Harman Kardon DVD 25 Reviewed

Harman Kardon DVD 25 Reviewed

For those looking for something a little better than the entry level models from the likes of Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic, the DVD 25 from Harman Kardon offers a bit of style and some high end features for not a lot of money. We test it out.

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Harman Kardon is one of those great companies that makes products that not only sound and work well, but also look good with clean, uncluttered lines. The Harman Kardon DVD 25 is a single DVD player model that joins the DVD 50 changer (reviewed in issue one) in their lineup. The DVD 25 is a progressive scan DVD player that also decodes MP3s, Video CDs and, of course, CD. Retailing for $349, it occupies that spot just above the lower end for that person demanding just a bit extra from their DVD player.

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• Discuss all kinds of gear at hometheaterequipment.com.

The DVD 25 has Harman Kardon's signature modern design, which I found attractive and refreshing upon removal from the box. It is a charcoal black color, with the disc drawer in silver and, interestingly enough, weighs a little over 15 pounds, pointing to a better than average build quality. The display panel is offset to the top right of the player, and has nice legible graphics in white LED form. The back of the player has coaxial and Toslink digital outs, S- Video out, composite out, analog audio out, and component out. One of the nice features of the DVD 25 is the fact that you can switch between progressive scan and interlaced via the setup menu, avoiding a switch somewhere on the physical unit.

Unique Features
The cosmetics of the unit and the remote deserve a special mention. The charcoal black facade of the DVD 25 is split between a matte bottom half, and a mirrored top half. When turned on, the display lights up, and the transport control labels on the front of the player light up in green. This creates a very sophisticated, European look and feel to the player which belies its relatively modest cost. In an age when many manufacturers are racing to build the slimmest players possible, Harman Kardon has brought a player that is normal in size, with- easy to use controls and an easy to read display. These are the kinds of features that are most appreciated by those of us that enjoy ergonomics and cosmetics as much as we do ease of use functionality.

The remote is also excellent. It is also black, completely backlit (a nice plus for a player in this price bracket), properly shaped to fit in the palm of your hand, and the buttons are well grouped. The main transport buttons are shaped for easy usage without having to look at the remote. For example, the reverse button is in the shape of a left facing arrow, rather than just having the arrow printed on the button. Harman Kardon could teach quite a few companies about design and ergonomics.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The notable attention to detail that Harman Kardon has put into their cosmetics and design extends to the DVD 25's setup menus. They are clean, legible, easy, and avoid any goofy pictographic symbols. Going through the menus and setting up this player took me all of a minute. On-screen menus are also very legible, and I was able to move through various functions smoothly. The ability to change from interlaced to progressive scan mode is done via the setup menu, and requires no switches. This came as a welcome surprise. Furthermore, the DVD 25 operation manual itself is simple and easy to use; a significant plus for beginners who want nothing more than to get their new component set up quickly and easily, with no hassle or confusion.

Read more about the performance of the DVD 25 on Page 2.
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The DVD 25 is based around the latest version of the National
Semiconductor Pantera deinterlacing engine. This chipset is unique in
that it allows for automatic scaling of non-anamorphic material.

Final Take
I connected the DVD 25 to my Pioneer Elite 520 with Silver Serpent
component cables (from BetterCables.com). Audio was handled through my
Glasse CAV-150 amp, Sunfire Theater Grand II processor, and B&W
Nautilus speakers. After calibration with AVIA, the DVD 25 produced a
nice, clean, and fairly smooth picture. The de-interlacing of the
Pantera chipset is pretty good when watching most film based DVDs, but
poorly flagged DVDs can cause some artifacts as this engine is not
quite as good as the Faroudja chipset in my reference Kenwood 5700.
Still, on most major DVD titles the picture quality is competitive
with and better than many players that I have seen in this price range.
There is more grain than with the 5700 but, then again, this player is
less than half the price.

One additional bonus with this Harman Kardon DVD player is that it
does not suffer from the chroma up-sampling error (see The Chroma Bug
feature on page 84 in this issue). Player controls are smooth and
respond quickly. The front display is easily read from across the room,
as the letters are large and a legible white. Another feature worth
mentioning is a four step zoom that functions during pause or playback.

The audio section of the DVD 25 continues Harman Kardon's tradition
of concentrating on the audio aspect of its products. The DVD 25 works
well as a CD transport (music is decoded by the receiver/processor by
using the digital bitstream out) but, to my surprise, CD playback
through the analog audio outs was also quite good. In fact, it did a
very nice job in comparison with the DACs in my Sunfire Theater Grand
II. The DVD 25 was fairly smooth and enjoyable to listen to. Very
often, players in the lower price ranges have a lean, grainy sound on
analog CD playback, but this was definitely not true of the DVD 25. The
sound was full-bodied on everything I chose to demo, although it was
lacking in some soundstage width and depth as compared to much more
expensive players.

One significant disappointment was the lack of multi-channel
(DVD-Audio or SACD) playback. This is a glaring deficiency as many
players in this price range now include at least one or the other in
their list of playback features.

Overall, this player does a lot of things really well. Its
intelligent design and setup would make this player an excellent
recommendation for someone just getting into the world of home theater,
especially for someone who wants to buy something just a cut above the
ordinary. Although I wished for a Faroudja or Silicon Image
de-interlacing chipset and the capability to play one of the
high-resolution music formats, at this price Harman Kardon chose to
spend their money on very good picture quality and audio, and excellent
ergonomics and cosmetics. The DVD 25 player is so nicely put together
that I began to wonder how much better a higher-end player made by
Harman Kardon would be. Well guys, how about it?

Suggested Retail Price
$349.00

Additional Resources
• Read more source component reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a receiver to pair with this source.
• See more about the audiophile world at AudiophileReview.com.
• Discuss all kinds of gear at hometheaterequipment.com.

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