$500 home theater receivers are a dime a dozen nowadays and you can’t really go wrong if you have that budget as long as you purchase the latest model. AV receivers in that price range are pretty rich in features and are normally backed up with enough power that ordinary consumers can standby. Die-hard audiophiles might have to spend a little bit more but the overall performance shouldn’t be very disappointing no matter what brand you choose. This can make it difficult for companies to convince consumers to purchase their products rather than other products. But Harman Kardon is sticking to the same strategy it leaned on last time – make beautiful products that perform just as well as they look and the Harman Kardon AVR 1710 has the company covered in the $500 to $600 price range.
The design of the Harman Kardon AVR 1710 is really a breath of fresh air even though Harman Kardon has done this before with their previous models. It steers clear of the conventional designs of most home theater receivers out there and goes for a more futuristic look. The Harman Kardon AVR 1710 has a very clean design with its glossy finish and emphasized volume knob. The info display is essentially a part of the front panel making the receiver look even more minimalistic when it is switched off. The row of buttons just below the display divide the darker and lighter portions of the front panel. The bottom section has a lighter shade and it has the Harman Kardon logo along with a small panel on the left which houses the USB port and the setup mic input. Interestingly, the mic input doubles as the headphone jack too. These are the exact same ports you would find in the cheaper AVR 1610 which is quite unfortunate since other $500 home theater receivers feature an MHL HDMI port or at least the usual composite ports on the front.
The good news is that you can find an MHL HDMI port on the back. Connecting smartphones or tablets to the back of the receiver isn’t so convenient but you do get the benefit of being able to stream high-definition content from the mobile device all using a single MHL cable. A rear MHL HDMI port can be good though if you plan on plugging a dongle such as the Roku Streaming Stick. You also have 5 more non-MHL HDMI inputs available and a dual HDMI outputs for a TV and possibly a projector.
Being a 7.2-channel AV receiver, there are also more ports available including 2 subwoofer pre outs along with a 7 pairs of speaker terminals that can accept banana plugs. Harman Kardon made the right decision in giving each speaker terminal its own color to make it much easier in connecting each speaker. There are not a lot of other ports on the back although it is quite interesting to see a pair of IR inputs (one of them for Zone 2) and a trigger out so you can power on or off multiple home theater components all at once.
Unlike past models, AVR 1710 isn’t just about good looks. The Harman Kardon AVR 1710 was specially crafted with weight and efficiency in mind. Harman calls this the GreenEdge technology and it revolves around this new digital advanced power supply which is smaller but doesn’t compromise on performance. The chassis is also lighter and the receiver itself uses fewer amounts of metal and plastic trimming down the weight to just 11 pounds.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The AVR 1710 features a total of 700 watts of power (7×100 watts) making this receiver significantly more powerful than the AVR 1610 and 1510 even for 5.1-channel configurations. It performs just like a midrange home theater receiver should with the usual support of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding which today’s Blu-ray movies often depend on. The Harman Kardon AVR 1710 is a great choice to consider if you have a bigger room since you can set up 7 speakers and make use of both subwoofer outputs to deliver better bass and low frequencies. You don’t have to worry about calibration either because the EzSet/EQ III technology handles the auto-calibration process by adjusting the volume levels and delay-time settings based on the speaker distances.
If you are completely fine with a 5.1-channel sound system, you could come up with a multiroom system since the AVR 1710 has assignable amplifiers that allow you to power a Zone 2 without connecting additional components. Zone 2 can handle its own audio source while the main room has a different source.
Out of Harman Kardon’s entry-level receivers, the Harman Kardon AVR 1710 features the best networking experience for the price. Connecting the receiver to the wireless router using an Ethernet cable unlocks most of the networking features. iOS fans can rejoice as the AVR 1710 is Harman Kardon’s cheapest 2013 receiver that fully supports AirPlay. This means that iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch owners can easily stream their favorite music tracks to the receiver without hassle. The USB port remains as an alternate option if you need to charge the Apple device as well. The Harman Kardon AVR 1710 is also DLNA 1.5 compliant so any other computer running Windows 7 or Windows 8 can stream content too. Internet features are on the weaker side as the only service this receiver supports is vTuner Internet radio. This is not exactly great in a world where promising services like Spotify are growing.
Any iOS or Android devices connected to the same local network as the AVR 1710 can remotely control the receiver as well. This requires the Harman Kardon remote app which is a free download. The app can be pretty useful if you want to make sudden adjustments even if you are in another room.
Built-in Bluetooth functionality is a nice because it allows plenty of other devices to stream music to the receiver even if they are not Wi-Fi enabled or lack MHL connectivity. Harman uses its proprietary TrueStream technology to ensure that transmitted audio signals remain in their highest quality.
The $550 price tag makes the Harman Kardon AVR 1710 a little bit pricier than some home theater receivers that may perform slightly better and have more connections. But if you take size, design, networking features and overall performance all into consideration, the AVR 1710 is the undisputed winner in the $550 price point.