Sony STR-DN1050 AV Receiver

Audio Performance
Video Performance
PRICE $600

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

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.


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.

(877) 865-SONY

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, 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?

Seph's picture

Hey there,

nice review, thanks! So you wrote that you chose "Full Flat" as EQ. Could you explain why FF and not "no EQ" and where the actual difference is? Which setting would be closer to the "natural" soud of your speakers? I got the 1050 here and I have a really hard time to decide on an EQ...I'm mostly listening to rock and heavy.

Btw, I think the Sony is a bit on the "boomy" site at least regarding the bass but that could just be me.

Lucaites's picture

I need to be able to use this receiver w/wireless (Sony) headphones that have their own transceiver. I need to be able to hear through the headphones while others listen through speakers. Can I hook the headphone transceiver up to the zone 2 audio out and get sound to the headphones w/o cutting off sound to the speakers?

jcrash's picture

Did you figure this out? I gave it a shot last night and couldn't get it to work

argomike's picture

I've been considering this receiver and called Sony to make sure some of the Zone 2 features are what Sony's marketing claims they are after reading many reports online. They confirmed that the marketing is not entirely accurate.

Though the second zone is independent, it cannot play any audio source, nor output them to the 2nd zone speakers as simply as Sony makes it seem. While the second zone does have an HDMI output that is dedicated, that will only play audio to the receiving source...meaning that if you are trying to plug a TV or projector into the second zone, the audio will only be available on the TV or projector, not any speakers you have connected to the second zone. If you want audio over the second zone speakers, you need to dual wire the receiver with analog/RCA cables from the source. This is part of the reason why Airplay won't play to the second zone, as well.

For me this was important for two reasons. I want to be able to output from my blu ray to a projector on the patio, using the patio speakers. I also want to be able to connect my computer (via HDMI) to projector or to play music. None of this would be possible without having to by adapters for both my blu ray and computer as they don't have analog outputs. This type of setup can be accomplished with any number of receivers and requires lots of extra effort (and cables)'s not a feature.

I confirmed this with Sony customer support today.

Rbferre's picture

Thanks for your post. I am looking for a receiver that has similar capabilities as you described, i.e. Truly independent zone 2 able to handle different digital input. Do you know any others in this price range? Onkyo maybe? Thank you

Amber1964's picture

I have been a loyal yamaha receiver user for 30 years. They are work horses with conservative power ratings and excellent build quality. I own 5, including the first I ever bought. They all work perfectly.

But, being foolish, I was seduced by the low price of this Sony and the abundance of features.

By trade I was a sound engineer, recording artist and studio musician. The review as regards sound reproduction and features is accurate. I particularly like the remote and the mostly on screen menu.

Build quality is awful. This unit ran hot from day one. As in very, hot enough to burn your hand at medium sound levels. But it worked for about 6 months. Then it died. Now, I am very comfortable working on electronics so I took this unit apart to have a look see. It took about 2 seconds to diagnose the problem, failed transformer. It was actually discoloured. I removed it for testing and it is dead.

Sent the unit back to Sony and now the fun begins. Three months later, they haven't looked at it and when I offered to buy a transformer they can't supply it. Because, it doesn't have a part number.

I gave up 2 days ago and bought a nice yamaha, more money, lower rated power output and it barely gets warm.

Verdict: Sony makes cheap mass merchandise crap. Fine if you are from the generation that considers Bluetooth to be of good quality. Adequate for 100 dollar speakers. But so cheaply made, very evident inside, so sad. DO NOT BUY.

Jeken's picture

Good morning all. Hopefully you are still responding to this article. How would this receiver pair up with floor standing speakers? Does it have enough power to utilize the full potential of these speakers? For reference, I am interested in the Definitive Tech BP-80xxST series towers or the Paradigm Monitor series towers. I would mate the Definitive Tech's with just a center, no subwoofer, while the Paradigm's would get both a center and a subwoofer. I currently have Paradigm bookshelf 5.1 surround system. For simplicity reasons, I want to change my audio system to stereo.