Harman Kardon AVR-525 Experience (bad)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Eric_AP, Feb 24, 2003.

  1. Eric_AP

    Eric_AP Stunt Coordinator

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    Well after listening to my new Onkyo TX-SR700 for a week, it was okay -- but I wasn't thrilled. I thought it sounded a little bright -- perhaps not the best receiver for my Paradigm Atoms (fronts/surrounds); CC170 center; Paradigm PDR-10 sub. Other than some mild dissatisfaction with the bright sound quality, the receiver worked fine. No problems whatsoever.

    I decided to compare it to a Harman Kardon 525. Whichever I liked LEAST, would go back to the store.

    So this past Friday night I picked up a Harman Kardon AVR-525. I was able to get it for $719.00 (including tax), from Circuit City, after beating them over the head with Internet print-outs from Harman Kardon authorized etailers (the etailers had it at $699.00). Note that I had paid a total of $619.00 for the Onkyo 700 from Circuit City -- also due to Intenet pricing from authorized Onkyo dealers.

    So on Saturday morning I break down the Onkyo from my system and pull the HK 525 out of the box and start to set it up. The very first thing I notice is that the legs are not even (the front right leg is about a 1/2 inch in the air). This 525 sits like one of those bad restaurant tables where you have to put a bunched up napkin under one leg so it stops rocking. No big deal though -- it would not effect the sound (although for a product that lists at about $1,000.00 it was slightly annoying).

    I hook it all up, set-up the inputs and the speakers for a 5.1 system. After a quick listen, it definitely gives a feeling of more power than the Onkyo -- and seems to have a cleaner sound at higher volume levels.

    I then try to calibrate the speaker levels using the EZ-set function. This function doesn't seem to work right. The test tone goes from speaker to speaker, but the levels do not change. The test tone goes on and on for maybe 10 minutes - with nothing happening other than the test tone shifting from speaker to speaker. I try again -- no dice. So I calibrate the speakers manually (I have a radio shack SPL meter). No big deal I think, most people say you should calibrate the 525 manually anyway. Again, it is slightly annoying for a $1,000.00 product.

    Then, I start to play around more and notice a problem with the Logic 7 function. On one of the 3 Logic 7 modes there is nothing but a loud thud from the subwoofer. This sounds frightening and almost damaging (indeed, it scared my dog). I steer clear from Logic 7 after that.

    I also notice that when switching sound modes, stereo, surround, dsp, whatever, there is always a slight delay. An annoying second or two before the sound kicks in. With the Onkyo, any sound format switching is practically instantaneous (no annoying delay).

    I then put in a DTS DVD (Lord of the Rings). When skipping around chapters, I notice that it takes a couple of beats for the 525 to lock on the audio. So you miss a second or two when starting a DVD, not a big deal though. Then, when skipping around some more, audio stuttering starts to happen. The video is moving fine, but the audio is stuttering (starting and stopping -- or dropping out intermittantly). The only way to stop it is to stop the DVD (not pause) and start it again. I check another DVD (U571), same problem happens in DTS mode when skipping around to chapters manually. Note that this did not happen with the Onkyo - so I don't think it is the DVD player or the DVD itself.

    At this point I think, perhaps I got a lemon. It is still early (maybe 11:30 am). I call my local Circuit City to see if they have a 525 in stock -- they do, 3 of them in fact! (I picked up the 525 I got on Friday night at a Circuit City near work -- the last one there). So I run out in the pouring rain and do an exchange for another 525. I'm back in 45 minutes.

    I get the new one home and pull it out of the box. Hmm -- same manufacturing date on the back as the one I just exchanged -- September 2002. Hope it is not a bad omen.

    Again, first thing I notice when sitting it on a flat surface, the legs are uneven. This one is not as bad as the other, but the right front leg is still up in the air.

    I hook this one up, do the whole set-up routine for the inputs, etc. Again I try the EZset routine. Again, it does not work. So again I calibrate manually. I try the Logic 7 function. No thud! It appears to work as intended. Okay, maybe I got a good one now -- other than the finicky EZset.

    So then I'm casually reading the 525 manual a little more, and I have the receiver on playing the TV sound at a low volume level. Hmm Dolby Pro-logic II sounds good -- perhaps better than the Onkyo (could be just the program material though). Next thing I know, I hear a buzzing sound to my right, then a click at the front of the room, and the 525 shuts down completely. I then smell smoke in the right front corner of my room.

    Augghghhh!! The horror, the horror! It appears that my right front speaker is toasted. There is definitely a burning smell coming from the back of it. My beloved, less than 2 month old, Paradigm Atom.

    I try to reset the 525. No dice. It just blinks and shuts down. It looks like a murder / suicide by the 525. Took the speaker with it as it went.

    It is now 3:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. My wife had brought home two DVDs for that night, in light of the forecast of non-stop pouring rain the rest of the weekend. There is no way I want to be without one speaker all weekend. I call my Paradigm dealer -- they are open till 5:00 pm. I am there by 4:10.

    They won't exchange my Atom for a new one (but they will fix it, by opening it up and giving me entirely new Atom innards). I'm not thrilled with that policy -- I expected a brand new speaker, but I'm happy they got me out of there by 5:00 pm with a working Atom. Which they insist will sound as good as one fresh out of the box. They did show me my smoking woofer, tweeter and cross-over. Still had a burning smell an hour and a half later too. They tell me that is the best that Paradigm will do -- repair, NOT replace. They also mentioned that the receiver's right front channel (amplifier) must be shot -- and warned me not to try the "new" speaker (or any other one) on that channel.

