I've been following the info on this and other HK forums for some time now but, if I'm not mistaken, this is my first post. I have been using HK AVR247 for some months now and have been very happy with it. I found the receiver to have very musical and warm sound and since I use it mostly for stereo and 5.1 music listening I quite liked it. The only thing that was really bugging me was that it didn't have enough HDMI inputs so I had to manually switch HDMI cables to be able to use all my audio gear (not really fan of HDMI switchers). Anyhow, by accident I discovered yesterday that I could get the new AVR254 from an authorized local retail for about $480 Canadian, tax included, (regular price is $799 + tax), and, as the line goes, this was an offer I couldn't refuse. So I picked it up and set it up last night, and here are my impressions so far:
1. Build quality doesn't seem to be as impressive as with AVR247. The fine(er) details are missing and the feel of AVR247 is a bit more authoritative.
2. Fan noise is definitely there although not really noticeable in the context if my room/gear setup. But when close to the receiver, it is definitely noticeable. I guess this speaks to the issue of build quality
3. User manual is scaled down compared to the one for AVR247 and is lacking especially on video processing/upscaling details (there is in total about 2-3 pages dealing with all video processing options). The manual for AVR247 had very clear and explicit information about what video signals are upscaled and when, and under what circumstances the receiver only passes the video signal through. As far as I could tell, this information is completely omitted in the manual for AVR254 which I find very problematic. Moreover, even when the information is present, the wording is such that it is not very clear what is actually meant. For example, on page 49 the information reads: "The default setting of Processor Off passes the video signal to the display without any processing". What does this mean? Is it that only the video processing options (such as noise reduction, cross color compressor, etc.) are not engaged or that the video processing options PLUS video upscaling/downscaling are completely bypassed. Since this is not clearly stated, we can only guess about what 'without any processing' really means.
4. THE REAL TECHNICAL ISSUE is, of course, that AVR254 does not offer video signal passthrough option when both video in and video out use HDMI connection. HDMI video passthrough worked flawlessly with AVR247 on my setup, but AVR254 doesn't seem to be capable of doing it. I think this is a big problem. Could it be because the new model eliminates the Simplay HD feature of its predecessor, or is it simply a technical bug that can be fixed with firmware update? Given the vague wording in the manual mentioned above (under 3) it may turn out that HK dropped video passthrough option altogether in favor of what they call 'outstanding "Torino" video processing'. The only indication in the manual so far that points to, unfortunately the non-existence of video passthrough over HDMI is the opening sentence in Video Adjustment section (p. 39) which reads: 'The AVR 254 uses leading-edge Faroudja DCDi Cinema video processing technology, with incoming video signals upscaled to 1080p'.
5. SECOND TECHNICAL ISSUE, with my setup at least, is that the only video output resolution that works properly with my Optoma HD7100 projector is 1080p. All others generate heavily distorted picture with strong green color. This is a bit odd given that the projector's native resolution is 720p but so far I haven't been able to get it work properly with anything other than 1080p video signal output from AVR 254. This was not an issue with AVR 247 and I could use any resolution without any problems. As I do not have a TV I cannot test the issue on a different video display.
6. AVR 254 also seems to have less audio processing options than its predecessor (perhaps because HD Audio processing was added). Personally, not a big deal since I do not use most -- if any -- of them, but the cut-back is a bit odd.
Overall, I am not all that unhappy with the receiver but given all these issues and the fact that there doesn't seem to be any noticeable difference in sound quality between AVR 247 and AVR 254 I am wondering whether getting the new model was the way to go. It seems that all I gained was one extra HDMI input (which I needed) with some unwanted (or, is it, scaled back) technical shortcomings (which I really did not need). I will most definitely email HK for clarification on HDMI video passthrough and will share my findings here. As for the rest, I will do some more research/comparison to see if something else comes up.
My current setup: HP Elite PC, Oppo DVD Player, Pioneer DVD Recorder (all three connected to HK AVR 254 via HDMI video/audio in), and Optoma HD7100 for video projection (receiving video signal from HK AVR 254 via HDMI)