"Terrific receiver, rotten manual"4.5 starson by Anachronistic
Pros: Awesome sound, good upgrade quality from component to HDMI, nice looks, easy and effective auto calibration, lots of flexibility in assigning and naming input.
Cons: Poorly written and laid out manual. Unable to assign HDMI to audio and video inputs on alternate keys. Takes a while to change video inputs.
Summary: This receiver was bought to upgrade my ageing Sony STRDE-985. I bought it because it was a Sony, as my system is Sony from end to end, because it has HDMI, because it has upgrade capability from S-video, composite and component video to HDMI, and because it offers 7.1 surround sound with a Total Harmonic Distortion of 0.09%. I also bought it because I was able to buy it at a reasonable price from a reputable mail order shop.
I have found the sound this unit produces with the appropriate Sony speakers - tower front, 3 way center, 12" sub woofer, bookshelf side and rear - transcendant. As good as the STRDE985 was, and it was very good in its day, this upgrade just blows anything else I have ever heard, theaters included, into the weeds. Once one masters the poorly written, illogically laid out, over complicated manual, and applies some level of common logic to the remote and the on-screen GUI menu, the system is quite easy to work with.
I am using this with an old Sony 52" LCD projection TV with 1080i native resolution, and although the handbook recommends against outputting HDMI to DVI, the DVI is the only digital input that this TV has. The output though from the HDMI to the DVI is such that it represents a visible improvement in sharpness and clarity over the previous blue/green/red video input. As my Blu-ray does not necessarily play all non-blue-ray DVD's, I have a second DVD player attached, which uses co-axial sound and blue/green/red video, upgraded and output through the HDMI feed to the TV DVI input. The picture and sound from this DVD, while not in the same class as the blu-ray, is still really good, good enough to be a significant upgrade in its own right.
So what's not to like? First of all, the manual. Sony try very hard to set expectations in a negative manner by means of the manual. When I first read the manual, II saw so many apparent technical flaws, tha tI almost put the receiver back in the box and sent it back to the retailer. But knowing Sony as I sdo, I chose instead to work through each issue, and as it turned out, many of the warnings were really for people who would probably be extremely demanding, technically naive and completely lacking in common sense. For instance, that an HDMI inpout to a DVI may result in a lack of souond out of the TV speakers (duh). Or that to enjoy soound from the TV through the speakers attached to the receiver, you need to output thesound from the TV to the receiver independently from the HDMI output to the TV, and so on. The wording thoughmakes it look like the Sony simply has a bunch of shortcomings which turn out to be non-existent.
One small beef I did have, though, is that from an electronic design perspective, it really looks like they took what was a very good, well thought out component video receiver and added HDMI as an afterthought. This is apparent when you get into the inout assignment, which only allows you to assign HDMI audio and video to a pre-assigned field such as DVD or blu-ray. The outcome is a minor inconvenience, for instance I have assigned an optical audio input and HDMI video to the Blu-ray button on the remote so the technically challenged in my family can push the "blu-ray" button on the remote instead of the "HDMI 3" buttin it is also assigned to. But for me, I have programmed the HDMI 3 button to run the blu-ray and allow me to enjoy that AWESOME hdmi audio blu-ray sound. The final, minor, shortcoming is that the remote does not seem to have a setting to control my Moorola HDTV PVR box. But that's ok, at least I am down to no more than 2 remotes.
Overall, I love this receiver, it is good looking, produces awesome sound and video, and is resonably weasy to work with. I am sure this will give me years of listening pleasure as all of my prior Sony receivers have done.