Sony STR-DH520 A/V receiver

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

Sony STR-DH520
  • Sony STR-DH520
  • Sony STR-DH520
  • Sony STR-DH520
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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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