Sony STR-DA5700ES Multichannel A/V Receiver Page 2

User Interface
Setting up the AVR is made simple due to an Easy Setup that guides you through Speaker Settings (Auto Calibration) and Internet Settings. An auto calibration microphone comes as part of the package and looks like a Wii motion sensor with a pair of tiny mikes on each end. The DCAC interface is easy to use and only takes a couple of minutes to complete. Once it’s measured your room, you have four options to choose from: Full Flat, Engineer, Front Reference, and Off. Full Flat attempts to make the measurements from each speaker flat. Engineer sets the frequency response to match the Sony listening-room standard. Front Reference adjusts the characteristics of the center and surround speakers to match the characteristics of the front speakers. And Off, as you might imagine, disables the auto-calibrated EQ.

The STR-DA5700ES includes two remotes, neither of which is backlit. The main one is universal and pales in comparison to aftermarket solutions. It offers limited macro capability, but programming it is a bear, and it doesn’t come close to the user friendliness of a Harmony One. The second remote is very rudimentary in its design and is meant to only control the main functions of the AVR: Master Volume, Input, and Home (among others).

The activity-based user interface is outstanding and easy to use. When you press the Home button on the remote, a screen with six options launches: Watch, Listen, Favorites, Easy Automation, Sound Effects, and Settings. Each of these choices takes you to a second screen that offers numerous options. For example, Watch brings up 13 different choices ranging from BD/DVD, Game, and TV. One upgrade I would love to see is the ability to customize these screens to only show active inputs in your system.

Sony also offers an iDevice app via the iTunes store dubbed AV Receiver Remote, but it wasn’t able to find the STR-DA5700ES on my network despite multiple attempts. Judging from the tepid reviews on iTunes, I wasn’t the only one having this problem. Sadly, the demo of the app looks outstanding and would be a great way to control the AVR and access some of the audio streaming options without needing to use a monitor. Hopefully Sony can release an update to make it compatible with its latest products.

Let the Fun Begin
As an avid movie watcher, any AVR that makes its way through my system has to meet my high expectations for playback of movie soundtracks. The Sony performed quite well in this regard with only one minor drawback. The DCAC calibration set my subwoofer about 10 decibels too hot, and when I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the bass response was a bit too powerful and drowned out minor subtleties in the track. I was able to correct this using my RadioShack SPL meter and audio test tones found on the Disney WOW calibration disc, and the results were spectacular. The bass was nice and tight and allowed the midrange some room to breathe.

I then sampled Sony’s HD-D.C.S. Theater listening mode with Lost: Season Three on Blu-ray and wasn’t at all impressed. Dialogue reproduction was very unnatural and had a slight echo to it. When conversations in the jungle sound like they’re happening in a cave, something is certainly amiss. Disabling the HD-D.C.S. cured this phenomenon instantly. I experienced similar instances of this while watching recorded TV via TiVo and decided it was better to leave this feature off.

The STR-DA5700ES is DLNA certified, but it’s not compatible with WMA-lossless files, which is how the majority of my music is stored. I have a smat- tering of MP3s that have been legally obtained from, and the AVR had no pro- blems playing them back. Generally, these files sound best on an iDevice via headphones, but the Sony delivered an enjoyable audio experience. I prefer to listen to two-channel music in stereo (with the subwoofer engaged), and I wasn’t disappointed with the results. Imaging was wide and absorbing, and the AVR did its best to make compressed MP3s sound as good as they could.

Since Sony played a large role in SACD’s development, it’s no surprise that the unit will decode Direct Stream Digital (DSD) signals sent from an SACD player. Using an Oppo BDP-95 as a transport, I found the DSD decoding to be excellent with both stereo and multichannel recordings. On the SACD soundtrack from the 1984 cult classic Footloose, the title track from Kenny Loggins exhibited an airy presence, superb stereo imaging, and crystal clear lyrics. The SACD version of Every Breath You Take from The Police—arguably the trio’s best album—also came alive on the Sony. Whether it was “Roxanne,” “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” or the timeless title track, ’80s classic rock has rarely sounded this good. It was as if Sting and the boys were giving a private concert in my home.

Streaming Down the Road
The STR-DA5700ES includes video streaming services. The downside is that you must sign up for the Sony Entertainment Network (formerly called Bravia Network) to use any of the services. Registration is relatively painless via the Internet, but it would be nice not to have to remember another username and password.

The majority of the best-known streaming services on the market are at your fingertips. Netflix is among them, although I’m one of the millions of now former customers who dropped the service after its massive price increase this past summer. Instead, I’ve turned to my Amazon Prime membership ($79 per year), which delivers free two-day shipping from the e-tailer, and the ability to stream from Amazon’s extensive movie and TV show library as part of my membership. I settled on an episode of the classic comedy Cheers and an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to check out the Sony’s streaming function. While the AVR seemed to work fine, Amazon clearly won’t be putting Blu-ray out of business anytime soon for the quality-conscious consumer. While the video was generally decent, a savvy viewer will notice the occasional macroblocking from the compressed delivery format, and the stereo audio isn’t anything to write home about.

Two other services you’ll be happy to find in the Sony are HuluPlus and Vudu. While HuluPlus is a subscription service ($7.99/month), it has plenty of current TV shows and it’s a great way to watch them without having to subscribe to a cable/satellite service or hang an antenna on your roof to receive over-the-air signals. Vudu, owned by Walmart, delivers a wide variety of feature films with up to 1080p video and up to 7.1 channels of Dolby Digital Plus audio. With all of these streaming services, it’s best to have the fastest Internet connection possible (4.5 Mbps and up) to avoid buffering delays during playback.

If music is more your style, the AVR offers seven different services, including Pandora, Slacker, and NPR. I’ve been a longtime Pandora subscriber, and the service performs admirably on the STR-DA5700ES. Sure, it’s not high-resolution audio quality, but you can’t beat the convenience.

The STR-DA5700ES is a quality A/V receiver that brings a lot to the table. It incorporates the most popular streaming services on the market and delivers a pleasant user experience. Musically speaking, this is one of the better sounding AVRs I’ve used, and its prowess on movie soundtracks is just as remarkable. Despite its positives, there are a few areas of concern. The video processing isn’t state of the art, and its inability to process HDMI video sources makes it more akin to products released five years ago. The non-backlit remote is also more fitting a sub-$1,000 product. And not getting the iDevice app to work was a letdown. It ends up being a bit much to swallow given this Sony’s $2,000 price tag. Still, if none of these quibbles gives you pause, you may want to give the Sony a close look, especially if you’re into streaming and want an all-in-one solution.

Ztatic's picture

I'm pleased to be developing and ultimately producing the new, built-from-scratch KLH Model Nine under the auspices of KLH Audio. The New Nine will have numerous improvements over the original. In the meantime, JansZen Audio can make available several pairs of meticulously refurbished and updated KLH Model Nines from our stock of originals.