harman/kardon HK 3490 Stereo Receiver Review

anamorphic96

anamorphic96

Audioholic General
...and yet you continuously steered me towards the 8555...curious. :confused:
All I'm saying is all manufactures have issues. I have also had two NAD failures and I still stand by NAD products. Especially the two channel gear. I still stand by this HK model. Considering it failed within a couple of weeks tells me there is failed part somewhere. It happens. Especially considering the scale of production.

I just hate waiting and that's the only downside to the internet. Especially when dealing with returns. So I will rethink things a bit and see what happens.
 

goodplanar

Audiophyte
Hello;
New member to the group.
I picked up a Harman Kardon Hk 3490 about 2 weeks ago. Been very happy with it so far.

Setup is the 3490's pre amp outs to a BBE DS24 digital crossover.
Crossovers High outs (90hz and above) returned to the 3490s pre amp ins out to a set of Magneplanar SMGa speakers.
Crossover Low out (90hz and below) to a pair of Yamaha YST-SW150 powered subwoofers.
System eq and a time alignment check was done with Smaart FFT software. No time alignment adjustments were needed.

The Harman Kardon replaced a 22 year old Pioneer VSX-5000 setup in the same configuration.

I like the digital input sound quality. I use a low cost Sony CDP-315 cd player via adat and the sound stage is much better than the analog stage. Handy to note is the HK switches between digital/analog inputs with which ever signal it receives on the input. If you select Digital on the CD input with no digital signal going to it, the HK will default to the Analog input until the digital signal is received. ( Note I never tried having a signal to both inputs at the same time. This was with no source at the analog input )
My unit goes from CD digital to FM radio without having to turn off the cd player or switch off the digital input as stated in the review.

Sound quality wise it has a lower noise floor compared to the Pioneer as well as a wider sound stage. The image is very stable. It was very close to the Pioneer as far as output. Just slightly more output. I added 1db to the crossovers Low Outs to match the same overall tone balance I had before with the Pioneer.

Although it only runs freq. 90hz and above it still runs much cooler than the pioneer vsx-5000 did doing the same job. The FM section is slightly better than the pioneer too.

All in all very happy with the purchase. Pretty much just unhooked the pioneer and plugged in the Harman Kardon.

As a side to the volume scale.
Its rated in -Db's to full volume . I don't know what Harman Kardon had in mind as a reference input voltage but when 0 db on the volume knob would be reached, in my case , it would be 150 watts output at 4 ohms.
I'm guessing it would be with a 1 volt P/P input voltage like from a cd player.
The + 10db range of the volume knob would be to insure full output from lower voltage input devices. Tape decks run in the -10db range. This would insure that a tape deck would still be able to drive the power amp stage to full volume.
As far as output wattage. When you drop 3 dbs on the volume control your 1/2 your wattage. (If the HKs metering is correct)
If my HK reaches full 150 watt output per channel with the volume knob at 0db it would be
75 watts at -3db
37.5 watts at the -6db setting
18.75 watts of output at the -9db setting
9.375 watts output at the -12 db setting.
Etc,etc,
Those who wonder why the knob setting seems high can get a better idea of power output.
This of course is dependant on the input voltage to the receiver.

I'll post a update as time goes by.

Nice thread.

Goodplanar
 

goodplanar

Audiophyte
Harman Kardon HK 3490 .
Just a price heads up.
I see right now Amazon has them for $279.
Not bad at all.

Goodplanar
 
V

Valicious

Enthusiast
So I scored a pair of Paradigm Monitor 7s and a Denon DRA-685 stereo receiver on craiglist for $300. I am thinking of selling the Denon and going another route though. I will be playing music exclusively from my computer, and a wired connection is fine as everything will be right next to eachother. I do have an Asus Xonar STX sound card in my computer which has a pretty great DAC, but would a sound card even influence anything with speakers? How would digital inputs benefit me if I'm playing only from my computer?
I've been looking at an HK 3490 on HK's ebay store for $300 shipped. (full warranty included) i was wondering if I might be better off going with a separate integrated amp etc. (I have no interest in the radio aspect of the receiver.) I'm so new to the world of speaker audio that I'm not even sure what all I would need if I went the separates route.
Am I right in thinking that I would just need an integrated amp since I have my beast of a sound card?
 
