honor:Great build quality, 360 SSM adds surround space, Sonos integration
focus point:Streaming issues, weird 2.1 channel processing
what if you aresonyResellers, you'll know that, along with flat panel monitors and projectors, the company's AV receivers make up one-third of the holy grail needed to earn the coveted "Diamond Dealer" status. However, it's been almost six years since the company updated its flagship ES (High Standard) line of receivers, and almost a year since any of the previous models were in stock and available to order, leading many to think that an update is imminent.
However, after both CEDIA and CES passed without any announcements, people began to wonder if Sony was abandoning the receiver market.
Sony is not only back in the AVR game, but it's also back with a vengeance, offering the most powerful AVR lineup yet.onceThe new model family includes four models with MSRPs ranging from $1,100 to $3,300, all offering some of the features most requested by custom installers, with performance and capabilities that far exceed their price points. (I'd say "beyond their weight class" but, as you'll read later, they're actually already in the same weight class in that regard!)
Being Sony, the new models can cause some confusion as they are almost identical to the previous generation, only changing two letters and now it's AZ instead of ZA. However, Sony makes it easy to choose the best model for a project, as these units start with the 7.2-channel STR-AZ1000ES, adding two channels of power and processing with each model step, all the way up to the flagship 13.2-channel STR. -AZ1000ES AZ7000ES. (Higher-end models also benefit from additional amplification and other features.) For this review, Sony sent in the STR-AZ3000ES, a 9.2-channel capable device that may be one of the best-selling devices in the series.
My review sample arrived before I had a product introduction, so I don't know where this model fits into the new range. And to be honest, the 3000 model, which used to be the flagship model of Sony's ES series, combined with the weight of this unit, makes me think that this is the flagship model, not the entry into the ES series!
I know weight doesn't automatically guarantee receiver/amplifier quality, but it certainly speaks to build quality, especially when it comes to a solid mains transformer, power supply, and all-important chassis. In an age where we see more and more digital amplifiers that weigh next to nothing, this Sony is a titan. At over 41 pounds, the 3000ES feels like aGraveElectronics from the jump. I think my first words when I picked up the box were, "Oh shit."
Seriously, when I brought it to my shop, part of my "sales pitch" was to just get people to hold other AVRs and hold the Sony. For one, their reaction is "Wow!" Compared to other 9-channel AVRs, the Marantz Cinema 50 weighs 29.8 pounds, the Denon AVR-X3800H weighs 27.6 pounds, the Onkyo TX-NR7100 and Pioneer VSX-LX305 Elite weigh 22.9 pounds. (Respect the 41.2-pound Yamaha RX-A6A!)
Some of that weight comes from a newly designed frame-and-beam base chassis that Sony has radically overhauled for this series. The overall thickness has been increased to increase rigidity and other components have been redesigned to improve build quality and provide sonic enhancements.
While many manufacturers take a "less is more" approach to front panel design—often just volume knobs, input selectors, and power buttons—Sony has retained its "more is more" design, with myriad features on the front panel. front panel that can be accessed o A button that does almost anything a receiver can do. Thankfully, all the buttons except for the power and volume knobs are hidden behind a removable front panel, which looks very clean and streamlined when in use. For rack mounting, Sony offers optional rack ears (WSRE2).
On the one hand, all these buttons can be overwhelming, but on the other hand, if a technician or customer needs to do some troubleshooting, these buttons combined with the informational display on the front panel will put everything they need at their fingertips.
The front LCD screen communicates a wealth of information, allowing you to quickly understand what the receiver is doing.
Sony has also kept the front panel free of logos or other clutter. Aside from a simple gold ES badge, the look and weight of the receiver make it look like a fully competent professional, ready to work. The ES badge also means it comes with Sony's full five-year warranty, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Considering the number of inputs and connections available, the 3000ES's rear panel isn't actually too cluttered, leaving plenty of room for work and connections. Weight aside, though, the overall size of the receiver is quite large, at nearly 17.5 inches deep, and you'll want to make sure your cabinet/rack is up to the task.
