Sony HT-SF1200 My review (Amp packaged with HTD-870RSF)

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
I've recently bought the Sony HTD-870RSF DVD recorder/HDD amp package which comprises of of the HTSF1200 (Aka HTSF2000) and the RDRHX870 DVD recorder/HDD.

I've decided to do a (albeit amateur) review of the HTSF1200 (Also relevant for HT SF/SS 1300/2000 owners) as there are numerous highly recommended reviews of the RDRHX870 DVD HDD on these forums already – Just make sure you follow the steps to upgrade to the latest v1.65 firmware to avoid the ‘EPG link' problem. Find instructions on how to do this (Plus a region unlock procedure) HERE
Briefly though, the player itself is an absolute joy to use – Very user friendly, and up-scales a beautiful picture. I'm running it at 1080i due to my panel's resolution limitations, although you're probably aware the player is capable of upscaling to resolutions of 1080p, and from what I gather its scaler is one of the best on the market at the moment. I literally don't have a single bad word to say about it as of yet.

An independant review is posted HERE

If anyone would like further info on the player I'll be happy to answer any questions!

Ok first of all I'm gonna get all the ‘bad' points of the 1200 out of the way…

1) Setting up the speakers is very, very fiddly. And don't rush as I did placing the speakers incorrectly. Each speaker has a specific assignment Front left, back left etc. The front speakers are also magnetically shielded due to their position near the TV, the surrounds are not. Particularly important if your using a CRT TV.
2) The amps remote is, well pretty atrocious, small, poorly labelled and hard to see buttons. Sometimes unresponsive.
3) The Amp always selects DD5.1 by default. For DTS soundtracks you have to manually select the audio on the DVD.
4) Only 8m cabling for back speakers
5) Some sound ‘popping' on higher volume levels from central speaker… Although I'm sure, with a little tweaking, I may be able to reduce this.
***EDIT See post 6 below***

Now for the Good points!

1) Auto Calibration is just an absolute Godsend, making setting up the amp incredibly easy. Just pop the provided mic at your seating position, press a button and all distances, sound calibration is calculated in about 30secs! None of this manual inputting, measurements etc. going on here! Although of course, the Test Tone function is still there and everything can be done manually if you'd prefer.
It's a dream for me as my Sofa tends to move around and slide against my wooden floor, so my listening position is not constant, so I simply plug in the mic, and 30secs later my speakers are at their optimum levels. Nice.
**EDIT**
After a long period of use I feel I must add that on occaision the auto-cal mic can produce dreadful results. It seems the technology can be pretty hit and miss at times. And to add, the mic was at 'ear height', the room was completely quiet, nothing was inbetween the mic and the speakers, speakers were 'turned in' to face the mic, all exactly as the manual suggests...
I live next to a road and I'm wondering if the (albeit fairly quiet) traffic noise effected my results. My now perfect calibration was done at 1am in the morning with no background noise whatsoever.
Also Enviromental acoustics play a huge part in getting good sound. Some people just can't seem to get a decent auto-calibration due to their hard/tiled floor 'echoey' enviroment (The included mic just can't equalise the multi-directional inputs of sound it recieves).
So to be honest, for me it's been a simple case of if you don't succeed 'try, try and try again'. Perciverence seems to be the key, when it does work you can get quite brilliant results.

2) Just remember to manually adjust your speaker height and position on the amp, as the auto cal function does not make that particular calculation. The default speaker position is set to ‘side low' so make sure if your wall mounting you refer to page 41 of the manual and select one of the 'high' parameters. This is massively important to get correct, and integral to the C.ST.EX. soundfields, so experiment!
I selected 'behind low' on my surround speakers, both of which are placed slightly behind me, the difference in surround presence was phenomenol when changed, massively improving my cinematic experience.

3) Next I tried the following DVD's

The Matrix:
Settings used: DD 5.1 (selected by AFD auto) and C.ST.EX.(cinema studio EX) mode ‘B' – Recommended sound field for Sci-Fi and action movies.

