Sony STR-DA5700ES AV Receiver Review

Sony raises their game with the STR-DA5700ES AV Receiver

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6

Highly Recommended
Sony STR-DA5700ES AV Receiver Review
SRP: £1,999.00
By their own admission, Sony has lost ground over the last few years, not just in the TV market but across the AV board. Where once they ruled supreme, Sony find themselves fighting a rear guard action against their South Korean competitors and with Samsung, in particular, declaring their intention to do in audio what they did in video, it was time to act. The first step in Sony's renaissance was to admit that they had become complacent; the second step was to do something about it. The company brought all their design and technological strengths together last year and have come out fighting in 2012. Already this year we have seen Sony's ground breaking 4K projector, the VW1000, and their high-end TV, the HX853, both of which picked up highly recommended badges here at AVForums. Now it's time to take a look at one of their flagship audio products, the STR-DA5700ES AV receiver.
The specifications on the STR-DA5700ES shows that Sony mean business and this receiver is clearly aimed at reclaiming some of the AV high ground that the company has lost to its competitors. At just under £2,000 it isn't cheap but there's no doubt where the money has gone, with the STR-DA5700ES sporting a feature set as long as your arm. It offers a seven channel design with 120W per a channel and it can be configured in a number of different ways, including with additional height speakers. It also offers a number of DSP modes as well as an auto calibration feature for easy setup. There are a vast array of connections at the rear, extensive network capabilities, internet radio and the obligatory smartphone remote control. Of course, a receiver can have all the features in the world but they're pointless if it doesn't sound good and Sony is confident that the STR-DA5700ES will deliver. Let's see...

Design and Connectivity

If there's one area that Sony have always excelled in, it's design and the STR-DA5700ES is no exception. This receiver is a thing of beauty, sporting the classic Sony front facia with an angled ledge a third of the way down, that also doubles as a row of buttons. We've always liked our receivers to be big and beefy and the STR-DA5700ES fits neatly into that category with its solid and well machined chassis. At a size of 430 x 188 x 420mm and weighing in at 17kg, the STR-DA5700ES has the kind of dimensions and bulk you expect from a high end receiver and the gorgeous black finish will give it pride of place in anyone's system. There's a reassuringly well engineered presence to the STR-DA5700ES and the buttons and dials all feel suitably robust and smooth in operation.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
If we had one complaint, it would be that the front facia is a bit busy with no fewer than eighteen buttons, four dials, two covered input wells and a large display. This display is suitably informative but due to all that information, the digits and letters can be quite small, which makes it hard to read from a distance. The four dials control volume, input, tuning and tone and the two input wells are at the bottom - one on the right hand side and one on the left hand side next to the headphone socket. The input well on the left hand side has a pull off cover, behind which there is an input for the auto calibration microphone, a USB port, a composite video input and analogue stereo inputs. Over on the right hand side, the input well has a slide across cover behind which you will find an extra HDMI input, which is handy.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
As you would expect with an AV receiver, the rear includes an almost bewildering array of connections, most of which you'll probably never use. The STR-DA5700ES includes 4-in/3-out for composite video and 3-in/2-out for component video, along with their corresponding analogue stereo inputs, but you have to wonder just how many of these connections will ever see any action. Of far greater use are the five HDMI inputs (six if you count the one at the front) and two HDMI outputs, which should be enough for just about any system. There are also four optical and three coaxial digital inputs and an optical digital output, along with three 12v triggers, IR remote in/outs and a RS232 connector for serial interface. There are connectors for FM and AM aerials, along with multi-channel inputs and pre-outs for up to 9.2-channels if you have the necessary amplification. Unusually there are four 10/100 Ethernet ports, which mean you can use the STR-DA5700ES as a hub and there's also a dedicated 96kHz/24-bit two channel PC USB input for those that like to listen to their music from their laptops and PCs. Finally there are speaker cable binding posts for up to 7-channels, which can be configured either as 5.1 with a second zone or as 7.1 with either rear or height speakers.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Sony STR-DA5700ES
The STR-DA5700ES comes with two remote controls; the first of which is the main multifunction remote with a comprehensive set of buttons that can control any aspect of the receiver's functions along with a number of other devices. The remote is long and slim, comfortable to hold and sensibly laid out, although the control you'll use the most - volume - is at the bottom, which made it difficult to use with one hand. Along with all the usual controls, there are direct controls for selecting the HDMI output, the Home page, the setup menu and the different DSP modes. It's a perfectly adequate remote control but for some reason it doesn't have a backlight which can be a nuisance in the dark, although there's a good chance that it will be replaced with some form of universal remote anyway. The second remote control is a stripped down version that we actually preferred using because it had everything you needed for basic control of the STR-DA5700ES and whilst the volume buttons were still at the bottom, its smaller size made it easier to use.

