The Sony STR-DN1000 offers solid sound and basic AV receiver features at a bargain price, but it's not nearly as good as last year's STR-DG920.
Last year, Sony's STR-DG920 was our top midrange AV receiver pick. Its graphical user interface was a step above the text-based displays of competitors and its analog video upconversion featured solid image quality--a rarity among AV receivers. The STR-DN1000 is the STR-DG920's successor, featuring a new sleek design with a glossy black finish. Much of the functionality is the same, with four HDMI inputs, onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and a GUI-based menu system.
On the other hand, the STR-DN1000 feels like a step backward in some regards. The STR-DG920's image quality (for upconverted analog video sources) was excellent for the price, but the STR-DN1000's image quality from analog to HDMI is barely acceptable; you're better off running a separate cable for non-HDMI sources to your TV. (If your system is completely HDMI-based, this isn't an issue.) You'll also note that it's missing some of the features included on competing receivers, such as analog multichannel inputs and multiroom functionality. At the time of this review, the STR-DN1000's main draw is its price; the STR-DN1000 is available online for just $340, which is a good deal less than competing receivers. If you can live with its shortcomings, the STR-DN1000 is a good value, but it doesn't offer as complete of a feature set as last year's STR-DG920, nor does Sony currently offer a compelling step-up model until you hit the $1,000 STR-DA3500ES.
Sony is a company known for stylish products, but generally its AV receivers have a pedestrian, matte-black look. The STR-DN1000 is a break from tradition; its glossy black front panel is decidedly a glitzy turn for Sony's AV receiver line. Like many glossy black products, it tends to look a little better in photos than in person, and the finish is easily smudged with fingerprints, but it's definitely a step up from, say, the STR-DH700.
From the front, the STR-DN1000 is largely buttonless, with a small power button on the left, a smallish LCD display in the center, plus a volume knob and input selector buttons on the right. Flipping down the door toward the bottom reveals eight additional buttons, an AV input, and the autocalibration mic input.
The STR-DN1000's automatic speaker calibration offers two key advantages over competing systems from Onkyo, Denon, Pioneer, and Yamaha. First, it's fast, needing just about a minute to run test tones through all the speakers and subwoofer; and second, it offers the ability, if you so choose, to optimize the sound for three distinct locations in the room. So if you sit in the center of the couch, but your son prefers to sit in a chair on the right side of the room, and your mother-in-law over on the left, they could each get a sound balance tailored to those positions. The catch is that this only applies when they watch movies individually; if you all watch together you'd probably stick with the center-of-the-couch setting.
The STR-DN1000 hits all the key features we like to see in this price range. The standout feature is the STR-DN1000's GUI; while the competing Pioneer VSX-1019AH has a GUI, most midrange receivers (including the Onkyo TX-SR607, the Yamaha RX-V665BL, and the Denon AVR-1910) only have basic text-based menus. On the other hand, although the STR-DN1000 can upconvert analog video sources to HDMI, we wouldn't put much stock in this feature; not only is it limited to 1080i (rather than 1080p), the Sony's performance is poor enough to make this feature barely worthwhile.
Video connectivity is a strong point on the STR-DN1000. There are four HDMI inputs, which is standard, and three component video inputs, which is one more than competitors have. Additionally, the Sony is very flexible with its ability to assign inputs; there are enough input slots to connect ten total video devices, including seven HD video devices. It is worth pointing out that the STR-DN1000 lacks multichannel analog inputs. There's becoming less of a need for multichannel analog inputs in the HDMI age, but many competing receivers (Denon AVR-1910, Pioneer VSX-1019AH, Yamaha RX-V665BL) still include them.
Unlike every other receiver we tested in this price range, the STR-DN1000 lacks multiroom functionality. We'd be OK with the omission if the Sony made up for it in other areas (like last year's STR-DG920 did), but the STR-DN1000's lack of multiroom functionality seems like cutting corners considering it doesn't have other standout functionality. If you're looking to use your receiver in another room, you'll have to look elsewhere.
The included remote is a little busier than we'd like it to be, but still good overall. Input buttons at the top are relatively large and the centrally located direction pad falls easily under your thumb. On the downside, the remote is larger than it needs to be and it's difficult to transition from selecting an input to adjusting the volume all the way at the bottom. The simpler, more compact Onkyo remotes do a better job at handling ergonomic issues.