Harman/Kardon is one of the first manufacturers of stereo receivers, if not the first. They have been known for entering into the audio receiver market, well before any other manufacturer. The company continues to set the benchmark, as one of the best producers of AV receivers.

Fast forward to 2011, Harman/Kardon is now a company known world over by audiophiles and even by people who are remotely interested in AV technology. The company has expanded globally and they've now unveiled their brand new BDS 700 Blu-ray disc-enabled Harman/Kardon home entertainment system in India. The system includes BDS-5 Blu-Ray player, AV receiver and the acclaimed HKTS9 5.1 speaker system with active subwoofer.

Stylish front panel and big volume dial

Design and Build Quality
The Harman/Kardon BDS 700 home theatre system, unlike other brands is fitted with stand alone products and for the package is bundled up as one. We have the BDS-5 Blu-ray player cum AV receiver, the HKTS9 5.1 speaker system and a HKTS200SUB/ 230, which can also be purchased separately.

The BDS-5 Blu-ray and receiver is styled like other Harman/ Kardon receivers with a glossy black front and side panels, complete with a brushed silver top panel. This player is very stylish looking, and yet displays a sense of power which Harman/Kardon has been known for in the past few decades. The manufacturer has gone with a minimalistic design while designing the look of this product. There is a slot loader on the left of the front panel for a single disk. The LCD display flushes along the face of the front panel and is done very neatly, so much so that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from the rest of the panel. Like other AV receivers from Harman/Kardon, there is a large dial for adjusting volume and is grey in color. Below the face of the player is a USB slot, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack where a headset or a pair of earphones can be attached. This is seen on most players nowadays. On the top of the player are the circular on/off and eject buttons, which are designed really well and do not compromise the look of the player.

On the rear of the AV receiver is where all the connectors lie. Unlike other players, Harman/Kardon uses gold plated connectors for speakers. The connectors are neatly color coded for connecting to either the front, centre or surround speakers. Interestingly, Harman/Kardon has also added an Ethernet port on the rear thus making it possible to connect the player to the Internet for BD live content. Other connectivity options found at the back are an HDMI port, analog audio, digital audio, as well as a color coded LFE (Low Frequency Effects) subwoofer connector. Apart from HDMI, all these connectors are gold plated, as well.

Gold plated rear connectors

Gold plated rear connectors

The HKTS9 5.1 speaker system like the player is very stylish looking. The system includes four two way satellite speakers and one centre channel speaker. Each of these speakers include a mid-range driver and a tweeter, which are neatly concealed behind the speaker meshing. The HKTS200SUB/ 230 subwoofer, like the player has a glossy black finish. The woofer has four cone shaped stands, thereby elevating it allowing the woofer to fire downwards. There is a single light on the top of the player for displaying the on/off status of the woofer. The woofer has an on/off switch at the back along with other controls like adjusting the volume level, a toggle switch for turning on bass boost, a toggle switch for phase mode and other connectors for LFE and external trigger input. The BDS 700 remote control is a sleek and stylish looking controller and has its buttons well spaced. The controller features designated buttons for switching between the different modes such as Blu-ray, iPod, etc., which simplifies switching between the different modes.

Overall the design of the BDS 700 is really good and would be a good ‘looking’ option for a home theatre system.

Features
The BDS 700 is primarily a Blu-ray player and a receiver for the bundled 5.1 channel speaker set. This in itself is the standout feature of this kit. The other features of this player include an Ethernet port, but this is restricting as with the cable one can only connect to the Internet to receive BD Live content. One cannot use the Internet facility to stream YouTube videos or even connect to an NAS device for streaming content. In addition to Blu-rays, the player can also play audio and video content from a flash drive using the USB port located at the front. However, the player supports only FAT32 drives so storage options were limited.

The player can support 1080p video playback and can support popular formats such as DivX – AVI, MPEG, and MP4. The BDS-700 supports a wide range of audio formats and can also render them using Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD, which are mostly found on higher end players.

Glossy subwoofer, centre and satellite speakers

Glossy subwoofer, centre and satellite speakers

The player also has an option called iPod Connect where one can use an iPod or an iPhone by pairing it with a Harman/Kardon Bridge IIIP to play content from the said portable device. However the dock is not included in the BDS 700 bundle and has to be purchased separately.

Performance
The Harman/Kardon BDS 700 was hooked to a Panasonic 65-inch 65VT20 Viera Plasma HDTV via an HDMI cable. The speakers were calibrated, according to the dimensions of our test lab to get the optimum results from the home theatre system. We tested the player using all the out of the box settings with minimal tweaking. We ran our tests using a Blu-ray of How To Train Your Dragon and also standard definition videos, as well as HD videos stored on a flash drive.

Sleek looking remote control

Sleek looking remote control

The Blu-ray playback was really good and the video rendered well. There were no issues with video quality and images displayed were crisp. The satellite speakers all fired well and the subtle background tones could be made out well from the rear channels. Voices were very audible through the centre channel and overall there was no issue with video playback through the Blu-ray feature. Playing videos through the USB flash drives was equally good, but it goes without saying that the Blu-ray playback was much better.

The audio playback was quite shallow. We noticed that though the volume was loud, there was a fair amount of emptiness in the form of lacking frequency response noticed. The speakers lacked the thump expected from a brand of their quality. The system needed to be tweaked to get the maximum out of it, and then it was a lot better. Out of the box, the audio playback just does not cut it. After tweaking, the playback was good with all of the deft tones noticed. The speakers having 65 watts per channel fired on all counts except for mids to a mild extent. There was the desired thump emitting from the 200 Watt subwoofer and no other playback issues. The remote control of the home theatre system performed really well even at distances of over 10 feet. There was no need to point it directly at the system. Pointing it in its general and selecting options worked pretty well too.

Glossy black and very visually appealing

Glossy black and very visually appealing

Verdict
The BDS 700 is priced at a market operating price of Rs. 59,990, which includes taxes. Though the BDS 700 Blu-ray home theatre system did well in the looks department, as a Blu-ray capable home theater system, the cost is way too high. We see decent features and these are a powerful set of speakers, but out of the box, they lacked the quality expected. Harman/Kardon is in a league of its own and will continue to flourish the way they have been all these years. In this case, they’ve tried to create a package that competes with some of the mainstream brands; the end result isn’t as stunning or as jaw-dropping as it should have been.

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