Sony STR-DN1050 AV Receiver


Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and
Bluetooth built in
Balanced and dynamic sound
Minus
No HDCP 2.2 for future UHD Content
Front-panel buttons are tough to see
Single-position room correction

THE VERDICT
Sony updates its triple-threat Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth AVR with more balanced sound, and it’s about the best we’ve heard at this price.

Have you ever had a feeling of déjà vu? Have you ever had a feeling of déjà vu? Sometimes I get that feeling when I review receivers across multiple generations. Sometimes I get that feeling when I review receivers across multiple generations. Oh, all right, I’ll stop. Oh, all right…but having reviewed the Sony STR-DN1020 in 2011, the STR-DN1030 in 2012, and the STR-DN1040 in 2013, I am well situated to pass judgment on the STR-DN1050 in 2014.

And it’s worth the attention. Sony has been on a roll, fiercely focusing attention on its mass-market receiver line, trying to make it sound as good as possible while incorporating every feasible form of wireless connectivity. That’s no easy task because there’s always a tension between features and sound quality—due not only to the cost of parts but also, in this case, to the signal-polluting effects of digital wireless technologies on analog amplifier guts.

Sony’s designers have their work cut out for them. They have responded with a thicker top casing and stronger joints, improved power transformer and other components, and localized analog power supplies to keep electromagnetic radiation away from amplifier circuits (among other things). These enhancements usually cost money. However, Sony’s designers have also found ingenious ways to improve quality without spending a dime—like varying the size and spacing of vents on the underside of the chassis to control resonance.

Triple Wireless
Sony has two receiver lines: the high-end ES and a more mass-market line. In the latter, the STR-DN1050 is one of four new models, along with the similarly featured but less powerful STR-DN850 ($499) and the lower-end STR-DH750 ($349) and STR-DN550 ($279). The 1050 and 850 both feature triple wireless connectivity, including Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth—all of it baked in, with no awkward extra-cost accessories. The 1050 has the added benefit of a DSD-capable high-resolution digital-to-analog converter for high-res audio files. As with the 850, its DAC also supports up to 192/24 PCM.

Sony’s front panel has a few distinctive traits. One is the daringly asymmetrical look, with placement of both volume and source-select knobs on the right side. The row of buttons crossing the front panel is unusually skinny. While this gives the fascia an elegantly uncluttered appearance, it also makes the buttons virtually invisible; I needed a flashlight to see them. They include useful things like Bluetooth pairing and front-panel dimming along with the usual listening-mode and zone controls.

The graphical user interface is superbly well organized and visually appealing, the opening screen featuring five large vertical panels labeled Watch, Listen, Custom Preset, Sound Effects, and Settings. You’ll be using that more often than the front panel—along with the intelligently simplified remote, with buttons reduced from 65 to 34 (but no more Sony TV control). The SongPal control app is available for Android and iOS devices.

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The back panel’s most notable occupant is a built-in Wi-Fi antenna, which enables DLNA media sharing as well as AirPlay. Bluetooth capability incorporates NFC (near field communication), so you can bump your mobile device against the receiver to pair them. Supported Internet radio services include the newly added Spotify, plus Pandora, TuneIn, and Sony’s own Music Unlimited.

The back panel also has three HDMI outputs—one for a second display in the main zone, one for video in Zone 2. That’s a number rarely seen, and never seen at this price point. The half-dozen HDMI inputs are all HDMI 2.0 compliant, but, notably, they lack the HDCP 2.2 digital rights management (DRM) compliance that may be necessary in the future to pass all UHD content from new 4K streamers or disc players. (The Sony is not alone among 2014 AVRs in having one but not the other, but the impact of this will depend on your future display plans and whether you expect to use your AVR as your video switcher for an Ultra HDTV.) The HDMI ports do include two MHL-capable jacks for Android smartphone streaming—one more than I’ve seen elsewhere—and of course the USB input is iOS-savvy. Sony doesn’t provide multichannel analog ins or outs, only stereo, but there are connections for two subwoofers (albeit for a single sub channel).

Auto setup uses Sony’s proprietary DCAC (Digital Cinema Auto Calibration). It starts by prompting you through component connections before inaugurating the speaker setup process with some jaunty musical tones. Unlike most other room correction systems, Sony’s measures from only one position; I’d prefer to see at least three to cover every position on a sofa. DCAC allows a choice of four EQ modes—Full Flat, Engineer, Front Reference, and off—which you can change later on the fly. I chose Full Flat, opting this time for neutrality, though in the past I’ve found Engineer an interesting alternative because it emulates Sony’s listening-room standard.

Phase correction is switchable on or off. I left it on, considering it part of the room correction system. There’s also a Digital Legato Linear enhancement for lossy audio files. I switched it off, along with the Dynamic Range Compressor.

Associated equipment included five Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4 speakers, Paradigm Seismic 110 sub, Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player, iPad 2 for AirPlay and Bluetooth streaming, Meridian Director USB DAC running with Foobar 2000 on a Lenovo Win 7 laptop, Micro Seiki BL-21 turntable, Shure V15MxVR/N97XE cartridge, and Onix OA 21s integrated amp serving as phono preamp.

COMPANY INFO
Sony
(877) 865-SONY
ARTICLE CONTENTS
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COMMENTS
Hertis's picture

Hi guys. I were thinking of buying this receiver but I'm a bit worried about the HDMI2.0. Are you sure it has HDMI2.0? Sony says nothing about this on their homepage, Whathifi.com says it has HDMI 1.4. And what about HDCP2.2?

