I've always been a fan of affordable gear. I know that may sound weird coming from a reviewer who has had speaker cables costing as much as a small Japanese car, but I do, I love and appreciate affordable gear. One of the brands that I've followed throughout the years and have enjoyed immensely is Harman Kardon. In my years as a home theater enthusiast
and as a reviewer, I've owned and/or reviewed a dozen Harman Kardon
Case in point, the super affordable AVR 154 reviewed here. Retailing for a shocking $350 and available almost everywhere electronics are sold, the AVR 154 looks every bit as good as its big brother, the AVR 354, at a fraction of the cost. Now, I'm not suggesting the AVR 154 is better or even competes with the AVR 354 or costlier completion. No, I'm just implying that while most budget receivers look cheap, the AVR 154 does not and has a bit of a feature set to back it up. The AVR 154 is a 5.1-channel AV receiver with HDMI 1.3a pass-through. Now, some of you may be yelling, "No upscaling, no good." I'd like to remind you that, for under $400, you're not going to find 1080p upscaling on any receiver - sorry. The fact that the AVR 154 has HDMI inputs, let alone the most current version, is sort of shocking. The AVR 154 supports nearly every Dolby and DTS codec minus the current uncompressed TrueHD and Master Audio formats. Again, look at the price before getting too worked up. The AVR 154 features an internal, high-current power amplifier section churning out a low (but mighty) 30 watts per channel across all five speakers, making it ideal for small to medium-sized home theaters. I instantly think of my bedroom or office when looking at the AVR 154.
The AVR 154 does not feature Harman's EzSet/EQ system and thank God, for it has to be one of the worst auto EQs I've ever been forced to use. I'd rather have no EQ than EzSet. The AVR 154 also lacks preamp outputs, not counting the LFE output, so you will be unable to mate it to an outboard amp or two for more power should you need it, which is why I would urge you to consider it only for small to medium-sized rooms, or super-efficient speakers from the likes of JBL or Klipsch.
Read about the high points and the low points of the AVR 154 on Page 2.