H/K AVR520 Mini (and I mean mini) - Review

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by StevenK, Apr 23, 2002.

  1. StevenK

    StevenK Second Unit

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    I finally got my new 520 setup and properly calibrated and thought maybe I'd shared my impressions.

    I am currently using it as a quasi-pre/pro. That is, the front and center preouts are going into a Newcastle 9080 amp which are bi-amping a pair of NHT 2.5i's and a AC-1. The H/K drives the sides and the rears (thanks to main-amp inputs feature).

    Please take everything I say with a grain of salt. I just moved up from an Onkyo TX-DS676 paired with HTD Level IIIs, so I'm not exactly an audiophile.

    Pros:

    1. DD and DTS decoding excellent! On par with my old Onkyo 676, which is a big compliment in my mind. DTS-ES discrete and matrixed are quite impressive. Don't know whether to attribute this to the receiver or the format. Either way, I'm happy with Gladiator.

    2. 2-Channel music and smooth and full. I wouldn't say warm, as the music still retains it detail. More of a neutralness to it...which, I prefer over warmth or brightness. I don't know if it's the Newcastle, NHTs, or the H/K, so once again, can't say that it's the receiver completely.

    3. Plenty of flexible inputs/outputs. More than enough digital inputs to cover my bases. Moreover, several inputs can be switched to outputs. Potentially very, very useful, but I haven't used it yet. I'm glad that I can transfer on/off my discman from the front digital jacks with are switchable.

    4. Main-amps input! What a nice feature. Why can't more receivers do this. It doesn't seem very difficult to implement at all. Anyways, with the front and center amps freed up by the Newcastle, I can use them to drive the rears and some Bass Shakers in the future.

    5. EZ-Set is actually a pretty acurate. EZ-Set is a feature that automatically calibrates the speaker levels for you. You hold the remote with a built in SPL at the approximate location where you're gonna sit, and EZ-Set calibrates the speakers accordingly. After doing EZ-Set, I attempted to refine it with a RatShack SPL, but found it needed very little adjustment (just -1dB on the rear left and +1 dB on the center).

    Cons:

    1. A little to gaudy looking, especially when turned on. The row of gold plastic buttons in front...blech. But I guess that's just the look H/K is going for. When it's turned on, the display is overly busy with too much green LEDs. The VFD can be turned off, but the LEDs are dominating and actually kinda lights up the dark room a little. This is actually on the verge of being a problem, as it can get annoying when watching dark scenes. A few bright LEDs on A/V equipment is inevitable and you can't dock a company points for that, but you can dock em points when they overdo it.

    I must say however, when the receiver is in standby mode with all the LEDs and VFD off, the glossy front glass panel makes it look very, very nice and matches the NHTs beautifully. Too bad, you can't make the LEDs stay in the off position when you turn the receiver on.

    2. Quite dissappointed in Logic 7 for 2-Channel sources. The 520 doesn't implement Logic 7 for 5.1 sources, just 2-Channel. I found Logic 7 too soft and muddled all the way around. The rears weren't very "discrete". I realize the surrounds are only supposed to be for "ambience", but it felt more like just plain ole white noise to me. My opinion is Pro-Logic II is much better for TV and VCR viewing. For music, I just stick to Stereo. None of the DSPs, be it ProLogic II, Logic 7, VMax, whatever, were satisfying and seemed muddled the music rather than broaden the soundstage. For parties and such (I've only had a little one since getting the 520), 5/7 Channel Stereo does a great job of getting the music to everybody though.

    3. The remote is badly laid out. Compared to the universal learning remote from Onkyo, the buttons are just too small and placed in the wrong places. For example, the numeric keypad is placed as follows:

    1_2_3_4

    5_6_7_8

    X_9_0_X

    I know some people like that lay-out, but I prefer the convention 3 row/column + 0 button layout. And did I say the buttons were dinky.

    Also, when you press a "Device" button (i.e. DVD, TV, CD, VCR, etc), the receiver swithes over to that source automatically. Sometimes, I want to change the channel on my TV, but want to keep the music going to my CD player. Well, I press "TV", and now the receiver has switched to the TV source and is outputting the TV sound. There are other instances where this "feature" becomes very annoying. Volume and channel punch through helps alleviate some of this, but you can still get in some situations where it happens and annoys the heck outta you. They should have seperated the "Source" and "Device" buttons, IMO.

