The Harman Kardon CP 35 Home Theater system is a
Home Theater in a Box (HTIB) that by volume, represents the maximum that
should be crammed into one box. In fact, although complete speaker packages
are often called HTIBs, the term should really only apply to complete
setups, as is this one.
The CP3 35 consists of a DVD player, receiver,
speakers, and subwoofer. Wiring, such as RCA cables and S-Video, is
included, but there is no six-channel interconnect for using the DVD-A
capability. But, basically, this set has everything you need to be watching
surround sound movies without shopping further, assuming you have a display.
Speaker brackets for wall mounting are included in the box, but speaker
stands are extra. I received a pair of stands for this review.
This is a handsome rig. The electronic components are a sleek silver and grey with dark
black displays when turned off. Powering on gives you a cool blue light
that highlights the buttons along with the oversize volume knob on the receiver. The
information part of the 335's display is green, with large, easily readable
The speakers are also silver. These are diminutive, so they are easily hidden
amongst a living room that has other purposes besides home theater. But,
these speakers could also serve as a beautiful addition to your décor,
especially if your tastes lean towards the sleek and modern.
A fine metal
mesh wraps all the way around the triangular speakers. This mesh gives off a
pleasing glitter in almost any light. The stands are taller than most and
are also striking, being constructed so that the mounted speaker
(satellite) leans back from vertical by about 15 degrees. I didn't perform
any tests to see if this arrangement enhanced or detracted from the sound
experience but it clearly added to the visual experience.
The subwoofer is a big one, and will require a bit of space (someone at HK
knows the importance of being able to kick butt in the low frequencies). It
has the same metal mesh wrapped around the bottom. If you
place the subwoofer near your display, in your line of sight, you might want
to cover the orange LED so that it doesn't distract.
Making all the necessary connections was easier than usual in
that the included interconnects and speaker wires are all color coded to
match the connectors on the back of the AVR 335 and DVD 31.
The speaker binding
posts on the receiver are a little too close together for my fingers. To
alleviate this common problem I've invested in a gaggle of banana plugs that
I can connect to speaker wire while sitting on the couch and then simply
plug in to the receiver or amp. Man over wire. If you really want to get
fancy, you can purchase the new Locking Banana Plugs that let you tighten
them by turning a ring on the plug. This will keep the plugs from coming
Here is a link where you can buy them. Not cheap, but a good investment
for any system.
The AVR 335 comes with Harman Kardon's EZSet
procedure for speaker set-up. This automates the process of calibrating the speaker delay and volume to
compensate for placement and other room anomalies. Utilizing the procedure is a really smart
thing to do because the processor in the receiver can do this crucial task
faster and more accurately than the processor between your ears. If you
insist that you are smarter than the processor in the receiver, you can tweak
the results on your own after the running EZSet.
To run EZSet, simply plug the
included microphone into the jack and place the microphone at the
listening/viewing position, press the OSD (On Screen Display) button on the
remote, and follow the on-screen instructions. The whole process takes less
than a minute.
The only adjustment I made after running EZSet was to turn the volume down
on the subwoofer. I'm not a big fan of booming special effects, and since I'm more
interested in what my subwoofer can do for music, I typically have the sub
dialed down. I find the best results for subwoofers to be off to the side of my
viewing position, but your mileage may vary. The HK sub has a phase switch, not a
knob, so your choices are 00 (Normal) and 1800
(Reverse). I kept
it in the Normal setting.
This DVD player is no slouch. I started out using an S-Video connection
since that was what was supplied. I found the picture satisfying but I was
starting to compile a list of critiques. Then I dug out a component video
cable and starting making a list of accolades.
The DVD 31 presents a sharp picture which I favor, but I never felt fatigued
by it. Images had excellent depth and realism. When you go shopping for DVD
players or displays, take along a copy of The Fifth Element. The opening
desert scenes are a good way to judge color and the ability to deliver a
striking image. The scene where Leeloo first encounters the future NY City
on the ledge of a high rise is the standard for depth and detail. The DVD 31
rendered this scene beautifully, with the distant buildings and vehicles
truly distant, yet still distinct. The closer objects appeared realistic,
not computer generated. Perhaps as a way to balance the artificial world
created for this movie, The Fifth Element also offers many close-ups of
faces with five o'clock shadows, wrinkles, or pock marks. It's a welcome relief
from standard Hollywood fare. The DVD 31 did a great job with these; I've
seen better, but that was on a DVD player costing more than this entire
This DVD player also does blacks extremely well. I never saw blotchiness,
patches, or other signs of breakdown in dark scenes. In The Empire Strikes
Back, when Darth Vader arrives at the under-construction-Death Star, there
is a well lit shot of his helmet and cape. With the DVD 31, I could see the
differences between the shiny plastic helmet and what appears to be a cheap
blanket serving as the cape. Maybe you don't want to see this, though some
consider it part of the charm of the early Star Wars movies. Nonetheless,
the ability to render blacks is one of the most important things for a DVD
player and display.