Setup and Menus

There was a time when the menu system on an AV receiver (if it had one at all) was a simple and monochromatic affair but not anymore it would seem. The STR-DA5700ES has a very attractive and informative menu system that makes setting up and using the receiver very easy indeed. In fact the cool, attractive graphics and slick user interface wouldn't look out of place on one of Sony's TVs, so we had to remind ourselves that we were actually navigating the menu of a receiver.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Sony STR-DA5700ES
The intuitive nature of the menu system is immediately apparent when you press the Home button on the remote. You are greeted by a home page that is broken into a series of easy to select and self-explanatory options - Watch, Listen, Favourites, Easy Automation, Sound Effects and Settings. If you select the Watch option then you are presented with a series of icons allowing you to select different video inputs, as well as video and photo content from other sources such as the Internet or a home network. The Listen option offers a similar selection of inputs, although the emphasis is obviously on audio sources, along with content from a connected PC, the Internet or a home network. The Favourites option displays any Internet content that has been added to your Favourites List, you can save up to 18 items. The Easy Automation option allows you to create basic macros to recall a number of settings all at one time and the Sound Effects option allows you to select various proprietary Sony DSP modes. Finally the Settings option gives you access to the STR-DA5700ES's setup menus (this can also be accessed directly by pressing the Amp Menu button on either of the remote controls.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Sony STR-DA5700ES
The Sound Effects option allows you to select from a wide range of proprietary digital signal processing (DSP) modes that are designed to emulate different configurations or environments. Within Sound Effects there are four main functions - Sound Field, Speaker Relocation, Sound Optimizer and Calibration Type. Within the Sound Field function there are options for 2-channel stereo, headphones and Auto Format Direct (AFD) which allows you to listen to the original source audio without any added processing. There are also a number of other sound effects including HD Digital Cinema Sound (HD-DCS), which is Sony's proprietary form of digital signal processing, and offers a choice of Dynamic, Theatre or Studio. There are also third party formats such as Dolby's PLIIx Movie, PLIIz Height and DTS Neo:X Cinema available.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Of the other Sound Effects options, Sound Optimizer is designed to offer improved audio at lower volume levels, adjusting for the fact that movie soundtracks are mixed to be heard at a reference volume. Speaker Relocation uses signal processing to change the perceived speaker locations to match those recommended by the ITU-R for 5.1 and 7.1 channel setup. The final option is Calibration Type, which compensates for the types of speakers used in each location, and offers a choice of Full Flat (which measures the frequency of each speaker flat), Engineer (which sets the frequency to match that of the Sony Listening Room standard), Front Reference (which uses adjusts the characteristics of all the speakers to match the front two) and User Reference (which sets the frequency to a customised choice).
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Sony STR-DA5700ES
The Settings contains all the necessary sub-menus for setting up STR-DA5700ES, including Speaker Settings, Audio Settings, Video Settings, HDMI Settings, Input Settings, Network Settings, Internet Service Settings, Zone Settings and System Settings. The Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (DCAC) software uses a provided device with left and right microphones which you just plug into the socket in the front input well. The entire process is very straightforward and the calibration procedure automatically checks the connections between the speakers and the receiver, the crossover frequency, the distance and the levels. There are also more advanced automated setup features such as compensating for different speakers, EQ for the rear speakers and automatic phase matching. Of course there are manual controls for speaker setup if you prefer and here you can individually select the Speaker Connection, Speaker Setup, Test Tone, Speaker Impedance and Distance Unit. The remaining sub-menus in Settings allow you to set features such as the Input Names, Assign Audio and Video Inputs, Dynamic Range Compressor, Parental Control, Zone Control, RS232 Control and Software Updates.

