CNET First Look
Well-priced but underachieving AV receiverThe Harman Kardon AVR 1610 appears to have a great combination of features and looks, but doesn't quite live up to its promise.
Hey. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET and we're taking a look at the Harman Kardon AVR 1610. This is a slim 5.1 receiver with built-in Bluetooth that's selling for $400. The AVR 1610 just plain looks nicer than almost any other AVR receiver on the market. Instead of the traditional bit and boxy design, it has a polished look with smooth corners that manages to pull off a glossy black finish that doesn't look tacky. It's also a good deal slimmer than your typical AVR receiver and its remarkable light at just 10 pounds. It's not quite as slim as Marantz's Slim Line models but it's pretty close. The remote is at nearly as well designed. The fatal flaw are the extremely tiny volume buttons which doesn't make any sense since you're always using the them on an AV receiver. It ends up being consistently tough to find those buttons especially in a dark home theater. So, it's a frustrating clicker to live with. For features, the Harman appears pretty good on the spec sheet. On the back, there are 5 HDMI inputs including an MHL-compatible input, which is certified Roku ready for Roku streaming step. There's an Ethernet port for networking, although note that you cannot update the firmware using that port and only internet radio and DLNAR supported. There are no other streaming services. The real standup is the AVR 1610 has built-in Bluetooth, which is particularly nice for a $400 receiver. Or at least it would be nice if it worked a little better. Instead of automatically switching inputs when you pair it with a Bluetooth device, the Harman forces you to load an on-screen menu, go to the source select screen and then choose Bluetooth everytime you wanna stream. There's not even a dedicated Bluetooth button on the remote. So, you're forced to use the on-screen menus. That defeats a lot of the convenience of Bluetooth in the first place and other Bluetooth friendly receivers don't have the same problem, including Sony's excellent STR-DN840 which cost only $50 more and has WiFi and airplay. We also had resident audio file Steve Guttenberg gave the Harman a listen and he was a little underwhelmed. For one, the AVR 1610's automatic speaker calibration ended up saying the sub woofer much too loud to the point where the sub woofer was audibly distorting. And even after we manually tweak the settings, it didn't have quite the punch or poise of the similarly priced Marantz NR1403, which overall sounded better especially at louder volumes. And so, ultimately, the AVR 1610 ended up feeling a bit like an under achiever especially after we live with it for a bit. There's a great look and on paper, the features are good but all together, it just doesn't work as well as you want it too in practice. I'm Matthew Moskovciak and this is the Harman Kardon AVR 1610.