Yes it was time to test the almost obligatory hallway scene! And I'm happy to report I could here every tiny little piece of concrete chipping away, every bullet ricocheting around and every deep thudding kick. None of the effects seemed to interfere with other or drown each other out; the speakers seem to have a great frequency spectrum. In short – pretty damn mind blowing!
But! For even better surround results, and that definative 'show your system off scene' go straight for chapter 30. My god, listen as the agents firing position changes throughout the whole speaker range, then, leave it run into scene 31 (Where Neo drops in in the Helicopter with a minigun) and listen in awe as you hear the helicopter blades thud deeply behind you all in slow-motion, and the bullets tinkle like glass 'hundreds n' thousands' infront of you... I literally 'Whooped' like a kid with a proper new toy after experiencing that piece of audio bliss!!!

A tale of two Sisters:
Settings used: DD 5.1 (selected by AFD auto) and C.ST.EX.(cinema studio EX) mode ‘A' – Recommended sound field for standard all round viewing.

Being a massive psychological/scary movie fan, I was really looking forward to be scared witless by a movie which made good use of the rear surround speakers. A tale of 2 sisters did not disappoint! Throughout the film footsteps creak on floorboards behind you, slowing making their way right around the surround spectrum. Thuds and bangs come from upstais, it's all very convincing and unnerving… All in all I was impressed, although films like these hardly push the system to its limits. But my gosh, you'll wanna' watch all those scary DVD's again!


X-Men 3
Settings used: DTS and C.ST.EX.(cinema studio EX) mode ‘A' – Recommended sound field for standard all round viewing.

Now then, looking back I forgot to change the C.ST.EX. mode to ‘B' (Recommended for action SCI-FI movies) so maybe it would have helped what I'm about to describe…
All was going pretty well until I reached the scene where the X-Men are practicing their skills in that giant simulated holodeck, quite early on in the film. There's a hell of a lot going on, and I was looking forward to good use of the 5.1 spectrum. Initially all was going well but then, the centre speaker started to ‘pop' and buzz more than once a little as if it was struggling with all the effects. Now I'm no AV genius, so quite possibly with a little adjustment this issue could be solved. Since this incident I haven't had any time to play about with it and try again. Slightly disappointed for the time being… ***EDIT See post 6 below***

There is one other C.ST.EX. setting 'C' Which I haven't tried as of yet. The description of this calibration explains: 'This mode is ideal for watching musicals or films where Orchestra music is featured in the soundtrack'

***UPDATE***

Just thought I'd add some more great films to showcase this system!

Jurassic Park DTS
Remember the T-Rex scene? Chapter 11, sit back and enjoy...
Now skip to chapter 14 for the Gallimimus stampede scene!

U571 DTS
The depth charge scene. Prepare that sub for a good'ol workout! Absolutely stunning, and great use of the surround speakers.

Star Wars Episode 1
Pod Racing! Great surround and brilliant engine bass!

Das Boot Superbit edition DTS
This is one brilliantly re-mastered classic film. The DTS soundtrack is just absolutely brilliant, the full spectrum of speakers are almost constantly in use, even in the quieter dialogue scenes you'll hear the 'drip, drip' of a leaking pipe behind you. And, when the rickets start to burst under pressure as the sub sinks, they really fire accross the room, front to back, back to front - it's a brillant effect. Plus you just can't beat those quieter scenes when your listening to the destroyers propeller noise as it passes above, again, amazing use of the audio spectrum, creating some really tense moments...

Lethal Weapon 4
The first 10mins of this film are absolutely brilliant! Particular note goes out to the intro credits when the Lethal Weapon 4 title bursts onto the screen (Great positional use of the surrounds) And the tanker 'bass-bloody-tastic' explosion thereafter! Crank it up!!!

The Eye DTS

What a brilliant DTS ES track this film has, massively scary surround moments! Watched it last night, sh*t my pants!
Try scene 6 the "Why are you sitting in my chair?" Bloooooommiiinnn' 'Elllll!! - Trust me, that moment's gonna stay with you for a while...

Saving the best 'til last...

Saving Private Ryan DTS
TAKE COVVVVVVVERRRRR!!!!!!!!
Literally. The beach landings are still the benchmark when it comes 5.1 surround. A few others come close, but none beat it as far as showcasing a system is concerned, a true assault on the senses.
Scarily realistic, almost a little too much at times, you really can begin to imagine what it must have been like participating in such a campaign, absolutely bloody terrifying. It can actually amount to quite an uncomfortable experience...
The sound truly makes this film come to life, to the point where I'd say if you haven't watched this movie in a surround format, then you simply haven't watched this movie...
Switch on your amp and prepare yourself for a bass induced A.S.B.O.

