Sony STR-DN1040 Home Theater Receiver Product Review

Can a $599 Home Theater Receiver Really Do It All?

Sony STR-DN1040 Home Theater Receiver With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple Airplay
Sony STR-DN1040 Home Theater Receiver With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple Airplay. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The STR-DN1040 builds on Sony's past success of its STR-DN1020 and STR-DN1030 home theater receivers, with additional emphasis in both audio and video features and performance.

I had a chance, recently, to "preview" the STR-DN1040 at Sony Sony Electronics' U.S. Headquarters in San Diego, CA, where it was set up in a two-channel configuration with the SCD-XA5400ES SACD/CD player and two speakers from Sony's ES line, and I was definitely impressed with the ease at which the 1040 pumped out Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon at studio volume without straining or overheating.

However, in order to check out its audio, video, and network/streaming performance in a consumer home theater environment, Sony let me grab the unit I had just listened to in the demo and pack it up in my car for further evaluation. To find out what I thought, keep on reading this review.

First up, here are the main features of the Sony STR-DN1040:

1. 7.2 channel home theater receiver (7 channels plus 2 subwoofer outs) delivering 100 Watts into 7 channels at .09% THD (measured at 20Hz to 20kHz with 2 channels driven).

2. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Dual Mono, and TrueHD, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS-96/24, and DTS-HD Master Audio, PCM.

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 ambience is added to surround signals), Multi-channel Stereo, Dolby Prologic II, IIx, IIz, DTS Neo:6.

4. Audio Inputs (Analog): 2 Audio-only Stereo Analog, 2 Audio stereo analog audio inputs associated with video inputs.

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

6. Audio Outputs (Excluding HDMI): 2 Subwoofer Pre-outs, and 1 set of Zone 2 Analog Stereo Pre-outs (digital audio sources cannot be sent to Zone 2).

7. Speaker connection options for Front Height/Surround Back/Bi-amp/Speaker B options.

8. Video Inputs: 8 HDMI (3D and 4K pass through capable - front HDMI output is MHL-enabled), 2 Component, 2 (1 rear/1 front) Composite video.

9. Video Outputs: 2 HDMI (3D, 4K, Audio Return Channel capable with compatible TVs), 1 Component Video, 1 Composite Video.

10. Analog to HDMI video conversion, analog to 1080p and 4k upscaling, as well as 1080p to 4K HDMI-to-HDMI upscaling.

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 60 Presets (30 AM/30 FM).

13. Network/Internet Connectivity via either Ethernet Connection or Built-in WiFi.

14. Internet Radio access includes vTuner, Slacker, and Pandora. Additional music streaming access provided by the Sony Entertainment Network.

15. DLNA V1.5 Certified for wireless or wireless access to digital media files stored on PCs, Media Servers, and other compatible network-connected devices.

16. Apple Airplay and Bluetooth compatibility built-in.

17. Front mounted USB Connection for access to audio files stored on flash drives or iPod/iPhone.

18. Compatible with Sony Media Remote Control Apps for compatible iOS and Android devices.

19. Suggested Price: $599.99

Additional Components Used In This Review

The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-103 and Sony BDP-S350.

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.

TV: Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p Monitor

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

Blu-ray Discs: Battleship, Ben Hur, Brave, Cowboys and Aliens, The Hunger Games, Jaws, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Oz The Great and Powerful (2D), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Dark Knight Rises.

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 - Sparks of Ancient Light, 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 included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

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

Receiver Setup - Digital Cinema Auto Calibration

Just as with the previous Sony home theater receivers I have reviewed (STR-DN1020, STR-DH830, and STR-DN1030 mentioned previously), the STR-DN1040 incorporates the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration automatic speaker setup system (DCAC).

In order to use DCAC, you plug a provided microphone that is included in the package into a the designated front panel input. Then, place the microphone at your primary listening position. Next, access the Auto Calibration option in the receiver's Speaker Settings Menu, and select how you have assigned the 6th and 7th channel speakers (surround back, front height, bi-amp, or not designated).

Now you can start the process. Once started, DCAC confirms that the speakers are connected to the receiver. The speaker size is determined, (large, small), the distance of each speaker from the listening position is measured, and finally the equalization and speaker levels are adjusted in relation to both the listening position and room characteristics. The entire process only takes a minute or two.