Sony follows modern design trends by aligning the speaker connections along the bottom of the receiver, except for the Height 1 connection, which sits above the front channels, using binding posts that accept banana plugs. There are two RCA pre-outs for connecting subwoofers, but no pre-outs for any other channels. (Both the 5000 and 7000 models include a full set of pre-outs if you need that capability.)
For maximum flexibility and integration from Sony to Sony, the new ES series has a few more features. First off, this receiver uses the S-Center out connection we've seen on recent Sony soundbars, allowing you to use the speakers on some Sony monitors to boost center channel audio. On the other hand, you can also integrate Sony wireless surround speakers and/or a subwoofer with this unit. It is compatible with both the SA-RS5 and SA-RS3S and can be used as surround or surround back speakers. (When the SA-RS5 is used, it also acts as an upward-firing height speaker.) In front of the subwoofer, you can connect up to two of Sony's new SA-SW3 or SA-SW5 wireless subwoofers. (Note: You cannot have a wired and a wireless subwoofer at the same time.)
Once connected, there are several ways to access the receiver's configuration settings. You can use the front panel display, the on-screen GUI, or your computer. (Note: When my unit first arrived, the pre-release firmware didn't allow for network setup, but near the end of my review, Sony provided an update that enabled this, as well as integration with the Sony Music Center app.) Initial setup, I prefer to use the cleverly designed OSD; after that, however, the web-based controls let you access every tweak and setting without struggling through menu trees, andFormThings like relabeling input are faster.
For the speaker setup, Sony uses a speaker pattern layout where you first select how many floorstanding speakers you have in the system, ranging from two to seven, and then select the height channels: two or four in a variety of front, front and side speakers. Front, center combo, Dolby front, rear height and Dolby surround speakers. From the Atmos perspective, this receiver can support up to 7.2.2 or 5.2.4.
Depending on how many speakers you are powering, you can use the receiver's additional internal amplifier to power Zone 2 and/or Zone 3, or you can use a separate power amp with Zone 2/3 pre-outs. While the CI may not need to be portable, I really like the multi-zone OSD, which clearly guides you through the process of what and where you need to connect when viewing and listening in multiple zones. The unit also features a Zone 2 DAC that downscales HDMI and digital audio content for output to Zone 2.
Looking ahead, this receiver features six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. Four of the inputs (and two outputs) are HDMI 2.1/HDCP 2.3 supporting 8K/60 and 4K/120 video. The main HDMI output supports eARC, and the second output can mirror the main output or be used for a second viewing area.
For legacy connections, there are three digital audio inputs (two Toslink, one coaxial), four RCA analog inputs, and two composite video inputs with main and Zone 2 composite video outputs. (Anyone else using these? Seriously. Send me an email, I'd love to know.) For the record.
On the control side, the receiver supports SDDP, Crestron, Savant, and Control4's OvrC. There's also a DB9 RS-232 connection, as well as a rear-panel IR mini-jack input and two IR mini-jack outputs. There is also a 12 volt trigger that can be used to power Zone 2/3 amplifiers.
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You can find another very useful trick for the receiver in the Network settings tab, where you will find the option "Works with Sonos". The unit will search for any Sonos devices connected to the same network and will be able to "pair" them with the receiver. Once complete, when the receiver detects that a paired Sonos device is playing music, the receiver will turn on, switch to the input source assigned for playback, and reach a preset volume level, allowing the user to perform any action via from the Sonos app. The receiver supports the connection of two separate Sonos components, allowing you to use one for the main zone and the other for zones 2/3.
Once connected, you can detach the included microphone and tripod and run an automatic calibration. While the microphone looks the same as the previous unit, with two separate left and right capsules, it includes the latest version of Sony's Digital Cinema Auto Calibration IX. It also includes a couple of fun twists on the measurement process that allow you to measure and enter certain information before running the test tones, such as the distance from the screen to the listening position, the height of the listening position, the height from the ceiling and the height of the center of the screen.
After you enter this information, the device plays a series of test tones, then prompts you to rotate the microphone 90 degrees and play the tones again. After that, it calculates the level and distance from the listening position to each speaker, the distance from each speaker to the screen, and the height of each speaker, all to the nearest inch.