PS2 - ***See post 9***

HD audio:
The amp will play uncompressed PCM (HD Audio) tracks (Over HDMI) if the source decodes it, and sends it to the receiver via LPCM (PS3 does this). DTS MA/ DD THD sound incredible on this setup! If your using a PS3 be sure to switch off THIS setting before you listen to a HD track.
Gameswise, two words 'DEAD SPACE' - The most incredible audio I've ever heard on a game and on the 1200 it sounds absolutely divine.

Note: If the sampling frequency is higher than 48khz or you pass PCM or LPCM (decoded HD audio) into the reciever C.ST.EX. (AKA 'Theatre' presets on the HTSS/SF 1300) soundfields are not supported, 'Not Used' is displayed. These will only work when transferring 'Bitstreamed' audio into the amp.

CD's and MP3

The amp has various sound fields that you can play around with ie ‘Hall' ‘Jazz' ‘Live Concert' and ‘portable audio' which is supposedly ideal for mp3.
Popping in a CD the sound seems fine, I used the ‘Live Concert' effect whilst playing an rock soundtrack and that seemed to work well. I then switched the receiver to it's multi channel stereo setting where the signal is 2 channel, and bass frequencies output from the subwoofer, this actually didn't sound as good as just the 2 channel front and subwoofer setup, why I don't know, but to my ear the sound was clearer solely coming from the front.
Playing around further I switched the AFD mode to Pro-Logic 2 Music and this proved to be the definitive setting for CD playback.
Mp3 playback again was more than capable, but setting the sound field to ‘portable audio' (as recommended for Mp3 playback) made the sound too ‘tinny' for my liking. ***Update*** Since writing this review I have begun to enjoy the benefits of this setting, and it does 'tidy up' alot of poorer mp3/4 recordings that I have on my computer.

USB Port (On RDRHX870 DVD Recorder played back through the HTSF1200 Amp set to 2ch A.F.D.)

Well, it works! I basically loaded a load of albums onto a USB stick and used it as a 'portable jukebox' - Satisfactory sound results, hardly mind blowing, but your results will depend on the quality of the download.

Other things:

*HDMI Repeater (As opposed to the HTSF1100's switcher) - The HTSF1200 can decode DTS, DD5.1 and LPCM soundtracks over HDMI so you don't actually have to connect it up with optical or coax connections.

*Full 1080p & 24fps passthrough support.

*Changeable button assignments on the remote control so it can be used to control your Sony DVD player.

* AV audio sync.

*Height adjustable speakers.

*See attached picture for amp connectivity options.

*HDMI Bravia theatre sync. - Link your peripherals via HDMI leads, switch on 'HDMI control' on all Sony systems, then all of your peripherals can be powered up/down with the press of a button.

*Assignable digital inputs. (N/A for 1300 owners)

And that's about all I can tell you at the moment! If anyone has any questions/ tests they'd like me to try then just ask!
 

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stefanr

Active Member
Well, amateur or not that's a pretty good review for a first timer. Well done :thumbsup:

Glad you like the kit, somehow I knew it wouldn't disappoint, everything you need from an AIO. Okay so it's not going to have the av purists jumping for joy but for some one who wants convenience and no mess i.e. not spaghetti junction. :thumbsup:
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Cheers Stefan, it's appreciated!

Also, just to let everyone know one the centre speaker buzz was in part caused by me not sticking on tiny foam pads that your supposed to attach to the sub and centre. I was reading the manual again and noticed this, so I dug through the rubbish and found these tiny, but somewhat important things! Again, rushing caused me to miss them!

A couple more pics: My setup, some rear speaker photos for those of you that might want to wall mount, plus those pesky foam pads on the centre!
*Edit* Remote Picture added.
 

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zzzpt

Standard Member
Very good review thanks :D
Good to ear that the AV decodes DD5.1 and DTS via HDMI

Serious thinking of ordering this sistem (sf2000)
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Glad to hear it Zzz(!)

Trust me the more I play with this Amp the more I love it, currently I am just loving how good the 'Dolby Pro Logic II Music' setting is making my CD's and Mp3's sound, just brilliant...
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Ok I've now replayed that above mentioned XMEN 3 scene over and over at high volumes, and I can now confirm that noise must have just been due to not having those foam pads on the underside of the sub and amp. Now there are no problems whatsoever.:clap:
 
T

The_Caveman

Guest
Hi there.

