Harman Kardon AVR 161 review: Harman Kardon AVR 161

I steered clear of my more demanding loudspeaker system and went for one with good sensitivity (ie, greater acoustic output for a given input power) and reasonably high impedance (6 or 8 ohms). The results were very impressive in terms of sound, both with movies and music (after I'd turned off that surround processing). You don't actually need a huge headline power rating for high sound levels if you choose your loudspeakers wisely. Better amps mostly just give you more options. The difference in output between 85 watts and 100 watts is seven tenths of a decibel.

A bigger effect on the sound is whatever EQ the receiver is applying, and this one was nicely balanced, resulting in a rich, full sound. Of course, you can switch it off if you'd prefer the native unadjusted sound of your loudspeakers.

The receiver doesn't do anything with the video: there is no conversion of any kind offered. It does, however, overlay its menus and brief notifications (eg, a volume bar when that's adjusted) over the top of the picture. The receiver supports 3D video and can pass through 4K as well.

Smart stuff

The new media functionality was a mixed bag with this receiver. First, the good. With Bluetooth built in you can readily stream content from most modern portable devices. Second, although the manual denies it ("no other types of media are supported") the unit supports FLAC audio in addition to MP3 and WMA. It worked with my 44.1kHz and 48kHz FLAC music but none of the high-resolution stuff. Third, you get vTuner for perhaps the widest internet radio access available.

Not so good, though, was navigation through lists of media. You can connect to DLNA servers to feed the music, but scrolling through long lists is too trying, for my patience at least. I have about 500 album artists for the music on my server. It took 46 seconds to scroll from the top down to those starting with "C". There is no accelerator key. If your music server can break lists up alphabetically, it might be usable, but otherwise, access is way too slow.

Fortunately, you can avoid that problem with vTuner because once you register the receiver online, you can set up favourite stations using a web browser, resulting in a relatively short list that is fine for navigation.

There are Android and iOS remote control apps. The iOS would not work on my fourth-gen iPod Touch, nor on an iPad mini nor on a first-gen iPad. It would start up and then just crash out back to the "desktop" whenever it started up. The Android one worked but offered only a subset of the controls available on the regular remote so was hardly worth the trouble.

Conclusion

Still, the price of this unit should be borne in mind. For regular home-theatre functionality, and for internet radio and regular AM/FM radio, fine. Likewise, for plugging in a USB stick with some music. What a pity it doesn't have skip keys on the remote so that your network music is also effectively supported. All it would take is a tiny bit of programming. But, gee, the Bluetooth is useful

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    Where to Buy

    Harman Kardon AVR 1610

    Part Number: AVR 1610
    Pricing is currently unavailable.

    Quick Specifications See All

    • Functions AV network receiver
    • Sound Output Mode Surround Sound