Harman Kardon DVD 101 Reviewed

Harman Kardon DVD 101 Reviewed

Like most college classes, the 101 is an introduction to the world of DVD in an attractive case with solid performance. The black and brushed metal face is a now famed Harmon look

Harman_Kardon_dvd_101_DVD_player.gifMy jaw dropped the first time I laid eyes on her. Her physical beauty was overwhelming as I studied her sultry shape and elegant profile. So many dirty thoughts were running through my head, I just couldn't control myself. Was she what I had been searching for my whole life? Just then my heart skipped a beat as I took that leap of faith and gently touched her. My body language must have been sending the right signals because without a word, she opened up to me. I continued with my moves to show her I was in charge and gently inserted a disc.

It's what the Harman Kardon DVD 101 seemed to be made for--pure pleasure without ever having to utter a word.

Additional Resources
• Read more Denon DVD-Audio and SACD player reviews here.
• Read audiophile source component reviews here including SACD and DVD-Audio players, turntables, DACs, CD transports and more.
• For a blog about tubes, turntables and the future of audiophila - check out AudiophileReview.com.

Unique Features - Okay, I may be off my rocker with an opening like that, but when I first set eyes on the DVD 101 from Harman Kardon, I thought it was a very attractive mid-level player. The classy chassis combines a sleek, sexy, silver case with an upper faceplate made of smoked black acrylic that is very modern and purposeful, which allows the Harman Kardon to fit nicely into home theater setups. This player would be just as much at home next to a 50-inch high definition plasma display as it would be connected to a 32-inch standard definition TV. The centrally located disc tray is flanked on the right by a stylish tray ejection button and a host of useful controls including a dimmer to change the white LED to display full or half brightness (or turn it off completely). In a dark theater environment, this feature is worth its weight in gold. Another handy button turns on a test pattern to adjust display parameters such as color, brightness, contrast and tint. Both of these convenience functions are a welcome addition.

Harman Kardon has engineered the DVD 101 to play a multitude of discs using a 3/2 progressive scan pull-down for improved video and a Wolfson 24-bit/192kHz D/A converter for radiant 5.1 and 6.1 audio playback. By connecting the player to a digital processor or receiver, both 5.1 and 6.1 digital surround sound in Dolby Digital or DTS can be enjoyed. The price of the DVD 101 is just above an entry level player so the typical buyer may not have an outboard digital processor. Therefore, if a surround sound system is not connected, the DVD 101 allows for down mixing of analog audio to stereo speaker configurations to open up the joys of home theater to all enthusiasts.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - My experience with the DVD 101 began with the introduction of video to my monitor by way of Monster Cable component interconnects. Additionally, audio signals were sent to my receiver using a Kimber Kable digital coax cable. Once the player was installed, I navigated through the well-designed menu system to set up the player for my system's needs. I have experienced many flawed graphical interfaces in the past and was overjoyed with the simple and easy to read menu system included in this player. Harman Kardon's concept of an intuitive user interface is especially easy to navigate which is a bonus for new users or the not so technically savvy person. Rather than a special switch or button on the faceplate, the DVD 101 requires manually setting the video output from interlaced to progressive scan when using component connectors through the menu system. Some manufacturers elect to place a switch on the faceplate to choose progressive scan, but the elegant design of the Hannan Kardon would be compromised by adding knick-knacks for controlling functions seldom accessed.

Final Take - Beginners will appreciate the quick setup and ease of use. From the sealed cardboard box to movie enjoyment took me only a few minutes and was clear-cut. The Harman Kardon comes with one of the most comprehensive manuals I've ever read, with all the features explained well and clear drawings included to visually demonstrate a multitude of installations. Equally easy to read is the front LED panel and information display. The white letters and numbers on the faceplate are large enough to read from across the room and have indicator lights to provide detailed information like disc type, playback mode and progressive scan function.

The remote control is approximately 7-inches long, but feels compact. It is in charge of an abundant amount of functions, but that is not to say it is difficult to use. On the contrary, the remote is ergonomically designed, backlit and has a great look and feel.

Read more on Page 2

Harman_Kardon_dvd_101_DVD_player.gifA new DVD player in the house gives me a great excuse to buy more DVDs. Not that I need an excuse, but it sounds logical to my Chief Financial Officer, better known as my wife. After returning from a shopping spree, I powered up the DVD 101 and sampled the video quality using both tried and true reference discs and my newest material. The picture was stimulating, with better quality than most mid-range players in the same price category. De-interlacing characteristics were above average and I only noticed minor artifacts during my tests. It was good to see the DVD 101 is not infected by the chroma bug when I played standard test material such as Toy Story or Attack of the Clones. There were no jagged edges or blurry streaks in saturated color fields as with lesser players that suffer from the error. Colorful images are well represented and levels of black and white were quite true with nearly every disc I viewed. Inexpensive players are often associated with a grainy picture, but this was not the case with the Harman Kardon. Playback was not as precise or awe-inspiring as top shelf units, but with its modest price, the DVD 101 works very well.

Whether used for home cinema or compact discs, the audio output of the Harman Kardon is exceptional. In both 5.1 surround sound and stereo modes, the digital output had an extended range with rich clear sound. I enjoyed the dynamics during CD use and spent hours listening to my favorite compact discs. This left me wanting to sample my DVD-Audio and SACD collection; however, the DVD 101 doesn't support either of these formats.

Harman Kardon has done a fine job supplying the mid-level DVD market with a player branded with their nameplate. The foundation of the unit is a case that not only employs good fit and finish, but also has a very pleasing style that will accent other home theater equipment.

Performance-wise, the DVD 101 continues with a solidly performing video chipset with spirited picture quality. Besting some high end players, the Harman Kardon ups the ante for average priced DVD units. Sound delivery from the system was even better. Additional high points consist of a terrific user interface menu system, easy installation and well thought out remote control. Removing minor flaws in imaging and adding DVD-A and SACD playback are the only enhancements that could be made to an otherwise unblemished DVD player.

Harman Kardon DVD 101
Progressive Scan
Single Disc
DVD-Video, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD,
CD-R/RW, VCD
192 kHz/24-bit Audio D/A Converter
Component Video, S-Video and Toslink & Coaxial
Digital Audio Outputs
Coaxial/Optical Dolby Digital & DTS Output
Dimensions: 17.6" W x 3.4" H x 12" D
Weight: 15.4 lbs.
Warranty: 1 year
MSRP $349

Additional Resources
• Read more Denon DVD-Audio and SACD player reviews here.
• Read audiophile source component reviews here including SACD and DVD-Audio players, turntables, DACs, CD transports and more.
• For a blog about tubes, turntables and the future of audiophila - check out AudiophileReview.com.

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