Since 1953 Harman Kardon has been developing higher quality products for people who, in the words of Dr. Sidney Harman, “appreciate the difference”—a difference you can appreciate even in the firm’s entrylevel AVR 140. The $499 AVR 140 offers a full slate of standard features, plus the option of connecting an iPod through a proprietary DMP connection called “The Bridge.”
The elegant simplicity of the AVR 140’s design becomes apparent the minute you unpack the unit. Inputs and outputs are logically arranged and color coded to facilitate easy system setup, and the manual is a model of clarity and thoroughness. Though there are no auto-setup features, the manual makes speaker setup easy, showing users how to optimize levelsettings for best sound given their room dimensions and speaker placements.
The AVR 140’s lighted universal remote is ergonomically shaped and can double as an iPod controller (pressing the DMP SELECTOR button enables various iPod control functions). Selections are displayed on the AVR 140’s front-panel window and also on the monitor—a neat feature.
A favorite test DVD is House of Flying Daggers, particularly the “Echo Game” scene, which manufacturers love to use to show off their equipment. The AVR 140 did it proud, both sonically and visually. Mei unfurls her long sleeves to strike drum heads placed in a circle around the room, echoing the sound of a hard beans thrown first against one drum head, then two and three, and finally the sound of a bowl of beans flung against the entire array of drums at once. The AVR 140 filled the room with the kind of clear, distinct sound that makes this scene so vibrant and alive.
Rosa Passos and Ron Carter’s quiet, subtle Entre Amigos [Chesky, SACD] gave the AVR 140 a chance to show off its finesse. This album is purposely orchestrated and mixed to portray the music as overheard in the recording studio, rather than in a formal concert venue, and that intimate setting demands an AVR that reproduces Passos’s delicate voice with great clarity, and that places Ron Carter’s bass in the soundstage with pinpoint precision. The AVR 140 did not disappoint, capturing the magic in every track.
After a loaner iPod was plugged into The Bridge docking station, the AVR 140 took Anna Nalick’s “Breathe (2 AM)” from Wreck of the Day [Sony] and filled the room with its symphonic-piano sound, placing Anna up onstage next to her guitarist. It was startling at first to hear an iPod produce such a broad, deep soundstage, but this goes to show Harman Kardon’s wisdom in welcoming iPod-ders to tap into true high fidelity sound.
For those seeking something special in an entry-level AVR, the AVR 140 is arguably one of the best values around. True to its name, it offers exceptional sound quality for those who “appreciate the difference.”