Harman Kardon AVR2600 Home Theater Receiver Review

Introduction to the Harman Kardon AVR2600

Harman Kardon AVR2600 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View w/Included Accessories
Harman Kardon AVR2600 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View w/Included Accessories. Photo (c) Robert Silva Licensed to About.com

The Harman Kardon AVR2600 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver provides practical audio/video features, as well as good performance, in an affordable package. With built-in HDMI 3D pass-through compatibility, analog to HDMI video conversion and 1080p upscaling, on-board Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio decoders, iPod connectivity (via optional dock), and an automatic speaker setup system, the AVR2600 is worth consideration.

After reading this review, also check out my Photo Profile and Video Performance Tests.

Harman Kardon AVR2600 Product Overview

The features of the AVR2600 include:

1. The AVR2600 is a 7.1 channel home theater receiver delivering 65 Watts into each of 7 channels at .07% THD.

2. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD, DTS-HD, Dolby Digital 5.1/EX/Pro logic IIx, DTS 5.1/ES, 96/24, Neo:6.

3. Additional Audio Processing Options: Harman Kardon Logic7, Dolby Volume.

4. Audio Inputs (Analog): 6 Stereo Analog, 1 One set of 7.1 Channel Analog Audio inputs.

5. Audio Inputs (Digital - Excluding HDMI): 3 Digital Optical, 3 Digital Coaxial.

6. Audio Outputs (Excluding HDMI): 2 Sets - Analog Stereo, 1 Digital Coaxial, 1 Subwoofer Pre-out, 1 Headphone output.

7. Speaker connections options for Surround Back or Powered Zone 2 speakers provided.

8. Video Inputs: 4 HDMI ver 1.4a (3D pass through/Audio Return Channel capable), 2 Component, 5 Composite.

One set of AV inputs mounted on front panel.

9. Video Ouputs: 1 HDMI, 1 Component Video, 2 Composite Video.

10. Analog to HDMI video conversion (480i to 480p) and upscaling from 480p to 1080p using Faroudja DCDi Cinema processing. HDMI pass-through of native 1080p and 3D signals.

11. Inclusion of Harman Kardon EzSet/EQ™ system automatic speaker setup system.

12. 40 Preset AM/FM Tuner. Sirius Satellite Radio via Optional Tuner/Antenna.

13. iPod/iPhone connectivity/control connectivity available via optional docking station (The Bridge III). Rear mounted docking port connection.

14. USB port for firmware updates.

15. Wireless remote and full-color on-screen menu system.

16. User Manual and Full Color Quick Setup Guide.

Zone 2 Option

The AVR2600 allows for the connection and operation of a 2nd Zone. This allows a second source signal to speakers or a separate audio system in another location. This is not the same as just connecting additional speakers and placing them in another room.

The Zone 2 function allows control of either the same or separate, source than the one being listened to in the main room, in another location. For example, the user can be watching a Blu-ray Disc or DVD movie with surround sound in the main room, while someone else can listen to a CD player in another, at the same time. Both the Blu-ray Disc or DVD player and CD player are connected to the same Receiver but are accessed and controlled separately using the same main Receiver.

3D Compatibility

The Harman Kardon AVR2600 is 3D Compatible. What this means is that this receiver will HDMI will detect 3D source signals automatically and pass them through to a 3D-enabled TV without further processing.

Hardware Used

The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705, Onkyo TX-NR708 (on review loan).

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-83 Universal Player (BD/DVD/CD/SACD/DVD-Audio)

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 (7.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center , 2 Polk R300s, Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 3 (5.1 channels): Pioneer SP-C21 center channel speaker, SP-BS41-LR bookshelf satellite speakers, and SW-8 Powered Subwoofer (on review loan)

TV/Monitors: A Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor.

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High-Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

Level checks made using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter

Software Used

2D Blu-ray Discs: Across The Universe, Avatar, Hairspray, Iron Man 1&2, Kick Ass, Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour, Sherlock Holmes, The Expendables, The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, and Transporter 3

Standard DVDs used included scenes from the following: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

 

DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

Audio Performance

The AVR2600 has a well-laid out rear connection panel, making it easy to connect components and speakers. Using both analog and digital audio sources, the AVR2600, in both 5.1, and 7.1 channel configurations, delivered an excellent surround image.

The AVR2600 is robust over long listening sessions. Harman Kardon is very conservative with its stated amplifier ratings. While many manufacturers tout high power output, often they are measured when only running one or two channels during the measuring process. On the other hand, Harman Kardon takes its output measured with all channels running.

This receiver also provides a clean signal via the direct 5.1 analog audio inputs from Blu-ray sources in addition to the HDMI and Digital Optical/Coaxial audio connection options. I fed both uncompressed two and multi-channel PCM signals from the OPPO BDP-83, as well as undecoded bitstream output via HDMI and Digital Optical/Coaxial to get a comparison between externally processed audio signals and the internal audio processing of the AVR2600.

