I recently had the opportunity to get a personal, in-depth overview of Sony’s lineup of new ES AV receivers at an event in unseasonably frozen Austin, Texas. Fortunately, the power lingered long enough—icy rain knocked 120,000 Austin customers out during my stay—to get a comprehensive demonstration of these impressive models, the first new receivers to appear from Sony in five years.
There are five new models in total: four ES receivers targeting the professional custom install channel, and one consumer model. All receivers share many of the same features, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, multiple HDMI 2.1 ports with support for 8K and 4K 120Hz, Dolby Vision HDR, and IMAX Enhanced.
It also supports Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Automatic Low Latency Mode (ALLM), making it a future-proof choice for gamers. Sony TV and PlayStation 5 perks include pass-through Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode, features intended to improve picture quality for select PS5 games on compatible Sony Bravia TVs.
ES models are designed to fully integrate with many of the major control systems on the market such as Crestron, Savant and Control4. On top of that, it is Works with Sonos certified, which allows it to connect to a Sonos wireless multi-room system.
- STR-AZ7000ES: 13.2 channel ($3,299.99)
- STR-AZ5000ES: 11.2 channel ($2,099.99)
- STR-AZ3000ES: 9.2 channels ($1,699.99)
- STR-AZ1000ES: 7.2 channels ($1,099.99)
- STR-AN1000: 7.2 channels ($899.99)
All receivers are now available for pre-sale and come with a 5-year warranty.
Power output specifications of the ES Series range from 100 watts per channel on the 7.2 model to 150 watts per channel on the leading 13.2. The 7.2-channel consumer model STR-AN1000 is rated at 165 watts. All of Sony’s new receivers feature a host of design changes aimed at improving sound quality and reliability, with new 32-bit DACs, large capacitor transducers, and frame buffer plate construction. The ES’ offerings are also enhanced with a 200% thicker bottom panel and 120% thicker sidewalls than previous models.
A new processing feature for Sony’s 2023 range of receivers is 360-degree audio mapping. It was previously used in the company’s HT-A9 wireless speaker system and this could work to fill in the audio “gaps” in a typical Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 or 7.1.2 speaker configuration. 360 Spatial Sound Mapping is enabled via the company’s new Digital Cinema Calibration IX, a feature that uses a stereo microphone to make variable height measurements of distance, angle and sound pressure for each speaker and create a 3D acoustic map of the room. Once you’re done, you press the 360SSM button on your Sony remote control, and 360 Spatial Sound Mapping generates dummy speakers between the system’s actual speakers to provide an enhanced sense of immersion.
Besides phantom amplifiers, Sony’s new receivers also support wireless devices. The company’s wireless models SA-RS5 and SA-RS3S can optionally be added for use as rear channel speakers, and the same option applies to the SA-SW5 and SA-SW3 wireless subwoofers.
New audio options
Streaming music to Sony receivers is easy with support for ChromeCast, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. Working with Sonos also means you can integrate the receiver with your home’s wireless multi-room system and control music playback with the Sonos S2 app when a device like a company outlet is connected.
The new receivers are also the first Sony models to support 360 Reality Audio. Music encoded using Sony’s spatial audio mixing format can be found on services like Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited, and you can stream it to your receiver via Chromecast or play it from apps on a connected Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K or Apple TV 4K.
Analysis: A/V receivers are finally ready for the future
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard about a new Sony AV receiver, but these newer models seem to be worth the wait. This delay may actually be strategic on the company’s part, since HDMI 2.1 devices that support the full range of HDMI 2.1 features such as 8K and 4K 120Hz weren’t readily available to manufacturers, some of whom pushed through half-baked products with the promise of enabling more features in ” future firmware update”.
the The best AV receivers They now ship with comprehensive HDMI 2.1 support, making them the perfect next-generation home theater companions Playstation 5 And Xbox Xbox X | S consoles. Sony’s latest models fit perfectly into this category, and they offer a full suite of advanced expansion options for the tech-forward on top, including Works with Sonos and other whole-house integration features.
At the Sony event in Austin, I had the opportunity to listen to music encoded in 360 Reality Audio (come across, by HER and Chris Brown), and the mix of object-based adventure made great use of the 360-degree space. Two-channel music can also be mixed to 360 Reality Audio, so it’s a feature that can be applied to older sources as well.
The home theater projection room where I watched movie clips and listened to music was powered by Sony’s new flagship STR-AZ7000ES, and the 9.6.4 projection — using KEF speakers and a subwoofer, no less — was powerfully immersive. There were so many speakers tapping in that a 360 Spatial Sound Mapping receiver wasn’t necessary!
I’m sure the 360SSM will improve the performance of my 5.1.2 channel system, and since Sony sent me the STR-AN1000 for testing, I’ll soon be able to report back.
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