The microphone uses these two measurements to measure your room in 3D, an improvement over previous versions of AutoCalibration that used only 2D measurements. According to Sony, "3D measurements help ensure that the speakers are optimally calibrated to take advantage of Sony's 360-degree spatial sound mapping technology. It also uses these measurements to ensure that speaker repositioning and matching auto phase are optimized for the room the receiver is in. .optimization".
After the calibration is complete, you can choose to enable automatic phase matching, enable one of three calibration types Full Flat, Engineer, or Front Reference, or use the surround speaker repositioning feature. One cool thing is that you can store two completely separate speaker profiles and calibration presets, say one for full Atmos 5.1.4 and one for 2.0 stereo listening, perhaps even in different seating positions. This makes it easy to switch between the two settings for the best experience.
Once calibrated, the system "knows" where each speaker is in relation to the center of the screenyThe listener's location, the 3000ES can use this information to enable various other options that can be valuable. The first is Center Speaker Lift Up, which helps raise the height of the center speaker by mixing some audio with the front height speakers (if present). Cleverly, it has selectable levels from 1 to 10, allowing you to achieve the best results in the room. The second is the ceiling speaker mode, which canreduceAudio location if front ceiling channels are used.
Two other useful features carried over from previous Sony AVRs are the Ping button and the Picture Test function. The front panel Ping button isgreatA quick way to get the IP and MAC address of a device and is useful for remote troubleshooting with clients. The Picture Test button on the front panel isn't that useful, it just outputs a 480p picture. (In the past, you could hold this button down and it would toggle the resolution.) You should now enter the installer setup menu (either on the device or via the web GUI) where you can choose output resolutions up to 8K/60 and 4K/120 is used on the HDMI A and B outputs, which is an excellent solution for any problem in the signal chain.
Finally, the new receiver is compatible with Sony's Music Center app, which is useful for selecting inputs, adjusting the volume, or accessing settings like selecting a soundstage or adjusting speaker levels.
While Sony doesn't have any native streaming support built in, there are plenty of ways to send music to it, including Google Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay2, or Bluetooth. If you use a service like Amazon Music or Tidal that supports 360 Reality Audio, you can stream that to the 3000ES as well. With the Music Center app, you can also browse music stored on your home network.
However, I find that the unit often doesn't show up as an available device in the list of Chromecast or AirPlay speakers. While many other Sony devices (older TVs, sound bars and receivers) on the same network show up at 100%, the AZ3000ES is usually MIA on the list. Sometimes it even disappears from the list.althoughIt's projected! I usually just have to wait a few minutes and it comes back, or a hard power cycle usually brings it back. I hope this is a quirk of my model, or something that can be fixed in the firmware, but it happens too often to be left alone.
To get an idea of what the AZ3000ES is capable of, I first hooked it up in stereo to a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G towers and Chromecast music from Tidal. Immediately, I had an idea of the receiver's ability to deliver true dynamics, detail and punch in the low end. It's capable of producing tactile bass from the tower, but also has enough control and attack over Michael Hedges' "Rickover's Dream" and "Ragamuffin."air limithave free space
From there, I added a Monitor Silver W-12 6G subwoofer and ran the audio calibration again, playing various tones and frequencies to analyze the subwoofer. Putting the unit into 2-channel stereo, I noticed there was no subwoofer output, which exposed some oddities with Sony's soundstage processing pattern. Consulting the owner's manual online, and experimenting in real life, I'm sure you can only get 2.1 channel audio by selecting A.F.D (Auto Format Decoding). Unfortunately, the receiver's purest listening mode, Pure Direct, also doesn't deliver 2-channel content to the subwoofer. This mode reduces background noise by destroying the front panel illumination, as well as some processes (auto phase matching, calibration type, equalizer, ceiling speaker mode, and 360 spatial sound mapping).
From there, I hooked up a 5.1.2 channel Atmos speaker kit, recalibrated it, and hooked up a Kaleidescape Strato and an 85-inch Sony 4K TV for some serious movies.
