Design and Connectivity
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.
The rear of the DA5800ES includes an almost bewildering array of connections, although it's unlikely you'll ever use the majority of legacy inputs. When will an AVR manufacturer have the courage to clean up the rear panel, making it less daunting for neophytes? Thankfully there are eight HDMI inputs (nine if you count the one at the front) and three HDMI outputs, which should be enough for just about any system. There are also optical and coaxial digital inputs and outputs, along with 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. Like last year there are four 10/100 Ethernet ports, which mean you can use the DA5800ES as a hub and there's also a dedicated 96kHz/24-bit two channel PC USB input. Finally there are speaker cable binding posts for up to nine channels, although we found the position made access difficult, especially from above.
The DA5800ES 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. Just like last year, our only complaint is that it doesn't have a backlight which can be a nuisance in the dark. The second remote control is a stripped down version which we actually preferred using because it had everything you needed for basic control of the DA5800ES and, whilst the volume buttons were still at the bottom, its smaller size made it easier to use.
Setup and Menus
The DA5800ES is an excellent video processor, so you can connect all your sources to the receiver, do the deinterlacing and scaling there and pass 1080p directly to your display via HDMI. The DA5800ES 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 DA5800ES in the passthrough 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 DA5800ES 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.
The DA5800ES performed very well with music, be it multi-channel or stereo, which is no easy feat for a receiver and proof that Sony has spent a great deal of time working on this area. 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 excitement. A recent TV documentary about The Eagles resulted in a prolonged journey through their back catalogue and we really found ourselves enjoying the experience. The DA5800ES did a great job of delivering the guitars, the orchestral arrangements and the gorgeous close harmonies on the Hotel California album. We were equally as impressed with multichannel music and since we could pass Direct Stream Digital (DSD) over HDMI, we dusted off our Darkside of the Moon SACD and gave it a listen. The DA5800ES 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.
- Excellent sound quality
- Comprehensive connections
- Impressive video processing
- Solid build quality
- Flexible setup and configuration
- Well designed and user friendly menus
- Front is rather crowded
- Poor Speaker terminal positioning
- No backlight on the remote
- No built-in WiFi
Sony STR-DA5800ES AV Receiver Review
The Sony STR-DA5800ES looks identical to last year's model, with a solid black chassis and a rather busy facia that includes no fewer than 18 buttons, 4 dials, 2 covered input wells and an informative display. Where it does differ is in terms of amplification, with the DA5800ES offering nine channels at 145W each - the two extra channels can be used for added height speakers or another zone. The rear connections are extensive and include 8 HDMI inputs (there’s a 9th at the front) and 3 HDMI outputs, 4 10/100 Ethernet ports and a dedicated PC USB input that is compatible with 192kHz/24-bit audio. There's a host of connections to keep the installers happy but far too many legacy inputs and the speaker terminals could be better positioned. 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.
The DA5800ES uses the same user interface introduced last year and it remains one of the most intuitive and attractive systems on the market - sensibly laid out and easy to navigate. The entire setup process is very straightforward, with the calibration procedure automatically checking the connections between the speakers and the receiver, the crossover frequency, the distance and the levels. The DA5800ES also offers some interesting digital signal processing features that allow you to compensate if your speakers don't match tonally. The DA5800ES includes many of the services available over the Sony Entertainment Network, including numerous video services - although BBC iPlayer is still missing - 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. There is also some very effective video processing - including 4K upscaling and passthrough - although this can be bypassed if necessary. We're glad to see that Sony has resisted the temptation to introduce any unwanted picture modes that would interfere with the accuracy of the video signal.
The Sony STR-DA5800ES AV Receiver might seem like a case of 'second verse, same as the first' but who cares when the song is this good? The new player builds on last year's excellent model, improving certain features and adding new ones to create a truly impressive machine that can meet all your video, audio and networking needs.
Value For Money
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