Test Report: Sony STR-DN1030 A/V Receiver Page 2

Performance

Leaving aside the DN1030's many features, I concentrated on pure music and film playback. In straight, two-channel mode, the Sony delivered fine-sounding, full-ranged, dynamic, and detailed stereo music. Sony's power specification seemed perfectly fair; my moderately low-sensitivity main left/right speakers reached real club levels on big-band jazz without strain or obvious dynamic limitations when run full-range (without subwoofer).

The same applied on multichannel material. A colorful, timbrally dense piece like Howard Hanson's Suite from Merry Mount (Telarc SACD-60649) reproduced in highly convincing surround, with bright, crisp brass attacks and rich, thick massed strings.?A bit ironically, the DN1030 does not decode DSD (SACD's native high-rez recording format was partly a Sony invention), and it lacks a multichannel-analog input, so I listened to this disc via PCM delivered over HDMI. It still sounded lovely.

Movies also enjoyed the Sony's same generous power and snappy dynamics. The George Lucas-produced WWII flying epic Red Tails isn't likely to win many acting or screenwriting Oscars (though if there were awards for clichéd dialogue it'd be a front-runner), but it boasts the best-ever period flying scenes, and lots of 'em. These include plenty of moments that showed off the DN1030's Dolby PLIIz-empowered "height" speaker channels. For example, the dogfight in Chapter 17 (one of many) has outstanding zooming and climbing effects that were clearly present in the vertical as well as front-rear dimensions. (Though come to think of it, exactly whose perspective this sound design represents isn't exactly clear, since the pilots would hear only their own planes, while spectators - well, there weren't any. Kinda like all those Star Wars space battles: There's no sound in a vacuum....)

At first, the only way I could get multichannel material (such as the film's DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack) to reproduce in multichannel was to select PLII, Neo:6, or Sony's HD-D.C.S. (Digital Cinema Sound) settings, all of which add at least some processing. But then I happened upon the receiver's Auto Format Decode (A.F.D.) mode, which, when enabled, passes through multichannel signals without enhancement. Sony did endow the DN1030 with a handful of music-DSP effects (in addition to Dolby PLIIx/PLIIz and DTS Neo:6), and several of these sounded quite pleasant on two-channel acoustic mu- sic. It also has a proprietary volume-dependent loudness compensator (my terminology) called Sound Optimizer that worked quite adequately, though it made things sound noticeably warmer, even at fairly substantial volume settings.

On the video side, Sony kept the DN1030 simple. It transcodes and upconverts analog video to 1080i on HDMI, while HDMI digital video is throughput strictly in the format it arrived. I checked upconversion performance with 480i composite-video signals, and saw mostly mixed results: The Sony performed well on "jaggies" test patterns, though it fell a smidge short of 480-line detail (at least on test patterns).?It also did not successfully negotiate the classic racetrack-seating film-pulldown test on the Silicon Optix HQV test DVD, showing obviously pulsing patterns on the seat rows.

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