Ever since we saw (or better yet heard) our first demo of Dolby Volume we couldn't wait to find a reason to upgrade one of our receivers with this capability. That's going on four years now! So when Ara's Yamaha "broke" he thought what better excuse to buy a receiver with Dolby Volume. The receiver he settled on was the Harman Kardon 2650 (Buy Now $650).
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Harman/Kardon AVR 2650
Ever since we saw (or better yet heard) our first demo of Dolby Volume we couldn’t wait to find a reason to upgrade one of our receivers with this capability. That’s going on four years now! So when Ara’s Yamaha “Broke”, he thought what better excuse to buy a receiver with Dolby Volume. The receiver he settled on was the Harman Kardon 2650 (Buy Now $650).
- HDMI® v.1.4a with 3-D, Deep Color and Audio Return Channel
- 95-watt, 7-channel amplifier
- Network connectivity for accessing music through your home network
- Dolby® Volume
- Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™ decoding
- Logic 7® processing
- The Bridge IIIP connectivity (The Bridge IIIP sold separately)
- EZSet/EQ™ equalization
- Multizone functionality
- Five HDMI inputs
- Connection for a SIRIUS Connect™ home tuner (sold separately)
- Multidevice, programmable/learning remote
- Headphone jack with HARMAN headphone surround mode
- Upgradable firmware via USB port
- Detachable IEC power cord
Setup was typical for any modern AVR. Plug in your video sources, connect speakers, and power and you are ready to calibrate. The first thing we did was rename the sources to something that made sense. The AppleTV was connected to the Game input so that was renamed to AppleTV. Cable/Sat was renamed to DirecTV and Blu-ray was left alone. The menus are simple to navigate and simple to use. Being on screen makes life so much easier to do your setup. When you change volume, inputs, or modes the 2650 superimposes the information on the screen. No more squinting to see how loud or what processing mode you are in.
Next up was to run the automatic calibration function. Like other AVRs you are given a microphone that you plug into the front of the receiver and place where you want the audio to be tuned for. The whole process takes about five minutes and then you are up and running!
The performance of this receiver is outstanding but with caveats. The calibration sets the EQ as well as levels. We found the level setting to be fine. But the audio processing really muddied the sound. The dialog got lost in the effects and music. Once we turned off audio enhancements and set the EQ to flat everything sounded much much better! We left the audio processing in auto and the 2650 was able to find the right mode, Dolby Digital, DTS Master Audio, Pro Logic and so on.
Watching movies is a lot fun with this receiver! Audio sounds fantastic. The 2650 gave dialog more texture and effects more pop. The room seemed more alive. Ara’s new go to movie sequence for testing audio is now the last fight in Real Steal. The receiver made his Klipsh speakers sound new. This sequence was tested with both Dolby Volume on and off. Dolby volume did a great job of keeping surges in audio at bay. We’ll talk a bit more about Dolby Volume later. The 2650 will upscale your sources to 1080p but it does not offer a ton in the way of video processing. This machine is all about audio.
We really enjoyed listening to music on the 2650. Harman Kardon has a technology called Logic 7. It takes regular two channel audio and turns it into 7.1 audio. We were very pleased with what it did to our music. It opened it up and surrounded you with sound. It did very well with classical music and acoustic performances. Rock sounded good too but the effect was less pronounced. With that said, we felt Dolby’s Pro Logic IIX Music sounded better.
As we said at the beginning of the review we couldn’t wait for a receiver with Dolby volume! And this receiver performed exactly as advertised with it. There are three settings for this feature, low, medium, and high. For TV viewing we went with medium and for Blu-rays we went with low. Dolby Volume worked exactly as advertised. It kept the audio at a level that was consistent across all viewing material.
A nice feature of the 2650 is that it allows you to have a different setting for Dolby Volume per input. This is a good thing. The Derderian’s don’t have any sleeping babies in their house and most of their viewing is done at a time when the neighbors wouldn’t be bothered by loud noises. So their default mode on movie inputs (AppleTV and Blu-ray) are Dolby Volume set to off. For TV it was left on because it does a great job dealing with super loud commercials. If you have a Harmony Remote we recommend putting the Audio Effects button into your soft keys. This way if you do watch a movie late in the evening its very simple to turn on Dolby Volume. For Ara, Dolby Volume is the best feature on the $650 receiver.
Odds and Ends
The 2650 has a bunch of features that you may or may not find you need:
- The Bridge IIIP - allows you to connect your iOS device with a cable. Since we have an AppleTV connected to receiver we found the missing functionality to be a non-issue. With the AppleTV or other set top box, like the NeoTV, you can play your library from somewhere on your network and that’s a better way to go than physically tethering your device to the receiver.
- Network connectivity for accessing music through your home network - Even if you don’t have a set top box connected to the AVR you will have access to music over the internet of on a computer on your local network. There is a substantial list of radio stations available to listen to. The quality varies and while some stations sounded good others were slightly better than AM radio. But if you have a radio station you want to hear on the other side of the Earth, chances are the 2650 can stream it to you.
- Menus - The 2650 has a basic GUI that is viewable through your TV. It’s straightforward to navigate and simple to use.
- Remote Control - The remote is nicely laid out and is multi functional. We didn’t spend much time with the remote since we immediately programmed our Harmony One to control the receiver.
Should I Buy the 3650 for $200 more?
The additional $200 get you 15 more watts (which is imperceptible to the human ear), an additional HDMI input on the front panel and the iPod dock is included. As far as we are concerned there isn’t enough there to warrant paying the additional $200. If you want iOS connectivity buy an AppleTV for $99 and connect wirelessly through Airplay. You’ll get way more for your money.
The Harman Kardon 2650 is an excellent sounding receiver that will fill your room with sound. If you want a receiver that supports HDMI1.4 for 3D and Dolby Volume to avoid riding the remote $650 is not much to ask, There are other receivers out there that will do more for the same price. but none of them will sound any better.