The past two months have seen a flood of new product announcements from most of the heavy hitters making AV receivers these day, including: Denon, Pioneer, Yamaha, and Marantz. Harman/Kardon has remained conspicuously absent from the party until now, but sometimes you have to wait for the ‘Andie Walsh’ to make her entrance just in time for the selection of the prom king and queen.
2013 is a critical year for the AV receiver. Sound bars have taken a huge bite out of the market and with more and more consumers deciding they would rather spend less on the audio portion of their home theater system, and more on the HDTV, the long-term financial prospects for the AV receiver category are looking a tad bleak. Sound bars have also made great strides in terms of sound quality, and with products such as the Sonos PlayBar getting rave reviews, it is getting easier for consumers to make the switch.
Consumers want more for their money if they are going to commit to a dedicated 5.1 system, and it’s hard to argue with that in these tough economic times. To be competitive right now, your AV receiver has to offer support for Ultra HD 4K, MHL, 3D, AirPlay, and high resolution audio formats for $1,000 or less. With the brand new AVR 3700, Harman/Kardon believes it has a 7.2 channel AV receiver to walk out of the prom arm-in-arm with both Jake Ryan and Duckie.
The rather sleek looking AVR 3700 ($1,000) has been designed to handle even the largest home theater rooms with more than 125 watts per channel of high-current power delivered to all seven channels. The receiver also supports the use of two subwoofers, an approach we believe delivers the most balanced-sounding bass response.
The AVR 3700 can also support playing two different sources in two different zones simultaneously. Rather than run your primary system as a 7.2 set-up, you can divert two channels to an independent zone in another room. Harman/Kardon is including a Zone 2 IR (infrared) remote control so that you don’t have to schlep the big remote around with you to control the second zone.
With the AVR 3700, you can also access any music files stored on your home network wirelessly and, with support for Apple AirPlay, stream music from any of your iOS devices. The AV receiver also offers support for DLNA 1.5-certified devices connected to your home network. All of your music can be controlled with the free Harman Music Manager app, available in the Apple and Android app stores now.
Also available for download is H/K’s free HK Remote Control App to transform your smartphone or tablet into an easy-to-use remote control. Compatible with most iOS and Android devices, its high-definition graphical user interface gives you full control of your AVR 3700 and all its connected media through the convenience of your portable device.
The AVR 3700 offers support for all of the major surround codecs including DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD, and also includes Ultra HD 4K pass-through and upscaling of your non-4K content.
With support for 3D with ARC (Audio Return Channel), 7 HDMI 1.4 inputs, 2 HDMI 1.4 outputs, and 1 USB 2.0 input, The AVR 3700 looks more than capable of handling a really complex home theater set-up in multiple zones. Harman/Kardon has also included preamp outputs for all 7 channels, should you decide that your system requires an external power amplifier with greater power reserves.
The AVR 3700 offers support for vTuner Internet radio which includes access to thousands of stations around the world, but what is noticeably absent are the heavyweights in the music streaming category: Pandora and Spotify.
If you were hoping to play back high resolution audio formats through the AVR 3700 such as 24-bit/96kHz FLAC or DSD, you’re unfortunately limited to 16-bit/96kHz PCM; something we find really disappointing considering less expensive AV receivers such as the VSX-1123 from Pioneer support Apple Lossless, AIFF, FLAC, AAC, WAV, MP3, and DSD via USB connection.
There is also no support at this time for Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) which enables users to stream content from devices such as the Roku Streaming Stick and smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S III. MHL allows you to control the device using the receiver/HDTV’s remote and, because it is powered up through the same cable, you don’t drain the battery of your device while sending your content to your HDTV. Support for MHL has been strong this year, and with so many smart devices offering this feature, it’s slightly puzzling why Harman/Kardon would not include this on their flagship AV receiver.
In the really competitive A/V receiver segment, the absence of support for high resolution audio formats, MHL, Spotify, and Pandora, could be enough to deter potential customers, but Harman/Kardon has an excellent track record of producing A/V receivers that actually deliver on the sound quality end, so we’re going to hold off on judging the 3700 until we have the opportunity to test one for ourselves.
The Harman/Kardon AVR 3700 is available for purchase right now online and at dealers around the US.