Unless I missed something, if you connect a PS3 to the system, do the sound go through the HMDI or do you need to connect it via Toslink?

thank you
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Hi there.

Unless I missed something, if you connect a PS3 to the system, do the sound go through the HMDI or do you need to connect it via Toslink?

thank you

Right you can connect it up via either. HDMI connection will work as long as the PS3 is capable of outputting DTS DD5.1 or Linear PCM (HD Audio) via HDMI, which I believe it is. Select 96khz 5.1 multi channel output on the PS3's menu.
The HTSF1200 definately is able to recieve these signals see the below spec:

LPCM (2CH/5.1CH/7.1CH) thru HDMI™
YES/YES/NO

Dolby Digital/DTS
YES/YES
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
I wanted to update my review and add my experience with the PS2 connected via optical to the HTSF1200 using Pro-Logic decoding:

PS2 connection. Settings 'Dolby Pro-Logic 2 music' Optical connection into 'Video 1' socket.

I decided to test 'Medal of honour Frontline' and the notorious first level beach landings...

I'm proud to report yet again I was completely blown away by the sound. :clap:
It really did feel like I was immersed in full-blown, all out war! I found myself ducking for cover on more than one occaision, and that bass really made those explosions reverberate accross the room... In a word 'WOW'

BUT one thing I will say, is make sure that you select 'Pro-Logic 2 Music' and not 'Pro-Logic Movie' which was underwhelming in my opinion, I don't understand why, but it seems that the 'Movie' decoding is best suited elsewhere.
 

IanBear

Standard Member
ive just ordered one of these from amazon for when they finally get distributed properly!

would it be worth buying new cables in or will the sony ones work well enough?

if new cables would be worthwhile, what is recommended?

:thumbsup:
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Have you bought the package (HTD-870RSF) Or just the Amp (HTSF1200 or 2000)?

The only lead that came with the whole system was a coaxial cable! So you might need to invest in a few things depending on what connections you have and what peripherals your linking up...

I bought this, well built, sturdy mid-range HDMI cable, 1080p, 1.3b certification & 10.2gbs:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/HD-Cable-HD.../ref=pd_rhf_p_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1200680683&sr=8-1

To link my PS2 I bought this 3m optical cable from AVOPRO (Excellent service and delivered promptly) which is just great, trust me there is no point atall forking out anymore than this on a digital optical connection. It's sturdly built and 'snaps' into place very well:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fisual-Digi...ef=pd_ecc_rvi_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1200680683&sr=8-1
 

RottenFox

Distinguished Member
I bought this HDMI cable, 1080p, 1.3b certification 10.2gbs:

just to point out to anyone out there,that "1.3 certification,and "GOLD" in an hdmi cable are pointless,as they dont do anything.

sainsburys do a £1.99 hdmi cable,and it works perfectly well,for the ps3,in 1080p.
 

cyclone82

Active Member
Hi All

I bought the htsf 1200 yesterday from my local Sony centre. They are selling them as a package (htd-870srf) however as I was only after the amp they agreed to split a package for me and I got the htsf 1200 for £299 - could have got the htss 1200 for £229 but wanted the stands.

I have connected my PS3 and TV to the amp but when I play dvds I don't have the option to select dolby digital or dts or any of the specified sound fields - is this due to the hdmi connections?

Any help is appreciated as I'm new to this. The sound from blu-rays and dvds is amazing! :thumbsup:
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Hi All

I bought the htsf 1200 yesterday from my local Sony centre. They are selling them as a package (htd-870srf) however as I was only after the amp they agreed to split a package for me and I got the htsf 1200 for £299 - could have got the htss 1200 for £229 but wanted the stands.

I have connected my PS3 and TV to the amp but when I play dvds I don't have the option to select dolby digital or dts or any of the specified sound fields - is this due to the hdmi connections?

Any help is appreciated as I'm new to this. The sound from blu-rays and dvds is amazing! :thumbsup:

Wow, 'StenanR' above would be very interested to hear that! (the splitting of the package) Incidentally, how much were they showing for the full package?

I'm assuming you have the PS3 connected to one of the HDMI inputs, then a HDMI lead connected from the 'HDMI out' into yout TV?
If so then you may need to play around with the PS3 settings and 'switch on' DTS/5.1 audio over HDMI. The PS3 is also able to output LPCM (as mentioned in my review) with Blu-Ray discs, again you'd need to set up the PS3's audio settings to output this superior format. I believe there is a way the machine will automatically select the best audio output if you set it up a certain way? 'RottenFox' could explain this, I've read posts where he has before - As you may have gathered I don't own one yet!