Features

As befits a flagship AV receiver, the STR-DA5700ES includes an incredible array of features, both in terms of the construction and design, as well as the sound formats, sound effects and interactivity on offer. The STR-DA5700ES itself uses a full metal chassis and a newly designed hybrid digital power supply, that through a combination of electronics and construction, offers increased durability and reduces electrical noise. There are also exclusive features for switching the power supply in standby mode, allowing both HDMI pass-through and network use whilst still saving energy. The STR-DA5700ES includes high quality audio grade components for a higher signal-to-noise ratio and direct clocking to improve circuit location and reduce jitter. It can also connect two DACs per a channel to create parallel DACs similar to those found in Sony's high end CD and SACD players.
The changes don't stop there and the STR-DA5700ES is unique in including four 10/100 Ethernet ports, offering the opportunity to use the receiver as a network hub for other connected devices. This high speed network engine is DLNA certified and can support up to 192kHz 24bit 2ch with LPCM, FLAC, AAC and MP3 files. It will also support a multichannel network signal up to 48kHz 24bit 5.1ch, as well as streaming high definition video and 3D content. The front USB port can be used for playback and is capable of handling 192kHz 24bit 2ch or 48kHz 24bit 5.1ch, just like the network engine. The USB port at the front is also compatible with an iPhone or iPod and the USB-DAC type B terminal at the rear allows you to listen to music from a PC or laptop at up to 96kHz 24bit 2ch. The STR-DA5700ES can send audio and video from both any connected network or USB devices, and it offers excellent file support including MKV, MOV, MP4 and AVI for video and WAV, FLAC, AAC, MP3 and WMA for audio.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Sony STR-DA5700ES
The STR-DA5700ES includes nearly all the services available over the Sony Entertainment Network, providing an effective internet platform. As a result you can access numerous video services including YouTube, DailyMotion and LoveFilm but surprisingly no BBC iPlayer - perhaps not as ubiquitous as we thought. There are also various audio options available, including a staggering number of internet radio stations. If you prefer the more traditional method of listening to radio, there is also a built-in AM and FM tuner, which you can use if you connect the appropriate aerials. Sony also provides an app called ES Remote which is free and available for both iOS and Android. The app replicates the home page on the STR-DA5700ES, allowing you to control basic functions (volume mute etc.) as well as select from Watch, Listen, Easy Automation, Lighting, Sound Effects and App Settings. Within Sound Effects you can even select Sound Field, Equalizer, Speaker Setup, Audio Setup and Auto Calibration, all via your smartphone or tablet.
Sony STR-DA5700ES
Sony STR-DA5700ES
In audio terms the STR-DA5700ES supports all the usual digital formats including Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio and DTS-HD Master Audio. The STR-DA5700ES can also accept multichannel Linear PCM and Sony's own Direct Stream Digital (DSD) if you have a SACD player connected. As mentioned previously, the STR-DA5700ES also offers a vast array of sound effects that apply digital signal processing to your source audio. As part of Sony's proprietary HD Digital Cinema Sound (HD-DCS) processing you can select different acoustical environments that have been mapped using 8 points microphones and are then emulated using built-in processing. The environments that have been mapped include the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, the sound characteristics of which the STR-DA5700ES can reproduce. This feature will work automatically in conjunction with reception from "The Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall" Internet service. This processing creates a virtual 9.1ch sound using the 7ch amplifiers built into the STR-DA5700ES by using speaker relocation technology. However the STR-DA5700ES does have 9.2ch pre-outs, so you can have actual and discrete sound if you add amplification.

