Sony STR-DH520 A/V receiver

Sony STR-DH520 review: A surround sound amp that supports 3D playback

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  • User Reviews (2)
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Sony STR-DH520
  • Sony STR-DH520
  • Sony STR-DH520
  • Sony STR-DH520
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5
  • User Rating

    2.00 / 5 (of 2 Reviews)


  • Simple setup
  • 3D pass-through
  • Auto level calibration works well


  • No high-end codec support

Bottom Line

The Sony STR-DH520 is a reasonable choice for an entry-level A/V receiver, and its inclusion of 3D play-through is useful for anyone setting up a cheap 3D home theatre.

Would you buy this?

Sony's STR-DH520 is an entry-level surround sound amplifier that supports pass-through of 3D signals, so you can use it with a 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray player — there's no need to buy a low-quality all-in-one 3D home theatre system, since the STR-DH520 can be hooked up to almost any home theatre speaker on the market. It's also easy to set up and includes auto level calibration that optimises the sound from each speaker according to your listening position.

Sony STR-DH520: Design and setup

The Sony STR-DH520 isn't particularly attractive, as home theatre components go — if it's style you want, head for something from Pioneer's LX range or from Harman Kardon. It is reasonably easy to control, though; the big dial handles volume and the small dial switches between input sources. There's a few ancillary buttons arranged across the front panel for audio adjustment and minor features, but past initial setup we don't think you'll need to pay much attention to them.

There are four HDMI inputs on the STR-DH520, as well as a range of digital audio and analog video inputs. We hooked up a Sony BDP-S380 Blu-ray player and a Tivo HD PVR to the HDMI inputs, but didn't have a 3D source to test the STR-DH520's 3D pass-through. The STR-DH520 is able to up-convert video to 1080p, so it's good for low quality sources like an old DVD player or game console.

The STR-DH520's auto level calibration feature is very simple, and is useful enough that we think all users could benefit from running it at least on the initial setup of their home theatre system. The calibration mic plugs into the rear of the STR-DH520 (front-access convenience is only on the more expensive STR-DH820) and running the auto calibration only takes a couple of button-presses. It's a matter of a couple of minutes and we found that the level adjustment made surround sound slightly better than the default settings.

Sony STR-DH520: Performance

The Sony STR-DH520 supports up to seven surround speakers simultaneously, as well as a subwoofer through a dedicated pre-out. We set the Sony STR-DH520 up with five reasonably cheap Onkyo home theatre speakers rated at 100W each. The STR-DH520 is rated at 100W per channel maximum, and we found that in a medium size room we didn't have to use over half volume to get great sound from our impromptu home theatre setup. The Sony's 100W rating comes at a total harmonic distortion figure of 0.09%, so we wouldn't be pushing the system to its limits lest distortion creeps in.

The Sony STR-DH520 supports a range of audio codecs, but noticeably missing are the high-end Blu-ray codecs for DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. If these are important to you you'll need to buy a more expensive amplifier.

Sony STR-DH520: Conclusion

The Sony STR-DH520 is a competent 7.1-channel entry-level amplifier. It doesn't have the sheer power or extra features of more expensive A/V receivers, but it's a simple and capable hi-fi component that usefully includes 3D pass-through — important if you're setting up a 3D-ready home cinema and you don't want to spend lots.

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Neil Bryant


UPDATE I just downloaded the Sony pdf spec sheet for this amp and it states it does support the high end codecs "Decoding Format(s)
96k/24Bit PCM: Yes
Dolby Dual Mono: Yes
LPCM (2CH/5.1CH/7.1CH) thru HDMI: Yes
DTS / DTS-ES (Matrix6.1 / Discrete6.1):
DTS 96/24/ DTS NEO:6: Yes/Yes
Dolby Digital EX/ Dolby Digital: Yes/Yes
Dolby Prologic/II /Iix /Iiz: Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes
Dolby TruHD/Dolby Digital +: Yes/Yes" so thats a pretty big mistake you made in your review unless of course the Australian version does'nt have these codecs.

Neil Bryant


I'm in the UK and i've just sent off for the reciever,and i'm intriged that you say in your review that it does'nt have the high end codecs(DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD)
But company spec sheet who i bought it from says it does have these codecs if your right and their wrong i'll have to cancell my order.



Note: the Canadian version does not support the auto calibration feature. I had no problems setting up my unit but this feature was advertised online by the supplier. I was disappointed that the input was actually disabled, forcing one to set up everything manually. It wasn't a deal breaker, just something Canadian users should be aware of.

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Doesn't work very well
• • •

Audio is slightly out of sync with the tv speakers. Also, when I change cable channels, the screen goes dead -- no video or audio unless I power cycle the receiver. The troubleshooting page does not address this.




Some missing features
• • •

For those looking for a budget receiver that's relatively easy to set up and sounds excellent for small to medium sized rooms the Sony DH520 is definitely worth a serious look. I have my receiver set up as a 5.1 using Paradigm speakers all round. So far, I've been very happy with the performance, especially compared to the aging, decade old Sony unit it's replaced (HDMI is definitely the way to go).

There is no onscreen TV menu and the remote is as basic as they come though. Hardly surprising at this price point. The sound at higher volumes reveals some minor, barely detectable distortion so audiophiles will probably want to look elsewhere. The North American model comes with the auto mic calibration feature disabled which is an inexplicable and strange omission to me. And as the reviewer mentioned this is a somewhat ugly unit but is nonetheless solidly built. The DH520 also does an excellent job at detecting and decoding virtually all audio formats. Movies sound especially good on the DH520.

This is the Honda Civic of home theatre receivers. An extremely serviceable unit that will get you where you want to go with a minimum of fuss and financial pain. However those of you who prefer BMWs will obviously be looking for something else.


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