    Okay, I get home at 5:15 pm (where did my Saturday go?) and try the speaker with my Onkyo now set back up. No sound -- uh oh! I then determine that the speaker wire must be fried too. I re-wire that speaker run. Whew - - my right front speaker works fine again.

    Needless to say -- the Onkyo won the competition hands down. While the HK 525 might have sounded better than the Onkyo when it actually worked as intended, I couldn't get either HK 525 to work as intended, and the 2nd one fried a speaker -- while at at low volume level and doing nothing out of the ordinary.

    I really wanted to like the 525 -- I was sort of hoping it would win. Even my wife thought it "looked sleeker". But there was no way I was going to try a third HK 525 and risk another fried speaker (or other glitches).

    I am pretty sure that had I been able to do an extended listening test, I would have liked the sound of the 525 better than the Onkyo 700. The small amount of testing I could do, seemed to confirm the nice sound and power of the 525. Moreover, it seemed like Pro Logic II sounded more immersive and more envelopment from the surround speakers with the 525 than the Onkyo. Although, perhaps my quick calibration wasn't quite accurate or the program material was simply hotter in the surrounds than what I had listened to with the Onkyo. Unfortunately, I'll never really know for sure.

    Anyone looking at a 525, if you get a good one, keep it. It appears to give a great sound -- when working. Perhaps I got a bad Circuit City run of the 525 -- two different stores, but same manufacture date. This post is not meant to bash Harman Kardon. I'm just relating my experience.

    My Onkyo is back up in its rightful place of the winner of the competition (and for $100.00 less than the Harman Kardon). It has never had a glitch in over a week of operation. Perhaps I'll get used to the "brighter" sound.
     
  2. Jeff_PxR

    Jeff_PxR Stunt Coordinator

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    Can you believe I just got my HK 525 out of the box? I will set it up tomorrow and get back to this. Fingers crossed!!
     
  3. Donnie Eldridge

    Donnie Eldridge Supporting Actor

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    Wow!!! Based on all that you wrote, I would have thought that you would dump both of those brands. It sounds like you are just settling with the Onkyo.
     
  4. MarkO

    MarkO Second Unit

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    That 1/2 inch difference in leg height sounds extreme IMHO. Not to mention it allegedly fried a speaker at low levels. Maybe it was damaged?
     
  5. Eric_AP

    Eric_AP Stunt Coordinator

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    Well the Onkyo was never bad. I just thought I could do better -- like searching for that perfect woman.

    I now realize, the great woman was in my home the whole time. [​IMG]

    I also think the brighter sound I may be hearing is really due to the sound I never heard with my previous home theater in a box Sony receiver (same speakers though). I think this receiver (the Onkyo) is much cleaner, so I hear more of what I should.

    Anyway, if I am settling, it is to something that I am not unhappy with. Just not ecstatic about. Perhaps I expected too much.
     
  6. Eric_AP

    Eric_AP Stunt Coordinator

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    Marko: the 1/2 inch leg height was on the first 525 (the one I took back for multiple glitches, but nothing real serious). The second 525 had a slight difference in leg height. That was the one that fried my speaker. And it definitely fried it. Smoke and all. Hi-fi house in Broomall, PA has the parts. The receiver could not even be re-set afterwards -- using the reset procedure in the back of the manual.

    At the time of the incident, the TV was on with the receiver at low volume level (lower than normal TV listening) -- as I was reading the manual. I hadn't touched anything on the receiver in probably 10 minutes. I guess the right front channel amplifier just blew for some reason, sending high current directly to the speaker??
     
  7. DonJ

    DonJ Second Unit

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    Hmm, I've had my HK 320 for a year now and no problems. It doesn't sit evenly? I would think it was a bad unit from the get go and take it back to get one that at least doesn't have any defects out of the box. Try that see how it works and get back to us.
     
  8. Oakley

    Oakley Auditioning

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    I've had my 525 for a 10 days and have not had a problem with this one. This is the 3rd one that I have hooked up. The first 2 I had a problem with the sound dropping off if I paused a dvd. When I would hit play again there was no sound. I tried the Yamaha rx-v1300 and the Onkyo tx-sr800 and neither one sounded as good as the H/K. So I figured I would try one more 525 and I'm so glad I did. This one I have has not had a single problem and it sounds great.
     
  9. Leo_P

    Leo_P Second Unit

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    Sounds like H/K's going from bad to worse.[​IMG]
    This from a guy that picked an H/K AVR 520 over an Onkyo TX-DS797 about a year ago.
    Every now and then my 520 would start acting "funny". All of a sudden I'd get no audio except 2-ch. stereo and whatever video I was routing through the receiver would look black & white. But I'd unplug the receiver for a few minutes and the problem would go away. I think it's probably a processor problem.
    It's really a shame because, to me, H/K makes some of THE best sounding mid-level receivers. If they could get their QC problem taken care of, they'd be a force to be reckoned with. Instead, their reputation's taking a serious beating.
    Anyway, Eric, I'm glad everything worked out for you.[​IMG]
     

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