Poor sound from vinyl on HK receiver

R

Rob8

Audiophyte
#1
Hi :
Just aquired a Denon DP-37F turntable and installed a Shure M97xE cartridge. Set up the cartridge with a protractor, set correct tracking force, etc. Much to my disappointment, when plugged into the phono input of my HK 3700 receiver, it sounded awful. Thin, harsh, very weak bass. The HK sounds great with digital sources.
Years ago I had a Luxman LV-105 amp with an AR XB table (same model cartridge). Vinyl sounded spectacular, and I actually preferred it to digital sources.
So the question is does my Harmon Kardon HK3700 have a lousy phono preamp, or is it a problem with the Denon? I'm really anxious to get back into vinyl but records are almost unbearable to listen to with this setup.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,226 17 24
#2
Hi :
Just aquired a Denon DP-37F turntable and installed a Shure M97xE cartridge. Set up the cartridge with a protractor, set correct tracking force, etc. Much to my disappointment, when plugged into the phono input of my HK 3700 receiver, it sounded awful. Thin, harsh, very weak bass. The HK sounds great with digital sources.
Years ago I had a Luxman LV-105 amp with an AR XB table (same model cartridge). Vinyl sounded spectacular, and I actually preferred it to digital sources.
So the question is does my Harmon Kardon HK3700 have a lousy phono preamp, or is it a problem with the Denon? I'm really anxious to get back into vinyl but records are almost unbearable to listen to with this setup.
It sure sounds like the RIAA Eq on the Harmon Kardon is faulty, or not properly conforming to the RIAA curve.

That Shure cartridge is certainly not bass deficient and should have a full sound. I have personal experience with those.

I don't know what to suggest, other then purchase of a phono premap and using a line input.

Are you absolutely sure you have use an RIAA equalized input? One thing for certain that HK receiver is nowhere near the standard of your Luxman. I think even by receiver standards, those HK units are towards the deplorable end.
 
M Code

M Code

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
464 1
#3
Hmmm....
Can't really comment on the phono circuit in the 3700, no experience with that platform...
The previous HK stereo receivers did OK for normal MM phono cartridges...
1 point to consider, is are cartridge wire connections done properly and in-phase...
Your point about no bass is exactly what can result if the cartridge is out of phase...
Here is the proper wiring configuration:
Left + White
Left - Blue
Right + Red
Right - Green


If the cartridge is wired right., and still sounds thin/no bass..
Then most likely the best solution is an external phono preamp. For the last 7 years all HK stereo receivers have been designed in China and built in Vietnam. Since 2011 the Harman electronics/receiver development team based in California was disbanded... And now under Samsung ownership they have little interest in consumer audio, just the higher profit 12V OE infotainment biz.

Just my $0.02... ;)
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,226 17 24
#4
Hmmm....
Can't really comment on the phono circuit in the 3700, no experience with that platform...
The previous HK stereo receivers did OK for normal MM phono cartridges...
1 point to consider, is are cartridge wire connections done properly and in-phase...
Your point about no bass is exactly what can result if the cartridge is out of phase...
Here is the proper wiring configuration:
Left + White
Left - Blue
Right + Red
Right - Green


If the cartridge is wired right., and still sounds thin/no bass..
Then most likely the best solution is an external phono preamp. For the last 7 years all HK stereo receivers have been designed in China and built in Vietnam. Since 2011 the Harman electronics/receiver development team based in California was disbanded... And now under Samsung ownership they have little interest in consumer audio, just the higher profit 12V OE infotainment biz.

Just my $0.02... ;)
That's a good point. Since the turntable is used it might have been mucked about. So he should check the wiring carefully with a multi meter.

From your note I now not that HK is total junk and not worth a red cent. Chinese operatives I'm sure have made that stuff worth nothing. Super junk!
 
M Code

M Code

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
464 1
#5
1 reason Harman bought Arcam was to acquire an experienced home audio/video development team to underwrite their brands such as Revel, Lexicon, Mark Levinson that they leverage to the OE auto brands..
In Northridge, CA they had a very capable audio R&D electronic team but the higher ups concluded the design/development could be done cheaper in China.. Nice try but failed..

Just my $0.02... ;)
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,226 17 24
#6
1 reason Harman bought Arcam was to acquire an experienced home audio/video development team to underwrite their brands such as Revel, Lexicon, Mark Levinson that they leverage to the OE auto brands..
In Northridge, CA they had a very capable audio R&D electronic team but the higher ups concluded the design/development could be done cheaper in China.. Nice try but failed..

Just my $0.02... ;)
Thinking about it, I suspect the phono input just has increased gain and no RIAA equalization. The OP's description describes exactly how it would sound if RIAA equalization was omitted and I bet it was on those units to gain a few cents profit.
 
B

Beave

Full Audioholic
Ratings
180 1
#7
I'd be *shocked* if they omitted the RIAA equalization circuit entirely. I have some experience with a/v design and in particular a/v design cost cutting - and moving design to Asia so they can cut costs even more.

I've seen corners cut, but they always try to meet specs - they just try to meet specs as cheaply as possible. Removing the circuit would fail a spec, and that's one thing they won't allow. They'll bend the spec, or their interpretation of it, or how they test it, but they won't disregard it altogether.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,226 17 24
#8
I'd be *shocked* if they omitted the RIAA equalization circuit entirely. I have some experience with a/v design and in particular a/v design cost cutting - and moving design to Asia so they can cut costs even more.