Video Performance

As you would expect from a modern AV receiver, the STR-DA5700ES includes built-in deinterlacing and video scaling capabilities. The internal video processing can deinterlace 480i, 576i and 1080i signals and upscale and output at 1080p over HDMI and 1080i over component, although you can output signals received via HDMI over component. The STR-DA5700ES will also pass through 1080p/24 signals from Blu-rays and it can happily pass a 3D signal as well. We tested the deinterlacing and scaling capabilities of the STR-DA5700ES and we were pleased to see that it was capable of detecting both 3:2 and 2:2 cadences, as well scaling standard definition content without introducing unwanted artefacts or jaggies. If you decide to use the STR-DA5700ES for cadence detection, make sure you turn it off on your display otherwise there’s a danger of creating more problems than you solve.
In fact the STR-DA5700ES is as good a video processor as most modern TVs so if you want to, you can connect all your sources to the receiver, do the deinterlacing and scaling there and pass 1080p straight to your display via HDMI. The STR-DA5700ES is also as flexible in terms of video as it is in terms of audio, you can create different setups for different inputs and you can also match any audio input with any video input. We were pleased to see that when we tested the STR-DA5700ES in the pass through setting, the video remained unadulterated. We are not big fans of picture controls on receivers, as these controls can ruin a carefully calibrated display, so we were pleased to discover that the Sony was free of them. Instead, when it comes to video the STR-DA5700ES is designed to be used as a HDMI switcher, deinterlacer and scaler, all whilst retaining a degree of transparency, just as a good AV receiver should.