However, it is important to note that automatic calibration results 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-DN1040 easily accommodates both a 5.1 or 7.1 channel speaker configuration, and sounds excellent with either type of configuration, making it a great receiver for surround sound tracks available Blu-ray Discs or DVDs.

Also, you have two 7.1 channel speaker options. A standard 7.1 channel setup that includes two surround back speaker channel, or you can forgo the surround back speaker and, instead utilize two front height speaker channels. To take full advantage of the second option, you should use the Dolby Prologic IIz surround processing setting.

Ordinarily, I don't think that Dolby ProLogic IIz provides a dramatic improvement over a 5.1 or 7.1 channel setup, especially if you have front speakers that provide good dispersion and are placed well to begin with, but it does provide additional speaker setup flexibility. On the other hand, Sony also incorporates "Center Speaker Lift-up" which blends the center audio audio with the two front height channel. This serves to more effectively deal with dialog issues by creating a broader center channel sound field.

For music, I found the STR-DN1040 did very well with CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio discs. I had the opportunity to listen to the receiver in two-channel operation both during a visit to Sony's San Diego HQ, as well as within one of my own home setups. In both cases, the STR-DN1040 did not disappoint.

However, one personal beef I have have with receiver makers these days, is that most no longer provide a set of 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog audio inputs, and Sony is also going along with the trend.

As a result, multi-channel SACD and DVD-Audio is only accessible from a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player that can read and output those formats via HDMI, such as the HDMI-equipped OPPO players I used in this review. If you have an older pre-HDMI DVD player with SACD and/or DVD-Audio playback capability, make sure you check the audio output connections you have available in relation to the input options available on the STR-DN1040.

Zone 2

The STR-DN1040 also provides Zone 2 operation. This allows the receiver to send a separately controllable audio feed to another room or location using provided Zone 2 analog audio line outputs. In order to take advance of this feature, you will also need an additional external amplifier and a set of speakers.

The good thing is that when using the Zone 2 option, you can still have a 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound setup operating in your main room from one source, such as DVD or Blu-ray, and also listen to analog audio sources in the Zone 2 location, using the STR-DN1040.

On the other hand, it is important to note that only FM/AM and sources connected to the analog audio inputs of the STR-DN1040 can be sent to Zone 2. Sources connected to the STR-DN1040 via Internet, Bluetooth, AirPlay, HDMI, USB, and Digital Optical/Coaxial, cannot be accessed in Zone 2. For further illustration and explanation, consult the STR-DN1040 user manual.

Proceed to Page 2: Video Performance, Network and Media Player Features - Final Take

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Video Performance

The STR-DN1040 features both HDMI and analog video inputs and outputs, but continues the continuing trend of eliminating S-video inputs and outputs.

The STR-DN1040 provides both video pass-through of 2D, 3D, and 4K video signals, as well as providing both 1080p and 4K upscaling (only 1080p upscaling was tested for this review), which is becoming more common on home theater receivers in this price range.

I found that the STR-DN1040 provides good video processing and scaling, which was further verified its passing of most of the video performance tests on the standardized HQV Benchmark DVD.

However, it must be noted that the STR-DN1040 only provides 1080p upscaling for analog video sources. It doesn't not perform 1080p upscaling with HDMI source signals. What this means is that if you have an HDMI input source suppling a 480i, 480p, 720p, or 1080i input signals, those signals will be passed through to the STR-DN1040's HDMI output(s) at their native input resolutions. On the other hand, if you have 480i composite or 480i, 480p, 720p, or 1080i component video input source, those signals can be upscaled to 1080p via the receiver's HDMI output. On the other hand, 1080p input signals coming via HDMI can be upscaled to 4K.

As far as connection compatibility goes, I did not encounter any HDMI-to-HDMI connection handshake issues.

However, I did find that the STR-DN1040 did have difficulty passing through video signals to a TV that is equipped with a DVI rather than HDMI connection option (using a DVI-to-HDMI converter cable).

 

 

Internet Radio

The STR-DN1040 Sony provides three main internet radio access options: vTuner, Slacker, and Pandora, as well as additional music streaming from Sony Entertainment Network's Music Unlimited service.

