Review: AV-Receiver Harman/Kardon AVR-5550
Reviewed by Carsten Rampacher, September 9th, 2003
Currently Harman Kardon is offering a very interesting product range of high-graded AV-receivers. Among the offered appliances we decided for AVR-5550 with DTS ES Matrix/Discrete 6.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Dolby Pro Logic 2, DTS Neo:6 and the Logic 7 of Harman Kardon to the amount of EUR 1.399,- for testing purposes. The price / performance value seems to be especially good. With AVR-5550 it is possible without any problem to operate a complete 7.1-configuration: With seven power amplifiers, enabling an output performance of 70 watts (Sinus FTC, 20 Hz up to 20 kHz, 8 ohms), Harman is equipped very well. The offered power of this “AV-commander“, only deliverable in black, seems not to be very opulent in theory. However, the one who is informed about the methods of measuring carried out by Harman Kardon or about other Harman Kardon.appliances, knows that nobody has to worry about insufficient power compared with the strong competition.
Always, above all the expensive Harman Kardon AV-receiver with carefully selected construction groups impressed a lot and it is the same case at AVR-5550. It disposes of each a power supply for the front-channels and the surround-channels. Besides this the receiver of HK possesses a high current capability (HCC) – an especially high-graded transformer as well as the careful power amplifier layout are components of this concept. The power amplifiers, foreseen for back surround operating, can optionally be configured for a second hearing zone (zone 2) on condition that a 5.1 arrangement is sufficient for the home cinema user. Harman Kardon is especially convincing with its clever temperature-management. A mixture of passive and active cooling was chosen. First of all there are solid cooling bodies and additionally Harman Kardon developed an extremely quiet fan which use and speed are controlled by an integrated temperature monitoring system. The DSP-work is taken over by a new Crystal DSP processor with an especially high on-chip-memory capacity (the Dolby Digital- and DTS pull-up-tables are not externally, however directly saved on the chip: "on bord"), which shortens the recharge time of the menue and increases the arithmetic accuracy (comment from manufacturers). For a sophisticated sound audiophile 192 kHz/ 24 Bit D/A-converters are used. The used AKM D/A-converters have discretely been built up and dispose of an extremely low basic noise.
However, not only the layout of the power amplifiers and the current supply have been carefully developed, also AVR-5550 offers an high-graded bass management, which means that the new Crystal DSP processor disposes of an integrated bass management for up to 8 channels and works with a 48 bit deep precision. This especially clean signal finish is important for the suitable distribution of the bass parts to the individual loudspeakers of the correspondingly used systems in order to be able to optimise reproduction. Besides this the bass management permits the feedback of LFE – channels into the L&R-front channels in case that more bass is desired. HK is additionally developing the „triple crossover system“ which allows the listener to select between three different cross-over frequencies for the front-, the centre and the surround loudspeakers in order to achieve the optimum performance of all loudspeakers belonging to the home cinema. Additionally AVR-5550 provides with very precise LFE- cross-over frequencies. 40, 60, 80 Hz, 100 Hz ,120 Hz as well as 200 Hz can be adjusted at the 5550.
Besides this AVR-5550 has got a digital bass management for the 6/8-channel direct input. Above all older DVD-A or SACD-players don’t have an integrated bass management. In such cases the Harman-receiver takes over the suitable bass diversion, if requested. At this connection the analogous signals are modified to digital signals and the triple cross-over bass management can be used with each digital source. This also optimises the adjustment possibilities to the used loudspeaker system.
Extensively is the equipment of connections which means that AVR 5550 disposes of five video-inputs (Composite and S-video) as well as HDTV-capable YUV-connections. A S-video signal conversion is also available, all S-video inputs and outputs are automatically producing a normal video signal at the composite jacks. The intention of this action is, according to Harman Kardon, to facilitate the connecting possibilities within the home cinema and enables the connection to older television sets and recorders, too.
