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 receivers.
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.
• 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.
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.