Z

zr1nsx

Audiophyte
I worked for Harman for 15+ years and have owned a large number of their receivers and a large variety of JBL and Infinity speakers. Have always had good luck with the speakers, but terrible luck with receivers. I began buying Harman products back in 93. From that point, I had at least 20 different receivers. All except 2 (early models) had failed within 5 years.
At the current time, I'm trying to find a DSP board for a 2005 model year AVR7300. Harman says they are not available. Would love to find someone with board level repair experience to take a crack at repairing it. While I have a very foul taste in my mouth about Harman receivers, I must admit that when they worked, they all sounded terrific. Just a shame that the quality was so bad. I have a few Yamaha receivers from the early 80's and they still work as new. Even in a dusty wood shop, the R9 Yamaha still rocks.
I've pretty much given up on repairing my last Harman receiver and will probably move my loyalty back to Yamaha.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
I worked for Harman for 15+ years and have owned a large number of their receivers and a large variety of JBL and Infinity speakers. Have always had good luck with the speakers, but terrible luck with receivers. I began buying Harman products back in 93. From that point, I had at least 20 different receivers. All except 2 (early models) had failed within 5 years.
At the current time, I'm trying to find a DSP board for a 2005 model year AVR7300. Harman says they are not available. Would love to find someone with board level repair experience to take a crack at repairing it. While I have a very foul taste in my mouth about Harman receivers, I must admit that when they worked, they all sounded terrific. Just a shame that the quality was so bad. I have a few Yamaha receivers from the early 80's and they still work as new. Even in a dusty wood shop, the R9 Yamaha still rocks.
I've pretty much given up on repairing my last Harman receiver and will probably move my loyalty back to Yamaha.
That is sad to hear. 18 failures in 20 years is abysmal!
A 90% failure rate will kill a company pretty dang fast!
Did you find out what failed on any of them?
My brother killed a couple of decent receivers (an Onkyo and a Yamaha) by driving two pairs of low impedance speakers at the same time (presenting a net impedance of less than 4 ohms).
 
Z

zr1nsx

Audiophyte
None ever had amp failures, always DSP or processor board failure. The AVR 7000's (model just before the 7300) were the worst. Had the DSP board repaired 4 times in a 18 month period. Traded out for a new 7000 only to repeat the same issue. Then traded up the the 7300 which worked for 8 years flawlessly. I wanted to stay loyal to Harman because I was proud to have worked for them for soo long, but I need to move on. Don't even get me started on their DVD players. Ordered 8 DVD 50's one year as Christmas presents for my family members and one for myself. Out of 8, 7 failed to work fresh out of the box. Could go on and on! Will never buy a HK electronic product again, only speakers.
 
T

tef8568

Audiophyte
About the HK 3490 stereo receiver ...

I bought one from the official HK store as a factory refurbished unit that was designated as such via a "-Z" on the end of the model number on the unit and on the box and on the ad. I got it for $299.99 with free shipping. That was lower than Amazon and J&R and a few other places. It came with a full factory warranty and all accessories including the manual, remote, batteries, FM and AM antenna, packaging, etc.

There are few photos of the rear panel that show the permanently attached generic power cord. Many other competitors offer a detachable power cord with the advantages that has.

As the "CONS" above states, the bass and treble controls are terrible to use as they are so ridiculously small and are covered by a "press in on one side or the other" plate. It is also deeper than many other competitors, so if you need to put it on a wall mount shelf like Omnimount offers, you have to verify the shelf depth first as this receiver is very deep.

As for me, I was not the slightest bit impressed with the sound quality of this receiver. It sounded no better than what we were using at the time, and still are using. I returned the unit to HK via an on line RA request and they Emailed me all of the needed information, forms, instructions, etc. It took a few days via UPS and they got it back without any problems and promptly (within 24 hours after receiving it) issued a full refund of $299.99 to Paypal. I did have to pay for the return shipping, so a $299.99 receiver that was returned within two weeks cost me $36 to return it to Georgia. (not bad for a two week rental)

If I would ever get a receiver again, I would either get a Denon or a Yamaha, and I would get it from Crutchfield most likely due to their 60 day return policy and free shipping. While I know a few sites, such as Assessories for Less or New Egg or J&R, that I can get them for a lot less, I would rather pay full retail and not have any difficulties returning if needed.

