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Harman Kardon DVD 37 review: Harman Kardon DVD 37

The Harman Kardon DVD 37 is a very good upscaling DVD player, if not as successful as a music player.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
3 min read

Slim is in. At least for DVD players. A/V receivers might be getting bigger, but the latest crop of disk spinners are incredibly slender. While audio fanatics may baulk at this -- bigger usually means better -- there seems to be little compromise when it comes to Harman Kardon's gear.


Harman Kardon DVD 37

The Good

Colourful and detailed DVD images. Upscaling to 1080i. DVD audio playback.

The Bad

Upscaling not as good as rivals. Limited HDMI features and no SACD. Slow input response.

The Bottom Line

The Harman Kardon DVD 37 is a very good upscaling DVD player, if not as successful as a music player.

Their newest machine, the DVD 37, is an upscaling DVD, and can also replay DVD-Audio. Like the AVR 645, which is the complementing receiver, the DVD 37 boasts a two-tone colour scheme. The fascia controls are subtle, almost too much so, but include the usual Play/Stop functions you'd expect.

One of the most practical features of the DVD 37 is its ability to upscale to 720p and 1080i, which gives some of what Blu-ray has to offer for a lot less. DVD is an old technology -- over a decade -- yet even in the past few years improvements have been made in processing the compressed video content of DVDs.

The newest development is video upscaling. Not content with simple de-interlacing (which removes the interlacing lines usually associated with CRT televisions) upscaling further reduces blockiness and the dreaded "jaggies" so that DVDs can be more comfortably viewed on today's big-screens. Though true high definition is still the preserve of Blu-ray and HD-DVD, there is still a benefit to upscaling DVD images. This is because most people would have a substantial DVD library which they're unlikely to buy on a blue laser format for a very long time -- if at all.

But not all upscaling is built the same. Several devices now include DCDi upscaling by Faroudja, which is the benchmark for DVD players in the $500-600 price range, and for receivers around $2,000. Unfortunately, the DVD 37 uses a no-name upscaler, which still works quite well, if not as well as DCDi. Like other players, the Harman Kardon's upscaler only works on the HDMI output and not component output, for copyright reasons.

In addition to DVD video, the player will also play DivX movies burnt onto disk, VCD's, and mp3 and WMA files.

While probably of most interest to people who still collect SACDs, the DVD 37 will only replay DVD-Audio disks. For full compatibility with high-resolution music formats you'll need the DVD 47 at AU$699.

Interestingly though, the player won't output DVD-Audio data via HDMI, as the output is only supports version 1.0. This causes unnecessary clutter as you'll need to connect three stereo RCA cables to get 5.1 DVD-A as opposed to one HDMI cable, as with later versions of the standard. We believe that Harman Kardon have missed a trick here.

If your DVD player is a couple of years old, you will immediately notice a difference when you plug in a machine such as the DVD 37. Images are bright and colourful -- yet still lifelike -- and they are also flicker-free. All disks we replayed showed a definite improvement on the once-great Pioneer DV-655A we have used previously.

As we mentioned, the Harman Kardon uses a no-name upscaler, and some noise remained during our King Kong test scene between Kong and Ann Darrow, where there is a high contrast sky and plenty of detail. If you are looking for the best upscaling, we recommend a player that includes Faroudja DCDi -- such as the Denon DVD1930 -- or a receiver like the Pioneer ASX-2XAS-S. Using those devices, almost all noise in the same scene was removed -- making for a much cleaner, more detailed image on a large screen.

One minor annoyance we had with the player was that the transport takes a long time to respond to instructions. Whether with the remote or the controls on the player, pressing any button takes several seconds to register before it completes the command. The remote itself, though, is fairly well laid out and easy to use.

As a CD player, the DVD 37 is passable, with a brighter sound via the analog outputs than a dedicated machine, and none of the low end grunt of the Denon DVD1930. But if the sound isn't using to your taste, using the digital output to a compatible receiver such as the Harman Kardon AVR 645 will result in an excellent stereo image. DVD-Audio fared better, but it's a shame about the lack of a digital output.