Sony STR-DH830 Home Theater Receiver - Product Review

Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front and Rear Views
Sony STR-DH830 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front and Rear Views. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to

The Sony STR-DH830 is a home theater receiver that is targeted at consumers looking for both an affordable and practical centerpiece for a modest home theater system. Some of its features include up to a 7.1 channel speaker configuration, onboard Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, Dolby Pro Logic IIz audio processing, as well as five HDMI inputs, and analog to HDMI video conversion with 1080i video upscaling.

The STR-DH830 is also 3D, Audio Return Channel, and iPod/iPhone compatible. To find out what I thought about this receiver, continue reading this review. Also, be sure to check out my supplementary Photo Profile.

Features and Specifications

1. 7.1 channel home theater receiver (7 channels plus 1 subwoofer output) delivering 95 Watts into 7 channels at .09% THD (measured from 20Hz to 20kHz with 2 channels driven).

2. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1/EX/Pro logic IIx, DTS 5.1/ES, 96/24, Neo:6.

3. Additional Audio Processing: A.F.D. (Auto-Format Direct - allows surround sound listening or multi-speaker stereo from 2-channel sources), HD-D.C.S. (HD Digital Cinema Sound - extra ambiance is added to surround signals), Multi-channel Stereo.

4. Audio Inputs (Analog): 2 Audio-only Stereo Analog, 3 Audio stereo analog audio inputs associated with video inputs (includes one set on front panel)

5. Audio Inputs (Digital - Excluding HDMI): 2 Digital Optical, 1 Digital Coaxial.

6. Audio Outputs (Excluding HDMI): One Analog Stereo and One Subwoofer Pre-Out.

7. Speaker connection options provided for 5 or 7 channels, with Front Height or Surround Back options (Note: Surround Back and Front Height speakers cannot be used at the same time).

8. Video Inputs: Five HDMI ver 1.4a (3D pass through compatible), Two Component, and Three Composite.

9. Video Outputs: One HDMI (3D and Audio Return Channel capable), One Component Video, and Two Composite Video.

10. Analog to HDMI video conversion (480i to 480p) and 1080i upscaling using Faroudja processing. HDMI pass-through of resolutions of up to 1080p and 3D signals.

11. Digital Cinema Auto Calibration automatic speaker setup system. By connecting the provided microphone, the D.C.A.C. uses a series of test tones to determine the proper speaker levels, based on how it reads the speaker placement in relation to the acoustical properties of your room.

12. AM/FM Tuner with 30 Presets.

13. Front mounted USB Connection for access to audio files stored on flash drives.

14. iPod/iPhone connectivity/control via front USB port or provided docking station.

15. Standby Pass-through function allows access to HDMI devices connected to your TV through the STR-DH830 without the receiver have to be powered on.

16. Bravia Synch allows control of other Sony compatible devices connected via HDMI using the receiver's remote control. Also referred to as HDMI-CEC.

17. On-screen GUI (graphical user interface) menu and Infrared wireless remote control provided.

18. Suggested Price: $399.99

Receiver Setup - Digital Cinema Auto Calibration

After doing some out-of-the-box casual listening to make sure the receiver, the source components, and speakers were working together, I proceeded to fine-tune the setup further using Sony's onboard Digital Cinema Auto Calibration.

Digital Cinema Auto-Calibration works by plugging in a provided microphone into the designated front panel input, placing the microphone at the main listening spot (you can screw the microphone onto a camera/camcorder tripod), going into the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration option in the speaker setup menu.

Once in the menu, you have the option to select either the Standard or Custom Auto Calibration. The Custom Auto Setup Modes changes how the equalization portion of the process is performed. The options include Full Flat (generates a flat equalization for all speakers), Engineer (Sony's reference equalization standard), Front Reference (adjusts the equalization of all speakers to the characteristics of the front speakers), or Off (no equalization performed).

After choosing which mode you want to use, there a five-second countdown at which time the auto calibration process starts. As the test tones are generated, the STR-DH830 confirms what speakers are connected to the receiver, the speaker size is determined (large, small), the distance of each speaker from the listening position, and then makes equalization and speaker level adjustments.

However, keep in mind that the final results of this automatic process may not always be precisely accurate or to your taste. In these cases, you are able to go back in manually and make changes to any of the settings.

Audio Performance

The STR-DH830 provides an overall very good audio listening experience that is suitable for a small or medium size room. Over long periods of time this receiver does not cause listening fatigue or generate a lot of excessive heat.

Playing a variety of Blu-ray Disc and DVD movies, in combination with several speaker setups, and in a 15x20 foot room, the STR-DH830 provided a good movie viewing experience in terms of sound staging and definition.

I never felt that the receiver was straining or had problems handling dynamic content.

The STR-DH830 provides both 5.1 and 7.1 channels speaker setup options which also includes the use of two height channels, in lieu of two back surround channels, by using the Dolby Prologic IIz option. The effect of Dolby ProLogic IIz option over a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 channel really depends on the room and whether the content lends itself to the addition of front height channels. Also, if you have a small room where it is not possible to have a sixth and seventh channel behind the listening position, reinforcing the front with height speakers may add a full surround sound experience to your setup.

There are no Blu-ray or DVD soundtracks specifically mixed for front height channels, but action movies with rain, and plane and helicopter flyover effects, as well as concert videos that include a large band or orchestra, can yield good results. Essentially, soundtracks that contain overhead or very dominate front stage elements.

