In my opinion H.K was a much better product back before JBL purchased them..Harmon Kardon of years ago was a very high quality product..I am not an expert on the JBL/H.K. product my guess is its pretty much a trickle down product now...Just my guess....
I have a HK PA 2100 amp. Sounds great, versitile also.
I've owned a lot of HK over the years and over the past 5-10 years, the quality has started to wane. I have an 880Vxi as the guts for my spare system and I still believe the CD-491 was one of the best, if not the best, cassette decks ever...and I was someone who owned and loved my Nakamichi CR-7a.
I've always thought HK is a good sound value but have never been sold on overall reliability and quality control over the years.
I'll take Citation tube stuff you can have ALL the rest.
I have heard two recently-made receivers and although they weren't cheap models, they sounded like it. They lacked definition in the treble and midrange and that messed everything up. They sure looked good though! Ultimately I had my friend get a Marantz receiver in the same price range instead and the sound was significantly better. I forget the model numbers, sorry.
I recently listened in as someone auditioned a pair of Maggies running of an HK A/V receiver. It sounded perfectly fine. Didn't get to a/b it against other amps though.
I have an HK AVR that I used to use before I went to a dedicated two-channel audio system. It was great for watching movies, but you can do much better for audio.
Unfortunately, the HK products of the last 10 years have been decent performing, but horribly built. They will break down or self-destruct quicker than other brands over time.
Watched my HK go up in smoke, literally, a few years back.
Harman Kardon is mid range audio - probably good value for the money but not the high end (I had HK receiver once).
Harman Kardon belongs to Harman International Industries that also owns JBL, Infinity, Revel and Epicure loudspeakers, as well as professional audio systems with such brands as JBL Professional, UREI, Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Studer, DOD, Lexicon, AKG, BSS, Orban, DBX, Quested and Turbosound.
My former college roommate is still using his HK receiver he bought used in 1975! The solid-state Citation 18 tuner is very well-regarded. The Citation I and II are beloved tube classics, the 14 is a decent tuner and the 22 is a good power amp. The Citation 23 can be a great bargain for urban use if you get a good one. The 12 and 16 are good subwoofer or low-frequency amps but not up to current standards. Have fun!
The HK 990 integrated is probably my favorite 2 channel integrated on the market. I always liked the digital in, 2.2 channel, room corrected, digital bass management approach, but I was unable to hear one until recently. I only got a brief listen and the main speakers were unfamiliar, but the overall SQ of the system was outstanding. The bottom octaves sounded right in a way that, for me, seems to require this digital signal processing approach. At the price (under $2k), I think it's a crazy value - particularly if your source material is 100% digital.
BTW, the power amp section is derived from a Mati Otala (Citation) design, FWIW.
If I ever build another 2 channel system, this is likely my choice of amplification.
i'm a longtime HK fan--their amps have almost always sounded better to me than their peers, perhaps because of their high current designs and minimal reliance on negative feedback. their 70s stuff (730/930 receivers, citation amps) is classic, and after sidney harman re-acquired the company from the japanese in 1985, they resumed making very sounding gear (the late 80s pm665 integrated is especially noteworthy). as others have stated, their quality started declining in the 90s, although much of it still sounds good by mass-market standards. the recent hk 990 seems to be their attempt to re-assert themselves as serious player, and like marty says, it's an exceptional unit.
The HK 990 looks pretty nice. Lots of current delivery and power doubles into 4 ohm in a $2500 integrated? Gotta check that out sometime.
You've probably heard this before, but it all comes down to synergy. let me share a story with you. back in the late 90s, i friend of mine had the legacy focus being pushed by a pair of hk monoblocks. i cant remember the source or the preamp. my system was a denon integrated, a pair of infinity reference 4s (i think) and a denon cd player. huge speakers vs small speakers. 100 watt monoblocks vs an 80 watt integrated. we set up both systems in the same room and a-b'd them. my very modest system, both in size and price, beat the living crap out of his. i have never looked back at hk since for anything. he was so disappointed that he sold the 2 amps the very next day and upgraded to the big nad 280 amp.
synergy works wonders.
Harman Kardon Citation 1 Tube PreAmp, Perhaps one of the very best designed and sounding pre amps to this very day.