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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
Clean looking design
Flimsy speaker terminals
The Sony STR-DH190 is an admirably performing entry-level stereo receiver that sounds great in spite of its price.
Shopping for a stereo receiver can be a frustrating, complicated, and above all else, an incredibly expensive endeavor, but the Sony STR-DH190 offers a much-needed respite. It’s lacking a lot of features you find in more expensive receivers, but by focusing on the bare essentials Sony is able to offer a very compelling product for unfussy buyers that just need to get sound moving to their speakers without blowing their entire budget.
What you lose are largely creature comforts—things like HDMI inputs/outputs (and therefore HDMI ARC compatibility), Wi-Fi and Ethernet functionality, Alexa / Siri / Google integrations, preamp outs, subwoofer outs. Okay, maybe a lot of those aren’t creature comforts to a good deal of shoppers, but I don’t imagine the STR-DH190 was very high on their list to begin with.
You do still get plenty of great features however, like phono inputs with proper pre-amp, Bluetooth connectivity, the ability to connect two sets of speakers, and a very generous 100W per channel of power. Is this enough for the price? I sure think so, but let’s unpack the rest of the features to see if it has enough to suit your needs.
I’m a big fan of the design of the Sony STR-DH190. Its minimalistic exterior somehow makes it look a lot more expensive. Sony didn’t need to overcomplicate the design of course because there aren’t a tremendous amount of features to make buttons for, but this same design is mirrored in a lot of their more expensive, feature-rich products as well. I’m inclined to believe it’s just a design choice.
On the front of the device you’ll see a large volume knob next to a smaller input selector knob, and opposite these, a 0.25-inch headphone jack and an 0.125-inch “portable in” port—handy for playing audio from your phone, computers, and plenty of other devices. There is of course a button for Bluetooth, and a button to toggle between either set of speakers or both.
Its minimalistic exterior somehow makes it look a lot more expensive.
The back of the Sony STR-DH190 is similarly modest. Up top, there’s room for an FM antenna (included in the box), and a USB port for service purposes only. On the bottom row, you’ll see the phono in jacks for connecting a turntable, the 4x audio in jacks and 1x audio out, and the speaker terminals. Unfortunately, Sony uses flimsy little spring-loaded terminals that can’t accommodate banana plugs, and only narrowly fit the pin-type tips that I had handy. As long as you keep this in mind, and use 14 gauge speaker wire or smaller you should be fine. It’s likely just easier to cut and strip your own wire.
Thanks in no small part to the relative lack of extraneous features, setup is a breeze. Connect your speakers to the speaker terminals using your (hopefully by now) cut and stripped speaker wire. Next connect your audio sources to your receiver, making sure to use a phono cable with a ground wire if connecting to a turntable. Power the STR-DH190 on, and you’re listening to music. This is a delightfully simple setup process when you’re used to testing much more convoluted stereo equipment.
One note on Bluetooth—everything is handled through the single button on the front of the device. Press it once to enter pairing mode if there is no previous pairing information on the receiver, and press it once to connect to the last connected device automatically as well. If you’re already connected, pressing the button will disconnect the device. The remote itself has a Bluetooth button and a separate dedicated Bluetooth pairing button.
The Sony STR-DH190 is somewhat of a marvel for its price. It’s hard to find too many faults with the sound quality on this receiver. I tested using two pairs of floor-standing speakers: The Dali Oberon 5 and the Klipsch RP-5000F. Running it through the gauntlet of music from the intimate solo piano works of Nils Frahm to the tightly produced electronic music of Oliver, the STR-DH190 kept pace nicely, able to express the nuances of each track with relative ease.
Not only that, but the Sony STR-DH190 gets quite loud, thanks to the 100W of power per channel. I got into noise complaint territory a long time before I came anywhere near 100W per channel, but if you want the extra power it's there.
The Sony STR-DH190 is somewhat of a marvel for its price.
The Sony STR-DH190 isn’t brimming with features, but there are still a few things of note. One handy feature that the receiver has is the ability to turn on from a paired Bluetooth device, like your phone, even if the receiver is in standby mode. Just a small quality of life improvement so you don’t have to go searching for the remote or walk over to the receiver every time you want to start listening to music.
One handy feature that the receiver has is the ability to turn on from a paired Bluetooth device, like your phone, even if the receiver is in standby mode.
You might also notice a “Pure Direct” button on the front of the device and the remote and wonder how it improves sound quality. Don’t get too excited—the only thing that it does is turn off the display lights “to suppress noise that affects sound quality”, and disable any EQ adjustments made to the bass and treble. This has been a feature on receivers for a long time now, and a hotly debated one.
One omitted feature that is sure to bother a lot of people is the lack of a dedicated line-level subwoofer output. You will still be able to connect to some subwoofers using speaker wire and the second set of speakers terminals in the back of the Sony STR-DH190, but certainly not all. This will limit the number of subwoofers you can seamlessly connect to, as many don’t have speaker wire terminals. Check out our article on how to connect a subwoofer to a receiver to learn more.
One omitted feature that is sure to bother a lot of people is the lack of a dedicated line-level subwoofer output.
At an MSRP of just $129, price is one area where the Sony STR-DH190 is absolutely faultless. This is more than the amount of receiver I would expect to get for under $150. Sure, I could talk about all the little things I wish it had, but it would be fairly unreasonable to do so. The STR-DH190 is a great deal for the amount that it costs, full stop.
Another among the receivers that we tested was the Onkyo TX-8140 (see on Amazon), which at an MSRP of $299 is more than twice as expensive as the Sony. So what do you get for more than double? You don’t get more power, as the Onkyo is rated at 80W per channel instead of the Sony’s 100W. You do however get Wi-Fi and Ethernet support, additional stereo inputs, two coaxial ins, two optical ins, and a subwoofer out. That’s a significant amount more connection options, but boy is it also a lot more money, so you better really need them.
Overall, I preferred the sound of the Sony STR-DH190 a little more, but just marginally so. The Onkyo is a perfectly fine receiver, it’s just a little hard to justify it when up against the absolute bargain in Sony’s corner.
One of the best receivers for under $200.
The Sony STR-DH190 may offer a rather baseline set of features and connectivity options, but it does a great job at every one of them. It’s a beautifully minimalistic looking receiver that sounds great and gets the job done without any fuss. If you don’t have a huge budget, or any requirements beyond what this receiver can offer, it’s a winning choice.