On the other hand, other popular music streaming services, such as Aupeo!, Rhapsody and Spotify are not offered.

 

DLNA

The STR-DN1040 is also DLNA compatible, which allows for access to digital media files stored on PCs, Media Servers, and other compatible network-connected devices. My PC easily recognized the STR-DN1040 as a new network-connected device. Using the Sony's remote and onscreen menu, I found it easy to access music and photo files from my PC's hard drive.

 

Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay

In addition to the internet streaming and DLNA capabilities of the STR-DN1040, Sony also provides both Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay capability.

The Bluetooth capability allows you to wirelessly stream music files or control the receiver remotely from a compatible device that fits the A2DP or AVRCP profiles, and can play AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) files from devices, such as a smartphone or tablet, through the receiver. In a similar fashion Apple AirPlay allows you wirelessly stream iTunes content from a compatible iOS device, or a PC or laptop.

 

USB

The STR-DN1040 also provides a front mounted USB port for accessing music files stored on USB flash drives, physically connected iPod, or other compatible USB devices (details provided in the STR-DN1040 user manual on pages 49-51).

Compatible file formats include: MP3, AAC, WMA9, WAV, and FLAC. However it is also important to point out that the STR-DN1040 will not play DRM-encoded files.

 

 

What I Liked

1. Excellent audio performance for its price class.

2. Dolby Pro Logic IIz adds speaker placement flexibility.

3. Incorporation of WiFi, Apple Airplay, and Bluetooth.

4. DLNA compatibility.

5. 3D, 4K, and Audio Return Channel compatible.

6. 1080p and 4K video upscaling provided.

7. Front Panel HDMI-MHL input provided.

8. Front panel USB port.

9. Improved onscreen menu system over previous Sony STR-DN series home theater receivers.

10. Clean, uncluttered, front panel design.

 

What I Didn't Like

1. Video upscaling to 1080p only available from composite and component video input sources.

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

3. No dedicated phono/turntable input.

4. Zone 2 operation via preamp outputs only.

5. Only analog audio sources can be sent to Zone 2.

6. No analog or digital optical/coaxial input options on front panel.

 

 

Final Take

Sony has crammed a lot into the STR-DN1040. However, that doesn't mean audio performance has been neglected. In listening to the STR-DN1040 for several weeks, and with several speaker systems, I found it to be a great sounding receiver. Power output was steady, the sound field was both immersive and directive when needed, and over long periods of listening time, there was not sense of fatigue or amplifier overheating.

The STR-DN1040 also performs very well on the video side of the equation, providing pass-through, analog-to-HDMI conversion, and both 1080p and 4K upscaling options, if desired. Although 4K upscaling wasn't tested, the STR-DN1040 passed almost all 1080p upscaling video performance tests.

It is important to note that STR-DN1040 does not provide some legacy connection options that may be desirable those that have older source components, such as multi-channel analog audio inputs, a dedicated phono input, or S-Video connections.

Also, one improvement that could be made on the STR-DN1040 is how Zone 2 operation is provided. As it is currently configured, the only way to access Zone 2 is via the 1040's Zone 2 Preamp outputs, which requires the addition of an external amplifier.

What would make the Zone 2 feature more flexible, and cost effective for users, would be to provide the additional option of being able to assign the surround back/front height/bi-amp speaker outputs to Zone 2 instead, if needed. This would allows users that may just want to use the STR-DN1040 in a traditional 5.1 channel speaker setup in their main room, and still be able to take advantage of the "unused" 6th and 7th speaker channel outputs for a Zone 2 system simply with the addition of two speakers, instead of a amplifier and speakers.

On the other hand, the STR-DN1040 provides more than enough connection for today's video and audio sources - with eight HDMI inputs, it will definitely be awhile before you run out. Also, with built-in Wifi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay, the STR-DN1040 is the most flexible network and streaming-capable reciever in its price range.

On the ease-of-use side of the equation, STR-DN1040 features on onscreen menu sytem that is easy to use and intuitive - a definite upgrade from the previous generations of the Sony STR-DN series receivers.

Taking all into consideration, the Sony STR-DN1040 is a great value at its $599 suggested price.

Now that you have read this review, also be sure to check out more about the Sony STR-DN1040 in my Photo Profile and Video Performance Tests.

 

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.