Sony STR-DN1080 A/V Receiver Review Page 2

Sony endows the STR-DN1080 with a range of different “audio optimizing” DSP functions, headlined by a DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) HX mode that, according to the company, “restores signals in the micro region of compressed sources, upsampling and expanding bit depth to the equivalent of a maximum of 192 kilohertz/24 bits for expressive sound quality closer to the original.” I have always been deeply skeptical of these algorithms, which nearly every receiver maker seems to include in some form. You can upsample and reformat digital audio all you want, but you’re not going to magically conjure data that isn’t there: A 160-kilobit-per-second MP3 upsampled to 96/24 is still a 160kbps MP3—and still sounds like it. That said, Sony’s DSEE HX didn’t do any harm perceptible to my ears, so if other listeners find it euphonic, so much the better. And I don’t suppose writing or licensing a few lines of code—more likely a few hundred or even a thousand lines—will raise a receiver’s cost very much.

717sonyrec.rem.jpgThe Sony’s video processing is fairly limited. The Home setup screen’s HDMI menu states, somewhat cryptically, “If you connect a 4K-compatible TV, 4K upscaling to HDMI is enabled automatically,” but my Vizio M55-C2 didn’t report 4K video from any 1080 sources. Via the receiver, the Vizio screen displayed passthrough 4K just fine from my Oppo BDP-105D disc player—but only when I set the player’s video option to force 4K output. Setting it to auto-4K didn’t do the trick, which suggested that the Oppo and the Sony had a failure to communicate properly. And if I forced both 4K output from the Oppo and upscaling within the Sony, the result was reported as 4K by the Vizio’s Info pop-up, but it occasionally displayed blocky, pixellated, sub-480-lines quality. My set-top box, with maximum output resolution of 1080p, stubbornly displayed in 1080 no matter the setting of the receiver’s HDMI scaling menu.

After a few days of this, I finally discovered the mysterious Help Guide, an online hypertext manual that offers a good deal more detail than the printed booklet supplied with the receiver. Here I learned (though only in a footnote) that the receiver’s upscaling operates only upon 1080p/24. So when I set the Oppo to force 1080p/24 output, the Sony upscaled it to 4K as promised—but since my set-top box’s sole 1080p option is fixed to 60 Hz, that one remained a no-go. In Sony’s defense, the Help Guide is clearly directed from the printed booklet’s “Manuals Provided for This Product” page, via a long HTTP address and a Q-code graphic. If only the many “See Help Guide” references scattered throughout the booklet had continued “(see page 6),” I’d have found it a lot sooner.

Sony’s approach to streaming audio for the STR-DN1080 is unusual. Only computer file streaming, via DLNA or an equivalent server, is directly on board without the use of an associated gadget such as a smartphone or tablet. Everything else must be cast via a Spotify link (which requires Spotify Premium); the built-in Chromecast (formerly Google Cast) service, which allows you to throw content from any Android-compatible device; or Apple AirPlay. Chromecast worked fine via the low-end Android tablet at my disposal, casting Google Play Music without a hitch. Apple AirPlay from my iPhone 6 worked with equal transparency. I didn’t have a Sony LDAC-Bluetooth source or headphone/speaker—the STR-DN1080 can be set as either a Bluetooth receiver or transmitter, and it includes NFC touchless pairing ability—but regular Bluetooth worked fine, though with the expected, decidedly finite fidelity. I understand where Sony’s coming from: For many listeners, music consumption has become a smartphone-based endeavor, so designating the smart device as the universal source makes a certain amount of sense. But some older-school audio types may find this off-putting; I know I missed being able to set a few of my preferred internet radio streams as favorites, for one-touch music without having to find, charge, and operate my phone.

As to direct streaming, the STRDN1080 cheerfully played everything my Mac OS X TwonkyMedia DLNA server sent its way, whether DSD, FLAC, Apple Lossless, MP3, or uncompressed WAV/AIFF. (The Sony is as file-format omnivorous as any other receiver I’ve encountered; it plays virtually everything.) It did so with welcome stability and with speed that was downright sprightly compared with that of many other streaming receivers I’ve reviewed. Streaming sound quality from my library was, of course, superior: A DSD 5.6-megahertz Nordic recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111 displayed all the transparency and detail, impressive timbral realism, and pitch-black silences that I expected, as well as an enveloping, piano-bench perspective that was highly involving.

And then, of course, there’s movie sound. Here, my demands are pretty well defined: I want competent, dynamic playback in the latest Dolby and DTS flavors, so that I can fully enjoy the best home delivery of up-to-the-minute sound design. The STR-DN1080 did not disappoint: The Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Deepwater Horizon— a reference-quality Blu-ray both visually and sonically—came across with terrific dynamism, as well as a height dimension that was prominent nearly throughout. I have to admit that I didn’t really feel the lack of rearheight speakers unless I consciously listened for it during an appropriate scene; what’s more, the receiver’s Phantom Surround Back mode seemed to fill this in to a modest but useful degree. (There are Type A and B variants of this, but I can’t say I discerned much difference in my setup, with side-located dipole surrounds.) DTS:X material enjoyed similar quality; I cued up London Has Fallen, from my much more limited X library, and encountered sound that was similarly pristine and three-dimensional. In all cases, the Sony displayed plenty of power for full-bore home theater to very substantial levels, even with my modest-sensitivity speakers.

