|Harman Kardon AVR 7300 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Saturday, 01 October 2005|
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Music and Movies
I started my evaluation with the AVR 7300 in a more traditional two-channel role. Given Harman Kardon’s history in audio, I had pretty high expectations, so I fed it one of my current favorites, Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol). On the track “In My Place,” the AVR 7300’s enhanced power in stereo mode allowed for the music to flow effortlessly from my speakers. Chris Martin’s vocals were rich and creamy, which was a new experience for me as I’ve always found his voice to be a bit lithe. All of the details were present, but I found the overall sound to be a bit full. Imaging was good for a receiver, but as the music became more dynamic and complex, I noticed some sonic “bunching” or compression around my speakers. Bass was quite good, with solid impact, yet it lacked some weight with some music selections. Moving on to the track “Warning Signs,” the vocals were spot-on, focused and very airy, showcasing Martin’s vocal talents. Again during simple passages, the AVR 7300 had a wonderful center image, but like before, as the music became more dynamic, the AVR 7300 seemed to hide within the speakers’ boundaries. I also found myself having to adjust my sub to get proper bass response. I was always able to achieve an appropriate balance, but it did get to be a bit trying having to constantly make the trip to and from my listening chair and my sub. Overall, I found the AVR 7300 to be a bit on the soft side. It never quite made me feel as emotionally engaged with this album as I have in the past.
To further test the AVR 7300’s strengths, I chose Wheatus’ debut self-titled album (Columbia). Wheatus rose to fame with their catchy pop-rock track “Teenage Dirtbag,” which was featured in the not so hit film “Loser.” On the opening track “Truffles,” there is a ripping guitar track that the AVR 7300 did well with, yet failed to rock my world. Again, all of the music was there, but it just didn’t move me. During the track “Teenage Dirtbag,” I was able to achieve proper bass response, and while it was a long time coming, it was well worth it. It was tight and well-defined and plunged low enough for me to feel it in the seat of my pants.
All throughout my two-channel listening, I noted that while I wouldn’t accuse the AVR 7300 of editorializing, it did seem to cast a greater light on certain elements of the music, mainly the midrange. It was never fatiguing, nor did it ever to threaten to shake my pictures off the wall. All in all, it reminded me a lot of some vintage tube gear that I grew up with, which was a nice trip down memory lane.
Moving on to multi-channel audio, I opted for the DVD-Audio disc of The Best of REM (Warner Brothers). On the track “Man on the Moon,” I immediately noticed a huge improvement in bass in both impact and depth. The rim shots also showed off the AVR 7300’s sudden increase in detail. Michael Stipe’s vocals were rich and inviting. One thing that kind of took me by surprise was the AVR 7300’s somewhat diminished soundstage, causing even more bunching to occur around the speakers. This was undoubtedly caused by dynamic compression, the result of over-driving the amplifiers.
I moved on to movies and threw caution to the wind and went with the U.S. version of “Godzilla” (Columbia/TriStar). The creative duo of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich must really have a hate for New York, because they just kick the crap out of that city in every film they make. The AVR 7300 provided an excellent surround sound experience, allowing all the devastation to unfold in a very realistic 360-degree space. I would have liked a little more energy in the high frequencies to better solidify the sense of doom and destruction, but what was there was good. Godzilla’s ominous growl ultimately failed to get my pulse pounding the way I’ve experienced in the past. Time and time again, the AVR 7300 proved to be more or less casual in its presentation, opting to speak softly yet never threatening me with a big stick.
There are two sides to every story and the video portion of the AVR 7300’s presentation may just be worth the price of admission. Again, looking to “Godzilla,” the AVR 7300 in conjunction with its Faroudja processing really began to flex its muscle. During the diner scene just before Godzilla comes to town, Matthew Broderick’s movie girlfriend is watching the news. Not only were the colors of the diner vibrant and beautifully saturated, the AVR 7300 had a way with skin tones as well. My projector has a tendency to go a little red, yet with the AVR 7300 in the chain, I was able to achieve a harmoniously rich palette of natural skin tones without making people look like they’ve just stepped from a Coppertone ad. The AVR 7300 was also great at differentiating multiple layers of action, never once giving me a sense of spatial compression. Regardless of the scene, the AVR 7300 always presented a warm, rich and well-defined image full of vibrant colors and detail with excellent black levels.
Moving on to the film “Cast Away” (20th Century Fox), I was treated to absolutely everything the AVR 7300 had to offer. Not only was the sound to die for, but the picture was also a delight. First off, once Tom Hanks is stranded on the tropical island, the film is all about sonic subtlety. The AVR 7300 proved its prowess in digging deep and retrieving every little bit of the beautiful DTS soundtrack. I could hear every rustle of the palm trees, even those deepest in the forest. In the scene when Hanks awakens with his face in the sand, I could make out every individual grain without them seeming overly pixilated. I could see and make out the varying shades of Hanks’ sun and windburns as the film and his time on the island progressed. During the scenes when he is trying to escape, the foaming white tops of the waves never once showed any signs of pixilation. I really enjoyed what the AVR 7300 brought to the table with this film, so much so I stopped taking notes