I was impressed with how cohesive the surround sound demo was, and my favorite demo scene came fromTop Gun：Maverick，Ready Player One，yKong: Isla CalaveraIt delivers the massive top stimulation, front-to-back panning, and dynamics you've come to expect, and dialogue is always clear and focused. (well, exceptcredo.I haven't found a processor/speaker combo that solves this problem. )
After running the auto calibration, you can turn on 360 Spatial Sound Mapping (SSM). I've had this experience with some of Sony's soundbars before and it really does improve surround sound, but this is the first time I've heard it anywhere. a full surround sound system and I'm really impressed. Sony describes this as "making the sound feel more spacious, like there are more speakers in the room", and it certainly amplifies the feeling of air and being surrounded by sound rather than surrounded by speakers. Especially the 5.1.2 system I was using, with SSM enabled, created a convincing side surround sound image, resulting in better cohesion between the speakers. A movie with many small scenes that build the mood.A quiet place, part twofeltgrande,The cars go by, even the tracks in the distance are playingford v ferrariIt just sounds fuller and more convincing.
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Similar to the richer OSD integration on recent Sony TVs and soundbars, the 3000ES also allows you to select some sound modes from the screen and turn SSM on/off using the TV remote.
When I was testing the new Mark Levinson No.5909 wireless headphones, I paired them with the 3000ES and listened. There was a slight audio delay when using BT (LDAC) from the receiver to the Levinsons when viewing Kaleidescape TrueHD Atmos content, but definitely not enough to render it unusable.
Eight years ago, when I reviewed Sony's first foray into the IC-centric STR-ZA3000ES AVR, it had a paragraph listing its shortcomings:
There are a few things conspicuously missing from a receiver at this price point. For one thing, there's no music streaming capability at all. No network audio, no USB audio, no Bluetooth, no AirPlay. The receiver also does not support Dolby Atmos. There is no app to control the phone or tablet. The receiver cannot update firmware or perform backup over the network and instead requires a USB connection on the front panel.
With the new ES series, Sony not only solvesallThese inconveniences, but they do so at a very competitive price and with a product that you can confidently install in your customers' homes without hesitation. Give the AZ3000ES a try and I dare say it will probably become your solution of choice for any 9 channel setup.
- 2-Channel AV Receiver, 120 W/Channel
- Decodes all major surround sound formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced, as well as Hi-Res Audio up to 96/24 and 360 Reality Audio
- Google Chromecast built-in; also supports Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth
- Ready for next-generation HDMI formats, including 8K and 4K/120
- Wired and wireless network connectivity (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac)
- "Works with Sonos" for easy integration
- Supports Control4 SDDP, Crestron, Savant and OvrC
- Inputs: Six HDMI inputs (four 8K and 4K/120 compatible), two composite video, three digital audio (two Toslink, one coaxial), four RCA analog audio, Ethernet, IR minijack, RS-232 DB9, 75 ohm FM antenna; Outputs: two HDMI 2.1/HDCP 2.3 (8K and 4K/120), one with eARC, two RCA subwoofers, RCA zone 2 and zone 3 analog, two composite video, S-Center mini-jack output, 12V trigger, two IR mini-jack outputs, detachable power cord
- Sony ES 5 year warranty
- 17 x 7.75 x 17.375 inches (W x H x D)
- Weight: 41.2 pounds
But now Sony has announced a slew of immersive 8K receivers with a new immersive audio room correction technology. The new receivers from Sony are their first to feature 8K & 4K/120 support as well as Sony's new '360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology'.Can you use any speakers on a Sony receiver? ›
You can connect speakers with impedances of 6 to 16 ohms. To check the impedances of the speakers, check the back of the speakers or the supplied manual. Only the STR-DH190 Bluetooth® stereo receiver has an audio analog output for an active speaker or soundbar connection.Is Sony still making AV receivers? ›
Sony's new 'ES' line of AV receivers accounts for four of the new models: STR-AZ1000ES ($1100), STR-AV3000ES ($1700), STR-AZ5000ES ($2100) and STR-AZ7000ES($3300). According to the press information, these models are aimed more at the custom install market and we'll come to this quartet all in good time.