As far as music reproduction goes, the STR-DH830 does well with CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio discs. However, since the STR-DH830 does not have a set of 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog audio inputs, access DVD-Audio and SACD is dependent a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player that can output those formats via HDMI, such as the OPPO players I used in this review. If you have DVD-Audio and SACD discs, make sure your DVD or Blu-ray Disc player can output these formats via HDMI.

Video Performance

The STR-DH830 features both HDMI and analog video inputs but continues the continuing trend of eliminating S-video inputs and outputs.

The STR-DH830 has the ability to processes and upscale incoming analog video sources (HDMI input signals are not upscaled) to 1080i. 1080i upscaling is somewhat of a disappointment as most home theater receivers that provide video upscaling takes it out to 1080p. In addition, the video upscaling feature is automatic, there are no resolution settings options provides that would allow changing the HDMI output resolution to 720p or 480p if desired.

This means that if you are using a the STR-DH830 as a video scaler, the scaling process will go through two steps if you have a TV or video projector with either a 720p or 1080p native display resolution. In other words, after the 1080i signal leaves the receiver, your TV will either have to downscale the 1080i signal to 720p or deinterlace the 1080i signal to 1080p. The final result of what you see on the screen will be a combination of the video scaling and processing capabilities of both the STR-DH830 and your TV or video projector.

On the other hand, the result I actually observed using the 1080i upscaling of the STR-HD830 in combination with the 1080p TV and 720p video projector I used in this review was actually quite good. There were no issues with unwanted jaggie artifacts, and video/film cadence detection was stable. Also, detail enhancement and video noise reduction were also quite good. However, since these observations were the result of both the TV or video projector and the receiver, I am not presenting my traditional photo-illustrated video performance test profile as part of this review, as the results may vary when the DTS-DH830 is used in combination with other TVs and video projectors.


In addition to video processing and scaling of analog video signals, STR-DH830 has the ability pass HDMI-sources 3D signals. There is no video processing function involved, the STR-DH830 (and other 3D-enabled home theater receivers) merely serve as neutral pathways for 3D video signals coming from a source device on their way to a 3D TV.

The STR-DH830's 3D pass-through function did not introduce any added visible artifacts associated with 3D performance, such as crosstalk (ghosting) or jitter that wasn't already present in the source material, or in the video display/glasses interaction process.


In addition, the front mounted USB port can be used to access audio files stored on a USB flash drive or an iPod (however, an additional iPod dock is also provided for accessing for iPods/iPhones that also contain video, as well as audio content). The only downside is that there is only one USB port, which means you cannot plug in iPod and USB flash drive at the same time. Although not a big deal, it would be great to have two USB ports for more connection convenience.

What I Liked

1. Good overall audio performance.

2. 3D pass-through function works well.

3. Both direct USB and Dock connection options for iPod/iPhone.

4. Five HDMI inputs.

5. Analog to HDMI video conversion.

6. Dolby Pro Logic IIz adds speaker placement flexibility.

7. Does not overheat over extended use time periods.

What I Didn't Like

1. No Internet Radio feature.

2. Video Upscaling only to 1080i.

3. No digital optical audio input option on the front panel.

4. No front mounted HDMI input.

5. Cheap clip speaker connections used for center and surround speaker channels.

6. No analog multi-channel 5.1/7.1 channel inputs or outputs - No S-video connections.

7. No dedicated phono/turntable input.

Final Take

I enjoyed using the Sony STR-DH830. It was easy to set up, connect, and get going, and the functions were easy to navigate. The inclusion of iPod connectivity and control and video upscaling are both nice bonuses at this price point.

However, I feel that if video upscaling is provided, don't stop at 1080i, take it out to 1080p. Also, while offering up to a 7.1 channel speaker configuration and Dolby ProLogic IIz are interesting options in this price range, they aren't as necessary and some other features might be.

Given the changes on how a growing number of consumers access to content now, it might have been a better option to offer the STR-DH830 with either a more basic 5.1 channel configuration with 1080p video upscaling, or retain the 7.1 channel and Dolby Prologic IIz options, but eliminate the extra video processing/scaling capability and, instead, provide access to internet radio and network-sourced content. Also, it would be nice to have binding post connections for all speaker channels instead of the cheaper (and cheaper-looking) clip terminals.

That being said, the Sony STR-DH830 home theater receiver performs well in both the audio and video department and provides enough connectivity and speaker setup options for a modest home theater setup. It is a fair value, given its total feature set.

Now that you have read this review, also be sure to check out more about the Sony STR-DH830 in my Photo Profile.

NOTE: Since the posting of the above review, the Sony STR-DH830 has been discontinued. For current alternatives, check out my periodically updated listing of Home Theater Receivers priced at $399 or Less, $400 to $1,299, and $1,300 and Up

Additional Components Used In This Review

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-93 and Sony BDP-S790 (on review loan).

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

Home Theater Receiver Used for Comparison: Onkyo TX-SR705

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 (7.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center, 2 Polk R300s, Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 3 (5.1 channels): Cerwin Vega CMX 5.1 System (on review loan)

TV: Panasonic TC-L42ET5 3D LED/LCD TV (on review loan)

Video Projector: BenQ W710ST (on review loan).

Projection Screens: SMX Cine-Weave 100² screen and Epson Accolade Duet ELPSC80 Portable Screen.

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Adventures of Tintin, Drive Angry, Hugo, Immortals, Puss in Boots, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Underworld: Awakening.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): Art of FlightBen HurCowboys and Aliens, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

DVD-Audio discs: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

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