Sugg. Retail: $1499 (CAN)
Distributor: Sony of Canada,
115 Gordon Baker Rd., Toronto, ON M2H 3R6
(Reprinted from the Fall 02 Audio Ideas Guide)
This is yet another complex A/V receiver that tries to make operation simple while introducing new features and maintaining those that have become standard. It’s a 7-channel design, with 110 wpc all around (8 0hms), with the new DTS 96/24, ES, and NEO:6 formats added to Dolby Digital EX and Pro Logic II. Though there are 7 Cinema and 10 music sound field programs, there are no THX ones, which is a blessing.
Instead, Sony provides its own Digital Cinema Sound EX processing for these 17 sonic environments, using 32-bit digital processing. On the video side, the STR-DA4ES upconverts all composite video inputs to S-video, and includes a pair of component inputs and 1 component out, all passing through HD signals. Digital audio inputs, of which there are 4 optical and 2 coaxial, are assignable to any of the analog A/V inputs. These include 5 composite video and 5 S-video in addition to the 2 component ones. There are also 12 volt triggers for screens, etc., and IR repeater ports (1 input/2 output) to provide house-wide control flexibility. The receiver’s rear panel can be seen below.
Speaking of flexibility, this receiver offers both 5.1 and 7.1 analog inputs to provide extra accommodation of analog sources, able to handle both DVD-A and SACD players’ outputs, and any future digital system with a couple more channels. There are 4 other analog inputs, including an MM phono stage. Of course, we have AM and FM tuner sections, though the latter was DOA in our early review sample. I didn’t test the AM tuner.
Sony’s credo for its new ES receivers is “Power with Precision”, according to a fact sheet: “It is within the amplifier where form truly meets function. The STR-DA4ES employs unique construction elements to ensure purity with power. The design used to create the amplifier within the STR-DA4ES is known as a `horizontally opposed chassis’. The output stage of the receiver is built with the utmost regard for purity of output. Left and right signal elements are opposed channel by channel on the the two separate heatsinks.” “Now the quality [of] separates can be realized within one chassis.”
In other words, the electronic circuits are flanked on either side by the output stages with their massive heatsink structure, which vents upward and sideways. These finned aluminum structures are one of the main reasons this receiver weighs 44 pounds.
To demonstrate its sound quality capabilities, Sony has included a front panel 2-channel Direct switch, in addition to the Multi-channel Direct button that “toggles between 5.1 and 7.1 channel inputs”, as noted, allowing use with SACD and DVD-A players. In both cases, no A/D or D/A conversion is employed.
And I liked the sound of this receiver when fed by the Pioneer Elite DV-47A with high resolution discs in either format. Though not quite as powerful (or expensive) as the Pioneer VSX-49TX, the Sony had lots of dynamic and rhythmic kick for a receiver. With either music of soundtracks, it was a very fine performer. It also had considerable clarity and openness of sound. It’s good that high end receivers have gotten so much better sounding.
Unfortunately, the review STR-DA4ES was an early sample whose remote control had disappeared by the time it got to me, and the one subsequently supplied by the company did not work with the receiver; or, at least, I could not make it operate. There is absolutely nothing about this remote control in any of the dozens of pages of white paper and manual supplied, and the only references to a remote in the latter refer to a completely different one, that for the more expensive STR-DA7ES receiver.
However, I found the receiver quite simple to operate with the front panel controls, the large Volume knob easily at hand, and the Function selector underneath it also easily accessible.
Even without an operable remote, the Sony STR-DA4ES is an excellent A/V component, with all the necessary features and a lot of performance for the price, which is definitely very low on a pound-per-dollar basis, especially when compared with the preceding Pioneer Elite unit. There’s a lot of home theatre value here.