After all the setup, I spent some time exploring features of the receiver. In both the Watch and Listen menus you can find several pre-loaded streaming services include Amazon, Netflix, Pandora, Slacker, Youtube, Hulu Plus and Vudu. Netflix even has its own button on the remote. Some of the streaming services require you to go to a Sony registration web site to sign up. In fact, you can’t even enter an existing Pandora password directly though the receiver (Onkyo receivers allow this). Before you use Pandora you need to go through the Sony registration process. This seems like an unnecessary irritation, but it only adds a few minutes to your setup time.
If you want to listen to music or watch videos from you iPod/iPhone/iPad there’s a USB connection in the front of the receiver. Strangely, the first time I tried hooking up my iPlayers the receiver would not recognize anything including both an iPhone 4 and 4S. The Sony simply showed a “Please Wait” message, but never connected. The next day I tried again and the Sony recognized both phones immediately and let me play music. I suspect the phones may have been on their batteries last legs the first time and didn’t have enough power in them to handshake with the receiver. Anyway, I only experienced that problem once. Unfortunately the unit offers no AirPlay or Bluetooth option for connecting an iPhone, so wired is your only option.
DLNA worked much better for me. The Sony instantly recognized my WD TV Live Hub and showed folders for all my Live Hub content. I know DLNA sometimes gets a bum rap from some users, but I personally like it. From my one network-connected hard drive I can send music to several DLNA-compatible devices around the house.
I’m kind of an impatient person, so I hate it when receivers make me wait. I had no problem with this Sony when switching inputs. Press the BD source button, and it jumps to attention. Then press the Sat/Cable button and you’re instantly back in cable TV land. HDMI handshake issues never presented themselves.
So how’s it sound? I configured the receiver as a 5.1 system, though you can use it at 7.1, 7.2 or stick to 5.1 and use the extra two channels as a separate audio zone for the back yard or another room.
I started with some music, Florence and The Machine’s Dog Days are Over. Over the my Canton speakers, the music was rich and powerful. I then switched to Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s album The Letting Go. The sound optimizer feature seemed to boost the lower frequencies by a few dB and give the music bit more depth, but maybe hides some detail. I liked it in some instances and not in others. In Bonnie’s No Bad News the extra bass overwhelmed the subtlety of the music. Without the feature, the Sony delivered clear and well-balanced music and a pleasant soundstage. I’d probably use this on a case-by-case basis. The same goes for Sony’s sound field options, the best of which was DTS Neo:X, though your ears may be different.
In movies, the Sony receiver delivered all the power and dynamics I expected from a device of this caliber. Dialog was always clear, and effects precise or diffuse when they were called to be precise or diffuse. The 130 watt per channel amplifier could easily fill all but the biggest home theaters.
Overall, the Sony worked well, but the lack of AirPlay make it seem a bit lacking compared to some of the other similarly priced systems on the market (you can fill that hole with a $99 Apple TV). The abundance of built-in online streaming services means you can use this receiver as amplifier, processor and source without connecting anything else to it.
Sony STR-DA5700ES Home Theater Receiver
• 7.2 channel A/V receiver (130w/ch, 8 Ohm 20-20kHz 0.09%THD)
• Internet streaming: Netflix, YouTube, Pandora and more
• Activity-based on screen interface for easy navigation
• Easy setup wizard saves time
• DCAC EX Speaker Auto-Calibration with Speaker Relocation and Automatic Phase Matching
• 3D pass-through over HDMI
• Integrated 4-port Ethernet switch
• iPhone/iPod touch/Android remote control app (I could not try the Android app)
• 8 HD inputs (6 HDMI, 2 component), 2 HDMI outputs
• iPhone/iPo® via front USB
• Integrates with control systems via Control over IP, RS232 or IR
• High-quality digital Audio Transmission System (H.A.T.S.)
• Multi-channel uncompressed direct stream digital output
• DTS-Neo:x supports 11 speakers plus a sub
• Second-zone Cat5
• 31-band Graphic Equalizer
• Programmable triggers
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.