HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



October
2001

Reviewed by
Jeff Fritz
REVIEWERS' CHOICE 2001




B&K
AVR307
Audio/Video Receiver

Features SnapShot!

Description

Price: $3500 USD
Dimensions: 17"W x 7"H x 15.5"D
Weight: 55 pounds

Warranty: Five years parts and labor

Features

  • Motorola DigitalDNA processor
  • THX Ultra certified
  • Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro Logic, DTS
  • AM/FM stereo tuner
  • Video inputs: composite (7), S-video (7), component (2)

Features (cont'd)
  • Video outputs: composite (5), S-video (5), component (1)
  • Audio inputs: Stereo (7)
  • Digital inputs: coaxial (6), optical (5)
  • Six-channel analog input
  • Eight-channel surround output
  • Room equalization
  • Adjustable subwoofer crossover (frequency and slope)
  • On-screen menu
  • RS-232 control
  • Gold-plated connectors
  • IR inputs/outputs
  • Two-zone operation

B&K Components established itself in the audio industry long before the home-theater revolution began. By producing solidly built power amplifiers and preamplifiers that the performance-minded enthusiast could afford, they became known as a company that didn’t skimp on quality and didn’t overcharge their customers. B&K still produces a line of two-channel amplifiers and a preamp/tuner, which continues their fine two-channel heritage started many years ago. More importantly for Home Theater & Sound readers, B&K has changed with the times, embracing home-theater and multichannel components.

Successful companies know how to read the marketplace, adapting and producing what the consumer wants and needs, while maintaining the identity that established them in the first place. I know of no other company that has done this as successfully as B&K. Marrying some of the latest digital technology with tried-and-true analog-circuitry expertise, they have produced the AVR307 audio/video receiver under review here.

The B&K AVR307 felt different when I unboxed it. Many receivers have a mass-produced look and feel to their construction, possibly exhibiting cost-effective manufacturing techniques, but revealing little in the way of old-fashioned workmanship. The AVR307 appears to be put together with the care and attention to detail worthy of separates. Its thick aluminum front panel and the clean, uncluttered layout of its circuit boards and transformer inspire confidence. This thing is built! It also looks good. You will be proud to display it and folks will instantly know you are a serious enthusiast.

Setup and features

Home-theater receivers are complicated compared with almost any other audio component. Specifically, the setup and use of all of the various surround parameters can be a nightmare to any but the most experienced and technically oriented consumer. It doesn't have to be this way, though. Internet users will typically tell you that any page within a website should be no more than two clicks away from the homepage. I would like to see the same rule apply to home-theater receivers and processors. Too often, the parameter you wish to adjust is buried within multiple sub-menus. It may as well be on Mars! Dude, where’s my speaker-level setting?

The B&K AVR307 offers an astounding array of setup flexibility, but has the simplest user interface I’ve ever seen. From an ergonomic standpoint, the designers of this receiver got it right. The setup is a snap, with a clearly laid-out, easily navigable menu that takes you through the whole process logically. Even the more advanced features, such as room equalization and the adjustable subwoofer crossover, make sense with no more than a glance at the corresponding screen.

Getting down to the nuts and bolts, there are several features included in the AVR307 that are especially useful. That adjustable crossover, for example, will allow you to tailor this setting for your individual system, giving you more options than the standard 80Hz THX specification. If you can easily locate your subwoofer's position from its sound, lowering the crossover frequency generally helps make it more omnidirectional. If you have especially small or fragile mains, and have invested in a rather potent, high-quality subwoofer, raising the frequency may be the ticket. This would allow a little more headroom from your main speakers while assigning more bass to a speaker more capable of handling and producing it. In this case, you would end up with more dynamics and better overall sound.

The parametric equalizer and built-in tone generator also help match your system's bass response to the room. Using a standard SPL meter, you can determine if your room has a peak -- mine came in strong at 50Hz. The AVR307 allows you to adjust the problem frequency’s level and bandwidth so that you can flatten the peak without significantly affecting the range above and below the problem. You effectively "notch" the hump, which makes the bass sound more natural and precise because you hear the whole range, not just the problem frequency. This is such a useful feature for real-world rooms that I’m surprised we don’t see it in more products. Well, wait a minute...that type of functionality takes a lot of processing, and many receivers simply don’t have the available "horsepower." The B&K AVR307 uses Motorola’s DigitalDNA technology to provide all of this functionality, and I’m here to tell you they pull it off without a hitch.

The remote follows the receiver’s lead in being easy to use and intuitive. One function I found especially useful was the ability to trim the levels of the mains, center, surrounds, and subwoofer directly from the remote. You don’t have to interrupt the movie to enter into a setup menu. And let's face it, some movies need a boost in dialogue or a lowering of the LFE, for example.

