Sony STR-DG810 review: Sony STR-DG810

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CNET Editors' Rating

2.5 stars OK
  • Overall: 5.7
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 5.0
  • Performance: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good 6.1-channel receiver with three HDMI inputs; XM Satellite Radio-ready with XM Neural Surround; automatic speaker calibration.

The Bad Confusing autosetup routine; no onscreen interface; generally poor connectivity options--no S-Video jacks, no multichannel audio inputs, and the proprietary Digital Media Port input, which is limited to only four proprietary accessories; sound lacks detail and focus; no multizone features.

The Bottom Line The Sony STR-DG810 delivers three HDMI inputs at a fairly low price, but connectivity, features, and sound quality shortfalls spoil the deal.

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Sony has two lines of home audio products. At the high end is the company's ES ("Elevated Standards") series, which includes such showpiece AV receivers as the STR-DA5200ES, the first receiver to bring a next-gen look to the graphical onscreen interface. But the company also offers a line of entry-level and midrange receivers. Toward the top of that line is the STR-DG810. The receiver retails for a very affordable $400 and is highlighted by its three HDMI inputs--in most cases, you'd need to spend double to get three HDMI inputs from other brands. On the other hand, the DG810's omissions are too numerous to ignore: no S-Video inputs, no multichannel analog input, no multizone functionality, no pre-outs, and a paltry selection of digital audio outputs. Perhaps if you just really want that third HDMI input and don't need other functionality, you can make a case for the STR-DG810's feature set. Otherwise, you're probably better off going with more fully featured models that cost just a bit more, such as the Yamaha RX-V661 or--especially--the Onkyo TX-SR605.

Design
The STR-DG810 looks like a standard budget receiver. The entire unit is black, and the edges are rounded, which gives it a slightly friendlier look than boxy receivers. The front panel is distinguished by three average-size knobs for tone, tuning, and input selection and one large knob for volume. There are also several buttons littered all over the front panel, although we didn't find ourselves using them that frequently even when we were up close. In the center of the front panel is a nicely sized LCD screen, and we had no trouble reading on the input names from a viewing distance of about eight feet.

AV receivers have a lot of functionality and that means they have to pack a lot of buttons onto their remotes. The clicker for the STR-DG810 is no different, and it's about par for the course compared to the competition. We definitely have our quibbles--like the two identical-looking button rockers at the bottom, with only small labels indicating one was for volume and the other was for presets. We also disliked having to press the "receiver" button first every time we wanted to change an input. On the upside, the main navigation buttons are easy to use, and there's good separation between the separate sections, so it's mostly easy to find the button you want.


The remote control is pretty standard.

Before you go reaching for the big menu button to set up the STR-DG810, you should know that there are no onscreen menus on it. That's frustrating, but not abnormal for receivers in this price range. Instead, you'll need to navigate the setup menus using the LED screen, which is annoying even for setup vets like us. If you like to tweak your settings regularly, we'd recommend spending a little more for a receiver with onscreen display.

Auto speaker calibration is a popular feature on AV receivers because it simplifies setup chores, but Sony's latest implementation of its DCAC (Digital Cinema Auto Calibration) system does the opposite. Part of problem is because of the STR-DG10's lack of an onscreen display. That leaves you having to decode cryptic messages on the receiver's display that must be cross-referenced with the owner's manual throughout the process. For instance, we got an "ERROR SR 33" message on the display during the process, which--according to the manual--meant one of our surround speakers wasn't connected. We fixed that but were unable to get past the error message to rerun the DCAC. We didn't succeed, so in frustration we turned the receiver off, and that did the trick. Rerunning Auto Cal again successfully completed the measurement phase of the auto setup.


The DCAC system uses a microphone to automatically calibrate the speakers--but the process is unnecessarily complex.

But then we got bogged down when we attempted to navigate the "Cal menu parameters" menu to check the measurements and accidentally reran the auto setup sequence tones. We eventually determined that we had, in fact, saved the calibrated data. Suffice it to say, Sony's latest revision of DCAC is by far the most confusing auto calibration system we've ever tested. Part of the blame is the poorly written owner's manual and the downright awful user interface of the system. Turns out the DCAC was reasonably accurate, except the subwoofer volume level was set much too loud (we turned the control on the sub down to adjust the volume to our liking). The STR-DG810's all-manual speaker setup options are only somewhat easier to implement.

Features
Key features at a glance

Connectivity     Audio soundtrack capabilities  
HDMI inputs 3   Passes Dolby Digital and DTS via HDMI Yes
Component video inputs 3   Passes LPCM via HDMI Yes
AV inputs with S-Video 0 (3 rear, 1 front, but composite video only)   Decodes Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master No
Optical inputs 2   Video capabilities  
Coaxial inputs 1   HDMI version 1.2a
Selectable HD sources 4   1080p via HDMI Yes
Satellite radio XM-Ready   1080p via component Yes
Network audio No   Upconverts analog sources No
Phono input No   Deinterlaces 480i via HDMI No
Analog multichannel input No   Selectable output resolution No

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Where to Buy

Sony STR-DG810

Part Number: STR-DG810 Released: Apr 1, 2007
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Apr 1, 2007
  • Output Power / Total 660 Watt
  • Additional Features XM satellite radio ready
  • Functions AV receiver
  • Sound Output Mode Surround Sound
  • Type AV receiver