Audio connectivity is a strength for the Harman. It has six total digital audio inputs (thanks to both optical and coaxial front-panel inputs), which is considerably more than any other competitor. The AVR 2600 also includes 7.1 multichannel analog inputs, which is a relatively rare feature these days. If you need 7.1 analog inputs, be sure to check out the Yamaha RX-V667 as well, which is the only other receiver we tested this year with that feature.
|iPod connectivity||$80 dock||Satellite radio||Sirius|
|USB port||1||IR input/output||Yes|
One of the major drawbacks to the AVR 2600 is its lack of out-of-the-box iPod connectivity. Many competitors now include this feature, and while Harman does offer an $80 iPod dock that works with the AVR 2600, that's a lot to ask after you've already spent $600 on an AV receiver. Note that while the AVR 2600 does have a USB port, it's used only for firmware upgrades, not digital media playback.
|Line-level 2nd zone outputs||Yes||Powered 2nd zone outputs||Yes|
Like most midrange receivers, the AVR 2600 has second-zone functionality, using either line-level RCA audio outputs or powered, speaker-level outputs.
The AVR 2600 uses Harman Kardon's proprietary EzSet/EQ system to determine speaker sizes and speaker-to-listener distances, set the volume levels of the speakers and the sub, calculate the subwoofer crossover point, and equalize the speakers' sound.
The receiver's chrome-plated EzSet/EQ measurement microphone certainly looks cooler than the usual black plastic mic, and it has a 6.3mm plug (instead of a 3.5mm plug). The EzSet/EQ microphone plugs into the AVR 2600's headphone jack, which functions as both headphone and mic receptacle. Harman's new onscreen menu system looks great and it's a breeze to navigate and use. The EzSet/EQ program sent an unusually loud series of tones and whooshes over our Aperion speakers and subwoofer; the whole process took just a few minutes. EzSet/EQ takes measurements from only one microphone position, so you can leave the room as soon as the tones start.
After the EzSet/EQ had run its course we checked the results. It correctly set all five Aperion speaker sizes to "Small," though we were surprised by the odd subwoofer-to-speaker crossover choices: 80Hz for the Intimus 4T tower speakers, and 60Hz for the small Intimus 4C center and Intimus 4B surround speakers. The 4Ts should have been set to 60Hz and the center and surrounds perform better with 80Hz or 100Hz crossover settings. The speaker-to-microphone measurement distances were all off by around 2 feet; the AVR 2600 was less accurate on that score than most receivers we've tested of late.
We also noted that after setup the AVR 2600's Dolby Volume was turned on, the Tone controls were active (set "flat"), and the EQ was turned on.
We started our listening sessions with music, and immediately noticed the subwoofer volume was much too loud. Not just a little too loud; it was turned up almost all the way. The bass balance was no better with movies, so we ran the EzSet/EQ again and got the same result. At that point we turned off Dolby Volume (Dolby Volume automatically maintains a more consistent soft-loud volume level for movies) and the EzSet/EQ's equalized sound. That was a little better, but we still felt the AVR 2600's sound wasn't right.
While we've used all of this year's receivers' auto-setup sound balances for our evaluations, we could not do that with the AVR 2600. The sound was that far off, so we started over and did the full manual speaker setup. The whole procedure took less than 5 minutes, and the sound was much better.
We resumed our auditions with the "Kill Bill, Volume 2" DVD. The scene where The Bride (Uma Thurman) is thrown into a plywood coffin, which is hammered shut, and is buried alive sounded scarily realistic. The Bride's panicked breaths within the coffin, the sounds of the nails being driven into the wood, and dirt being dumped on the coffin were heard from all five of our speakers. It's a great audio demo, if you can stand the claustrophobic effect it has on some people.
At this point we compared the AVR 2600 with a Denon AVR-1911 receiver with the "Black Hawk Down" Blu-ray. The front-to-rear imaging and surround immersion were exceptionally good with both receivers, but the AVR-1911 sounded more powerful and delivered a bigger wallop with grenade explosions. The AVR 2600's bass definition and control were no match for the AVR-1911's. It was easier to follow dialogue in the battle scenes with the AVR-1911. The AVR 2600 sounded strained when we turned the volume way up; the AVR-1911 sounded better when played at very high volume.
Dan Auerbach's excellent "Keep It Hid" CD's soundstage depth and spaciousness were constrained by the AVR 2600, compared with what we heard from the AVR-1911. It was much the same story with classical music CDs.
The AVR 2600's inaccurate auto-setup and below-average audio performance made for a rather poor showing in a receiver field crowded with more attractive alternatives.