The sharp picture from this player did have its drawbacks. This was revealed
on DVDs with lower quality transfers. I thought I was seeing a bit of red
push here and there, so I dug out Red. This movie is part of the Three
Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kievslowski, and is one of my favorite movies of
all time. The film is loaded with red. Red sweaters, a red jeep, red
awnings, red coffee cups. Seemingly every scene has some red in it
somewhere. Indeed there was a bit of push. In some scenes, Irene Jacob's red
sweater lost its texture, becoming a uniform field of video red. But, I also
noticed that this transfer is not-so-good. Kind of grainy. This is not the
fault of the player, and both of these things can be adjusted for in the
DVD player and the display, so this does not stop me from recommending the
Listening to Music
A common strategy in home theater systems is to
design the speakers for voices.
Since most of what you want to hear in a movie is people talking, this can
represent a good tradeoff. It's better though if the speakers can just give
you the full range. That is what this system does. It takes the whole
package to do it though, and I guess that is why they included such a big
While listening to CDs using analog connections, with no DSP in the receiver
active, physics won out and the three inch drivers in the front
pair of satellite speakers were not able to reproduce much if any of the bass
octave. Nonetheless, this became my favorite way to listen. As is the norm
these days, small speakers seem to deliver more than they have a right to,
and I find that less is more when it comes to digital processing.
reason to listen this way is the fact that the one part of digital
processing that is absolutely necessary, the conversion of the digital
stream for the disc to analog is handled in the DVD 31 by Wolfson DACs.
These are widely considered some of the best in the business right now. Wait a few
months and that may change, but I have to agree with the current thinking.
The sound in this mode is smooth and non fatiguing. But with bass heavy R&R, too much was missing. I found that with jazz and especially vocal
jazz like the excellent Smokey & Miho EP, the whole picture was entirely
engaging, and with excellent source material like this, intoxicating.
That's hardly the end of the story, however. This AVR has just about every
Dolby and DTS mode you've ever heard of and perhaps one you haven't: Harman Kardon's own Logic 7. This was the mode I used most when the music demanded
a full range presentation. In Logic 7, the system was able to transcend
the size of the drivers and seamlessly blend in the subwoofer for a full
sound that was very listenable and fully able to rock out.
I could and did
listen for long periods in this mode. Some consumers will only use their
home theater system for music occasionally, either because they have another
system for music (like an IPod – egads), or its just not their bag. If that's
you, you should definitely consider this system, even if you're like me and
feel that you need a pair of full range speakers for conventional stereo
listening. The CP 35 still deserves a listen because speakers can be
upgraded at any time and this is a fine sounding receiver and CD player.
The AVR 335 and DVD 31 can be purchased as separate components, and as such,
each comes with its own remote. As part of the CP 35 system, however, only the AVR 335 remote is included. This makes some sense as, like most
AVR remotes, it can be programmed and has buttons specifically for the
DVD player. Whether you like this arrangement or not will depend on how you
feel about having four, five, maybe even six remotes on your coffee table and couch. Me, I'm
perfectly comfortable with four remotes, but I feel a bit overwhelmed beyond
This remote is well sized but on the lighter side. The V-shape fits the
sleek presentation of the rest of the system. The volume, channel, and
on/off buttons are plenty large and intelligently laid out. The same is true
for the ‘select' button used in DVD navigation. The DVD play, pause, skip
and fast-forward buttons are at the bottom of the V, and are necessarily
on the small size. Once I got used to their location and relative layout, I
found the logic in having them there. My thumb could easily reach any of
them as I navigated and paused DVDs.
I do wish the remote were a bit heavier or perhaps balanced differently, but
my main gripe is with having to do dual duty with one remote. In reading the
following critique you should keep in mind that the alternative is to have
two remotes that you have to keep track of and fumble for just when you need
them most. With this remote, switching between DVD control and AVR control
causes a couple of hiccups. Harman Kardon smartly avoids most of these
issues by dedicating some of the buttons to a single function. The Play,
Fast Forward, Pause, and other such buttons apply only to the DVD player so it doesn't matter what mode
you have the remote in, when you press them you get the desired effect. I
wish they had done the same with the volume buttons though. The first thing
you want to do after pressing Play is to adjust the volume. That will have
no effect with this remote until you switch it back to AVR mode. It's only
one button press to do so (I can't believe I'm complaining about having to
push a button), but its hard to remember that you have to do that.
A second remote, with minimal functionality, is included for use in a second
‘zone' (elsewhere in your house).
The AVR 335 has a cooling fan on the back, but to my knowledge it did not
come on while I was using the system. Either that or it's dead quiet. My viewing
room is pretty cool, but I had the DVD player right on top of the receiver so
I was expecting some heat buildup.
The AVR 335 includes Dolby's new Headphone Mode. In
fact, it has three versions of that plus the ability to bypass. I tried the
headphone jack while listening to music, but not with movies. I had to turn the
sound way up to get good volume in my Grado 325Si's. Once I did, the sound
was good if a bit laid back. The Dolby Headphone modes were subtle, which is
good. I had a hard time choosing between the bypass mode and Dolby Headphone
3 which is meant to simulate a large concert hall with a wide soundstage.
There was definitely a difference between the two, but both were pleasing.
This is a seven channel home theater in a box system. If you
have room for seven speakers its definitely a better experience than five.
You could pay as much for a five channel system.
The owner's manuals were among the best I've seen. Clear and
complete descriptions of everything I thought to look for.
The Harman Kardon CP 35 HTIB is a very good package,
especially the DVD player and receiver. It will decode most of todays
formats, including DVD-A, and has seven channels, which should satisfy
anyone looking to get into home theater without breaking the bank.
- Rick Schmidt -