As I sat down to write my review of Harman Kardon's current top-shelf receiver, I took a look at our review archive and was surprised to discover that we haven't done a feature review of a Harman Kardon receiver since ... well ... ever. The most recent quick review we did was back in mid-2009, of the HK 3390 stereo receiver. Some of that is likely due to oversight on our part, but it also seems like the Harman Kardon brand doesn't have as much industry presence as it did earlier in my career - perhaps taking a bit of a back seat to other Harman brands like Revel, Mark Levinson, and JBL. The company is still active in product development, offering new multi-channel speaker systems, soundbars, wireless speakers, headphones, and of course receivers. The AV receiver lineup runs the price gamut from $300 entry-level models up to $999.95 for the AVR 3700 being reviewed here. Take one look at the AVR 3700's features list, and you'll see that it's quite competitive with offerings from Onkyo, Yamaha, Sony, and Denon. How does it measure up in terms of performance? Let's find out.
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This 7.2-channel receiver has a listed 125 watts per channel with two channels driven at eight ohms, with 0.07 percent total harmonic distortion. It has all the latest audio and video perks, including 4K pass-through and upconversion, 3D pass-through, high-resolution audio decoding, dual HDMI outputs, powered zone-two capability, network connectivity of both the wired and wireless persuasion, vTuner Internet radio, and built-in AirPlay and DLNA streaming. Dolby Pro Logic IIz and Dolby Volume are included, as is HK's EzSet automatic setup and EQ tool.
The AVR 3700 has an all-black chassis, as opposed to the two-tone silver/black chassis found on some of the older HK receivers. The top half of the front panel sports a large LCD that's easily readable from across the room and a large volume knob, with a white backlight that's also too easily seen from across the room (thankfully, you can turn down the brightness in the setup menu). The bottom half has a brushed-black finish with just the company logo and a small push-out door that hides a headphone jack, USB port, and HDMI input. Positioned oh-so-subtly between the two halves is a long row of slender black buttons for things like power, setup, exit, OK, navigation, and various AV adjustments. Overall it's a very clean, elegant look. The chassis measures 17.3 inches wide by 6.5 inches high by 15 inches deep and weighs just 17.6 pounds.
The back panel boasts seven more HDMI inputs, as well as dual HDMI outputs (both with ARC support). Other audio inputs include two optical digital, one coaxial digital, and two stereo analog. There's only one component video input, plus two composite ins and a composite monitor out. (The receiver will transcode and upconvert analog video to be output via HDMI.) The network connection can be made via either the wired Ethernet port or by attaching the supplied WiFi antenna to the appropriate back-panel jack to utilize the internal WiFi card. A set of seven-channel preouts are available, if you'd like to connect the AVR 3700 to external amplification, plus there are two subwoofer preouts, allowing you to use two subwoofers to improve bass response in your room. Seven pairs of binding posts will accept bare wire, spade lugs, or banana plugs (my connection method of choice). Finally, there are RS-232 and IR input/output for both the main zone and the secondary zone.
The AVR 3700 comes with two different remote controls. The primary, backlit remote measures about 10 inches long and includes lots of direct-access buttons to quickly change inputs, surround modes, video modes, audio effects, and more. The secondary remote is designed for zone two; it's shorter and thinner and lacks backlighting, but it includes the important core buttons and thus would also work in the main zone if you prefer something a little less bulky on your coffee table. Harman Kardon also offers a free remote app for iOS and Android that includes all of the important control options. The iOS app that I auditioned integrates your device's iTunes library and lets you launch AirPlay directly, so you don't have to leave the Harman app and go to your iOS music player. It also finds other audio systems on your network and lets you select the one through which you want to play the music files stored on the device.
The AVR 3700 has two standby power modes. In the regular Standby mode, you can wake up the receiver through your network connection, via the control app or when sending it an AirPlay source. The Eco Standby mode draws less power, but you can't wake it up over the network.
I have a traditional 5.1-channel speaker system that consists of RBH's MC6-CT tower speakers, MC414C center, MC6C surrounds, and TS-12A subwoofer. As such, I did not utilize all seven amplifier channels or the second subwoofer preout. You have the option during setup to assign the sixth and seventh amplifier channels to surround back speakers, front height speakers for Dolby Pro Logic IIz, or zone two. You can perform a manual speaker setup to adjust level, crossover (from 40 to 200 Hz), and distance, or you can let EzSet/EQ handle it all for you by connecting the supplied microphone to the front-panel headphone jack. The setup/EQ process takes only about five minutes; it does not give you the option to skip the EQ stage and only set up the speakers, although the resulting EQ can be easily turned off via the Audio Effects sub-menu if you don't like the results. When I ran EzSet, I got some odd results for my speakers; it set the L/R towers for 40 Hz and surrounds for 60 Hz, which was logical enough, but it set the center channel and the sub mode (which the manual recommends you match to the setting of the front L/R speakers) at 200 Hz. No automatic setup program I've ever run has set my center channel that high. I ultimately changed the center and surrounds to 80 Hz and matched the subwoofer mode to the towers' 40Hz crossover.
I have two primary sources in my gear rack: a Dish Network Hopper DVR and OPPO BDP 103 Blu-ray player. Thanks to the AVR 3700's built-in AirPlay, it was also very easy to incorporate my MacBook Pro and iPhone as sources. As is common with many AirPlay receivers, the AVR 3700 doesn't have a direct AirPlay source button. Once you add the AVR 3700 to your home network and select it as the destination audio player through the iTunes AirPlay control tab, the receiver will automatically switch to AirPlay mode and begin playing back the source; you can control volume via either the receiver remote or iTunes volume control. This is nice and convenient; however, if you have to switch away from the AirPlay source for any reason, it's not quite so easy to jump back. Within iTunes on my MacBook, I had to de-select the HK receiver as a destination, then reselect it and restart the audio playback to get the AVR 3700 to switch back to the AirPlay source. The AVR 3700's DLNA support lets you access non-AirPlay-friendly media servers via the Network source input, and I had no trouble streaming music from a Samsung tablet using the AllShare DLNA app.
I also experimented with a basic zone-two setup, passing analog stereo audio from my OPPO player through the zone-two analog output to a powered speaker system in the adjacent room. I encountered no problems with this configuration, although I'd appreciate it if the receiver remote or front panel had a button to quickly enable/disable zone-two audio; as is, you have to go through the onscreen menu to do so.
I appreciate the inclusion of Dolby Volume for use with cable/satellite sources. The AVR 3700 allows you to activate Dolby Volume per source input, but it's worth noting the function is turned on by default for every source. The Dolby Volume implementation features both a Modeler that tries to preserve and present all of the detail of the soundtrack at lower volume levels and a Leveler that evens out the level jumps between, say, commercials and TV shows. You can choose to activate only the Modeler or activate the Modeler along with varying degrees of Leveler, plus the ability to calibrate to suit your speakers. I only used Dolby Volume with my Hopper DVR source and, after some experimentation, went with the Medium setting that employs both the Modeler and a lower amount of Leveling. I was perfectly satisfied with the results I got.
Read about the performance of the Harman Kardon AVR 3700 on Page 2.