Sony's midrange AV receiver improves on its predecessor with new HDMI features like standby pass-through and 3D compatibility, but it lacks a compelling reason to pick it over its competitors.
When Sony announced its 2010 line of AV receivers in February, the STR-DN1010 was the first AV receiver announced with 3D pass-through capability, and it was a step-up feature over Sony's STR-DH810. Since then, however, 3D compatibility has become commonplace, trickling down to receivers as inexpensive as Denon's $250 AVR-391 and Pioneer's $230 VSX-520-K. That largely tells the story of Sony's midrange AV receiver, which is certainly an improvement last year's STR-DN1000, but lags compared with competitors, which offer more HDMI inputs, better sound quality and easy iPod/iPhone connectivity. Even its once best-in-class graphical user interface has now been surpassed by the new menus found on the Yamaha RX-V667. If you're a fan of the Sony brand, there's nothing wrong with the STR-DN1010 and it still offers a good value, but there are better options available in the same price range for the majority of buyers.
The STR-DN1010 goes for a minimalist look, with a glossy front panel uncluttered by the usual knobs and buttons that tend dominate AV receivers. There's a power button the left, a large volume button the right (with a mute button), and an input selector button rocker--and that's it. We're fans of the "less is more" look, as we rarely feel the need to use front panel buttons anyway.
Four HDMI inputs are the minimum we expect at this price level, although many competitors offer six, including the Pioneer VSX-1020-K, Onkyo TX-SR608 and Yamaha RX-V667. The rest of its analog video connectivity is better than average, but that's less of a concern to us now that nearly every home theater gadget features HDMI. Altogether the STR-DN1010 can switch between seven HD devices at a time, but we still wish it featured more HDMI ports.
If you press the large menu button, it will bring up the STR-DN1010's graphical user interface. Although the graphics are bare bones--it's far from the eye candy you'd find on, say, a Blu-ray player--we do find that it's a worthwhile step-up from the blocky text interfaces offered on competitors like the Denon AVR-1911 and Marantz NR1601.
The included remote is better than average for an AV receiver. It manages to offer enough functionality without becoming overwhelming. Input buttons are given priority at the top of the remote, and the direction pad is below, for navigating the GUI. As with most AV receiver remotes, the STR-DN1010's clicker tries to do too much by being able to control other devices. That means anytime you press "BD" to select that input, the remote will then start trying to control the Blu-ray player, rather than the receiver. As always, it's worth considering an upgrade to a quality universal remote.
The STR-DN1010's Digital Cinema Auto Calibration automatic speaker calibration system is supereasy to use. Not only that, it takes about a minute to complete; just plug in the supplied microphone, bring up the Auto Cal page in the GUI, and initiate the program. Unlike Onkyo, Marantz or Denon's Audyssey calibration routines that require the user to repeat the procedure three or more times with different microphone positions, the STR-DN1010 gets the job done from a single mic position.