Performance

An excellent user interface is a great start, and should be a prerequisite for home-theater receivers, but it would mean little without the performance to back up the features. That is precisely the strength of this component. The AVR307 sounds superb. It presents dialogue with a smooth, clear character that enhances vocal intelligibility. Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance DVD is a good choice for illustrating the AVR307’s ability to re-create the sometimes smooth, sometimes coarse voice of Stevie Nicks. Listen to "Silver Springs" -- if your speakers are capable of reproducing this level of detail, the B&K will keep its end of the bargain by supplying the signal with excellent fidelity. There doesn’t seem to be any one area that stands out from the rest. In fact, I would call the sound basically neutral; there is no artificial highlighting of detail or added warmth to voices. This may sound a bit plain at first, but it is precisely a neutral sound that yields long-term satisfaction.

The bass is tight and deep, but not bloated. The AVR307 does not have the extremely powerful presentation you might find in a behemoth power amplifier, but it does sound drastically more powerful than you would expect from a typical receiver. The driving bass from the M: I-2 DVD comes through with agility and dynamic ease, for example, but not quite the "on steroids" sound I have occasionally heard. This type of sound will go unnoticed over time, again primarily because no aspect of the presentation stands out. If you listen to concert DVDs such as James Taylor’s Live at Beacon Theater, you will appreciate the subtle nuances that come through with the B&K at the helm. It’s this ability to differentiate the tiny subtleties in a vocalist’s repertoire that adds to the realism of the moment. I would attribute this, at least partially, to the neutral overall character of the B&K’s sound.

The B&K AVR307 also handles dynamics with ease. There was no apparent lack for power when I watched Gladiator, which challenged the unit's 150W power rating (to each of seven channels!). If the sound becomes strained during a movie like this, you tend to lose the fidelity of the musical soundtrack within the louder effects. The B&K had enough juice to reproduce the whole spectrum of sounds, music, effects, and voices, without compressing or distorting. Those with impossibly difficult mains could theoretically add one of B&K’s stereo power amplifiers to ease the stress of the internal amplifiers of the AVR307, but this would be atypical for sure. It should be noted that the noise floor is very low too, much more so than on typical receivers. I’m sure this is partly due to the analog expertise B&K has with their amplifier sections, but whatever the reason, it yields a much more high-end sound than you might expect.

If you listen to music on CD, you will find the two-channel presentation just as pleasing. I doubt many will feel the need to replace the B&K AVR307 with a separate preamp and power amp, as little would be gained until you moved to much higher-priced components such as the Krell TAS. Listening to Dido’s No Angel [Arista 07822-19025-2] in its entirety, I was impressed by the AVR307’s ability to portray the subtle bass lines in the recording while keeping the vocals sweet and smooth. Lastly, I tried the pre-outs into a dedicated power amp (a Krell KSA-250) to check the performance of the preamp section, and found no discontinuities; the sound was clean and solid, just as in every other mode.

Showdown

This review would not be complete without a comparison between two of the most beastly receivers on the market. The B&K AVR307 and the Denon AVR-5800 have battled it out in dealers’ showrooms across the country for a while now, each finding their niche. First, both are excellent performers, so there really is no loser, but there are differences. The B&K AVR307 has an easier user interface with more flexibility where I needed it. It scores points over the Denon with both its adjustable crossover and room equalization features. The menus are easier to navigate and more intuitive as well.

Sound quality is very close, but while the Denon may sound marginally more powerful on some program material, and has a slightly more exciting sound, the B&K is quieter and capable of displaying more subtlety when called on. Both receivers have an excellent sound when playing concert DVDs, and perform closer to what one would expect of separates than a receiver. These two components just don’t give up much to separates priced slightly more. In this respect, the praise heaped on integrated amplifiers the last few years is just as applicable to these bruiser receivers. It’s hard to declare a winner here, because I just love these two products. At the end of the day though, I’d rather own the B&K.

Conclusion

I’ve been a bit spoiled over the years, having many high-end amplifiers and preamplifiers to listen through. This has led me to regard home-theater receivers skeptically since they usually sacrifice sound and build quality for bells and whistles. The B&K AVR307 has probably done more to change my perception than any other receiver I have seen, including the excellent Denon AVR-5800. The buyer of this product can expect a neutral, natural sound and an excellent user interface. It may not have 65 music modes to choose from, but who cares? It has the features where it counts, and that is in adjustments to make it sound better in your system. It is also a bridge to what one can expect to find in high-end separates in terms of build quality and attention to detail. Oh, and it is also supported by a manufacturer that offers upgrades and service, with an excellent reputation. Combine all these attributes and you have a state-of-the-art home-theater receiver.

Review System
Speakers - Acoustic Research Hi-Res System (AR3, AR15, AR2C), Wilson Audio Specialties (X-1 Grand SLAMM Series III, WATT/Puppy 6, WATCH Center), Von Schweikert Audio (VR-3.5, LCR-35)
Source - Technics DVD-A10 DVD player
Amplifier - Krell KSA 250
Cables - JPS Labs Ultraconductor speaker cables, Apature interconnects, Audio Alchemy digital cable
Monitor - Sony WEGA Trinitron direct-view TV
 

Manufacturer contact information:

B&K Components Ltd.
2100 Old Union Road
Buffalo, NY 14227
Phone: 1-800-543-5252
Fax: (716) 656-0026

E-mail: info@bkcomp.com
Website: www.bkcomp.com

 


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