Harman/Kardon AVR 1550 AV-receiver
Audio equipment made by the Harman International Company of USA is different from Japanese and European equivalents. This receiver is prominent, monumental, of refined external design, but its functionality is quite modest.
AVR 1550 supports key standards for 5.1 multi-channel audio (DTS, Dolby Pro Logic II and Dolby Digital). Among user-accessible tools for configuring multi-channel tracts are the speaker size setup menu, the settings for time delay and output level adjustment for each channel. In other devices of the same price range more advanced processors are installed, allowing setting up the distance to the speakers and crossover frequency for the LFE channel, and a number of specialized settings for a particular mode of multi-channel sound.
Basically, the AVR 1550 has everything one might need. The switching system is very advanced. There is also a tone block, switchable signal compression, a night viewing function. In addition, all setup is memorized by the unit for each mode. So setting up the cinema may take more time, but AVR 1550 will not sound like an untuned piano.
With the controls located on the front panel, there is no problem - lined up in a row, the buttons have a clear purpose. But the remote control can cause confusion. For us, it remained a mystery why when you switch to the analog CD input the volume control unit stops working.
Harman/Kardon AVR 1550 did show significant differences between multichanneled systems and digital audio formats, such clarity, as a rule, is demonstrated by receivers with very high-quality audio circuitry. Even the tuner, the tonal balance of which is tilted towards the upper range, impresses with clarity and purity.
There is also a difference between the sound on digital and analogue inputs, but, it isn't in favor of the AVR 1550. In the sound which plays when using the analog inputs one can hear signs of degrading quality: reduction in dynamic on bass, midrange is less clean and natural.
The sound stage of the AVR 1550 is specific. It's clearly localized, has a correct spatial width of imaginary sources, but somehow gets up in front of you like a wall. In stereo mode, this is forgivable. But in surround mode it is much more detectable - the feeling that the sounds surround you like a ring is not there. They sit in the speakers.
The strong suit of the Harman/Kardon AVR 1550 receiver is good dynamic and harmonic work. Especially in the mid-band. When you listen to acoustic music, you cannot believe that it's a low-end sound machine: brass plays very clean, glossy, the strings are detailed, with a crisp attack. Vagueness can be seen only in the low-frequency band - basses are vigorous, but still slightly behind, leaving light humming reverberation.
The playback quality in the upper range is highly dependent on the format of the digital soundtrack. In Dolby Digital the upper frequencies are dynamic, somewhat harsh and saturated. In DTS, it's softened in the dynamics but full of all sorts of details. On CD the trebles gain clarity and sharpness. And when listening to DVD-Audio where the signal is recorded with a sampling frequency of 88.2 or 96 kHz, an illusion really arises that a stereo system with much more expensive speakers is sounding.