    4. No DD-EX. Some might not care, but I wonder how good it is. In this price range, there are some other receivers that have DD-EX as well as DTS-ES. I really would like to hear the Phantom Menace in action. Oh well...I made the decision knowing about the lack of DD-EX so I can't knock the receiver for it.

    Conclusion:

    I am very happy with the H/K, but I'm not sure it's really an upgrade over my old Onkyo 676. Aside from the newest format, the Onkyo had less "annoying" issues. In fact, on hindsight, I would have kept the 676 as 6.1 movies are few and far between. I Onkyo also felt like it was built better...the H/K seems kinda Best Buy-ish/Sony DE-ish in comparison. Most of the H/K drawbacks are personal opinion in nature, and I'm sure many won't see as drawbacks. Seeing as how I've already spent the money, I won't go to another receiver, but I will likely go to true separates in the future. Probably an Outlaw or Newcastle pre-amp.
     
  2. RobP

    RobP Stunt Coordinator

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  3. Joseph_Mikhail

    Joseph_Mikhail Stunt Coordinator

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    Great review. Very fair.
    I also absolutely despise the remote. Those buttons are microscopic. But I do like the Zone II remote for everyday usage. I am not using the multiroom features so I use the Zone II remote about 95% of the time.
    I don't mind all the lights on the front panel. Makes it feel like Christmas. [​IMG]
    No DD EX is only a minor drawback for me. When a true 7.1 format comes out, I will purchase an outboard decoder. For now, DD 5.1/DTS ES is fine for me.
    Also, Logic 7 was a big disappointment. Sounds so flat compared to PLII. No big deal. I just use PLII-Music for most 2 channel sources.
    But the sound coming out of my system is AWESOME. And thats what really counts. Plus, I just purchased a 4 channel amp so I will be in Sound Heaven very soon.
     
  4. Eujin

    Eujin Supporting Actor

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    I guess I'll have to be the one dissenting voice here: I prefer Logic7 over DPLII. Maybe it's just a matter of listening preferences, but Logic7 just sounds like a smoother, less artificial presentation to me. On top of that, I only use it for regular satellite viewing and never with music sources.
     
  5. John_VI

    John_VI Second Unit

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    Well, I guess that's why God gave each of us a pair of ears! I personally love Logic 7 and prefer it over any mode of DPL-II for 2-ch sources. I usually use L7-Cinema for TV/VCR, but switch to L7-Music for the music channels on DirecTV. I don't like L7-Enhanced, as I believe it makes the sound hollow. I haven't had it long enough to play around with CD music yet. And on the rare occasion, I'll switch the surround off to listen to 2-ch music, and it really performs wonderfully there as well.

    But where this receiver really shines is with DD and DTS DVD's. Wonderful, clean sound and plenty of power to drive my Def Tech speakers.

    I agree that the remote is very poorly laid out with tiny buttons, so I've resolved to program everything into my MX-500. Only problem is that the volume is VERY quirky. All other functions programmed into the MX-500 seem to work well. But after having the receiver on for a couple of hours, the volume responds to the MX-500 only intermittently. Very frustrating. I'll try to program the volume using the Z2 remote, as I've heard that works better. If not, I'll contact HK to see if they'll send me a new remote.

    Oh, and one other annoyance. And it's a rather big one. It seems that the right surround channel has stopped working altogether. I've switched speakers, double-checked connections and tried resetting the processor, all to no avail. I'm sending the receiver back for a replacement (bought it less than 30-days ago), so hopefully the new one will perform flawlessly.
     
  6. David King

    David King Stunt Coordinator

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    [​IMG] I can't even get one, not alone two [​IMG]
     
  7. John_VI

    John_VI Second Unit

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    David - LMAO!!! [​IMG]
     
  8. Adil M

    Adil M Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Adil prefers logic 7, but still hates it when he puts his ears to the speakers and hears all that digital garbage noise.
     
  9. MatthewJ S

    MatthewJ S Supporting Actor

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    Are you going to eventually match all your amps?
     
  10. Todd smith

    Todd smith Supporting Actor

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    Hey guys. I dont mean to but in, but can the 520 simply be used as a pre/pro if I have a 7 channel amp? Also what is the component video switching rated at? (3802 is at 27hz and I heard this one is better)
     
  11. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

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    Yes, the 520 can serve as a pre/pro for a 7.1 system. The bandwidth is 30Mhz.
     

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