Besides this there are also six digital inputs as well as three digital outputs. Pre-amplifier outputs for all channels and a 8-channel-direct-input are completing equipment. For an especially easy connection of external AV-components audio- and video jacks (incl. S-video) as well as a coaxial and an optical digital input have been integrated at the front side of AVR-5550. However, HK also offered further features. The AV-jacks on the front side of AVR-5550 are additionally switchable. The front inputs can be reconfigured into outputs via remote
The operating of the AV-receivers can totally seen be handled without any problem after having studied the operating instructions. The remote control possesses a lot of buttons, however it is ergonomically shaped and disposes of an illumination. In order to be able to control the most important functions a second small remote control has been attached to the AVR-5550. With the on screen display the AV-receiver can quickly be adjusted correctly. The volume regulator is working
AVR-5550 does not belong to the upper-class (with regard to the price) however it justified at our sound checks that even more inexpensive appliances have a very high loading-capacity. Absolutely without any problems the expensively built AV-receiver could bear also high loadings. Just in case Harman Kardon installed, as already mentioned above, also a fan, which shall supply the 5550 with cooling air at very high operating temperatures. A great advantage of this appliance is that this fan is working pretty silent. Thanks to its efficient and over-average power amplifiers AVR-5550 can also operate with extensive loudspeakers and without any active subwoofer – also in this case the bass pressure is extraordinarily good.
However, not only regarding the level firmness the receiver of HK achieved peak values. AVR-5550 justifies that completely sounding and powerful AV-receivers don’t have to cost a fortune. With its brilliantly sounding high frequency range HK also scarcely competes with strong competitors like e.g. Denon’s AVR-3803 and Yamaha’s DSP-AZ2. Admirable is that the Harman Kardon is the most favourable of the three indicated appliances. The outstanding high frequency reproduction, which the Harman achieves, can be noticed at perfectly recorded DVDs on condition that the listener is using an excellent loudspeaker equipment.
Due to these extraordinarily results the HK is perfectly suitable for the convincing reproduction of classical music and jazz. Outstandingly AVR-5550 emphasises voices and instruments in a very special way which leads to a very versatile sound picture. Even at discs with an average sound quality the HK sounded harmonious and pleasant.
The AVR-5550 was also in its element regarding the transformation of stereo-recorded software into multi-channel mode. In this case we are advising all purchasers to take Logic 7 which is spatially seen still more extensive and besides it sounds more clear and precise in total. The natural voice reproduction still has to be mentioned in the Logic 7-operation. Directly compared the Dolby PL2-presentation seems to be not so clear and accurate.
Always Harman Kardon-appliances have been extremely strong during stereo operation. The 5550 made no exception, however the competitors caught up which leads to the fact that our testing candidate is scarcely on the top. With its fresh and lively presentation HK will also inspire demanding stereo listeners.
Rating home cinema multichannel
Rating music multichannel
Rating Dolby PLII
Harman Kardon AVR-5550 disposes of the best level firmness and the best high frequency presentation of its price range. Additionally there is a useful equipment which peak values are the thought-out bass management and the sensible equipment of connections. Totally seen the 5550 achieved an excellent testing result and can therefore be called “a very special
Upper middle class
September 09th, 2003
• Brilliant high frequency reproduction, powerful bass
• Level firmness far above the average
• Very adjustable bass management
• Extending and useful equipment of connections
• High-graded chip equipment
• Easy to use
• No DOT matrix display
• No DTS 96/24-decoding
• Decoded Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital EX and Pro Logic II, DTS 5.1, 6.1 ES Matrix/Discrete, Neo 6 additional Logic 7 5.1 & 7.1-decoder, VMAx, HDCD- and MP3 decoder
• Output performance: 70WRMS x 7 Surround, 80W RMS x 2 Stereo, THD <0,07%, 20Hz-20kHz an 8 ohms
• Audiophile and discretely built up 192kHz 24 Bit digital/ analogue converter
• Pre-programmed and adaptive A/V remote control (illuminated) with EzSet & LCD-display
• 6 digital inputs, 3 coaxial and 3 optical
• Front panel digital inputs (coaxial and optical)
• 3 digital outputs (incl. 1 x front panel coaxial)
• Wide-banded HDTV-compatible components video inputs and outputs
• Video 4 inputs and outputs at the front panel
• Dual-power supply
• Discretely constructed, HCC-capable and wide-banded amplifiers
• 8 channel direct input with complete digital bass management
• S-video inputs and outputs
• Multi-room capability for audio with zone II remote control
• Channels 6 and 7 can be used for multi-room operation
• Delivered illuminated remote control with EZSet-function
• Dimension (W x H x D in mm): 440 x 165 x 435
• Weight: 20 kg
• Deliverable colour: black
• Price (suggested retail price): EUR 1.399,--
Reviewed by Carsten Rampacher
Assistent: Matthias Walther-Richters
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