Harman Kardon is a brand known for their home and car audio products. If you have a Toshiba laptop computer, you might have a model that features built-in Harman Kardon speakers that sound significantly better than your average built-in speakers. This shows that Harman Kardon really pays attention with quality. But the company still continues to tackle highly competitive markets like home theater receivers. There are plenty of consumers that have yet to purchase an AV receiver and they shouldn’t have any reasons to replace their AV receivers with a new one many years after purchase if they made the right decision. Therefore, the receiver must have some valuable features that are worth the price. In the case of the Harman Kardon AVR 1610, aesthetics are one of the main focuses here and it could convince folks that want to replace their aging and traditional-looking home theater receiver with something very trendy and eco-friendly but powerful at the same time.
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The AVR 1610 is a beautiful specimen with a glossy finish and a display that you won’t really notice until the receiver is turned on. A single master volume knob can be found on the right of the display and it has that space age look. The row of buttons below the display is pretty common amongst AV receivers but these buttons really blend nicely with the overall receiver design. The receiver also has unique-looking feet really giving the receiver a futuristic appearance. It is definitely a home theater component that would stand out in any rack. If there is one downside on the front, it would have to be the limited number of ports. Take away the small covering and all you have to work with is the headphone jack which doubles as the mic input and a USB input. The Harman Kardon AVR 1610 is clearly an entry-level model but it would have been nice if there was an easy way to hook up mobile devices like smartphones and cameras to the front of the receiver. Of course, iPhone, iPod and iPad owners shouldn’t have a problem since the USB port lets you stream music from these devices while charging them.
The back of the AVR 1610 is pretty much as minimal as you can get from a 5.1-channel receiver. The speaker sockets are color-coded to make installation a bit easier. Unlike the cheaper AVR 1510, you have 5 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output to work with. If you have older devices, you can make use of the few composite and analog inputs along with an optical and coaxial digital audio ports and subwoofer pre-out. There are no component ports present in the Harman Kardon AVR 1610.
The overall look of the AVR 1610 isn’t really new as this design style was used in previous generation AV receivers but the Harman Kardon AVR 1610 has a fairly big improvement that makes this receiver considerably better. This receiver has a very light footprint with a weight of just 10 pounds (4.6 kg). Harman Kardon successfully achieved this remarkable feat by relying less on plastics and metals for the construction. The AVR 1610 also opted for an advanced digital power supply which weighs significantly less than a traditional power supply but provides the same solid performance. The Harman GreenEdge logo summarizes these design improvements.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
If you are not so impressed with the specifications of the AVR 1510, you could find the Harman Kardon AVR 1610 to be a better solution for the money as it has 5 amplifiers that are 85 watts each. Compared to other entry-level receivers coming from other manufacturers, the AVR 1610 has the advantage of having an ultrawide-bandwidth amplifier design which allows the receiver to produce highly dynamic sounds with better clarity even at higher listening volumes.
The extra HDMI port on the back of the receiver may not be much of a deal if you have few stationary home theater components. But that extra HDMI port has a feature that the other HDMI ports don’t have and that is MHL connectivity. This allows any supported MHL smartphones, tablets and streaming stick dongles to connect to the receiver via an MHL cable for quick and easy streaming of high-definition content to the TV. In addition, all HDMI ports have 3D pass-through and 4K pass-through so all kinds of modern components should work fine with this receiver. Blu-ray players should work their best with the Harman Kardon AVR 1610 thanks to the support for DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding.
The AVR 1610 is also worth considering if you want an affordable receiver that has auto-calibration so you won’t have to worry about the positions of your speakers when optimizing the performance. You can simply plug in the included calibration mic and position it as instructed so the receiver can get all the data it needs to properly adjust the volume levels. Harman’s EzSet/EQ III calibration techniques work fairly well.
The Harman Kardon AVR 1610 is also a little bit more powerful than the AVR 1510 in terms of connectivity. With the Harman TrueStream technology, you can wirelessly deliver high-quality sound to any Bluetooth-enabled devices. It is a good feature to have with the AVR 1610 considering the fact that many receivers in this price require you to purchase a separate accessory just to use the Bluetooth.
In addition to that, the Harman Kardon AVR 1610 has all the networking features present in the AVR 1510. This means that you can connect to the vTuner radio service the moment you connect the receiver to the router through Ethernet cable. Other things you can do with the network connectivity include streaming media from Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers thanks to the DLNA 1.5 compliance. It would have been great though if AirPlay support was added.
If you frequently use any iOS or Android smartphones or tablets in the living room, you could appreciate the freely available Harman Kardon remote app which can turn these support devices into fully functional remote controls. The physical remote control is still useful as you can program it to control other components connected to the receiver such as the TV.
Priced at around $400, the AVR 1610 is a highly attractive and lightweight home theater receiver that surprisingly performs well and comes with some good features that make the AVR 1510 look a bit crippled. Plus, it packs quite a punch if you use the automatic speaker calibration.