No video upscaling or multichannel inputs Could have a bit more sparkle Sony has been hitting hard in the serious-but-on-a budget sector of the AV receiver market, and the STR-DH promises to be a veritable Brian Lara. More to the point, while its humble price tag may suggest humble electronic design, the STR-DH has been tweaked and tuned by the same folks that brought us the lush ES series receivers. In fact, word on the street well, Kyu kaigan-dori Ave outside Sony HQ is that the team spent a whole lot more time and money designing and tuning this amp than the retail price is ever likely to recoup. Could this be a serious product at a bargain price designed to secure market share and brand equity? I have my suspicions. Not least of which because the feature list of the STR-DH is long, comprehensive and jam-packed with proprietary Sony technologies.
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Sony produces equipment covering just about as wide an affordability gamut as any company, and this STR-DH is one step up from its latest base-level DH AV receiver. But of course power ratings are complex things. That would mean an output of around 67W per channel into eight ohms, or perhaps a touch more given the reduced current demands.
There are seven channels and they are organised with sufficient flexibility to allow you to bi-amp the front stereo pair of speakers, or to drive rear surround or a pair of height speakers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, both of which are supported.
Image credit: Sony There are couple of compromises. Four-ohm speakers are not supported. Second, all but the front left and right channels use spring-clip connections, not binding posts. They accept cable up to about 1. There are no analogue video connections of any kind, but four stereo analogue audio inputs, as well as one coaxial and one optical digital audio. So not a generous collection, but enough to cover the requirements of most systems, and more than enough for most entry and middling systems.
Not included with this receiver are some things that those used to higher-cost gear might expect. There is no support for a second zone.
And notably there is no support for networking at all, either Wi-Fi or Ethernet. However there is Bluetooth, which may be far more important for those seeking a receiver at this price point. I say no. This arrangement worked almost as seamlessly. The two-prong power cable is of modest thickness and is fixed.
A stubby Sony infrared remote is provided. There is, of course, no app or network control available. Image credit: Sony Performance When you start up the receiver it presents a kind of basic user menu across the screen of your TV. The receiver comes with a calibration microphone for the auto-calibration system, which sets speaker sizes, levels, distances and EQ. This was fast and easy to use, and involves putting the included microphone in just one position.
So I tweaked those settings manually. Most of the sound-field settings ended up with a rather strong bass, much higher than that normally provided by AV receivers.
Who does it right? It lets you change important things. Each entry had a useful little description on screen to tell you what it does. The plethora of surround and processing modes can be daunting, so for anyone not thoroughly versed in all this stuff, this is an important feature.
This sets the reference which the auto EQ curves seek to approximate. I got that from the online manual. The information you need is split between the printed one in the box and the online manual. Initially I was thinking Sony had stepped back by a decade to how things used to be done, adjusting while peering at the display on a receiver, but it turns out that most of the settings merely duplicate things available in the on-screen menus.
Although some of the non-duplicated things were HDMI settings and so on. Both worked perfectly with the Game and Media Box inputs.
I tried different HDMI cables. Who knows what was going on there. And sound? I installed my speakers as a basic 5. The Sony auto-calibration did a good job tonally with the sound. And I was able to just enjoy some really classy results. When it came time for me to watch Blade Runner on Ultra-HD, I was tempted to go back to a very immoderately priced receiver, but I persisted.
This receiver did the job very thoroughly. Could it have been done better by a more expensive system? Oh, I guess, but it happens fast and it happened convincingly via the Sony. This Sony receiver has Bluetooth on-board, but no networking or internet access. Image credit: Sony As for music, again the results were very strong so long as I remained within the capabilities of the receiver and used speakers suited to it.
Can you cheat and go with four-ohm speakers if you already have them? We would never recommend that you do, of course. But if you must, then just be cautious with levels. And I must report my experience.
There was a short when a cable slipped out. I am happy to report that there was no drama. The sound stopped. The receiver reported briefly on its front panel display something about overload and protection, and then switched itself off. I checked and fixed the wiring situation and then switched it back on. The receiver came straight on and was ready to go. There was no sound still, but then I realised that the receiver had also turned the volume down to zero.
Another good bit of design — some people encountering such a switch-off might just switch it back on with no further investigation. With the volume back up, all was just as it had been before. Good engineering Sony! What Hi-Fi? Newsletter Sign up below to get the latest from What Hi-Fi?
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