Test Report: Sony STR-DA5800ES A/V Receiver

Sony's new flagship receiver is a brute. It's got as many or more features, channels, HDMI jacks, and control options as any competitor I can think of, along with a snazzy new rotation of onscreen menus. The STR-DA5800ES is also the latest to join the 4K brigade, being able to pass-through, and upscale to, the possible-future Ultra HD video format. More on this in a year. Or two.

Setup

Sony's new onscreen display design for the 5800ES abandons the "Xcross Media Bar" metaphor inherited from the PlayStation family and used on earlier (and lower current-range) models in favor of a more straightforward, large-icon-based layout. For setup, I found it handsome and generally intuitive.

Sony equipped the STR-5800ES with no fewer than nine HDMI input jacks (eight on back, and one up front). I don't know what I'd do with that many HDMI inputs, but they're there if you need 'em. There are also dual HDMI outputs, selectable via the remote, plus a third for the receiver's Zone 2 output.

Another feature, sure to be widely appreciated, is a built-in 4-jack Ethernet hub. Most systems these days will, like mine, require multiple Cat-5 connections, and anything that cuts down on cable clutter is enormously welcome.

The 5800ES's auto-setup calibration mike is a stereo-pickup, two-element bar. Otherwise, the automatic routine proceeds with a series of bloops and bleeps that "find" and "size" your speakers, set crossovers, and invoke speaker-/room-correction equalization. There's a rather confusing (and poorly documented) range of auto-EQ options. Basically, the Sony's EQ can be applied to three different "target curves," as well as a user-defined curve, at run time. The 5800ES's interface design makes it nearly impossible to A/B these with unequalized reproduction, but in general I preferred the "Front Reference" curve.

Speaking of "auto," the 5800ES is the first A/V receiver to incorporate certification for Control4 home automation, including lighting (via a supplied wireless lighting-control adapter), that can be integrated into an extensive scene-recall scheme named Easy Automation. This can store virtually every user-definable parameter to one of four pre-programmed, but editable, scenes, accessible whether or not Control4 is implemented - very cool.

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