A bit surprisingly, the Sony’s display includes no indicators of bitstream mode (such as Atmos or DTS:X), though keying the front-panel Display Mode stepped through this info, along with source name and listening mode. I found it odd that the remote’s Display key doesn’t duplicate this action. Instead, it brings up an onscreen pop-up to access the Options submenu—something that’s always available more directly via the remote’s dedicated Options key. That said, this does bring up a context-sensitive submenu that offers logical choices of listening mode, Sound Optimizer settings, and so on. And in other modes, it brings up other choices: In FM tuner, for example, there are selections for preset management, tuning, and stereo/mono tuning mode.

Otherwise, I mostly found the receiver easy and straightforward to use. The remote is a dedicated, single-component unit and thus unusually simple and uncluttered. Sony gives you direct access keys for the primary inputs, as well as Watch and Listen keys that bring up graphical onscreen icons for all sources. However, you must pass this way to access home-network streaming or the receiver’s (fixed-storage-only) USB input, which slows arrival appreciably, as both these and the Home screen require several seconds to come up and exit.


Beyond that, the interface’s response was generally quick and reliable, and I found it a pleasure to operate. Better still, there’s a presets feature that delivers four user-selectable combinations of source, output path, listening mode, cal/EQ curve and options, and a good deal more. Only Preset 1 gets a direct access key on the remote; the others must be reached via the much slower Home menu, and none can be renamed from their defaults (Movie, Music, Party, and Night), nor divorced from their onscreen pictures.

Sony’s $600 solution is comfortably a player in the hotly contested realm of upper-entry-level receivers. It lacks a few amenities that some competitors include, such as a 12-volt trigger output and phono input, but it counters with the brand’s unique higher-resolution Bluetooth and a full suite of Android- and Apple-ready wireless capabilities.

(It also omits multiformat video scaling—less of a loss in the current age, when most sources and displays include their own competent scalers.) More important, in my view: Both its fundamental audio quality and its multichannel amplifier output are clean, powerful, and transparent, making this receiver entirely suitable for even a solidly serious home theater.


latexii's picture

I have question.. all sony STR DN-XXXX models takes 240 wattage from "wall" and all of them output over twice that..

Seven channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 64.4 watts 1% distortion at 75.5 watts

Isnt 7 x 64w or 75w much over 240w ?

Could someone tell me how's this possible ? I mean Marantz 7011 takes 710w from wall and not even nearly output that same amount with same calculation

Have Sony invented solution for future coming energy crisis ? Could Sony sell me psu what takes 10w from wall and output is something like 1000w ? i could use it to keep my home warm...

bstryd's picture

I need to replace my old Yamaha AVR. In the price range I am looking at, it seems the Sony STR - DN1080 and the Denon X-2400H might be the best. I would love any input from Daniel Kumin or anyone else familiar with both. Thanks for any help.

xposivo's picture

I just bought my first 4k TV/Blu-Ray setup and sadly, my RX-V377 isn't HDCP 2.2.... After some research, I have found myself torn between the DN1080 and the X-2400H as well. Which did you choose?

rajugsw's picture

Great receiver currently discounted everywhere. I replaced a Marantz SR5011 because Sony now supports DSD in 2.8MHz in 2.0 & 5.1 channels. Sorry folks, no 5.6MHz or 11.2MHz onboard DSD decoding. The STR-DN1080 downconverts to 176kHz/24 Bit. The workaround is hookup a Sony UBP-X1000ES (not the UBP-800X - same DSD decoding issues as the STR-DN1080N) and via Sony's proprietary encoding/decoding, you can play ALL DSD rates from the USB front port of both units. The onboard DAC (RCA left/right output jacks) are the only way to get true DSD playback without doing any messy PCM Downconversion. No DSD over PCM (DoP) support here either. It's Sony, so they don't need to sneak the packets onto PCM and then back into true DSD (I'm assuming).

One more thing (void goes the warranty). Open the chassis cover and you will see a ribon cable that leads from the top HDMI PCB down into the Main PCB BEFORE the ampifiers. With the aid of a STR-DN1050 schematic, I verified (ansd it's clearly labelled on the bottom header ANALOG GND, L+, L-, and the rest of the 6 main channels and the subwoofer channel. True differential outputs that bypass the internal volume control yet retain all D.C.A.C. EX functionality. A quality outboard preamp will allow you to use much better amplification than what built-in. Hi End AVR on a Low End budget.

Eh Sony...How's about an iOs App like the Marantz 2016 Remote App Huh ?