I am (well, I was until I purchased this AVR) a fan of Harman Kardon gear. This was my third one. It was supposed to replace an old but faithful HK AVR 235. The old one did not have any HDMI inputs or latest decoders. Otherwise I wouldn't have upgraded to AVR 1700.
I purchased it from a brick and mortar store. First feeling after unboxing the receiver is that it is too light. But I have heard that HK is moving towards green hardware, hence the lightness. I thought "well, if it sounds as well as the old AVR 235, this light weight is only a plus". Still, looking at the new AVR left me with an impression that it was some cheap imitation, not the real thing. It looked like an in-store fake i-phone or Bluray player. You know what I am talking about: the empty look-alike shells that stores put on the shelves for loss prevention. The amount I paid for the AVR 1700 told me otherwise - the price was right there on the receipt!
The remote control left me puzzled. No backlighting? It looked like a replica of a replica of my old AVR remote. The AVR back connections look ridiculously simple, almost bare. But after a closer look you notice that everything you would need in a base model AVR is there, except for one or two composite inputs, may be. Some source gear doesn't have HDMI outputs, but still has composite ones. One might argue that composite outputs are obsolete, but the AVR 1700 has analog video plugs, which are even older. But still, this is not a major loss. There are enough HDMI inputs here for a modest home theater installation.
After connecting it I decided to calibrate it. The AVR did an excellent job configuring itself. I connected my XBOX360 and an HD DVR.
The movies and TV broadcasts are fine, except for one very annoying feature. The AVR is supposed to sense what sort of signal it is receiving. It then decides which decoding algorithm to use, then it shows on from panel what the signal is going to be, for example 3/2/0.1 or something like that. This wouldn't be a problem, except my DirectTV receiver transmits a half a second long silence between commercials or TV programs. Now, the AVR itself takes 2 seconds to decide whether it is going to abandon PL 2 (most commercials are) in favor of DOLBY DIGITAL (most new DirectTV movies are - not Blurays though). So, these 2-3 seconds of silence while picture is already moving every 10-15 minutes with messages flickering on AVR front panel are annoying. Still, this is not a biggie. If you watch one long commercial-free movie on a premium channel - HBO for example - or a Bluray movie, this is not a problem at all.
Now for the most important part. Only 20% of my AVR use is video. The remaining 80% is music. Here is my setup. An XBOX360 is connected to a pretty fast PC which acts as storage for music and movies. The XBOX360 is connected to AVR via HDMI. My first attempts to play music are disappointing. Stereo mode sounds like my speakers have been downgraded to a "white van" brand. The lows are missing, the highs are there, but sound like a hornet's nest in a tin can. I switch to a five channel set up. Dolby sounds good, but highs are cut by 40% (I measured at 16kHz). I switch to PL 2. Now the highs are there (still sound unnatural), but the lows are MIA. I have to adjust my subwoofer to +5dB to get an illusion of adequate music. Then, after switching back to movies the extra subwoofer volume shakes the house like an earthquake. I have to remember to re-adjust my speakers every time I listen to music? What sort of upgrade is this?
After all this switching and adjusting I finally got fed up. A question popped up in my head. Is this really an upgrade? On paper (the receipt) it is. In actuality I got a receiver that pretends to be an HK, but most likely isn't (I mean it is sold by the same company, but designed and made god knows where!) I feel embarrassed having had bought it. It produces good treble in one mode, bass in another, cuts off dialog every 15 minutes.
If it cost a hundred bucks it would have been a decent buy for a basement or garage audio set up. But for an HK fan this was a clear and intentional deception. I understand the company needs to conserve costs, but at least some of these saving should be passed on to the consumer. Instead, I was fooled by this "beauty and sound" routine, thinking I will get a decent upgrade to my good old AVR 235 which by that time already had been sold for $79. I called the guy who bought it from me and begged him to sell it back to me for a hundred. He wouldn't hear of it. A smart man.
I came to my senses and returned AVR 1700 after 2 weeks. The brick and mortar store had a special on an elite VSX-53 for only $150 over this inglorious bastard of a receiver. The elite replacement didn't even pretend to be going green (very heavy). The sound was perfect with the same speakers and the sub, I couldn't believe how easy the setup was. One more detail. The elite receiver also did self calibration and found that three of my speakers (the most important ones - L, R and C) were out of phase. It wouldn't continue the calibration until I reversed the connections on those particular speakers. Why couldn't Harman Kardon AVR 1700 tell me this one "minor" detail? The wiring has not changed at all! The elite remote control actually made me proud. It looked and felt like a good remote should, like it was designed by Stephen Hawkins and simplified for all of us mortals by Mr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. This elite AVR had enough substance to pretend to be simple. The Harman Kardon AVR 1700 I wisely returned pretended to be something it will never be - its own much respected back in the days grandfather. I don't know how else to put it!
Anyway, if you want to upgrade your old Harman Kardon AVR just for the sake of upgrade - move on to other AVR makers. Harman Kardon has been too busy installing their best in BMWs, Land Rovers and Mercs. We are not their priority. Its time you grew up. HK isn't what it is used to be, unless all you do with it is watch Blurays all day long. I know I will get blasted by all the satisfied owners. I am happy that their experience was better than mine. Still, I couldn't keep it knowing full well that from an upgrade perspective this AVR 1700 is one step forward and two steps back. I can't imagine one reasonable person who in their right mind will.
Edited by grigorianvlad - 3/19/13 at 11:18am