Audio/Video

Exclusive Review: Sony 5600ES Receiver With 4-Port Switch

Integrator reviews Sony's $1,999 STR-DA5600ES receiver: excellent audio, flawless 3D pass-through, useful 4-port Ethernet switch, perfect Control4 integration, flawed Zone 2 config.


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It’s difficult for a manufacturer to distinguish itself in the A/V receiver category these days. After all, just how good can a 7.1 surround system sound?

But Sony manages to bring plenty of innovation to the new STR-DA5600ES (Elevated Standard), available only through specialty A/V retailers and custom integrators. It sounds amazing, but it also networks beautifully via an on-board four-port Ethernet switch, and offers the best Control4 integration I’ve ever experienced with a third-party A/V component.

The audio performance of the receiver is rivaled only by the video, with Faroudja processing so good that it made my old VHS movies look respectable. With the unit’s nearly flawless 3D pass-through, even the purists may never know that a receiver sits between the source and a display.

Perhaps the biggest treat of them all: The free Apple app for controlling the 5600ES is one of the best control apps I’ve ever used.

The integrated unit, which pumps out 130 watts of power to seven channels, will retail for only $2,000 when it hits the market this month. It will make A/V integrators—the only folks who have access to the line—rethink their affection for separates.

This Sony receiver can open up new markets for CE pros: For clients who don’t want a complete whole-house solution (for now), this one piece can serve as the hub of a whole-house A/V system with some lighting control. When they’re ready to step up, you can easily add a third-party control system.

The Sony STR-DA5600ES and Sony’s full line of new ES products will be demonstrated this month at CEDIA Expo 2010.

Breezy Set-up

Set-up is a snap with the included disc, with one major caveat: You better have Windows 7 because this disc (and even the online version) won’t fly with XP.

Sony STR-DA5600ES Multiroom 7.1 A/V Receiver
Price: $1,999
Shipping: September 2010
Availability: Auth. Sony ES specialty A/V dealers
Images and additional details

Pros

  • High-performance 7.1 audio, Faroudja video
  • Flawless integration with Control4
  • Low-cost integrated surround sound/amp with control of third-party IR devices including LutronRich iPod/iPhone interface
  • Integrated 4-port Ethernet switch – genius!
  • Best Zone 2 set-up and performance ever experienced
  • Only $1,999

Cons

  • No full-fledged Sony BIV service including Pandora, Netflix
  • Zone 2 attached to rear surrounds, not front high speakers
  • No DA5600ES app in Control4’s 4Store app store
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The set-up manager provides several useful tools and it gave me the chance to back up the configuration for emergencies, which is always nice.

Here’s what you’ll find in the set-up menu:

Speaker Setup. The highlight of this section is the ability to set up multiple sweet spots – up to three ideal sound environments for three different seating positions. This feature is useful for large theater rooms or rooms with multiple seating areas like a rear bar or pub setting.

There are two other noteworthy features: First, you can change the impedance from 8 ohm to 4 ohm. Second, you can set the speaker pattern from 2.0 to 5/4 .1, giving you the ability to use four speakers up front for right and left or configure some really great bi-wires.

Surround Settings. Here you can adjust gain height and HD-D.C.S effect type. The three choices are DYNAMIC, THEATER, and STUDIO.

EQ Setting. This page is nice because it lets you adjust the bass and treble for front, back, center, and front high channels.

Audio Calibration. There are 31 sliders between the frequencies of 20 Hz and 20 kHz.

Sony explains:  “You can display and adjust the frequency characteristics to be used during the Auto Calibration. If you select [User Reference] as the speaker compensation type using the menu of the AV receiver, the adjusted frequency characteristics will be applied in Auto Calibration.”

This is a great feature for those installers that actually take the time and care to properly configure sound in a theater environment.

Multi Zone set-up. Configure your zone 2 and 3 for CONTROL, ZONE, or MAIN, and choose whether zone 2 is variable volume. Sony also lets you set a preset volume for the main zone and zone 2.

Input Set-up. There is nothing exceptional about this configuration page, but the wizard does make it easy to set up this beast. Plus, it makes a nice documentation tool – just take a screen grab and print it out.

Radio tuners. Set up to 30 presets each for FM, AM and Sirius radio.

ShoutCast. The HELP button on this page explains how to set up the Internet radio service and links you directly to ShoutCast to find your channels.


  About the Author

With over 20 years of experience in home systems installation and design as well as being an award winning product designer, Joe Whitaker currently is principal of the integration firm thethoughtfulhome.com. He is a current member of the CEDIA board of directors first elected in 2013 and is a frequent contributor to CE Pro magazine. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Joe at [email protected]

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Audio/Video · Distributed Audio · News · Media · Slideshow · CEDIA · Joe Whitaker · Review · Sony · All Topics
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