I am now much more interested in a pair of Audioengine A5+'s for $399 and a small DAC with a decent USB cable and analog interconnects using our computer's CD/DVD ROM and the internet as a source. I have the computer and existing stereo connected to a pair of PS Audio Power port receptacles to lower the noise floor for them and would get a decent power cord for the computer powered speakers and DAC. (perhaps a Shunyata Venom 3 or similar)
 
M Code

M Code

Audioholic General
I bought one from the official HK store as a factory refurbished unit that was designated as such via a "-Z" on the end of the model number on the unit and on the box and on the ad. I got it for $299.99 with free shipping. That was lower than Amazon and J&R and a few other places. It came with a full factory warranty and all accessories including the manual, remote, batteries, FM and AM antenna, packaging, etc.

There are few photos of the rear panel that show the permanently attached generic power cord. Many other competitors offer a detachable power cord with the advantages that has.

As the "CONS" above states, the bass and treble controls are terrible to use as they are so ridiculously small and are covered by a "press in on one side or the other" plate. It is also deeper than many other competitors, so if you need to put it on a wall mount shelf like Omnimount offers, you have to verify the shelf depth first as this receiver is very deep.

As for me, I was not the slightest bit impressed with the sound quality of this receiver. It sounded no better than what we were using at the time, and still are using. I returned the unit to HK via an on line RA request and they Emailed me all of the needed information, forms, instructions, etc. It took a few days via UPS and they got it back without any problems and promptly (within 24 hours after receiving it) issued a full refund of $299.99 to Paypal. I did have to pay for the return shipping, so a $299.99 receiver that was returned within two weeks cost me $36 to return it to Georgia. (not bad for a two week rental)

If I would ever get a receiver again, I would either get a Denon or a Yamaha, and I would get it from Crutchfield most likely due to their 60 day return policy and free shipping. While I know a few sites, such as Assessories for Less or New Egg or J&R, that I can get them for a lot less, I would rather pay full retail and not have any difficulties returning if needed.

I am now much more interested in a pair of Audioengine A5+'s for $399 and a small DAC with a decent USB cable and analog interconnects using our computer's CD/DVD ROM and the internet as a source. I have the computer and existing stereo connected to a pair of PS Audio Power port receptacles to lower the noise floor for them and would get a decent power cord for the computer powered speakers and DAC. (perhaps a Shunyata Venom 3 or similar)
Sounds like the 3490 was defective..
Since it was a returned B-stock refurb who knows what it has gone through..
We have installed many, many 3490s and almost always the listener comments favorably on the musical HK sound. The unit is bullet-proof and into 4 Ohms can hit 200W/CH on peaks..

Just my $0.02... ;)
 
M

MikeGood63

Audiophyte
Harmon Karden HK3490 Review

I purchased the HK3490 back in 2010 I think. My decision to buy it was based in large part on the reputation that HK has in the audio business, as well as a few very favorable reviews that I had seen on the internet. Unfortunately, from the very first day I received it I have been puzzled by the receiver's lack of sound quality. I have recently purchased cheap stereo receivers that do a better job of presenting the power and detail in my favorite discs. For the life of me I can't figure it out. Music sounds 'thin', or 'weak', almost like I am listening through a wall in an adjoining room. I resort to raising the volume only to get 'weak' sound, that is 'louder'. By the way - HK employs some kind of volume level gimmick that makes the number go down as you turn the volume up. I am sure there is some engineering explanation that sounds very esoteric, but it just looks goofy to see the scale decreasing as you turn the volume up. That's a minor issue though.

I have been over the setup of this receiver, and all my connections, a hundred times, but that doesn't mean my thick head might not have missed something. If there is anyone out there who might know what's going on with this equipment I would appreciate a response. My speakers and cd players are all basic standard issue pieces, but regardless, I seem to get the same results out of this receiver using any of my speakers and cd players. Thanks
 
J

JMJVK

Audioholic
bizare

Unfortunately, from the very first day I received it I have been puzzled by the receiver's lack of sound quality. I have recently purchased cheap stereo receivers that do a better job of presenting the power and detail in my favorite discs......

