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Sony STR-DN1030 Multi-room, Listening Tests & Conclusion

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It is evident that Sony chose to focus on solid single room performance, rather than multi-room functionality. The Sony’s built-in amplifier can support a 5.1 system, plus an addition B set of speakers. This means that the B set of speakers will play the same thing as the main zone. If you want a true multi-zone system, you will need an additional amplifier. The Sony is equipped with analog zone 2 pre-outs to run into a separate amp, but zone 2 is limited to analog sources. It would have been nice to see Airplay and Bluetooth support for zone 2. The bottom line is, if you are looking to amplify both your main room and an additional zone, you'll need to bump up to Sony's $2000 STR-DA2800ES or purchase an external amplifier.

Listening Tests

For movies, I had the receiver hooked up to Definitive Technology BP7006 towers, Pro Center 1000, and BP1.2x surround speakers. For music tests, I used a combination of both Martin Logan Theos floorstanding speakers and Martin Logan Motion LX16 bookshelf speakers.

DVD: Dave Matthews Band: The Central Park Concert

dave matthewsI dug through my collection of music and pulled out a DVD I hadn’t listened to in a while. In 2003, DMB put on a performance at Central Park, and henceforth came this DVD. The music is very busy, with instruments blazing, crowds cheering, and Matthews singing into the mic. The disc has two soundtrack options, either 5.1 or 2.0, I chose 2.0. The Sony had no problems with volume, just like with the rest of my tests. Imaging was precise, and I could make out each instrument. However, some of the sounds were mushed together, but it performed as well as I could ever expect a $500 receiver to perform. Matthews’ vocals sounded genuine, the violin sprang out of the left speaker and the sax out of the right - both nice and wide across the soundstage. All in all, the STR-DN1030 did a good job for this price point.

Blu-ray: The Hunger Games

hunger gamesI read all three of the Hunger Games books, but waited to see the movie until it came out on Blu-ray. As luck would have it, it was released a few days before I got the Sony in for review, so it was an obvious choice for demo material. I will try not to spoil the movie for anyone, but, one of the best scenes for surround sound takes place at chapter 10. Katniss is getting too far away from the other tributes in the arena, and the game makers want to turn her around. How might they do this? By starting a huge forest fire and hurtling fire balls at her, you know, something discreet. The fire engulfs the sound stage as each speaker "lit up" with the crackles of the fire and splitting lumber as trees collapsed. This scene will keep your sub busy with plenty of LFE action, and shows any holes in your soundstage with clear pans across your front speakers. The Sony receiver handled this scene without any hiccups. Everything was crisp, dialogue was clear, and each speaker had plenty of power even when all 5 were called upon simultaneously.

Suggestions for Improvements

Normally, my biggest suggestions are that a manufacturer add more inputs, drop an unused feature, or upgrade their power supply; however, Sony made a lot of choices I agree with. What they did not do was design a clean or functional user interface or remote, which makes many of the network features difficult to use. Also, I would have rather seen powered zone 2 outputs than zone 2 pre-outs. Zone 2 pre-outs are a great feature, but it is doubtful that consumers purchasing a budget receiver will have external amps to power another zone. Zone 2 also fails to support network features, such as Airplay, which cripples its functionality. In any case, having to spend an additional $1500 to get this feature means that Sony has a big glaring hole in their lineup. Finally, a feature I have never seen on an AV device, but that would be beneficial, is a detachable WiFi antenna. Often times AV gear gets stuffed inside a TV stand and surrounded by equipment that harms wireless signals. If the antenna had a cord, like an AM/FM antenna, one could place the antenna outside the TV stand or AV rack to obtain a better signal.

Conclusion

angledEvery year, receiver manufacturers have to make tough choices about what to put in their receivers and what to cut in order to keep prices the same but still include new technologies. I think Sony did a great job of prioritizing what was most important to them and the consumer. The STR-DN1030 is not the right receiver for multi-zone applications, or audiophiles who want robust EQ options or 7.1 channel pre-outs. It is, however, a great choice for an average consumer who wants extremely solid single-room performance. The host of network features, HDMI upconversion, solid auto setup mic, built in Bluetooth and WiFi, up to 7.2 surround sound support, and good sound quality make this receiver stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, the poorly designed remote and menu system really hamper the ability of a consumer to pick up the remote and start enjoying their favorite music or movies. After playing with the receiver for a while, one can get used to the layout, but it is an unnecessary learning curve that makes me shy away from recommending this receiver to individuals who want a simple, straight forward, and easy to use receiver. If the Sony STR-DN1030 has all the features you are looking for, and you are only interested in what it does well (which is a lot of things), then I would highly recommend it.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Multi-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStar
Two-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStar
Network FeaturesStarStarStarStar
Video ProcessingStarStarStarStar
Bass ManagementStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStar
FeaturesStarStarStarStarStar
Remote ControlStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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Recent Forum Posts:

sterling shoote posts on September 30, 2012 20:22
PENG, post: 910623
I don't doubt your ES gears are nice products, even my much lower quality DAES2 and ES4 were very decent. The bad experiences with Sony cited here just seem so out of proportion to me, that's all I am saying. I bet on world wide basis Sony probably are still selling quite well relative to others without the seemingly bad reputation around here. I am not sure if it is the same over at the avsforums. I may just check it out, just out of curiosity, no other reasons. Just checked: seems to be the same over there, weird..

Looking at product warranty claims on a percentage basis might reveal Sony to be more reliable than other brands. At any rate, my son just returned the second Onkyo surround sound receiver he had recently purchased after it suffered a catastrophic failure as had the first unit he had purchased after several weeks of use. I have empathy for him. Although he got all of his money back he is disappointed as well as disillusioned. The golden age of HT and stereo may have ended at the beginning of the first world recession back in 2004 or perhaps even earlier in 2001. Maybe it's time to buy vintage stuff.
PENG posts on September 30, 2012 10:01
sterling shoote, post: 910609
I've been a Sony fan for over 30 years. Prior to Sony I was persuaded by advertising from Marantz; but, for me, the reality of Marantz was that most everything I purchased needed warranty service. I was not satisfied. At any rate, at the time, I was also not satisfied with any of the turntables/cartridges which I had purchased until a Sony PS-4750 attracted me. I purchased it; and, I have now enjoyed it for over 30 years without incident. My satisfaction with the Sony turntable made me receptive to other Sony stereo, HT, and professional audio products, which now dominate my system. I have some Sony components, like the TT, which have never needed service, and others which have served me for at least a decade before needing any attention. My Sony TA-E9000ES pre/pro and TA-P9000 preamp, which are the heart of my system today were both manufactured over a decade ago and appear to have been designed so well, that when connected to something like a current Blu-Ray player, 5.1 state of the art is realizable. In other words, with my Sony system I want for nothing. I am completely satisfied; and, I am over purchasing anything with the exception of perhaps a new Blu-Ray player, maybe one from Sony, if they produce one for their ES line which is competitive with the OPPO 95.

I don't doubt your ES gears are nice products, even my much lower quality DAES2 and ES4 were very decent. The bad experiences with Sony cited here just seem so out of proportion to me, that's all I am saying. I bet on world wide basis Sony probably are still selling quite well relative to others without the seemingly bad reputation around here. I am not sure if it is the same over at the avsforums. I may just check it out, just out of curiosity, no other reasons. Just checked: seems to be the same over there, weird..
sterling shoote posts on September 30, 2012 08:31
I've been a Sony fan for over 30 years. Prior to Sony I was persuaded by advertising from Marantz; but, for me, the reality of Marantz was that most everything I purchased needed warranty service. I was not satisfied. At any rate, at the time, I was also not satisfied with any of the turntables/cartridges which I had purchased until a Sony PS-4750 attracted me. I purchased it; and, I have now enjoyed it for over 30 years without incident. My satisfaction with the Sony turntable made me receptive to other Sony stereo, HT, and professional audio products, which now dominate my system. I have some Sony components, like the TT, which have never needed service, and others which have served me for at least a decade before needing any attention. My Sony TA-E9000ES pre/pro and TA-P9000 preamp, which are the heart of my system today were both manufactured over a decade ago and appear to have been designed so well, that when connected to something like a current Blu-Ray player, 5.1 state of the art is realizable. In other words, with my Sony system I want for nothing. I am completely satisfied; and, I am over purchasing anything with the exception of perhaps a new Blu-Ray player, maybe one from Sony, if they produce one for their ES line which is competitive with the OPPO 95.
PENG posts on September 30, 2012 07:28
I can never understand why on this forum there seem to be much more people who have had bad experience with Sony receivers. I have had experienced with a few and never ever encounter any problems, not even minor ones. I would consider their AVR any time if they have all the features I need but they are missing a couple.
Steelheart1948 posts on September 29, 2012 21:01
In my almost 35 years in this insane hobby, I've made only one purchase that I seriously regretted. You guessed it: a Sony receiver back in the 1980's. Nothing but trouble.
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