Logic 7

In addition to the standard Surround Sound processing modes, Harman Kardon offers its own Logic 7 surround decoding system. Logic 7 operates in a similar fashion to Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6, in that it is intended to bring out a 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 channel sound field from incoming two channel material. However, I found that Logic 7 also added a little more body to the result than the straight Dolby Prologic II or DTS Neo:6 offerings, in addition to adding the surround effect.

Zone 2 Operation

The AVR2600 has the ability to operate a 2nd Zone. Running the receiver in the 5.1 channel mode for the main room and two channels in a second room, and using the provided second zone control options, I was easily able to run two separate systems. However, no video signals and only analog audio sources can be sent to Zone 2.

I was able to access DVD and Blu-ray audio in the main 5.1 channel setup and easily access any analog audio source, such as FM radio, CDs, or iPod in the two channel setup in another room using the AVR2600 as the main control for both sources. Also, I could run the same music source in both rooms simultaneously, one using the 5.1 channel configuration and second using the 2 channel configuration.

However, the 2nd Zone feature can only be accessed by re-assigning the Surround Back Channels to the 2nd Zone. In other words, if you choose to take advantage of the 2nd Zone feature on the AVR2600, you limit your main room to a 5.1 channel speaker setup.

Unlike many home theater receivers in this price class, no is no separate Zone 2 preamp output option on the AVR2600.

Cooling Fan

The AVR2600 also features a rear-mounted cooling fan, which helps to maintain a relatively cool running temperature, even after extended use. However, it is always advisable to have ample space for air circulation on the sides, top, and rear of the unit.

Video Performance

The AVR2600 passed 1080p, 1080i, and 720p high definition video signals from Blu-ray Disc sources without introducing additional artifacts.

Also, I found that the internal scaler of the AVR2600 does a very good job with video noise reduction, detail, and an average job with jaggie elimination.

However, testing also revealed that the AVR2600 did not do as well in eliminating moire patterns, and displayed some instability in frame cadence detection. In addition, although detail was very good, there was some added video noise.

For a closer look at he video performance of the Harman Kardon AVR2600, check out my Video Performance Tests.

In addition, the AVR2600 offers custom video setting options that allow further tweaking of video performance, including deinterlacing on/off, black level, and cross color suppression in addition to traditional brightness, contrast, and color saturation settings.

These added setting options are usually not available in home theater receivers that provide video processing in this price range. The benefit of having these controls in the receiver is that they are independent of your TVs picture settings so that you can maintain separate video settings for sources connected directly to your TV from the ones connected through the AVR2600.

Note: 3D pass-through was not tested, as a 3D-enabled TV and 3D Blu-ray Disc Player were not available for this review.

What I Liked About The AVR2600

1. Excellent sound quality in both stereo and surround modes.

2. Amplifier power ratings based on All-Channels Driven model.

3. Good video processing and upscaling. Custom video settings can be used to tweak video performance.

4. Large rear mounted fan maintains cool running temperature.

5. Provides analog-to-HDMI video conversion and up to 1080p scaling.

6. 3D-compatible.

7. Uncluttered front panel.

8. Large, but easy-to-use remote control.

9. Visually appealing onscreen user interface.

10. Excellent user manual and full color connections guide.

What I Didn't Like About the AVR2600

1. No Multi-Channel preamp outputs - No Line output option for Zone 2.

2. No Bi-Amp speaker connection function.

3. NO front-mounted HDMI input

4. No S-Video inputs or outputs. This is not a deal-breaker these days as most new home theater receivers are eliminating this connection option.

5. No dedicated phono-turntable input. If you need to connect a phono turntable you need to add an external phono preamp or use a turntable with a built-in preamp.

6. iPod/iPhone connectivity requires external, optional, docking station.

Final Take

The AVR2600 offers very good audio performance and more than enough power a medium-sized room.

The audio from audio-only CDs, DVD-Audio Discs, SACDs, and Blu-ray disc soundtracks, was clean and distinct, making the AVR2600 more than suitable for both extensive music listening and home theater use.

The AVR2600 also showed good stability during very dynamic audio tracks and delivered a sustained output over long periods of time without eliciting listening fatigue.

I also found the analog to HDMI video conversion and upscaling functions to be good for a home theater receiver although some improvement would be desirable in smoothing out jaggies a little, as well as better moire pattern elimination and frame cadence detection.

In terms of the number of features, Harman Kardon receivers may seem a little higher-priced in comparison with many of its competitors. However, where Harman Kardon excels is in delivering great sound quality via sturdy and powerful amplifiers, which is the core of a good home theater receiver.

While the AVR2600 is missing a few desirable features, such as preamp outputs, Bi-amping capability, and a dedicated phono input, is does offer solid audio performance, coupled with video processing and 3D compatibility. As a result, the AVR2600 is definitely worth consideration.

To dig into the Harman Kardon AVR2600 a little deeper, also check out my Photo Profile and Video Performance Tests

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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