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HK 990 Review

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 
Folk,
Last week I ordered Harman Kardon HK 990. The reason for ordering was to reduce the clutter and better sonic performance. Here are few words I have to say about the unit.

My current setup:
Speaker: Magnepan 1.7
Amp: NAD C272 x 2, Bridged mono for Left and Right, ~400w into 4 ohm.
Pre: NAD C162
Source: Transporter and Pro-Ject Debut III

Features:
Like:
1) Room correction: It did a nice job and you have an option to apply it to Low, Low+Mid and Low+Mid+High Frequencies. It does its job and as with any room correction it makes it sound a little lean i.e. fixes the room modes.

2) DAC: The DAC on the unit is quite good. But then I am just comparing it to Transporter and my primitive analog source

3) ADC: Couldn't test it

4) Sound: Is pretty good, I felt a slightly better highs compare to NAD

5) Sub-woofer: One of the best sub-woofer integration. If you have Stereo sub, this will integrate it nicely to your setup.

Dislike:
1) Control: It got no juice for Magnepans, it may be fine with other easier speaker but with Magies I have to crank it upto 0db+ (-80db to +10db range) to get to a descent level.

2) Room Correction flexibility: Room correction is not very flexible, like I some times get better result by using a PEQ in my transporter with REW

Conclusion:
I want Harman to release a pre-amp of this unit, so that people can use their existing amps and provide PEQ for folks that wants to tweak it. I think they can do PEQ using firmware so we'll see
post #2 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by aazeez1975 View Post

Dislike:
1) Control: It got no juice for Magnepans, it may be fine with other easier speaker but with Magies I have to crank it upto 0db+ (-80db to +10db range) to get to a descent level.

That one surprises me.

BTW, the VC setting is more a reflection of speaker sensitivity and less one of power output capability. My settings are around -20dB to -12dB with the speakers I tried.
post #3 of 67
Thread Starter 
It surprised me too! I would have kept it if not for this reason.
post #4 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by aazeez1975 View Post

It surprised me too! I would have kept it if not for this reason.

That is really surprising. Got mine Monday and tried with the Eficion F300 and drove it effortlessly. I have to say I did not like applying EQ to the HF but having it apply just to the LF or LF+MF was a nice improvement in sound. I do find the sound a bit forward and aggressive but overall fairly impressive unit.
post #5 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

That one surprises me.

BTW, the VC setting is more a reflection of speaker sensitivity and less one of power output capability. My settings are around -20dB to -12dB with the speakers I tried.

Yeah, that's not particularly telling. Lots of units have fairly crappy gain structure so they seem much more powerful when they're cranking away at "3", but then are full in by "5" (out of 10).

This being the way it is, or maybe was, on a lot of gear seems to have created a real aversion to turning the volume more than a slight rotation.
post #6 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

That one surprises me.

BTW, the VC setting is more a reflection of speaker sensitivity and less one of power output capability. My settings are around -20dB to -12dB with the speakers I tried.

did you or have you reviewed the 990? i was contemplating an upgrade from my hk 3490 (future-proofing).

thank you,
post #7 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chjo100 View Post

That is really surprising. Got mine Monday and tried with the Eficion F300 and drove it effortlessly. I have to say I did not like applying EQ to the HF but having it apply just to the LF or LF+MF was a nice improvement in sound. I do find the sound a bit forward and aggressive but overall fairly impressive unit.

Eficion are far more efficient than the Maggies with <86db. You really need high current beefy amp to get the bass out of those panels. I suspected it before buying the amp but rest of the feature set is so impressive that I really want it to work.
post #8 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by aazeez1975 View Post

Eficion are far more efficient than the Maggies with <86db. You really need high current beefy amp to get the bass out of those panels. I suspected it before buying the amp but rest of the feature set is so impressive that I really want it to work.

That's true. Although I suspect the 89db is optimistic as the Eficions seem to benefit from high power amps and have not fared well with lower power amps, particularly in control of the huge bass woofer.

I was interested in the 3.7 Magnepan as the cost seems reasonable but seems like getting a high powered amplifier needs to be factored in.
post #9 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chjo100 View Post

That's true. Although I suspect the 89db is optimistic as the Eficions seem to benefit from high power amps and have not fared well with lower power amps, particularly in control of the huge bass woofer.

I was interested in the 3.7 Magnepan as the cost seems reasonable but seems like getting a high powered amplifier needs to be factored in.

There are quite a few good amplifiers like Emotiva XPA-1, Wyred 4 Sound, Music Fedility, NAD etc. The problem is getting a full featuered preamp like the HK. I don't know if Tact has analog bypass but HK with PEQ could be the best featured pre.
post #10 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by localhost127 View Post

did you or have you reviewed the 990? i was contemplating an upgrade from my hk 3490 (future-proofing).

thank you,

November 2011 Stereophile accompanied by JA's measurements.
post #11 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by aazeez1975 View Post

There are quite a few good amplifiers like Emotiva XPA-1, Wyred 4 Sound, Music Fedility, NAD etc. The problem is getting a full featuered preamp like the HK. I don't know if Tact has analog bypass but HK with PEQ could be the best featured pre.

