Price (RRP): $899
Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
Sony has powered ahead into low cost HDMI support ahead of most of its rivals. Like the LG receiver, this budget receiver carries two inputs, through which it supports regular and the 6.1 variants of Dolby Digital and DTS, as well as multichannel PCM (the same kind of sound as CDs, but with up to 7.1 channels).
This does seem to come at some cost to other features. Principally, its headline power rating is equal lowest with the Marantz, except that the latter offers seven channels to this mode’s six. The other thing missing is S-Video, like the LG.
This is a bit odd because there are still some devices where S-Video is the best connection standard – and the picture quality difference between S-Video and composite is huge. If you have one of these, you may consider looking elsewhere.
Still, it offers solid performance and in the real world the difference between 70 watts and 100 watts is not really very much (just 1.5 decibels).
The unit also supports both iPods and some of Sony’s own Walkmans with its Digital Media Port. The Walkman version of the matching dock costs $149, while the iPod and the intriguing Bluetooth versions cost $249. The latter can apparently hook up to a Bluetooth mobile phone.
Setting up the unit is eased by the inclusion of a calibration microphone and an automatic routine that runs your loudspeakers through their paces. There is a manual override if the results are less than perfect, and you can adjust the subwoofer crossover frequency to ensure that all loudspeakers can deliver optimum performance. Also provided is an audio delay to ensure people’s onscreen lips match their through-the-speakers utterances.
The receiver is relatively compact in depth at only 310 mm, so it could be suited to people with limited depth in their shelf areas.