Ok so finally I got my home theater (in a box). I have been always wanting to get some serious receiver (or processor and amp) and matching floor standers. I went and auditioned many speakers (B&W, Monitor audio, Paradigm etc) and I really liked those. For almost two years I put off buying these due to space issue and budget issue-of course. Placing the front floor standing speakers in my living room was not as much of an issue as the surrounds were. Putting the surround speakers on stand behind or around the sofa was definitely not an option due to space. Mounting them on wall was also not the best way since walls were not equi-distance from my listening position.
Then a friend of mine finally convinced me to get a home theater in a box as an intermediate solution and assured that it would be a significant leap from just two mediocre speakers I had attached from my Aiwa stereo. I researched many home theaters after that (on line mostly and some in the stores). The most promising that I found was Harman Kardon CP35. It had many good reviews on Vanns and some other websites. The specs were nice for an HTIB. I tried going to some local stores in NJ, but none of them carried it. Actually, none of them carried any HK HTIB, well except one-Sound City in Denville. I really really wanted to listen to CP35 it before buying. But then again since I could not find this on display anywhere, I thought any system listed at $1899 on manufacturer’s website cannot be all that bad. None of the stores like BB, CC, Sears etc even had any HK HTIB (CP15, CP25) on the floor. I spoke to someone on the phone in Sound City’s store and that person highly recommended this system but when I went to their store, the salesperson recommended Onkyo C787 over the HK CP35. I simply did not like the speaker size of Onkyo and the looks. They did not even have it on the floor, but I listened to one of the predecessor of C787. Don’t get me wrong, Onkyo C787 is also a great system. So finally I decided to order HK CP35 from Vanns. They had a great deal going on this one. So after much deliberation I placed an order and finally got it last Friday.
I am not an audiophile, so consider this review coming from an average movie-watching, music-listening person. Sure I can certainly tell when I like the sound or not or if I find it too harsh or sweet and smooth. When I auditioned floor standers like B&W 8-series or Definitive Technology, Paradigm or Polks, I could hear the difference like any average person could So here it goes….
Packaging: Very nice. All individual boxes within one huge box packed well fitting snugly.
Receiver: This is some serious receiver for an HTIB. I prefer this setup over some other HTIB where the amplifier is built in the sub-woofer. It leaves one with much less options. This receiver supports almost every sound format you can think of. Its not THX certified, but I seriously do not care. No HDMI, but then again one should not expect an HTIB receiver to have an HDMI-at least not yet. Enough input and output for an average family to be able to watch TV, DVD, Cable/Satellite, VCR and listening to music.
Speakers/subwoofer: Very well made, not light weight and looks really cool with mesh aluminium grill covering it. The brackets for wall mounts looks flimsy and feels like they might break if handled roughly. I have not yet mounted the surround speakers on the wall. Speaker size is very reasonable (around 9”) and will match my soon-to-arrive Panasonic Plasma. This TV is combination of Black and Silver and so is the receiver. The speakers are capable of delivering good sound for an average size room. There are total eight speakers in this HTIB. The receiver has an EZSet+ options which will configure each speakers for optimum sound. It takes only two minutes after the speakers and sub woofers are attached. I have only attached the 5.1 and two surround back speakers are still in the box. May be in future I will connect them, but for now I am very content with the sound quality delivered from my 5.1 channel speakers. I have this setup in my LR which is about 12 feet wide in the front side and 25 feet long. Behind my listening position, it becomes around 16 feet wide. So its not a perfect rectangle. My listening position will be around be 12” from the center channel/TV/Subwoofer. I like the subwoofer, its little on larger side, but very well build, nice silver look and good Thump.
DVD Player: Can not say much about it, but it is slim, looks very nice, fits perfectly in the whole setup and plays DVD great! It plays many formats of DVD and delivers excellent picture. Plays my CDs well too. I have not tried MP3 CDs yet, but I believe it should work fine with this DVD player. I will not use this DVD player to play CDs for too long though. Connected the DVD player using component video cable.