Rob Sabin's picture
Before sending this review to press for our September print issue, we reached out to Sony and confirmed that all the HDMI inputs and outputs on the STR-DN1050 are HDMI version 2.0. You can find this in the specifications on their website; it's listed at the bottom of the specs list, right above the weight and measurements section. You can also confirm this by going into the user manual, which does not specifically cite the HDMI version (in any way that I could see) but which does indicate in a chart that the unit will process 4096 x 2160 video signals at 60 Hz, something only HDMI 2.0 can do. We're confirming HDCP 2.2 compliance now and will post as soon as we know.
Nekrogoblifan's picture

Hey, Rob: Any word on HDCP 2.2 compliance? Thanks.

Rob Sabin's picture
Thanks for the follow up reminder on this. Sorry to report, but Sony says the 1050 is NOT HDCP 2.2 compliant. So although it'll pass UHD signals at 60 frames per second, you cannot necessarily count on it being able to fully switch ALL encoded UHD content going forward. And now that we have firm word that a 4K Blu-ray standard is close to being finalized and hardware/software should be reaching the market by holiday season 2015, this may be a critical issue if you expect your AVR to do pass-through from your UHD sources to your UHD HDTV. Bottom line: we're discovering that we're currently in a no man's land where a lot of HDMI 2.0 products were produced with the older chips, apparently due to availability. New gen UHD displays from the major manufacturers, for example, mostly have the HDCP 2.2 compliance. Among AVRs, Onkyo is the only one that appears to be touting this feature in their 2014 model line up, although I don't want to say that no one else has it in any model. I do know that the $899 Marantz SR-5009 Mark just finished testing also does not have HDCP 2.2, and I've got a query in regarding the Atmos-enabled Denon AVR-X5200 we're evaluating.

We are now aggressively querying the manufacturers on this point for every AVR we review, despite their caginess on the matter; no one brings it up when it's not there. But the info will be up front and center in every test report from here and lack of compliance will be listed as a Minus bullet point until such time as this becomes a non-issue. By next year this won't be a problem; all the new units should have the new technology. But apparently it is a consideration today if you expect to use your AVR as the switcher between the emerging 4K streamers, servers, and disc players and a 4K display. We've edited some comments about this into the review, and taken the 1050's feature rating down by a full star to reflect the lack of HDCP 2.2 compliance. The Video Performance rating was kept at the same 4 stars; the unit performed well on video pass-through for regular HD signals, and I see this more as a feature content issue that may effect some buyers in the future, rather than a performance issue.

Hertis's picture

Hi Rob.
Thank you for your swift reply. I see now in the manual that it is like you said, 4096 x 2160 @60Hz, though it is limited to 4:2:0 not supporting 4:4:4 but I quess we cant have it all :) I will look forward to your results on the HDCP 2.2 compliance.

machielg's picture

The big problem is anticipating what the next UHD blu ray standard will support/require. HDCP 2.2 will likely be part of that and the Sony receiver doesn't support that. If you want to jump on the 4K wagon, it's best to wait for next years AV receivers to catch up.

Mrsnikoph78's picture

I am seriously considering picking up a Sony 1050 - Runners up are the Pioneer 1124 and possibly a lower-end Yamaha. Sound quality is a top concern, but given my low efficiency speakers (~87 dB), I am trying to keep power levels high. Recommendation?

Also, what is killing me is the idea that the Sony 1050 sounds better than the 1040, but the power/distortion measurements clearly favor the Sony 1040. I'm surprised this wasn't brought up or explained. The 1040 appears to produce at least 100 watts at well below 0.1%, and the 1050 seems to begin gaining a lot of distortion after reaching about 70-80 watts (almost at 10% distortion at 100 watts). Sure, that is less than a 3 dB different, perhaps, but the numbers are the numbers and this seems to be a power downgrade. Did Sony downgrade the transformer on this model or something?

To add to the confusion, the 1040 and 1050 have similar output in 5 channel drive mode. Was the wrong chart published in the 1040 article?

Rob Sabin's picture
...but there are a lot of little things that were done to further tune up the sound of the 1050 vs. last year's 1040. Although more amplifier power comes into play when you're playing your system really loud (or trying to fill a very large room), there are other design considerations that will affect the sonic nuances that the trained ear can detect. For example, Sony told me and some other journalists during a press event that they even went as far as to swap out a particular capacitor in the signal chain many times until they found the one that sounded the best by ear during their listening tests. One of the things that's different is that this year's model benefited from extensive listening sessions in San Diego by the U.S.-based product manager and design team, and they were able to make a number of small changes that amounted to something overall.
garen's picture

Hey Rob,

I purchased this unit after comparing it to many different AVR units and found this to be the all around great value and provide the most features.

Now - time came to purchase speakers and any reputable speaker store tells me that these won't be powerful enough to run their speakers. With every person saying something different.

My question first is - will these function to power Triton Three by Golden Ear - and what would be the draw backs to this.

Second - can you please point me to the metric that best explains how to mate speakers to AVR units.

The Golden Ears state in their literature that they only require 20-400 watts per chanel to drive - with this set running at 8ohms - will that not be sufficient as technically it's meant to put out 165watt per channel?

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