonal match with the Cornwalls. Did I say it made a huge difference yet Posted Image

Quote:
I'll bet those Cornwalls sound sweet with the H/K high current amp section.
Oh yeah they rock baby. Truly an experience whenever they are on.

Quote:
Cornwalls, someday I'll find a decent pair and snap those babies up. Belle Klipsch or La Scala's would be nice too! Do you have the originals or the two's? Modified?
They are Cornwall I's from '79 with the B network. Totally stock no modifications. If you like the Klipsch sound (heck even if you don't) these speakers simply rock!

Laters,
...wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world...

#18 of 121 OFFLINE   Mal P

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Posted November 28 2001 - 12:58 PM

Hi Joe,

My fronts can handle down to 35hz at -2dB or so, and I would have liked to use either the 40hz or 60hz cross-over with them, to offload the deep bass into the subwoofer. I personally feel that the 80hz mark is a little too high.

Sincerely,
Mal

#19 of 121 OFFLINE   Richard Burzynski

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Posted November 28 2001 - 01:24 PM

Joe:

Just to clarify the L7 feature, and if I'm not mistaken, I believe that L7 can only be engaged when using a 2 channel analog connection. Correct?

Thanks.

Rich B.

#20 of 121 OFFLINE   JoeMac

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Posted November 28 2001 - 04:27 PM

Mal:
Quote:
My fronts can handle down to 35hz at -2dB or so, and I would have liked to use either the 40hz or 60hz cross-over with them, to offload the deep bass into the subwoofer. I personally feel that the 80hz mark is a little too high.


You can set your mains to large and then use 40 or 60. Since the frequency (say 40) is at the -3dB point at that freq., it is amplified at half power there and then rolls off. This should work for you.




Rich:
Quote:
Just to clarify the L7 feature, and if I'm not mistaken, I believe that L7 can only be engaged when using a 2 channel analog connection. Correct?


Correct. Logic 5 or 7 is only used on analog stereo or analog Dolby. Works great for TV programs. The only exception to this is using a digital PCM stream, like a CD. You can then use L7 on this digital input.

Joe
***********************************
How the DVD process works:
The imperfections of the original ANALOG Monty Python shows have been analyzed and painstakingly reproduced as DIGITAL imperfections.
...monty python's flying circus
***********************************


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