Sony STR-DN1050 AV Receiver Page 2

Opened Up
The STR-DN1050 is the top model in this series of Sony receivers, with a decidedly balanced sound. While it has a family resemblance to my vague memories of the STR-DN1040’s warm tone, the top end strikes me as more open, detailed, even airy—and that’s not a word often applied to $600 receivers. It also seemed to have more juice than I’d expect in a modestly priced receiver—at least, I seemed to be running the volume knob lower than I would normally have to with similarly priced products in order to achieve appropriate output for movies, and the dynamics were superb.

814sonyrec.rem.jpgThe Lord of the Rings trilogy remains my idea of the perfect surround demo material, combining tsunamis of high-decibel effects with great visuals and an epic story that never pales. The Return of the King (DVD, DTS) is as remarkable for its quiet effects as for its noisy ones. I love the moment when Pippin sings on demand for the delusional steward of Gondor as the siege of Minas Tirith rages outside. The Sony encompassed both the frail voice and the bombastic battle that followed. The avalanche of skulls in the cave of the dead and the thundering feet of attacking mastodons didn’t faze the receiver; it maintained the integrity of the soundfield, and the sheer force of these effects was impressive. But the echoing female voice that accompanies Gandalf and the eagles in their search for Frodo and Sam was just as effective, more moving. There was little sense of strain as the receiver dominated the speakers.

The Philadelphia Experiment (Blu-ray, Dolby TrueHD) showed the receiver adroitly splitting bass-making duties with the subwoofer. In a repetitive bass line, the crossover was hard to discern. The same was true of the space-time rumble effect. This is how 5.1-channel sound is supposed to work, with the speakers and sub joining to produce a seamless whole. But that can happen only if the receiver can deliver power to the woofers in the main speakers as masterfully as the sub can control its own driver. The Sony and my Paradigm Seismic 110 were a great team.

I hear new things every time I try the 2013 DTS Demo Disc with different equipment. The pursuing fires of The Hunger Games got things off to a roaring beginning as the receiver stringently controlled the rampaging flame effects, with their massive starts, whooshing articulation, and abrupt stops. But the highlight was another forest scene, the chase in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The Sony’s dynamic abilities enabled me to access the soundtrack’s complexity in a newly intense way, integrating the music, gunshots, bullet and shell trajectories, and splintering tree trunks.

Old, New, Borrowed
I bought Deep Purple’s Made in Japan on the advice of a high school classmate, which would make my copy of the double LP set about 40 years old. Fanatically cleaning my records with a Discwasher was an investment that has paid off later in life. I switched the room-correcting DCAC off and on. It improved imaging slightly but tampered very little with my room’s midrange character, and do-no-harm is always a good thing. Switching to pure analog mode—which disabled both room correction and the subwoofer—I was surprised at the weight the STR-DN1050’s amp gave the bass guitar and kick drum. Sony’s design team in Tokyo is known to tweak receivers while listening with B&W Matrix 801 speakers, a tougher load than most receiver buyers will ever use. It shows. This thing is a dynamic marvel.


Janos Starker’s Mercury Living Presence recording of cello concertos by Schumann, Lalo, and Saint-Saëns (with Antal Dorati and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting the London Symphony Orchestra) arrived on three-channel SACD. The three channels were originally mixed down to stereo, but it’s great to hear all three going at once. The cello was precisely, even lovingly, imaged (perhaps love was in the ear of the beholder) against an orchestra in which strings were not only strongly outlined but also thoroughly filled in; most receivers do one or the other, but it’s a joy to come across a model that does both. The front-row perspective favored by legendary recording co-director Wilma Cozart Fine (who was once told: “Women don’t run sessions. Women don’t edit tapes”) was mesmerizing. This demo represented everything I hope and pray for when I listen to high resolution audio.

The Bill Evans Trio’s Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 were from CDs ripped to Apple Lossless. I played just one track from my laptop into a high-performance Meridian USB DAC to get a handle on the sound, then switched to an iPad streaming AirPlay and Bluetooth. All three were quite close, suggesting that you won’t lose too much by switching to either kind of wireless connection. With AirPlay, the onscreen video display showed “AirPlay,” track, artist, and album; with Bluetooth, just “Mark’s iPad.” The Sony’s bass prowess, already firmly established with heavy metal, extended to the more subtle pleasures of Scott LaFaro’s string bass, making it “solid and grippy,” according to my notes. The bandleader’s piano was decidedly un-grippy, and a lesser receiver might have let it go bland—but the Sony caressed its Debussy-like gossamer beauty and the soft shimmer of Paul Motian’s cymbals.

The Sony STR-DN1050 is the best receiver I’ve ever heard selling for $600, and I’ve heard quite a few. Saying a lower-priced product performs like a higher priced one can be wishful thinking, and I rarely trot out those tired old clichés—punching above its weight, champagne performance on a beer budget, blah blah blah. But there’s no way around it: This receiver has dynamics reminiscent of something much more expensive, perhaps even twice its price, along with a fine-tuned tonal balance that benefits anything you might listen to. A high-end-of-the-low-end champion, it is now my top recommendation at this price.

(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.