|Line level 2nd zone outputs||No||Line level 3rd zone outputs||No|
|Speaker-level 2nd zone outputs||No||Speaker-level 3rd zone outputs||No|
|2nd zone video output||No||2nd zone remote||No|
The STR-DG920's weak link is its multiroom functionality, which essentially is nonexistent. While every other receiver we've tested in this price range offers both line level second zone outputs and speaker-level second zone outputs, the STR-DG920 does have any multiroom functionality at all. If you're just planning on using it in your home theater, that's not a problem at all, but those with more elaborate setups will have to look elsewhere. To get multiroom functionality on a Sony receiver, you'll need to step up to the much more expensive $1,000 STR-DA3400ES.
Ed Harris directed and stars in Appaloosa, a very contemporary approach to a traditional western (the characters have modern values). The STR-DG920 portrayed the film's naturalistic sound to good effect. For example, we liked the way the actors' voices had just the right reverberant quality when they spoke inside sparsely furnished wooden rooms, and the cowboys' spurs jangling as they walked on creaking floors. And when a belching steam locomotive lumbers into town, the commotion of the hulking train was palpable.
We used the Sunshine Blu-ray to compare the STR-DG920 with a Yamaha RX-V663 receiver. The mission to reignite our dying sun is a good excuse to put the two receivers through the wringer. The massive spaceship's rumbling presence had a bigger, weightier throb over the Yamaha, and the score's delicate percussive accents were cleaner sounding over the Yamaha. When we played the movie really loud, the Yamaha sounded more powerful; we sensed a little more strain from the Sony.
We finished up with some CDs, checking out Marianne Faithfull's latest, Easy Come, Easy Go. The CD features a big production, with strings on some tunes. The STR-DG920 added a hard edge to the strings, and Faithfull's smoky voice was thinner and harsher sounding than it ought to be over our reference system. Other CDs sounded fine, but lacking the refinement we heard over the Yamaha RX-V663.
The STR-DG920 is capable of upconverting analog signals to its HDMI output, so we put it through our video testing suite. We connected the Panasonic DMP-BD35 via component video to the STR-DG920, with the DMP-BD35 set to 480i output. The STR-DG920 was set to output at 1080p over its HDMI output, connected to the Panasonic TH-65VX100U, which was set in "external scaler" mode, to disable its own video processing.
The initial resolution test looked great, clearly depicting all the resolution of the test pattern without any image instability. The next two tests were also excellent, with almost no jaggies showing up on a test with a rotating white line or three shifting white lines. Next up was a 2:3 pull-down test, and the STR-DG920 passed this as well, although it took a full second for its film processing mode to kick in and remove the moire from the grandstands. Overall, the STR-DG920 was very impressive on test patterns.
While the Sony did a great job on test patterns, we did notice some annoying quirks. One issue is that the image wasn't perfectly scaled to 1080p, as there was a black line a few pixels high at the top and right edge of the screen. We also noticed some smaller white lines in the black line that would occasionally shift around, which was distracting. This problem is easily solved by choosing an aspect ratio mode with some overscan--almost every HDTV has one--rather than pixel-by-pixel mode. The other issue is that we noticed the image was particularly noisy, so you may want to engage some noise reduction on your display to lessen the effect.
We switched over to program material, and the STR-DG920 performed well. The introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection was cleanly rendered, with the curved bridge railings and boat hulls free of jaggies. The difficult opening to Seabiscuit also looked good, with the slow pans over the black-and-white photos looking detailed and sharp.
HD video performance
The STR-DG920 is capable of converting 1080i component video signals to 1080p, so we tested its HD video performance as well. First up, we double-checked our HQV test patterns on DVD, with the DMP-BD35 set to output to 1080i. We were pleasantly surprised, as it still aced the initial resolution test pattern, and previously mentioned scaling issues were diminished--only a thin black line on the right edge remained. It didn't perform quite as well on the jaggies tests, but on the 2:3 pull-down test it actually kicked into film mode a little faster.
Next up, we looked at the HQV test suite on Blu-ray. First up was the Video Resolution Loss test, and the STR-DG920 did a competent job with it, depicting the full vertical resolution of the pattern, and only slightly reducing the horizontal resolution (due to the black bar on the right side). Surprisingly, it also essentially passed the Film Resolution Loss Test, with the only issue being the aforementioned loss in horizontal resolution. It also held it's own on the long panning shot of Raymond James stadium, with noticeable, but minor, moire in the grandstands. Considering that many Blu-ray players and HDTVs struggle with this test, we were surprised to see a $400 AV receiver pull it off.
We switched over to program material and loaded up Ghost Rider on Blu-ray. At the end of Chapter 6, the camera pans away from a parked RV, and the STR-DG920 didn't quite handle this sequence, as we could see moire in the grille on the front of the RV. We also looked at a couple of torture test scenes from Mission Impossible: III. Here, the STR-DG920 performed better as there was no moire to be seen in the stairs on at the beginning of Chapter 8. It also handled the beginning of Chapter 11 well, as we couldn't make out any jaggies on the trimming of the limo as it pulled up to Tom Cruise.
Last up was Tony Bennett: American Classic, which is a somewhat rare Blu-ray in that much of it was shot on video. Here the STR-DG920 struggled more, as we saw plenty of jaggies on Chapter 7, especially on the clapperboard and striped shirts of the dancers. Given that video-based discs are pretty rare, it's a minor issue.
Overall, we were pretty impressed with the STR-DG920's high-def video processing. We'd be much stricter if the STR-DG920 cost more or was a dedicated video device--such as a Blu-ray player or HDTV--but its worth remembering that the vast majority of receivers in this price range can't even convert high-def component signals. If you've got an old Xbox 360 that only has component video output--and don't mind a slim black line on the right hand side--the STR-DG920 seems like a good fit.