Amp-wise if you select 'A.F.D. auto' the amp will automatically select the relevant soundtrack for your DVD's/Blu-Ray, the only thing is, for some reason it will always choose DD5.1 over DTS, so if you want to hear (in my opinion the superior) DTS then you'd have to select it by pushing the 'Audio' button on the remote then pan through the various recorded soundtracks on the disc. Then, you must choose a sound field with the 'Movie' button or the sound will be quite quiet.

Hope this helps, hang around and I'm sure someone will see this and be able to help with sound output/callibration of the PS3.:smashin:
 

cyclone82

Active Member
The full package was £429 for ss 1200 and £499 for sf1200.

Thanks for the advice will give it a go. Really pleased with the amp thanks to your review!
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
The full package was £429 for ss 1200 and £499 for sf1200.

Thanks for the advice will give it a go. Really pleased with the amp thanks to your review!

Good to hear it, cheers!

My sony centre (Cardiff) would not go any lower than £554.00 for the whole thing, so, in the end I bought off cheapelectricals.co.uk. It's a shame, if they had dropped to that sort of price then I would have definately bought from them, preferring a shop that I could walk into given any sort of problems arising etc. Ah well, 'tis done now.:D
 

cyclone82

Active Member
It won't let me select AFD - says "not used", just shows pcm 48kHz for everything. Not sure what to do?? Please help!!
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Right Cyclone, you can start by saying exactly how you've got your components set up, what connections going to and from your peripherals. Then we'll take it from there...
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Just to let you know this is how I have my system set up, just substitute my dvd player for your PS3.

DVD player linked via HDMI ----> DVD IN on the HTSF1200, then another HDMI lead comming from the HDMI OUT socket ----> TV HDMI in

Thats literally all that you need as the HTSF1200 processes 5.1/DTS signals via HDMI and thus no need for any other cables such as coaxial or optical.
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
Right after loads of messing around I've found something that will stop you from getting DD and DTS...

Press Amp menu on the remote
Goto '6-Video'
Select 'Audio'
Make sure the setting says 'Amp', NOT 'Amp and TV'

So select this and let me know if that fixes the problem!
 

cyclone82

Active Member
Thanks for taking the time. My set up is as follows: PS3 into dvd, hdmi out to TV. Watched 300 on blu ray and surround sound was fine although it doesn't say dolby or dts and couldn't press the "afd" or movie effects buttons - both say "not used". Watched Gladiator sd and the same happened. Surround sound speakers are working. htsf 1200 display says pcm 48 kHz. Have also tried your steps above but still not able to select dolby/dts etc. Apologies if this is how it's supposed to be i'm new to this!! Appreciate your help.
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
I assume you mean that the PS3 is plugged into the Amp not DVD?

Check the amps speaker display during playback, are all of the surrounds speakers lit up and in use? Does it say DD 3/2.1 or are you using Pro-logic decoding (PL and PLII)
If you have selected A.F.D. 'Auto format direct' on the remote, then this mode should select the best input comming into the amp (as long as your setting is set to 'Amp' as per my above post) So this says to me, that your PS3 is not outputting the DD or DTS signal over HDMI, you probably need to adjust your audio output settings within the PS3 (This is also what the trouble shooting guide suggests), unfortunately, as you know PS3 is something I can't help with...

Another thing to try is Resetting all of the sound fields (page 47 in the manual) and all memorised settings (Page 22) on the amp and start it all from the top...:suicide:
 

Welsh Whirlwind

Well-known Member
One other thing!

If you see 'LFE' above the Subwoofer signal 'SW' Then you ARE getting DTS/DD.
'LFE' means 'Low frequency effect' and this is not available through Pro-Logic decoding and is specific to superior soundtracks like Dolby Digital etc.

***EDIT*** Mistake in this post. See post 29.
 
T

The_Caveman

Guest
Hi there,

Can anybody please confirm if the HT-SF1100 also decode adio via HDMI ?

I knw it is basically the same moddel as the HT-SF1200, just need anybody to confirm before I get this one?

My setup will be:

PS3 > amp > TV (HDMI x2)

Thank you
 

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