Audio Performance

Whilst it's great to have so many features on an AV receiver, what ultimately matters is the sound quality. After all, in the two weeks that we were using the STR-DA5700ES we listened to it a lot but hardly ever found ourselves using the other features, except as part of the review process. Looking at the spec sheet, the Sony appears to have plenty of horse power under the hood, with 7 channels at 120W each and that was certainly the case in practice. We used the STR-DA5700ES in the 7.1 channel configuration with side and rear speakers, although you can also use it in a standard 5.1 set up or a 7.1 configuration where the additional 2 channels are height speakers at the front.
If you wanted you could even create a 9.2 channel system but you would need additional amplification for the height speakers and a second active subwoofer. Due to the size of the screen in our home cinema, the use of height speakers just isn't an option and although we have actually heard a demo of a film remixed to include height channels on the STR-DA5700ES, we have yet to be convinced of the benefits. There's no doubt that a move towards additional height speakers is happening in professional cinemas but it seems less likely to catch on at home, where it's already hard enough convincing partners to put up with 7 speakers and a subwoofer.
The automated setup of the STR-DA5700ES actually worked very well and when we checked the settings manually they appeared to be spot on. The Sony doesn't offer the kind of exceptional room equalisation that you get with ARC on an Anthem receiver but in all honesty they are exceptional. However the Sony does an excellent good job of integrating the speakers in your system and the results were very impressive. The STR-DA5700ES does offer some interesting digital signal processing features that allow you to compensate if your speakers don't match tonally and to relocate your speakers so they match the recommended positions for 5.1 or 7.1 playback. We didn't need to use these features because our speakers are tonally matched and correctly positioned but it could be useful for those who need to make greater compromises in their set up.
As mentioned earlier STR-DA5700ES can decode all the usual audio formats such as DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD, as well as DTS, Dolby Digital and all flavours of Dolby Pro Logic. For the majority of our testing we used the Auto Format Direct (AFD) mode which allows you to listen to the source material without any additional processing. Thanks to the excellent setup and the inherent power of the STR-DA5700ES, the resulting overall performance was superb with a beautifully rendered soundstage. The Sony handled movie soundtracks exceptionally well, combining a dynamic and precise delivery with some genuinely responsive bass. The integration of the overall sound field was impressive and the rears retained a lively presence that resulted in an immersive surround experience. When watching films the precise imaging of the sound mix was evident and both effects and pans were expertly rendered.
We have recently been using Battleship and The Hunger Games for testing a wide range of audio systems and the both sounded amazing on the STR-DA5700ES. The sonic assault of Battleship was breathlessly delivered in all its brash glory but the Sony was also able to expertly render all the subtle details and immersive effects that make up the remarkably effective soundtrack of The Hunger Games. As we listened to the explosive chaos of the Battleship soundtrack we were pleased that the STR-DA5700ES was able to deliver the room quaking bass without losing its focus. The Sony was able to reach the lower frequencies without swamping the soundtrack and just delivered the necessary impact when needed. It also seemed able to do this even when using a relatively modest subwoofer and as a result the low frequency effects (LFE) channel on film soundtracks wa highly effective. Overall the bass was well integrated, supporting the overall sound and providing an exciting and visceral experience.
The STR-DA5700ES was equally as assured with music, be it multi-channel or stereo, providing a subtle and nuanced performance. When reproducing stereo in particular, there was a transparency to the sound that retained all the detail in the original recordings, whilst delivering them with enthusiasm and genuine insight. We found ourselves going through all our favourite recordings, not just for review purposes but because we were enjoying hearing the recordings again. Whether it was orchestral or rock, male or female vocals, the STR-DA5700ES delivered it all with great aplomb. We were equally as impressed with multichannel music and since we could pass Direct Stream Digital (DSD) over HDMI, we dusted off our SACDs and gave them a listen. The STR-DA5700ES was able to render the multichannel recordings with the same level of musicality and precision that it did with movie soundtracks, allowing for instruments to be located within a 360 degree soundstage. In fact some of our favourite multichannel recordings from Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips really came to life thanks to the STR-DA5700ES capabilities.
As we mentioned previously, the STR-DA5700ES comes with an extensive selection of sound processing features, some of which are more useful than others. In general we prefer the audio to remain un-tampered with; if the system is set up properly and the room EQ'd then any atmospheric or acoustical element within the audio should be the result of the creators intent. We've never really understood why you would want to press a button and have your receiver recreate the ambiance of a specific venue - be it theatre, cinema or concert hall. They can be fun to play with, especially when it comes to live recordings but ultimately we always end up turning these features off.
For movies the primary processing feature on the STR-DA5700ES is Sony's proprietary HD Digital Cinema Sound (HD-DCS) which offers the choice of Dynamic, Theatre and Studio. These sound fields are created using measured acoustic data and Dynamic is designed to create the impression of a large cinema, Theatre emulates a dubbing stage and Studio reduces reflections and lifts dialogue. When it comes to music there are a multitude of different acoustic mappings to choose from including the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, various concert halls, jazz clubs etc. Of greater use was the Sound Optimizer feature which allows you to listen to movies at volumes lower than reference, which can be handy for watching movies late at night or when you don't wish to annoy the neighbours. This feature allows you to listen at lower volume levels whilst maintaining the overall balance of the sound stage and keeping the dynamic impact of the original soundtrack

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Comprehensive connections
  • Impressive video processing
  • Attractive design
  • Superb build quality
  • Flexible setup and configuration
  • Well designed and user friendly menus
  • Excellent networking capabilities

The Bad

  • Front facia is a bit crowded
  • No backlight on the remote
  • No built-in WiFi
  • Price

