Sony STR-DN1030 Home Theater Receiver - Product Review

Lots of Goodies for Not Much Cash

Sony STR-DN1030 Network Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front View with Included Accessories
Sony STR-DN1030 7.2 Channel Network Home Theater Receiver - Photo - Front View with Included Accessories. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The Sony STR-DN1030 builds on its currently available STR-DH830 Home Theater Receiver by incorporating some additional features, such as built-in WiFi, Apple Airplay, and Bluetooth connectivity to an already comprehensive list of features including, 3D and Audio Return Channel compatibility, Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD decoding, Dolby Pro Logic IIz audio processing, five HDMI inputs, and video upscaling. Keep on reading this review for the full story. Afterward, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile for an even more close-up look.

Product Overview

Features of the Sony STR-DN1030 include:

1. 7.2 channel home theater receiver (7 channels plus 2 subwoofer outs) delivering 100 Watts into 7 channels at .08% THD (measured at 20Hz to 20kHz with 2 channels driven).

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): 3 Audio-only Stereo Analog, 4 Audio stereo analog audio inputs associated with video inputs (includes one set dedicated for Zone 2).

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

6. Audio Outputs (Excluding HDMI): 3 Sets - Analog Stereo, One set - Zone 2 Analog Stereo Pre-outs and 2 Subwoofer Pre-outs.

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

8. Video Inputs: 5 HDMI ver 1.4a (3D pass-through capable), 2 Component, 5 (4 rear/1 front) Composite video.

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

10. Analog to HDMI video conversion (480i to 480p) and 720p, 1080i upscaling using Faroudja processing. HDMI pass-through of native 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 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 Certified for wired or wireless access to digital media files stored on PCs, Media Servers, and other compatible network-connected devices.

17. Apple Airplay and Bluetooth compatibility built-in.

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

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

20. Suggested Price: $499.99

Additional Components Used In This Review

The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93.

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.

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

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) the STR-DN1030 incorporates the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration automatic speaker setup system.

To use the system, first, you plug in the special microphone that is included in the package into the designated front panel input. Then, place the microphone at your primary listening position. Next, access the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration option in the receiver's setup menu, and designate whether you are using a 5.1 or 7.1 channel setup.

Once you start the system, it 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 measure, 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 the 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 Sony DTS-D1030 functions very well in its role of providing a good home theater listening experience for a receiver in its price class. The STR-DN1030 provides a steady audio output over long time periods with no listening fatigue or overheating. Also, the receiver handled dynamic volume changes without any obviously detectable delayed recovery issues.

Several speaker setup options are provided, including the traditional 5.1 and 7.1 channels, as well as the option of using a 5.1 channel configuration with the addition of two height channels (this is where you would use the Dolby Prologic IIz surround sound option). In my opinion, Dolby ProLogic IIz doesn't provide a dramatic improvement over a 5.1 or 7.1 channel setup, but it does provide additional speaker setup flexibility. It is a solution if you do not have room to place surround back channels directly behind the main listening position and your left and right main speakers don't project sound well broadly across and above the front listening area.

For music, I found the STR-DN1030 did well with CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio discs. However, since the STR-DN1030 does not have a set of 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog audio inputs, SACD and DVD-Audio access a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player that can output those formats via HDMI, such as the OPPO players I used in this review, is required. If you have a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player with SACD and DVD-Audio playback capability, make sure you check the output connectives you have available on your players in relation to input options available on the STR-DN19030.

Zone 2

The STR-DN1030 also provides Zone 2 operation, in which you to provide a separate audio feed to another room or location using a set of analog audio line outputs. However, in addition to extra speakers, you also to use an external amplifier. Once set up, 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-DN1030. NOTE: Only FM/AM and other sources connected to the analog audio and video inputs of the STR-DN1030 can be sent to Zone 2. Sources connected to the STR-DN1030 via Internet, Bluetooth, AirPlay, HDMI, USB, and Digital Optical/Coaxial, cannot be accessed in Zone 2. Consult the user manual for additional details.

Video Performance

The STR-DN1030 features both HDMI and analog video inputs but continues the continuing trend of eliminating S-video inputs and outputs.

