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Amplifier Harman-Kardon HK6500 review

First appearances can be deceptive. After all, a glance at Harman’s HK6500 fails to reveal anything particularly special, but listen to the amp and you’ll realise it’s far from humdrum. It’s the mid-ranking model and, ostensibly, little different from either the HK6300 or HK6600 except for its power output. The matt black alloy fascia is dotted with gold lettering and a row of knobs specified for input and rec-out selection, balance, bass and treble tone control. The company has also fitted a hard-wired A/B speaker selector – good as far as it goes but HK should resort to local relay switching.

Inputs are provided for two tape decks, three line sources and both MM and MC disc inputs. Four smaller buttons switch in the phase-correct loudness, subsonic filter, mono and an extra tape monitor loop to cater for a graphic (aargh) or surround-sound processor. Unusually, the HK6500 is not equipped with either a tone-defeat or source-direct option.

Inside there is a clutch of PCBs linked by a wealth of ribbon cabling. It’s highly unlikely that the guts of this amplifier have ever seen a CAD system, but HK’s use of wholly discrete components (including the MC headamp and RIAA network) is to be commended. So too is its use of high-current Toshiba transistors.

Sound Quality

Powerfully emotive and provoking a very strong reaction from the panel, this amp certainly re-kindled their passion for music near the end of a long session of listening. It demonstrated a strong, authoritative grip over the busiest of pop recordings, its firm hand conjuring up a big and bold sound. So, even though the 6500 was not the very model of clarity, its grand acoustic and full resonant weight came to the fore when reproducing a deep bass drum or rich, grumbling double bass.

Via the CD input the amp was marvellously open and detailed. There was a slight roughness to strong brass, otherwise its unswerving confidence was a sheer delight.

Conclusion

Likened to the Pioneer A-400 in many respects, the HK6500 received very little criticism from the panel. Yet, technically at least, there are avenues for improvement open to HK. Too expensive for a Best Buy, it nevertheless deserves a hearty recommendation.

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