Sony STR-DN1080 AV Receiver
For several years, Sony’s AV receivers were consistently near the top of the list. Last year, they fell behind the competition when they didn’t include Atmos or DTS:X. This year both features are available on the Sony STR-DN1080 AV Receiver along with a host of other sought after home theater features.
The 1080, like most AV receivers, is a thick chunky black box. Its midsection is bisected by a thin glossy strip that houses the amps main indicator display. The buttons on the front of the receiver are thin slivers that don’t take up much real estate. The result is that the amp has a sleeker look than most.
The on-screen interfaces on Sony’s amps have come a long way. In my opinion, no other AV manufacturer has a better graphical interface than Sony. The Sony STR-DN1080’s menu is a breath of fresh air. Huge easy to read tiles greet you once you boot-up the menu. The remote is just as intuitive and straightforward. Sony doesn’t want or try to make it a universal remote. Because of this, the remote is entirely void of button clutter.
Related: Yamaha RX-V581 AV Receiver Review
Times are changing. Legacy connections are slowly dying, and this fact has never been more apparent than when you peer around the back of the Sony STR-DN1080 AV Receiver. It has a handful of RCA inputs along with one digital coaxial and one optical. Component inputs are slowly going away and not just on the 1080. Most mid-range receivers have been kicking these inputs to the curb, so it’s not surprising that the Sony 1080 has none. Anyone thinking of picking-up this unit will want to keep that in mind. The amp also includes built-in WiFi and Bluetooth along with an ethernet port on the back to facilitate wired network connections.
The Sony STR-DN1080 has a total of six HDMI hookups and two outputs so that you can enjoy audio & video in a second room. The inputs support the latest 4K goodies – 60p 4:4:4, HDCP 2.2, and the three flavors of HDR (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma, and Dolby Vision).
Sony STR-DN1080 Streaming & Multi-Room
On the surface, it doesn’t seem that the 1080 gives you a lot of streaming options. Once you get into the menu, you only see tiles for two choices – Spotify and Chromecast built-in. However, if you have an Android device, it’s possible to zap audio from an astonishing number of music apps via Chromecast built-in. For iOS devices, the Sony STR-DN1080 is AirPlay compliant, so any music streaming app you have on your iPhone or iPod can c send audio to the amp. You can also transmit music to the receiver over your network from a PC or NAS device.
Sony’s multi-room audio system SongPal has been rebranded and is now called the Music Room. I personally never liked the SongPal moniker and was never a massive fan of the app itself. However, with the new name, Sony has also updated the interface. Similar to Yamaha’s MusicCast, the Music Room is designed to let you set up multiple speakers in different areas of your home and then send audio to each.
The 1080 is also compatible with Google’s little Home speaker. Unfortunately, we didn’t have one on hand to test, but according to Sony, it’s possible to control some of the functions of the receiver with voice commands via the Google Home speaker.
Sony has been a big supporter of hi-res music, so it’s not too surprising that the 1080 can decode an array of music files – DSD, ALAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, and of course MP3. You can send music encoded in these formats over your network or make a direct connection to the amp via the front USB port.
Last year, it was a little disappointing that Sony missed the boat on Atmos and DTS:X, but that’s not the case this year. The Sony STR-DN1080 supports both formats and can power speakers in a 5.1.2 arrangement. If you look around the net, you’ll see people criticizing seven-channel amps for not supporting additional height channels for Atmos and DTS:X (i.e., a 5.1.4 setup). I’m not one of them. At the Sony 1080’s price point, only so much tech can be crammed into it without raising the price. In my opinion, if you want to run a 5.1.4 arrangement, the solution is simple. Buy a more expensive amp.
Speaker calibration with the Sony STR-DN1080 AV Receiver is pretty much the same as it is with other home AV amps. After you plug-in the provided microphone, the 1080 belches out a series of test tones that it uses to set the proper speaker distances, levels, and crossovers. Most AV makers use a mono microphone for calibration; however, Sony’s gone a different route by using a stereo mic.
Overall, the calibration was pretty accurate. However, despite the stereo mic, the Sony 1080, like most calibration systems, set my front speakers to full range. At this point, it’s habitual for me to go in and adjust the settings on nearly every amp I test. I suggest you also do the same since very few calibration systems manage to get the settings just right.
Something that’s plagued home theater owners for years has been speaker placement. AV makers have made strides to address this. The Sony STR-DN1080 employs two solutions depending on your speaker layout. If you only have five speakers but want the expanded sound of a 7-channel setup, the 1080 has a phantom channel option that simulates the presence of physical surround speakers.
Alternatively, the 1080 also has a front surround feature that can mimic surround sound with only two front channels. When I tested the phantom setup, the sound did seemingly emanate from non-existent surround speakers on several occasions. The front surround was a little less convincing for me, but it did provide a wide soundstage. In practice, neither of these two features are replacements for a true 7-channel surround system. Nonetheless, if you’re one many people that’s plagued with speaker placement issues, both of these solutions are good alternatives.
I’ve been a fan of the sound of Sony AV receivers for a few years now and was a bit disappointed when they didn’t include Dolby Atmos or DTS:X in last year’s mid-tier amps. But, I’ll say this, if you’ve been waiting to pick up a Sony amp with Atmos and DTS:X capabilities, then wait no more because Sony’s knocked it out of the park with the Sony STR-DN1080.
From the get-go, the receiver displayed beautiful dynamics across the board. Transformers: Age of Extinction, which is one of my go-to Atmos movies, was almost startling in its sound quality. The audio was all-encompassing and 3-dimensional in its delivery. The only receiver I’ve listened to recently that delivered 3-D sound better than the 1080 was the Integra DRX-R1, and it cost nearly 5X more. The 1080’s detailed delivery was omnipresent. Every whir, clank, and clunk was easily discernable.
King Kong: Skull Island was the next movie to get some time on the Sony 1080, and again, Sony’s amp delivered the goods. Kong’s roar enveloped my listening space. Bass was detailed and thunderous. As the beleaguered and beaten team of humans stumbled through the lush foliage of the jungle, the sound of rustling leaves and cracking branches pulled me deeper into the flick.
For music, the STR-DN1080 had plenty of dynamic range. Bass was tight and punchy. Treble was crisp without being sharp. Even when I cranked the volume, it never ventured into “Bright” territory. It maintained its consistency no matter how low or how high I had the volume.
Sony dropped the ball last year when they didn’t include Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. It took some time for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to arrive on a Sony mid-range amp, but it was worth the wait. The Sony STR-DN1080 is among the best we’ve listened to this year. The Sony STR-DN1080 AV Receiver has both features plus 4K compatibility, WiFi, Bluetooth, Chromecast built-in, and more. If that wasn’t enough pressure on the competition, it also has fantastic sound quality to boot.