Test Report: Sony STR-DN1030 A/V Receiver Page 3

Ergonomics

Patience is not a virtue I possess in any great measure, and what little I do have was stretched pretty thin by the DN1030's onscreen display. Not the display itself, but the wait for it to come up on my TV's screen (13 seconds) and the one to get picture and sound back after it exited (16 seconds). This might be acceptable in a model where the display is used only for initial setup, but it kinda isn't on a midrange model where the display is a central necessity for functions such as streaming audio.

I wasn't crazy about the Sony's remote, either, with its multi-legend keys and colored zones (but no backlighting), though it at least proved perfectly usable, with positive key-feel and quick responses as long as you're not invoking the display. But the lack of onscreen overlays for things like volume changes, surround modes, or input selections - the DN1030 has no video-overlay capability - is a considerable handicap, especially given the front-panel display's small size and modest repertoire of information. Sony has an iPod/iPhone app, "Media Remote," that controls the DN1030 over a home network and does some cool stuff. While I found the setup and registration unnecessarily occult, this worked well enough once I figured it out - though its power "key" proved able to turn the receiver off, but not on, and the app would not "find" the receiver unless it was already powered on, which limits utility.

The Sony's actual streaming-audio abilities are fairly complete: It arrives with vTuner free-Internet radio, and Music Unlimited, Slacker, and Pandora functionality. It also streams local media over a home network (or from a USB storage device). The manual mentions only Sony's own hardware, along with Windows Media (software) servers, but since I used my iMac running TwonkyMedia with smooth results, it's safe to presume that any DLNA-compatible source will work. The DN1030 streams MP3 and AAC/Apple Lossless formats (plus linear PCM). It can also handle high-rez FLAC files, something that Sony's manual downplays.

The Sony receiver's streaming-audio format sup- port is far from unique (plenty of competing-price models can handle FLAC), but its responsiveness when playing files leaves something to be desired. You have to wait forever for the menu to arrive, and then you find that file playback has no pause (you can only stop and restart from the top), that there's no display of file type or bit-rate data, and that the facilities for navigating large file lists are rather slow, with only one title displayed at a time.

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