...I have been over the setup of this receiver, and all my connections, a hundred times, but that doesn't mean my thick head might not have missed something.


Can you give us a list of your sources, how they are wired, and how your have attributed your signals (if using Vid 1,2 and 3) ?


I just have ask, cause... The HK3490 is modest receiver compared to a lot of the audio gear out there, but it is certainly no slouch. Mine drives a pair of JBL S38II, and these suckers can chew a lot of power. The sound can be immensely loud. Basses are clean and deep, and remain clean and deep all the way to reference level ( -0 ). If it's not a signal attribution problem, I believe you may have a "Sample" problem, in other words, a defective unit.

I can play really harsh and difficult to handle stuff, like the Bladerunner movie soundtrack's "End titles" by Vangelis at levels sufficient to be heard outside a house, in the neighbor across the street's yard. It renders The Dave Brubeck quartet's "Take Five" at deafening volumes which make you feel like you just got "shrunk" and dropped right into the drummer's snare. It'll leave your ear rigning after a few minutes. It's not very expensive, nor very prestigious, but I have yet to hear a friend's stereo pushing even half this power with such "aplomb". I often refer to my HKs and JBLs as modest, but they are that on price only, because value-wise, these combos are capable of a performance and sound quality that is pretty hard to believe before you get to actually hear them playing.

The same was true about the HK3380, which I owned prior to acquiring the HK3490. I changed because I wanted a Toslink for my CDs. In all, I've had three AVRs (135, 354 and 3600) and two Stereos from Harman. Apart from a from the weird button arrangement on the AVR135's remote I've got nothing bad to say about HK's gear. JBL's Northridge E-60 and Studio 38II series speakers that have, and I still use to this day, combined with these receivers have been nothing short of amazing. Given the very modest price this stuff was purchased for.

As for the Bass & treble buttons, I like this. It stops friends with busy hand from messing with my sound. Once the owner of a receiver has tweaked his sound, he rarely ever touches it again. I think it's great to see these hidden away safely, yet keep nice knob controls instead of going "software" through the DSP.
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
I have been over the setup of this receiver, and all my connections, a hundred times,
The easiest is to do a "processor reset" and if it does not improve things, then start tweaking it but one thing at a time. The 3490 may not be the best available at its price point (it maybe though), but it should sound really good with neutral sounding speakers.
 
M

MikeGood63

Audiophyte
Thanks a lot for your response. My gear is very basic, simple speaker setup of two Polk Atrium 4's and an inexpensive Yamaha powered sub. Cd player is a current LG blue ray player (but I have used older Sony and Koss units with similar results). It's not that I expect such a bare bones setup to blow my socks off, just that I can't believe the jump in sound quality when I connect in a $100 Insignia stereo receiver. It makes me think something is wrong with the HK.

I will definitely try the 'reset' that was mentioned in one of the replies and see if it has any effect. If I learn anything significant I will post on this forum. Thanks again. Cheers.
 
M

MikeGood63

Audiophyte
thanks again for your very helpful replies to my original post. I have tried the software reset but no real change in the receiver's sound quality. I guess I will try to contact HK and see if they will take the unit in for evaluation. Kind of a weird problem I know, but maybe I just got one with a defect of some kind. Cheers.
 