Here is the most frustrating part in the whole setup. Do not be alarmed, the CP 35 and all its components are fine, but it’s the cables that came in to play at this point. I had my existing Sony DVD player connected to my TV using component video cable for pictures. I bought a new pair of Belkin component video cables from CC. Used this new cable to connect between the HK DVD player and HK receiver. Used the old cable between receiver and TV. Got the Black and White picture.. ! Checked all connection to make sure all Y, Pb and Prs are connected correctly. No mistakes there. This leads me to think that new Belkin cable I got from CC was bad, fair assessment you’d think. Fortunately I had another cable (Acoustic Research) bought from BB, which I used instead of the Belkin one. Still got the b&w pictures. Frustration level rose a little. Started thinking its either the receiver which is bad or DVD player. Next I disconnected the DVD player from system, used my old Sony DVD player, same problem.
Then I tried to connect the DVD player directly to TV using old and new cables. Here is the fun part-B/W picture with my old cable, and Belkin cable. The Acoustic Research cable worked fine. Tried with both old Sony and new HK DVD player, same results. So, it was a little relief to know neither DVD player nor receiver was bad, but it was the cable. So I went to BB and got 4 new Acoustic Research cables. Whats more fun then discovering that one more AR cable was bad. Finally I got two sets of new Acoustic Research cable that worked fine. Returned bad cables to stores…. Not only two brand new cables were bad on me, but also my old one which was working just fine up until now also went bad on me. I only wonder why?
So anyway, after the whole thing was setup, I played ‘Behind the Enemy Lines’ movie. Great sound! Coincedently, I had the same movie playing at BB, on some Denon 8.1 channel HTIB system, and the sound was harsh. So I had great comparison right there. Same movie at home, same sequence where two SAMs were chasing Owen Wilson’s F16 and it was a joy to watch and hear it.
Verdict: I love this system and for anybody who is looking for a step up from regular TV sound, has space or budget an issue, needs compact, good looking and great sounding HTIB and do not want to break their bank on things like Bose, this is the system to go for. It delivers great sound for me and I am very happy that I got it. Btw, did I tell you that I got it only for $1098 from Vanns, free delivery and no sales-tax.
Other options considered:
Sony Dream system
KEF KHT200 (Pricey $3000, and not yet readily available in the USA, but Great black killer looks)
Well, this is actually a review on the system that my grandad had isntalled in his house today. It was purchased along with a set of the HKTS 2 speaker stands, and everything came in only 2 boxes. First impression: the packing of the equipment is first rate, with tons of instructions. The equipment also came with all of the cables and speaker wires required to set it all up, and there were even sticker labels included to label everything behind the components, which were also colour coded. After setting the system up, calibrating the processing with the EZ-Set feature (and some fine tuning manually) we tested the system with various DVD's, CD's, and also the Tuner. All we can say is wow. We've never seen an all-in-one setup like this that is so well desinged, so flexible and capable. Clean clear and concise highs, smooth mids, and outstanding low end detail as well. The sub barely had to be used because it simply filled the whole room with bass, even at low volumes on the receiver and the amp in the sub. The speakers all match beautifully, the stands are very tastefull, and none of the physical sizes are intrusive into the room. Even though this system came in one box, when you open it, it's all seperate boxes...an AVR 335, a DVD 31, HKTS 14, HKTS 7's...and that's all you need. Even though the receiver is rated at 55wats RMSx7, it's at 8 ohms and 35 amps current per channel, so it's ready to rock at any volume, and with any source. Of course the system sounded crystal clear on movies, and have outstanding sound staging, and separation and delay timing, but it also had just as impresive performance on 2ch recordings. I must say that this system, though small compared to some, it's simply stunning. I've heard many systems costing more money, with physically bigger components and speakers, and they don't really sound much better than this system does. Paired with a 42" Panasonic Viera Plazma TV, it simply does not fail to impress. It impressed us so much, that my dad is considering buying one of these systems now for his place, and I'm thinking of getting one as well for my own place next year. Trust me when I say that you get sheer North American muscle from the CP35. Worth every penny, and sounds awesome with everything you throw at it.