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Harman Kardon announces three new AV receivers

Harman Kardon has announced three new AV receivers, adding features such as high resolution audio decoding, high-definition menus and video upconversion to the company's product line.

Harman Kardon AVR 354

While most audio manufacturers trot out a new line of AV receivers every year, Harman Kardon generally sits out of the "feature war" and lets its models stay in the product line longer. That's why it's a big deal that the company has announced three new receivers, bringing many cutting-edge features that were previously missing from the company's lineup. As always, these new receivers have Harman's typically refined look, and now that some of the models include updated features--like high-resolution audio decoding, a high-def graphical user interface, and video upconversion--you won't have to settle for beauty without brains. Let's take an in-depth look at the new line.

Harman Kardon 154

Harman Kardon

Key features of the Harman Kardon 154:

  • 5.1 channels, 30 watts per channel
  • Three HDMI 1.3a inputs
  • Standard Dolby Digital and DTS decoding
  • Two component video inputs
  • Five digital audio inputs (two optical, three coaxial)
  • Source input renaming
  • No onscreen display with HDMI, standard-def menus
  • $400 list price, available in July
  • Read the full user manual (PDF)

Harman Kardon 254

Harman Kardon

Step-up features on the Harman Kardon 254:

  • 7.1 channels, 50 watts per channel
  • Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding
  • Faroudja DCDi Cinema video processing, with upconversion to 1080p
  • High-definition user interace
  • Automatic speaker calibration
  • XM-ready
  • $600 list price, available now
  • Read the full user manual (PDF)

Harman Kardon 354

Harman Kardon

Step-up features on the Harman Kardon 354:

  • 7.1 channels, 75 watts per channel
  • Three component video inputs
  • Six digital audio inputs (three optical, three coaxial)
  • Includes The Bridge II docking station for iPod
  • $800 list price, available now
  • Read the full user manual (PDF)

Don't get spooked that the watts-per-channel specs on these receivers seem low. While other manufacturers tend to inflate their power ratings, Harman Kardon sticks to real-world numbers--in other words, Harman Kardon's 30-watt receiver may sound just as loud as another company's "100-watt" receiver.

Overall, these receivers are a big improvement over the existing models, but they'll face an uphill battle versus the competition. Onkyo's TX-SR606 has most of the same features as the Harmon Kardon 254--plus it has four HDMI inputs--and it's currently selling online for about $440. Sony is also offering four HDMI inputs in the midrange level, and the STR-DG820 only costs $400.

Of course, Harman Kardon fans have always trumpeted the brand's excellent sound, but we'll have to wait until we get our hands on a review sample to do a comparison. Harman Kardon also puts a big emphasis on making products easy to use, and we have to admit that the company's manuals are a cut above the competition.