I've seen corners cut, but they always try to meet specs - they just try to meet specs as cheaply as possible. Removing the circuit would fail a spec, and that's one thing they won't allow. They'll bend the spec, or their interpretation of it, or how they test it, but they won't disregard it altogether.
One thing Shure cartridges are not is bass deficient. So if that turntable has not been wired out of phase, then that phono input is not close to meeting RIAA specs or absent. Either way it is not meeting spec. He says digital sources sound OK, but not the phono input. This is analog and simple so not many choices here to explain his problem.

I'm not shocked at all, but would anticipate this king of sharp practice developing in the low end receiver market.

Receivers continue to be loaded with apps that don't belong in them and their hardware continues its slide into the basement. There are just far too many receivers around at a price point were they can't possibly be fit for purpose any longer.

If China can contaminate my medication with a chemical used to induce cancer in Laboratory animals, then I'm sure leaving out RIAA compensation would be a trivial matter to them.
 
R

Rob8

Audiophyte
#9
I totally agree the HK is nowhere near the Luxman's standards (which I lost in a terrible house fire along with my AR table, sniff). However there is such a disparity between the digital and phono inputs as far as sound quality goes it makes me wonder if the stage is bad, or would HK really slouch that badly? Interestingly, the manual says absolutely nothing about the phono input (RIAA equalization, sensitivity, etc.) I know it was a cheap unit, but it's appalling to think they would put out something without RIAA equalization. Maybe they did...I will trace the wiring with my DMM as soon as I get a chance to eliminate the miswired cartridge possibility.
The reason I got the HK in the first place and not a Yamaha or Onkyo (both of which I considered) is that back in the 80's I had a Harmon Kardon PM665 which was a wonderful unit that I used for years, untill getting the Luxman. Certainly no RIAA problems with that beauty! But alas, time marches on.
 
Last edited:
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
4,041 16 36
#10
I'd say it's more likely you have a problem with the cartridge connections/tt wiring than HK left out the RIAA curve....altho it lacks a DAC. There are a few customer reviews on Amazon specifically being happy with the phono input....
 
M Code

M Code

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
464 1
#11
Though we haven't done any receiver (AVR or stereo) platforms for Harman in the last 5 years, we did do the development/validation/sourcing for their previous stereo receiver platforms 3300, 3400, 3500.. In those platforms the phono preamp circuit was in (1) integrated circuit and there was no changes/updates between platforms in the phono preamp section. But as I posted previously, in later generations of stereo receivers such as the 3700 HK used their China development teams. And they may have made some circuit revs to save
costs... :rolleyes:
The phono preamp circuit in the 3300, 3400, 3500 platforms performed very well with medium grade MM phono cartridges that had an output of 3-5mV(47k),RIAA EQ response was within 0.5dB and overload spec was 100mV. If U are using a more esoteric MM cartridge, that likely has a lower output level U better step up to a higher quality external, component phono preamplifier. However in the 3700 platform, Harman did implement the PWM power supply , that we designed/built the prototypes so that they could have a universal, global power supply.

Just my $0.02... ;)
 
R

Rob8

Audiophyte
#12
First of all thanks to everyone for your thoughtful replies. I checked the headshell wiring as suggested and it is correct. Then I traced the wiring to the RCA plugs with a meter. Also correct, signal and ground connections in phase.
Out of desperation, I hooked up an ancient Scott Stereomaster 382 receiver (circa 1967) I had laying around. Wouldn't you know it, copious bass, beautiful sound.
I can only conclude the RIAA equalization on the HK is either absent or defective. What a huge disappointment.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,226 17 24
#14
First of all thanks to everyone for your thoughtful replies. I checked the headshell wiring as suggested and it is correct. Then I traced the wiring to the RCA plugs with a meter. Also correct, signal and ground connections in phase.
Out of desperation, I hooked up an ancient Scott Stereomaster 382 receiver (circa 1967) I had laying around. Wouldn't you know it, copious bass, beautiful sound.
I can only conclude the RIAA equalization on the HK is either absent or defective. What a huge disappointment.
Not surprised. This is disgraceful. You can solve it though by buying a good phono preamp.
 
D

davidscott

Junior Audioholic
Ratings
20
#15
I run a Rega Carbon on a Planar 3 through a HK 3470 and it sounds fine. I would probably invest in a separate phono preamp if I ever upgrade the cartridge though.
Dave
 
R

Rob8

Audiophyte
#16
Yes, getting a preamp. Shouldn't have had to, though. If I would have had a turntable sooner, when I bought the HK, I would have returned it. Way too late now.
 
S

singhcr

Enthusiast
Ratings
2
#18
Sounds like a bad unit to me. What did you end up doing? Try to fix your HK or get a different amp?
 
Johnny2Bad

Johnny2Bad

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
310 6 4
#19
Built-in phono preamps generally speaking are not stellar to begin with, and in a modern HT receiver it might just exist as a "bells and whistles" feature to get consumers to buy that model rather than any attempt at a quality phono section. The HH Scott Stereomaster would have had a fairly good phono preamp but then again, not stellar.

Broadly speaking a modern phono preamp of $100 msrp or more will at least equal and typically out-perform built-in phono preamps of even classic turntable era components, with a very few exceptions. Beware the sub-$100 price range though, some of the units in that range are not better, or even as good, as built-in phono preamps.
 
M Code

M Code

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
464 1
#20
The challenge today is finding good mm cartridge, most are OK for basic performance but not stellar compared to some available several years ago. But occasionally they pop up on e-bagger.
In my vintage Marantz music system, I prefer an MC cartridge but then U need an additional step-up component...

Just my $0.02... ;)
 

newsletter
  • RBHsound.com
  • BlueJeansCable.com
  • SVS Sound Subwoofers
  • Experience the Martin Logan Montis