If you are interested in a component that acts like the HK 990 sans amplifier, the Classe CP-800 would seem to be right up your alley. Expensive, but has PEQ, subwoofer outputs, preamplifier and dac unit all built in.
post #12 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by aazeez1975 View Post

Folk,
Last week I ordered Harman Kardon HK 990. The reason for ordering was to reduce the clutter and better sonic performance. Here are few words I have to say about the unit.

Conclusion:
I want Harman to release a pre-amp of this unit, so that people can use their existing amps and provide PEQ for folks that wants to tweak it.

Why couldn't you use your existing amp with the HK (as a preamp)?
post #13 of 67
Wondered if you notice any fan noise when running it hard
post #14 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chjo100 View Post

If you are interested in a component that acts like the HK 990 sans amplifier, the Classe CP-800 would seem to be right up your alley. Expensive, but has PEQ, subwoofer outputs, preamplifier and dac unit all built in.

Out of my price range, other products are Lyndorf, DEQX Pre, Behold etc. For me anything under 2K will be worth looking...
post #15 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AJinFLA View Post

Why couldn't you use your existing amp with the HK (as a preamp)?

I sure can and I tested it in that configuration. For me the value proposition is lost in that configuration and I ended up with 3 pieces of gear instead of one.

I am doing room correction in the Transporter and DEQ2496 in a tape loop for analog, but its more clutter. HK 990 replaces all of that with one box and paid for itself when I sell the rest of the equipment.
post #16 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by christmclean View Post

Wondered if you notice any fan noise when running it hard

I really couldn't hear it, even though I was pushing it very hard, as you can imagine. Fan noise would be a concern down the road as the fans get dirty and old.
post #17 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by aazeez1975 View Post

Out of my price range, other products are Lyndorf, DEQX Pre, Behold etc. For me anything under 2K will be worth looking...

Have you looked at the DEQX HDP-Express? Just meets your $2K price goal.
post #18 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RUR View Post

Have you looked at the DEQX HDP-Express? Just meets your $2K price goal.

No analog volume control and phono input. For me putting a MiniDSP 2x8 in a tape loop will do the same thing as I can do measurement and correction using REW.
post #19 of 67
Did the price just drop $600 from the MRSP? This is for a new one, not refurbished.
post #20 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by natchie View Post

Did the price just drop $600 from the MRSP? This is for a new one, not refurbished.

Where have you seen the price drop?
post #21 of 67
My guess is on Amazon.
post #22 of 67
No actually HK's own website was showing a 1999 direct price.
post #23 of 67
Crutchfield currently has this player for 1999 and they are throwing in the matching hk 990 cd player with balanced outputs for free when purchasing the integtrated amp. That makes the effective price of the amp 1399. Pretty good deal. Offer good through 12/31.
post #24 of 67
Hi,

Last week, I was listening Yessongs with my HK990 Amp, and it sudenly died.
I turn it off/on and it gave me the following message:
FLASH CORRUPTED
UPDATE DSP FIRMWARE

It also gives me Error #005

It seems the problem is only in the Digital Section. I tried the Processor Bypass and it is Ok. I did not try the Analog Inputs.

I contacted USA, UK and Brazilian Support by e-mail, with no responses yet.

I think if I could get the Firmware, I could install it by myself. I can not send this 100lb amp Overseas.

I would like appreciatte if someone could contact HK directily.

Any help will be wellcome.

Thanks

Antonio Souza
altsouza@terra.com.br
post #25 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by altsouza View Post

Hi,

Last week, I was listening Yessongs with my HK990 Amp, and it sudenly died.
I turn it off/on and it gave me the following message:
FLASH CORRUPTED
UPDATE DSP FIRMWARE

It also gives me Error #005

It seems the problem is only in the Digital Section. I tried the Processor Bypass and it is Ok. I did not try the Analog Inputs.

I contacted USA, UK and Brazilian Support by e-mail, with no responses yet.

I think if I could get the Firmware, I could install it by myself. I can not send this 100lb amp Overseas.

I would like appreciatte if someone could contact HK directily.

Any help will be wellcome.

Thanks

Antonio Souza
altsouza@terra.com.br

That can point to an actual hardware failure. So get ready to take it to whatever authorized HK service center you have in Brazil.
post #26 of 67
How do you adjust bass/treble on the HK990?
post #27 of 67
Its only adjustable when in DSP (digital) mode and only in the setup program IIRC. I owned one for a while and I'm going by memory.
post #28 of 67
I just bought one as a refurb on the HK website for $995 including shipping. Great deal and I am really enjoying the sound with my Gallo Ref 3.5s. I am also using a pair of subwoofers. Sound is very transparent and detailed with low noise floor. I do find myself easily lost in the music which is what it is all about, right? One feature that doesn't get enough attention is the home theater bypass, it also has bypass for two subwoofers making it very easy to integrate into a home theater. I will be using the HK for Cd and computer audio, my Denon AVR A100 for movies and surround music.
post #29 of 67
There are a couple of them on the Harman audio e-bay site for $995.00 in case anybody is interested. I am very pleased with mine.
post #30 of 67

Part of me really wanted to buy this unit when it was current.  But I couldn't get past the idea that this was a one off from HK.  They hadn't attempted anything like this for decades, and I wondered if this would be the start of a new line, or just a one shot deal.  And they never did come out with any further integrated models to help establish an audiophile line.  Too bad, if I was still looking I'd give it a try at this price.

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