The Sony STR-DGH700 is clearly a budget AV receiver, offering bare-bones functionality. It does not offer onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, which is included on the Pioneer VSX-819H, but it's worth pointing out that decoding for these formats is less important now that almost all new Blu-ray players offer onboard decoding. There's also no onscreen display (also available on the Pioneer), so you'll have to change settings using the small LCD screen on the unit.
|HDMI inputs||3||Optical audio inputs||2|
|Component video inputs||3||Coaxial audio inputs||1|
|Max connected HD devices||4||Stereo analog audio inputs||2|
|Composite AV inputs||4||Analog multichannel inputs||No|
|Max connected video devices||4||Phono input||No|
The most important connections here are the three HDMI inputs, which is equal to what you get on the comparable Pioneer VSX-819H-K and Onkyo TX-SR307, but is more than the two available on the Yamaha RX-V365BL. Surprisingly, there are three component video connections (many receivers only have two these days), but remember that there's no analog video upconversion, so you'll need to run the component video output to your HDTV. Like almost all receivers now, the STR-DH700 lacks S-Video inputs, offering composite video connections instead.
Sony also has its proprietary DM port, which allows you to connect a variety of compatible accessories, such as the TDM-NC1 (a Wi-Fi music streamer), the (a Bluetooth adapter), and the TDM-IP50 (an iPod/iPhone dock). The add-ons are expensive, and again, the similarly priced VSX-819H-K has a USB port into which you can simply plug an iPod/iPhone.
|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|
Unlike many step-up receivers, the STR-DH700 lacks any second-zone functionality. That means you're basically limited to using the STR-DH700 in a single room. It does, however, have "B" speaker connections, so you can add a second pair of speakers in another room that will play the same music as in the main room. Note that the "B" speaker connections double as the surround-back channels, so you're limited to a 5.1-speaker arrangement if you connect B speakers.
Starting out with a straight dramatic movie, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," the STR-DH700 sounded fine. Set in Germany during World War II, a little boy, Bruno, is the son of a Nazi officer. Dialogue was clear and the outdoor scenes where Bruno befriends a boy his own age who is a concentration camp prisoner sounded very natural. The lush orchestral score was simply gorgeous.
Turning up the home theater heat with the plane crash early in "The Flight of the Phoenix" DVD revealed the STR-DH700's dynamic range limitations. The receiver squashed the sound of the crash's impact. It was less of a crash than a thud. We noted the same lack of amplifier muscle with Cream's "Royal Albert Hall 2005" concert DVD. Jack Bruce's bass guitar lacked definition; Eric Clapton's guitar didn't have the presence it should have.
Joel Fan's brilliant solo piano CD, "West of the Sun," had a laid-back sonic balance over the STR-DH700. The "polite" easy treble might, in fact, be a plus when the receiver is matched with thin or bright-sounding satellite speakers. We next compared the STR-DH700 with a Pioneer VSX-1019AH receiver while playing CDs. The Pioneer's dynamic punch, clarity, and resolution of fine detail were far superior, but in all fairness, it's double the price of the STR-DH700. On the other hand, we felt like buyers who appreciate high-quality audio would be "getting their money's worth" by stepping up to a more powerful AV receiver.
So, sure, if you're looking to play just dramatic films or music at moderate volume, the STR-DH700 will sound fine. But it may not be the best choice for buyers looking for home theater excitement.