Customer Review

93 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Upgrade, March 20, 2010
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This review is from: Harman Kardon HK 3390 80W Stereo Receiver (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
This Harman Kardon 3390 was part of a larger upgrade to the home sound system, replacing an aging 90 watt per channel Yamaha. Also included were new speakers in the form of Klipsch Reference Series RF-62's, replacing Bose 501's. A similar review will be posted for the speakers.

As we all do, I started this upgrade project with certain assumptions - some accurate, some not. And like many of you reading this, I relied heavily on user and expert reviews from many sources on the web. But those aren't always helpful since the world of audio equipment seems to have its own peculiar lexicon with terms that are not defined and often fully understood only by the writer. Actual auditions of the equipment were somewhat limited by the fact that few dealers carry both brands where I live. This is a real problem since best results are achieved not just by selecting a good receiver and good speakers, but by hearing how they work together. For instance, "bright" speakers don't pair up very well with "bright" receivers - the result can be something too bright and potentially harsh sounding. That said, I nevertheless attempted to gain as much understanding as I could through things I read (reviews, blogs, etc.) and limited auditions of equipment. In the end, I feel rather lucky to have put together something that works very well as a system.

I've always been a believer in going with a lot of watts per channel, not so much to produce high listening volume, but to have plenty of "headroom" in the system so that the sound is better even at modest volume. 100 watts always seemed like a good target. I was therefore a little unsure of the 80 watt rating of the HK, but all the reviews I read seemed to indicate that it would be OK. For those of you who have similar beliefs and concerns, I can tell you that the 80 watt HK is plenty adequate for a medium sized family room, particularly when paired with easy-to-drive speakers like the Klipsch Reference. The sound quality does not seem to be compromised at all by the "modest" 80 watt output. I have not auditioned the HK 3490, so I don't know if the additional power makes a difference in sound quality or not. If you are driving less efficient speakers, it might be worth exploring.

As others have noted, the sound is uncolored, although it seems rather warm sounding compared to the Yamaha. It sounds great - deep and smooth bass, clear and smooth highs - with a high quality sound to it. It is not fatiguing to listen to it for extended periods of time. Some say it sounds similar to a Denon, but I find the sound of many Denon's to be less clear than this receiver. Perhaps I just haven't heard the right Denon yet.

Like a lot of folks my age (58), I have a collection of old vinyl albums that don't see much action. This was not the primary reason I chose a receiver with phono inputs, but it seemed like a nice feature to have for those rare occasions (the old Yamaha had this feature as well). The HK 3390 is said to have an audiophile quality phono pre-amp in it, so I figured I might as well try listening to some of the old vinyl stuff to see what that was all about. The quality of the sound in this mode is spectacular, and I now fully understand why vinyl is making a come-back. The old records will be seeing a lot more action now. They simply sound better than CD's when played through quality equipment like this (aside from the usual clicks and pops, of course).

This receiver is worth its list price. At Amazon's discounted price, it's a bargain. An old fashioned 2 channel receiver may not be for everyone in this high tech world, but for those of us who use a 2 channel set up, it's great to find a product where the money goes into quality rather than features we'll never use.

Now, about that remote..... yes, it is quite large, almost comically so. But it works quite well and controls a lot of different functions. And you won't have any trouble finding it!
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 2, 2010 7:18:38 PM PST
Hello. Can you please tell me if the remote is capable of adjusting the volume on this receiver? Thanks for your time and consideration.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2010 9:37:24 PM PST
J. Irwin says:
Yes, you can adjust volume as well as the tuner and its presets. You can also use it to change any of the inputs (TV, CD, DVD, phono, etc), turn the unit on or off and even select A or B speakers. I would say the remote is capable of pretty much any function one could perform directly from the receiver. I have to admit, though, that I don't use the remote very often.

I might add that having owned the receiver for a while and having learned a little more about its capabilities, I would recommend getting top notch cables (I really like Ultralink) and possibly upgrading the CD player in order to enjoy it to its fullest. It is good enough to reveal weaknesses anywhere else in the system.

Let me know if I can provide any other info.

Posted on Apr 20, 2011 12:15:28 PM PDT
For what it's worth you couldn't tell the difference between 80 watts and 100 watts if I paid you to. No one can. The difference is miniscule.

98% of what you listen to you listen to at 0.5 - 10 watts. You only need the extra power for transient sounds like sticks on drums or guitar plucks or trumpet blasts. But then with 80 watts it all sounds very very real.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2011 1:06:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 20, 2011 1:24:13 PM PDT
J. Irwin says:
As it turns out, I recently replaced my HK 3390 with the HK 3490 (please see my review for the 3490). I have had the unusual opportunity to live with both receivers in my own home with the same speakers, and there is no question the 120 watt unit produces a better sound, even at the same listening volumes. The sound is fuller and has more depth and detail - undeniably so. Perhaps it's the sticks on drums or guitar plucks as you have suggested, but in the "laboratory of real life" the extra 40 watts makes a difference that anyone can easily hear. If you are considering the 80 watt unit, I would recommend spending a few extra bucks and getting the 3490. The 3390 is a fine unit, but the 3490 is better still.

Posted on May 8, 2011 8:57:00 PM PDT
Thank you very much for your thoughtful assessment of the HK. I saw that you paired the 3390 with the Klipsch speakers. Were there any other speakers you were considering? Can you suggest other (perhaps less expensive) speakers that might pair nicely with the HK 3390?

Thanks very much.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2011 9:50:53 PM PDT
J. Irwin says:
Hi, Geoff.

My search for better sound actually began with the speakers, and the receiver came afterwards. So, I'm not really sure what other speakers would be a good choice, but I'm sure there are plenty of them out there. Everyone likes something different, so you might find less expensive speakers that you like just as much or better. If you can find a local shop that deals in a lot of different brands, try auditioning several of them.

I should probably add that after owning the HK 3390 for about a year, I purchased the HK 3490. There was an instant rebate kind of thing that brought the price down to about what I paid for the 80 WPC unit, and the 120 watt unit is truly spectacular. Not sure what the difference in price is now, but if it's anything like close, I'm sure you'd enjoy the bigger unit. The 3390 is also a fine product, so you can't really go wrong, but the higher output unit won't disappoint. It has some add'l features that make a big difference as well.

Let me know if I can answer any other questions.
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