Sony STR-DH820 A/V receiver

Sony STR-DH820 review: an A/V receiver with plenty of power, iPod support and comprehensive codec support

Sony STR-DH820
  • Sony STR-DH820
  • Sony STR-DH820
  • Sony STR-DH820
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Simple auto calibration
  • Plenty of power

Cons

  • Front-mounted ports can't be hidden

Bottom Line

The STR-DH820 adds some useful features from the entry-level STR-DH520. As A/V receivers go, it does a pretty good job and doesn't have any significant failings that would annoy the majority of users.

Would you buy this?

The basic functionality of the Sony STR-DH820 is the same as the Sony STR-DH520 amplifier. This review focuses on the additional features of the STR-DH820.

The Sony STR-DH820 amplifier is a mid-level A/V receier that supports 3D video pass-through. It'd make a good addition to a low-budget 3D home cinema, and its auto calibration works well to optimise a surround sound speaker setup. Its advantages over the cheaper STR-DH520 come in the form of even easier calibration, a second zone setting for a speaker system in a different room, and support for a second powered subwoofer. An enterprising home theatre installer could use the Sony STR-DH820 to fit out two rooms with ease.

Sony STR-DH820: Design and setup

Like the STR-DH520, the Sony STR-DH820 won't be winning any beauty pageants. It's functional though, with a large volume dial and input selector dial on the right of the two-line LCD screen, and a tuning dial on the left. Other buttons for switching between speakers and different zones probably won't see much use, but they're easy to access if needed.

Temporary front inputs for composite audio and video, the automatic audio calibration microphone and USB — for connecting an iPod cable, with almost all iPod and iPhone devices supported — are hidden down on the lower right front of the STR-DH820. They're easy to get to, but we would have preferred if they were hidden behind a flip-down door to make the front of the amplifier a little more seamless. These front inputs aren't found on the STR-DH520, so if you want them — the iPod connector in particular — the STR-DH820 is the one to get.

The Sony STR-DH820 has speaker terminals for seven surround speakers, and two pre-outs for connecting actively-powered subwoofers. If you want to use the Sony STR-DH820 to power speakers in two different rooms and switch between them, the rear speaker terminals are set up to accomodate this. We tried using two sets of stereo speakers in two different rooms and had no problems.

Calibrating the Sony STR-DH820 is a one-step process and couldn't be simpler. The front input for the calibration mic means all you have to do is plug it in and hit two buttons on the remote control. A few seconds later all the speakers are optimised for whichever listening position the microphone was sitting in, and the difference in sound quality after calibration is noticeable.

Sony STR-DH820: Performance

The Sony STR-DH820 has the same amplification power as the STR-DH520, with a rating of 100W per channel (though this is only when powering two channels — all seven channels used simultaneously would not be fed 100W each). In practice we found the power of the STR-DH820 to be more than adequate, with five reasonably cheap Onkyo home theatre speakers only requiring around half volume to fill a medium-sized room with sound. Even watching a blockbuster movie shouldn't push the STR-DH820 to its limits.

We liked the convenience of plugging an iPod directly into the front of the Sony STR-DH820. You can control the iPod with the STR-DH820's remote control, so if you want to change tracks you don't have to keep walking to the amplifier. We were surprised to see that no iPod connector is available on the back of the STR-DH820 — if you want to have an iPod plugged in 24/7, it'll have to be sticking out of the front of the amp.

Sony STR-DH820: Conclusion

Sony'S STR-DH820 is a competent and fully-featured home theatre receiver. If you've got a 3D Blu-ray player and 3D TV, and want to set up a home theatre that doesn't require a workaround to show 3D, the Sony STR-DH820 should do the job nicely.

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