Harman Kardon AVR 154 AV Receiver Reviewed

Published On: October 26, 2008
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Harman Kardon AVR 154 AV Receiver Reviewed

Despite the fact that it costs just $350, our reviewer found the AVR 154 "shockingly musical and dynamic, making it suitable for a wide variety of source material." He also noted it "sounds much better and far more robust than it should." It also had "stunning good looks" and "ease of use"

Harman Kardon AVR 154 AV Receiver Reviewed

  • Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.

harmon-kardon-avr-154-review.gifI'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 receivers. 

Additional Resources
• Read more AV receiver reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a pair of speakers to match with the AVR 154.
• Explore the Blu-ray player options for use with the AVR 154.
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.

High Points
• The AVR 154's stunning good looks and ease of use fly in the face of its low asking price.• For $350, the AVR 154 sounds much better and far more robust than it should, especially when you consider its meager power rating. 
• The AVR 154 is shockingly musical and dynamic, making it suitable for a wide variety of source material. 
• Though the AVR 154 does not feature upscaling of any kind, the inclusion of HDMI 1.3a is a nice bonus. 

Low Points
• With 30 watts on tap, the AVR 154 may be a bit underpowered when it comes to larger speakers and/or large rooms. Efficient speakers or smaller spaces are the natural stomping grounds for the AVR 154. 
• I would love to see at least one more HDMI input on the rear of the AVR 154 to make it a bit more competitive.
• The remote that is included with the AVR 154 leaves a lot to be desired and is not the most intuitive. I would recommend a simple universal remote once you've placed and set up the AVR 154 in your system.

Competition and Comparison
You can compare Harman Kardon's AVR 154 against the competition by reading our reviews for the 
Yamaha RX-V765 receiver, the Sony STR-DH500 receiver, and the Sony STR-DN1000 receiver.  There is also a great deal more information available in our AV Receiver section.

For $350 retail, you're getting a fair amount in terms of performance and features when it comes to the AVR 154. Does it have all the bells and whistles of its big brother or costlier receivers? No. But for a budding enthusiast or someone looking to bring multi-channel capabilities to a secondary space for relatively no money, the AVR 154 fits the bill nicely. I've always liked Harman Kardon receivers, though have loathed many things about them as well. The AVR 154 is spared my wrath by not including some of Harman's so-called "features" and by keeping the focus squarely on value and performance for the money. The AVR 154 is a great way to get into the home theater game and gets my recommendation if you're looking for a good budget receiver.

Additional Resources
• Read more AV receiver reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a pair of speakers to match with the AVR 154.
• Explore the Blu-ray player options for use with the AVR 154.

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