Unlocking the Control4 function on the receiver costs an additional $300. To get me set up, a representative from local CE Pro HouseLogix came over (see my VoicePod review for more on what HouseLogix did during their visit) and spent a little time programming the Control4 side of the receiver. You need to use the included Zigbee USB dongle, because that’s how it talks to the lights and any other Control4 products in the house. HouseLogix set up some Zigbee dimmers and programmed in three lighting scenes for different activities. I was also given Control4’s SR-250 remote and the Control4 app on my Samsung Android tablet.
First off, I need to say that the Control4 function made operating my entire system several times easier than it ever had been with the various universal remotes I’ve used. The interface is set up to be intuitive, so I could hand the tablet or remote to my wife and without any instructions, she could watch a movie with two or three button presses. The Control4 remote (backlit, thank God) includes an on-screen display and no more buttons than necessary for all the most common functions. The remote also communicated with the receiver over Control4’s Zigbee RF network, so you don’t have to point it at anything. I preferred, however, to use the tablet in most cases, because I didn’t have to put my glasses on to find the skip button.
However, what makes it all even more impressive is that the Control4 layer basically makes the receiver disappear. Control4’s GUI replaces everything, so that you’re no longer operating a receiver and a Blu-ray player; you’re just watching a movie. If during the movie I wanted to turn the lights on, it was simple: press the Lights buttons and pick a lighting scene or adjust the level manually. To resume the movie, I’d press Play and the lights would go down again to the appropriate scene level. This is the kind coordination that turns a home theater room from a bunch of electronics all plugged into each other to a system that acts like a focused school of fish, all moving in the same direction at once.
Sonically, the receiver performed very well. It was able to fill my 300 square-foot room with invigorating sound for both movies and music. The amps had no problem pushing my Canton speakers; dialog was clear, action was vibrant and music was, well, musical. Essentially, it sounds like a $1,000 receiver should sound. The easy setup, coupled with the automation features, make this one of the most interesting home theater receivers on the market. While the out-of-the-box control feature is impressive, upgrading to the Contol4 system will make your entertainment space even more enjoyable by taking away the frustration of operation and simply leaving you with your movies or music.
Sony STA-DA2800ES Receiver with Control4
• 7.2 Channel A/V Receiver with 100W per ch. (8 Ohm 20-20kHz 0.09%THD)
• Activated with full Control4 Automation
• 10 HD inputs (8 HDMI, 2 component)
• 4K pass-through and up-scaling
• Stream the widest variety of movies and music from the Internet
• Work with a Control4 integrator to automate nearly anything in your home
• Compatible with Control4 remote controls and award winning onscreen user interface
• 3-HDMI output (2 HDMI main theater, 1 2nd zone w/4K pass-through)
• Control with optional Control4 MyHome iOS and Android mobile applications
• Sony ES 5-Year Limited Warranty
Read Also: 10 Features for Your Next Home Theater Receiver
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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.