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Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver

Good Option for a Basic Home Theater System

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front View with Included Accessories

Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front View with Included Accessories

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The Sony STR-DH830 is a home theater receiver that is targeted at consumers looking for both an affordable and practical centerpiece to a modest home theater system. Some of its features include up to a 7.1 channel speaker configuration, onboard Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, Dolby Pro Logic IIz audio processing, as well as five HDMI inputs, and analog to HDMI video conversion with 1080i video upscaling.

The STR-DH830 is also 3D, Audio Return Channel, and iPod/iPhone compatible. To find out what I thought about this receiver, continue reading this review. Also, be sure to check out my supplementary Photo Profile.

Product Overview

Features of the Sony STR-DH830 include:

1. 7.1 channel home theater receiver (7 channels plus 1 subwoofer output) delivering 95 Watts into 7 channels at .09% THD (measured from 20Hz to 20kHz with 2 channels driven).

2. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1/EX/Pro logic IIx, DTS 5.1/ES, 96/24, Neo:6.

3. Additional Audio Processing: A.F.D. (Auto-Format Direct - allows surround sound listening or multi-speaker stereo from 2-channel sources), HD-D.C.S. (HD Digital Cinema Sound - extra ambience is added to surround signals), Multi-channel Stereo.

4. Audio Inputs (Analog): 2 Audio-only Stereo Analog, 3 Audio stereo analog audio inputs associated with video inputs (includes one set on front panel)

5. Audio Inputs (Digital - Excluding HDMI): 2 Digital Optical, 1 Digital Coaxial.

6. Audio Outputs (Excluding HDMI): One Analog Stereo and One Subwoofer Pre-Out.

7. Speaker connection options provided for 5 or 7 channels, with Front Height or Surround Back options (Note: Surround Back and Front Height speakers cannot be used at the same time).

8. Video Inputs: Five HDMI ver 1.4a (3D pass through compatible), Two Component, and Three Composite.

9. Video Outputs: One HDMI (3D and Audio Return Channel capable), One Component Video, and Two Composite Video.

10. Analog to HDMI video conversion (480i to 480p) and 1080i upscaling using Faroudja processing. HDMI pass-through of resolutions of up to 1080p and 3D signals.

11. Digital Cinema Auto Calibration automatic speaker setup system. By connecting the provided microphone, the D.C.A.C. uses a series of test tones to determine the proper speaker levels, based on how it reads the speaker placement in relation to the acoustical properties of your room.

12. AM/FM Tuner with 30 Presets.

13. Front mounted USB Connection for access to audio files stored on flash drives.

14. iPod/iPhone connectivity/control via front USB port or provided docking station.

15. Standby Pass-through function allows access to HDMI devices connected to your TV through the STR-DH830 without the receiver have to be powered on.

16. Bravia Synch allows control of other Sony compatible devices connected via HDMI using the receiver's remote cotnrol. Also referred to as HDMI-CEC.

17. On-screen GUI (graphical user interface) menu and Infrared wireless remote control provided.

18. Suggested Price: $399.99

Hardware Used

Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front Controls - Left Side

Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front Controls - Left Side

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-93 and Sony BDP-S790 (on review loan).

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

Home Theater Receiver Used for Comparison: Onkyo TX-SR705

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 (7.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center , 2 Polk R300s, Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 3 (5.1 channels): Cerwin Vega CMX 5.1 System (on review loan)

TV: Panasonic TC-L42ET5 3D LED/LCD TV (on review loan)

Video Projector: BenQ W710ST (on review loan).

Projection Screens: SMX Cine-Weave 100² screen and Epson Accolade Duet ELPSC80 Portable Screen.

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Adventures of Tintin, Drive Angry, Hugo, Immortals, Puss in Boots, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Underworld: Awakening.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): Art of Flight,Ben Hur,Cowboys and Aliens, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

Receiver Setup - Digital Cinema Auto Calibration

After doing some out-of-the box casual listening to make sure the receiver, the source components, and speakers were working together, I proceeded to fine-tune the setup further using Sony's onboard Digital Cinema Auto Calibration.

Digital Cinema Auto-Calibration works by plugging in a provided microphone into the designated front panel input, placing the microphone at the main listening spot (you can screw the microphone onto a camera/camcorder tripod), going into the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration option in the speaker setup menu.

Once in the menu, you have the option to select either the Standard or Custom Auto Calibration. The Custom Auto Setup Modes changes how the equalization portion of the process is performed. The options include Full Flat (generates a flat equalization for all speakers), Engineer (Sony's reference equalization standard), Front Reference (adjusts the equalization of all speakers to the characteristics of the front speakers), or Off (no equalization performed).

After choosing which mode you want to use, there a five second countdown at which time the auto calibration process starts. As the test tones are generated, the STR-DH830 confirms what speakers are connected to the receiver, the speaker size is determined (large, small), the distance of each speaker from the listening position, and then makes equalization and speaker level adjustments.

However, keep in mind that the final results of this automatic process may not always be precisely accurate or to your taste. In these cases, you are able to go back in manually and make changes to any of the settings.

Audio Performance

Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front Controls and Inputs - Right Side

Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front Controls and Inputs - Right Side

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The STR-DH830 provides an overall very good audio listening experience that is suitable for a small or medium size room. Over long periods of time this receiver does not cause listening fatigue or generate a lot of excessive heat.

Playing a variety of Blu-ray Disc and DVD movies, in combination with several speaker setups, and in a 15x20 foot room, the STR-DH830 provided a good movie viewing experience in terms of sound staging and definition. I never felt that the receiver was straining or had problems handling dynamic content.

The STR-DH830 provides both 5.1 and 7.1 channels speaker setup options which also includes the the use of two height channels, in lieu of two back surround channels, by using the Dolby Prologic IIz option. The effect of Dolby ProLogic IIz option over a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 channel really depends on the room and whether the content lends itself to addition of front height channels. Also, if you have a small room where it is not possible to have a sixth and seventh channel behind the listening position, reinforcing the front with height speakers may add a more full surround sound experience to your setup.

There are no Blu-ray or DVD soundtracks specifically mixed for front height channels, but action movies with rain, and plane and helicopter flyover effects, as well as concert videos that include a large band or orchestra, can yield good results. Essentially, soundtracks that contain overhead or very dominate front stage elements.

As far as music reproduction goes, the STR-DH830 does well with CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio discs. However, since the STR-DH830 does not have a set of 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog audio inputs, access SACD and DVD-Audio is dependent a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player that can output those formats via HDMI, such as the OPPO players I used in this review. If you have DVD-Audio and SACD discs, make sure your DVD or Blu-ray Disc player can output these formats via HDMI.

Proceed to Page 2: Video Performance, 3D, USB, Final Take

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