Sony STR-DA5700ES AV Receiver Review

The Sony STR-DA5700ES certainly delivers in the looks department with a large, muscular chassis that looks like it’s been machined out of solid black metal. The overall construction feels well engineered and Sony’s boffins have been hard at work making the electronics inside as effective as the design outside. The STR-DA5700ES boasts 7 channels of amplification at 120W each and it uses a new and more efficient power supply, along with audio grade components. The front facia is attractive but a little crowded, with no fewer than 18 buttons, 4 dials, 2 covered input wells and an informative display. The rear connections are extensive and include 5 HDMI inputs (there’s a 6th at the front) and 2 HDMI outputs. The STR-DA5700ES also has 4 10/100 Ethernet ports which allow it to act as a network hub and a dedicated 96kHz/24-bit two channel PC USB input for those that like to listen to their music from their laptops and PCs. Sony include two remotes, a full on version that can also control other devices but disappointingly doesn’t have a back light, and a stripped down version for more basic control.
Setting up the STR-DA5700ES is very easy thanks to the included microphone and Digital Cinema Auto Calibration software. The entire process is very straightforward and the calibration procedure automatically checks the connections between the speakers and the receiver, the crossover frequency, the distance and the levels. We used the STR-DA5700ES in the 7.1 channel configuration with side and rear speakers, although you can also use it in a standard 5.1 set up or a 7.1 configuration where the additional 2 channels are height speakers at the front. If you wanted you could even create a 9.2 channel system using the pre-outs but you would need additional amplification for the height speakers and a second active subwoofer. The STR-DA5700ES also offers some interesting digital signal processing features that allow you to compensate if your speakers don't match tonally.
The menu system on the STR-DA5700ES is one of the best we have seen on a receiver - attractive, sensibly laid out and intuitive to navigate. In fact it looks more like the kind of interface you would get on a Sony TV and the similarities don’t end there, with the receiver including many of the services available over the Sony Entertainment Network, thus providing an effective internet platform. You get numerous video services, although not BBC iPlayer, along with internet radio and a built-in FM and AM tuner. There is extensive file support for both video and audio and there’s even a highly effective iOS and Android app for remote control via your smartphone or tablet. The included Ethernet ports can be useful but we were surprised that the STR-DA5700ES didn’t include built-in WiFi, perhaps Sony felt it might interfere with the receivers audio purity. There is also some very effective video processing, which can be bypassed if needs be, and we’re glad to see that Sony has resisted the temptation to include unnecessary picture controls.
In audio terms the STR-DA5700ES supports all the usual digital formats including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, multichannel Linear PCM and Sony's own Direct Stream Digital (DSD), handy if you have a SACD player. The STR-DA5700ES also offers a vast array of sound effects that apply digital signal processing to your source audio. As part of Sony's proprietary HD Digital Cinema Sound (HD-DCS) processing you can select different acoustical environments that have been mapped and then emulated using built-in processing. The environments that have been mapped include the cinemas, concert halls and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, the sound characteristics of which the STR-DA5700ES can reproduce. This feature will work automatically in conjunction with reception from "The Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall" Internet service. This processing can also create a virtual 9.1ch sound field using the 7ch amplifiers built into the STR-DA5700ES by using speaker relocation technology.
In terms of audio performance the STR-DA5700ES was wonderful, delivering an expansive sound stage that had plenty of power. Sony’s proprietary auto calibration software worked very well, resulting in a beautifully rendered performance. The STR-DA5700ES handled movie soundtracks very well, delivering a dynamic and precise sound field and some genuinely impressive bass. The integration of the speakers was excellent, whilst the rears had a lively presence that resulted in an immersive surround experience. The STR-DA5700ES was equally as assured with music, be it multi-channel or stereo, providing a subtle and nuanced performance. We tried the various sound effect modes and whilst they were effective at emulating different acoustic environments, we’ve never quite understood their purpose. Perhaps to add atmosphere to a live recording but when it comes to movie soundtracks, we prefer our audio unprocessed.
The Sony STR-DA5700ES is an excellent AV receiver that offers an unparalleled feature set coupled with a superb audio performance. Whilst not the cheapest option available, few other receivers will prove as capable or as effective at enhancing your audio and video system - Highly Recommended.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
9

Connectivity

.
9

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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