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Spotlight on CEDIA

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.

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

  • 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

  • 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
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.

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.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Slideshow · Audio · Distributed Audio · Receivers · Cedia · Sony · Review · Joe Whitaker · · All topics

About the Author

Joe Whitaker, Electronic Lifestyle Consultant JW Designs / CEDIA Board of Directors Member
With more than a decade of experience in home systems installation and product development, Joe Whitaker currently is principal of the integration firm JW Designs. He was elected to the CEDIA board of directors in 2013 and is a frequent contributor to CE Pro magazine.

14 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by MarkD  on  09/08  at  03:34 PM

Great review and write-up Joe, it looks like this receiver is the one to beat.

Posted by Steven  on  09/08  at  04:24 PM

I think the real problem is you’re not using an outboard amplifier with your second zone.

Posted by caudio4c4  on  09/08  at  09:11 PM

Great write up Joe. This is the first write up that I have read in my 20 years in the industry that has a intense integrators point of view. Look forward to seeing some more reviews from you.

Posted by Kostas Farkonas  on  09/09  at  12:53 AM

Hey, THAT was very quick! I was looking forward to reading some impressions on this receiver, since I am considering investing in it - but did not expect to see one online so soon. Kudos right there.

A few very interesting points raised, integrators are right to take notice in receivers such as this one. The Ethernet hub is a very exciting feature to use, too. I can see an installation based on Cat5/6 cable, controlled by 5600ES, costing much less overall than what it would two or three years ago.

But I do have one objection on the review: the Faroudja chipset is nothing to write home about anymore. In fact, compared to what Silicon Optix and Anchor Bay have offered for the last few years, DCDi is seriously outdated. Sure, it will upscale to 1080p but will not process and enhance the picture enough for today’s standards.

A receiver of this caliber will most likely get connected to quality sources that do the processing themselves, sure, but I would not let it upscale my DVDs anymore, for instance. There are cheap DVD players out there that will do a much better job (even PS3 will).

All in all, though, it seems to be the only flaw of the 5600 I can think of. Looking forward to seeing it driving a quality home sinema setup, after reading your review!

Posted by Steven Kippel  on  09/09  at  04:36 PM

Will Control4 touchpanels control the Sony Digital Media Port iPort connected to this receiver?

Posted by Joe Whitaker  on  09/09  at  10:04 PM

Being able to control the DMP Iport through the touchscreens will not resemble the way that the Iport and Control4’s branded Ipod dock work. Navigate the the dmp iport as long as the it is being shown on your display through the reciever. I actually was not concerned with this as there are solutions for this that are better suited for automation systems that are not directly tied to a receiver.

Posted by Kim Parker  on  09/09  at  10:33 PM

Nice job Joe! Is the 4 port switch 10/100/1000? Look forward to seeing more articles from you.

Posted by Joe Whitaker  on  09/10  at  10:24 AM

The switch is 10/100. But so far i haven’t seen the need for much more than this on the receiver. Since this model does some limited media services i don’t think it would be a huge benefit. On the next model this may be different. I did push the network portion of the receiver way past recommendations and didn’t see any issues to my surprise.

Posted by jbrown  on  09/13  at  02:44 PM

So are the 4 ethernet ports ports connected to a switch? or a hub? You describe it both ways in the review, which is a bit disconcerting.

I agree with Mr. Farkonas, the Faroudja chipset is long outdated and far surpassed by the Silicon Optix and Anchor Bay offerings.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  09/13  at  02:58 PM

jbrown—It’s a switch. I might have goofed that one up in the editing. Will correct, thanks.

Posted by cm  on  10/01  at  06:52 PM

“I did a head-to-head test and there was no visible difference between 3D supplied directly to the display or through the Sony receiver”

Why wouldn’t this be a no brainer?  We are talking about passthrough of a digital signal.

Posted by Joe Whitaker  on  10/01  at  07:24 PM

Not exactly a no brainer. Think of other recievers, hdmi, DDC, TMDS, and a couple other things that can change the end result when any device is put between 2 hdmi devices. I have another 3d reciever that i will not name that has a very noticable and undesirable effect on 3d. Tested in same methos with EXACT same config. Passthrough is a very sticky and sometimes misleading term. Well for this reciever it is not so far.

Posted by cm  on  10/01  at  11:00 PM

Well, any AVR that uses the repeater architecture to pass through video (i.e. any AVR that does audio processing) sends out the video portion of the TMDS stream bit for bit as it is received from the source (except for differences in encryption.)  As such, the video signal received by the display should be exactly the same, whether received from the AVR or directly from the source.  While data can drop out resulting in sparkles or no picture at all, AFAIK this cannot result in an image that is complete, but lesser quality.  This is why the line I quoted purplexes me.

Is this other component you mention a true AVR that does audio processing, or more of a switch?  What is the exact effect you see with 3D video?  Also, why not name the brand and model if it has this issue?

Posted by Joe Whitaker  on  10/02  at  08:33 AM

The other device in question is a higher end avr than the sony. The only reason i don’t mention the name is that i do perspective editorials and reviews with no favorites and no punches held. I also ask permission with request for additional info on the devices i review. I have requested permission to review the piece in question so we will see how that goes.

If you have any questions send me an email, i would love to discuss the issues in a more private format!

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