The STR-DN1030 has the ability to processes and upscale incoming video sources to 1080i. However, a growing number of home theater receivers in this price provide up to full 1080p upscaling, so I feel than Sony has done a little corner-cutting on 1030 with regards to video processing capability. On the other hand, the STR-DN1030 does not alter native 1080p source signals that the receiver passes along to a TV or video projector. Also, the STR-DN1030 1080i video upscaling is adequate and it also provides excellent pass through and switching of HDMI source signals and I did not have any HDMI handshake issues, even when connecting the HDMI output to a DVI-equipped TV using an HDMI to DVI-HDCP adapter cable.

3D

Like most new home theater receivers that have reached store shelves in the past year or so, the STR-DN1030 has the ability pass 3D signals. There is no video processing function involved, the STR-DN1030 (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.

Unfortunately, I did not have a 3D-enabled TV onhand to specifically test this feature, but based on my past reviews of last years' STR-DN1020, and current Sony STR-DH830 home theater receivers, since the 3D signal is a pass-through function only (no extra processing is done by the receiver) I am confident that 3D pass-through performance is fine.

Internet Radio

The STR-DN1030 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 Rhapsody and Spotify are not included in the Sony internet offering landscape.

DLNA and Party Streaming

The STR-DN1030 is also DLNA compatible, which allows for access to digital media files stored on PCs, Media Servers, and other compatible network-connected devices. Using the Sony's remote and onscreen menu, I found it easy to access music and photo files from my PC's hard drive.

In addition, the STR-DN1030 also incorporates compatibility with Sony's HomeShare system, which allows it to stream music to compatible devices (provided your home network supports both wired and wireless signal transfer), such as the Sony SA-NS400 Wireless Network Speaker via the Party Streaming Mode. Also, on the reverse end, if you have a Sony device that has already initiated a "Party" (serving as host), the STR-DN1030 can join in and stream the content being sent by the "host device" for playback on the STR-DN1030's home theater audio setup.

Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay

In addition to the internet streaming and DLNA capabilities of the STR-DN1030, 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, such as a smartphone or tablet to the receiver and hear it on your home theater system. In a similar fashion, Apple AirPlay allows you wirelessly stream iTunes content from a compatible iOS device, or a PC or laptop.​

USB

Now it that isn't enough for you, a front-mounted USB port is provided for accessing music files stored on USB flash drives or a physically connected iPod.

What I Liked

1. Good overall audio performance.

2. Dolby Pro Logic IIz adds speaker placement flexibility.

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

4. DLNA compatibility.

5. 3D and Audio Return Channel compatible.

6. Video upscaling provided.

7. Front panel USB port.

What I Didn't Like

1. Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing not that effective.

2. Video upscaling only goes up to 1080i.

3. Remote Control and menu system cumbersome to use at times.

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

5. No dedicated phono/turntable input.

6. Zone 2 operation via preamp outputs only.

7. No HDMI or digital audio input option on the front panel.

Final Take

Sony has crammed a lot into the STR-DN1030, and it is, in fact, the only home theater receiver in its price range to include built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and Apple AirPlay.

However, that doesn't mean audio performance has been neglected. In listening to the STR-DN1030 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 a sense of fatigue or amplifier overheating.

However, I was a little disappointed that the video upscaling provided only went out to 1080i, and there was no setting provided to change upscaling output to 720p. This means that if you have either a 720p or 1080p TV, the TV still has to perform some added processing to display the images on the screen. However, 1080p and 3D source signals are passed through the receiver untouched, which means if you have a good upscaling DVD player, or you play DVDs on a Blu-ray disc player, set the output of those devices to 1080p and you are all set. The only time you really need to use the receiver's scaler is with lower resolution sources, such as a VCR or non-HD cable or satellite.

The STR-SN1030 also doesn't have some connection options that may be desirable by some, such as multi-channel analog audio inputs, a dedicated phono input, or S-Video connections. However, one or more of these connection options are disappearing from home theater receivers across the board these days, so the fact that they are not included on the STR-DN1030 is not so much a negative against this specific receiver, but more of a note of caution for those they may need these connection options for their home theater setup.

On the ease-of-use side of the equation, for the most part, the STR-DN1030 is pretty straight forward, but the provided remote control isn't as intuitive as it could be and the onscreen menu system, although in color, is kind of skimpy.

However, taking the whole package of what is included, and actual performance, the Sony STR-DN1030 well worth consideration, especially with its suggested retail price of $499.99.

Now that you have read this review, also be sure to check out more about the Sony STR-DN1030 in my Photo Profile.

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