|Harman Kardon AVR 630 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Saturday, 01 May 2004|
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Music and Movies
My accompanying audio equipment to the AVR 630 was a Marantz DV8400 DVD player, Polk Audio LSi Series speakers, and an Energy ES10 subwoofer. A few of my audiophile pals have been raving about the latest DTS version of Diana Krall’s Love Scenes (DTS Entertainment), so I thought I would try it out for myself. “All or Nothing at All” sets the stage for what one expects from Ms. Krall. A modern day Billie Holiday, Krall makes listeners swoon with her soft and soothing voice. There is a noticeable echo to her voice that is well reproduced by the AVR 630. This track was light on the high frequencies, but did explore the midrange extensively with the piano and electric guitar interludes. Russell Malone on the guitar shows off his talent by imitating a popping cork sound and a bongo-like instrument with his guitar. “Peel Me a Grape” continues to explore the jazz singer’s artistic talents by having her find a half-dozen ways to croon about peeling a grape. Her voice sounds lush and the creeping sound of the bass guitar is well expressed by the AVR 630. There is a great sense of transparency and an overall sense of ease that is not typical in this price class.
Those familiar with the electronic music genre might know Armand Van Helden. Starting as a DJ at the age 15, Van Helden quickly became a renowned re-mixer for artists such as Tori Amos, Janet Jackson and the Rolling Stones. Van Helden’s 2Future4U album (London Records) is a prodigal compilation of some of his best remixes to date. “Mother Earth” is a nice challenge to the audio range of the AVR 630, demanding much in terms of bass. The pumping bass characteristic to most house music and the thunder clasps in the background is definitely present with the AVR 630. Meanwhile, the dynamic use of bass does not hamper the ability of the receiver to emit the siren-like cries of the female singer in the background at all. “Psychic Bounty Killaz” ups the ante by creating a faster tempo and adding lots of samples that quickly start and stop. The pace and tempo of the bass is never sluggish through the AVR 630 and my head continued to bob with satisfaction with this track as well. The amp was not pounding my chest with bass, but it did manage to bring me into the music and not fatigue my ears at all. I must point out that the Polks are not particularly easy to drive, and yet this moderately-rated receiver had some low-end authority.
For movies, I began with the action thriller “XXX” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment). Vin Diesel plays a street punk adrenaline junkie who turns secret agent. This James Bond wannabe flick has its moments of incredible stunts, but lacks the polish and charm that we are used to with 007. Diesel’s acting is just as bad as it was in “The Fast and the Furious,” but he is a hunk, so he draws the crowds (my girlfriend’s opinions, not mine). The opening scene of Diesel stealing a senator’s Corvette is classic, crunching the shifter into reverse and peeling out of the valet area with metal music jamming in the background. The sound of smashing glass squeaks out of the surround speakers as Diesel crams the ‘Vette into a corridor obviously not sized for the side mirrors of the car. The ‘Vette launching off the bridge is intense. The movie silences nearly all sound as the car soars through the air. Wind whistling and a eagle’s cry are all that remains until the car explodes into the ravine. Then the Drowning Pool’s “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor” starts jamming. Sweet, the senator is punished for banning rap music and video games, right? Wrong. This stunt leads to Diesel’s character being forced into a training program and transformed into a secret agent (yeah, right). On the bright side, the snowboarding scenes and explosions are great. The exploding of the Columbian drug lab was so realistic that it filled my room with detailed rumblings and concussion waves from all six speakers.
“Kill Bill Volume One” (Miramax) was so awesome in the theaters that I had to review it with my audio equipment on DVD as soon it came out. Those with weak stomachs need not apply, as this movie is very violent. It is ridiculously gory at times as part of the comical mind of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino comes to light. The movie is a spoof on the Hong Kong action and old-school western flicks of time gone by. “Kill Bill” is a story about revenge and the code of the modern-day samurai. It does have some cool fight scenes, starting with Copperhead (Vivica A. Davis) and Black Mamba (Uma Thurman). This knife fight has it all, whistling noise as blades cut through the air while the girls are grunting and blurting out some Karate talk in Japanese. Heck, my eyes winced as I heard the cracking of Black Mamba’s knee with a wooden table leg wielded by Copperhead. There are lots of breaking glass noises throughout this scene to test both bass and high frequencies of your audio system. The Harman Kardon AVR 630 does an excellent job extracting the most finite of details and plays very loudly without signs of dynamic compression. The mosquito flying around as Black Mamba lies on the floor of the church and in the hospital bed is great for testing the surround sound of your system. That bug seemed to travel right, left, behind me and all around me. It seemed so real that I was tempted to get up and find the swatter. The sound of squirting blood from the dismembered Crazy 88 henchmen body parts is like an open fire hydrant erupting on hot summer day. This may seem grotesque to some people, yet comical to others. Just remember kids, it’s just a movie so don’t try this at home.
“Powaqqatsi” (MGM Home Entertainment) is an artistic documentary done as a joint venture with filmmakers George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. Excellent cinematography and brilliant contrast of colors fill this film. Unfortunately, I never understood the purpose of where the directors were trying to take you and got lost in all the images of Third World countries. The soundtrack gets old after a while, but in the beginning has some glaring trumpets and flutes that are sweet and detailed. Scenes of Indian fisherman tossing nets into the roaring ocean next to crashing waves are spectacular. High-frequency sounds, such as tambourines banging, are adequate but not as prominent and detailed as on my Parasound amplifier with the same track. However, for a 75-watt receiver, the AVR 630 performed up to my expectations. Erie oboes howl and the voices of children fill the sound stage as the director moves the film into a Buddhist Temple. If there was one thing I learned from this flick, it is that there is no shortage of mud, corn stalks and brown rivers in India. The contrast of the bright red and orange clothes against these earth tones throughout the movie is stunning.