R

reeldeal67

Audiophyte
Hello all, Newbie here on Audioholics, however, been in the game a long time. I own a HK3490. Have had it since 2010. I couldn't believe HK had put out a stereo receiver with descent power, sub-out, pre-out, and digital connectivity at this amazing price point. So, I decided to stray from my vintage audio preferences and purchase the 3490 and the HK ipod docking station. I WAS NOT IMPRESSED!! As other members have stated, the bass just isn't there. The power I do get from this unit is clean however the signal being reproduced is under very strict control. I have had this unit hooked up to everything from 2 and then 4 Acculab 440's with a klipsch sub and then with a rock solid Legacy Foundation sub. I also had it hooked to my bi-wireable Legacy L1's that have built in subwoofers and are notorious for having a flat response. I feel HK made a colossal mistake by not adding a loudness curcuit. At lower listening levels you can adjust the tone controls to add bass and treble however as soon as you turn up the volume even to moderate levels you have to readjust the tone controls again and then again to turn the volume to higher levels. Don't get me wrong, this unit gets plenty loud but if you're not running a subwoofer you are not going to get any bass out of this receiver without turning up the tone control bass which muddies the highs. I found it to be very tinty and lacking it's lower end. The only way I got any descent sound from this unit was with a GOOD subwoofer. It just didn't seem to perform well with just speakers or at lower listening levels or without having to constantly readjust the tone controls every time you adjust the volume.
After coming to an impass with this receiver it then developed a ridiculously irritating problem!! When the volume control knob is turned this doesn't necessarily mean that the volume is going to be turned up or down. While attempting to turn it up, it skips and may turn up the volume a couple points, it may just skip and not turn it up at all or it may actually turn the volume down. Same thing when attempting to adjust the volume down. I have read that there are plenty of other people having this same problem. It worked fine out of the box but not shortly there after. The remote controls the volume perfect however that is what is so irritating. You have to find the remote to adjust the volume. What happens if the remote breaks or gets lost? I'm not a happy camper!
From owning a myriad of equipment over the decades and evaluating specs I should have realized that this unit did not possess a quality power supply. Evident by the fact that the power didn't even come close to doubling at 4 ohms. From, perhaps, pushing equipment to hard at times and having lesser amps give up. I have come to realize that it takes a quality power supply to reproduce lower frequencies at higher volumes for a sustained period of time without being damaged. I feel as though HK simply limited the lower frequencies to save their sub-par power supplies. I would highly recommend to anyone running this receiver at higher volume levels not to turn the bass tone control up real high but to use a quality subwoofer to attain lower frequencies.
 
J

Jeff R.

Audioholic General
I have never seen a receiver not play bass. Sounds like you might have some set or speaker placement issues.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk - now Free
 
M

MosesMalone

Enthusiast
Has anybody ever tested the power output of these HK 34XX receivers? Do they really put out 120WPC, both channels driven?

I have the previous gen 3485 and I really like it. I'm running 82dB efficient 2-way monitors and the sound is effortless and smooth. It's just astounding that I picked it up brand new, years back for $250. It has me questioning integrated amps that cost multiple times the price. In comparison, a Marantz PM-8005 is $1,200 and I wonder if it would even provide a discernible difference in sound quality (not even taking into account the power output, which the Marantz has less of.) The weight of both amps are nearly the same and the Harman Kardon has more features to boot.
 
R

riker1384

Junior Audioholic
I bought one of these based mostly on this review and liked it just fine. Then I bought another because I want to use biamping for my inefficient PSB Goldi's. (Both bought used.) After getting the second one home I noticed it has a faint hiss in the right channel. Shortly thereafter, the first one developed a problem too. The right channel is sometimes cutting out when I adjust the volume.

Very disappointing for two of these to both have problems. Yeah, I bought them used but they're less than 10 years old. I'm going to do some testing to see if it's just the preamp section. Perhaps I could use these receivers just as power amps. I'm nervous about hooking up something that has problems, to my best speakers. What if something goes wrong and they fry the speakers?

Harman's new stereo receivers are much lighter in weight and apparently not as good. No preouts.

There's a Denon DRA-697CI available, that has preout so perhaps I could use it as a preamp, but it's basically a 2-channel home theater receiver. Everything is done with menus, etc. Not the simple interface of a real stereo receiver.
 
M

mirabs

Audiophyte
I have owned the predecessor of the 3490 stereo receiver, the harmon/kardon 3485, for eight years and find myself seeking a solution to the similar volume control issues experienced by reel-deal. Although my volume (switch?) problem has now advanced to a point where the receiver is unusable. When I turn the receiver on, a brief semblance of sound blasts through, and then quickly vanishes. Turning the volume knob back and forth firmly only results in a brief restoration of sound and quickly shuts down any sound completely. My speakers are fine, it seems this problem is definitely attributable to the volume control apparatus and my fear is that this part is solidly encased and not repairable or replaceable. Calls to recommended HK service centers has not led to any reassurances, only references to their estimate fees, a cost I hesitate to donate, and would rather use toward a new receiver, especially when it becomes obvious that there is no viable or cost-effective solution to this problem.Any advice out there would be greatly appreciated!!
 

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