If you're looking to expand your home-theater horizons beyond just the television plus a soundbar, then a receiver and discrete set of speakers is the next step. For a midrange price, the Sony STR-DN1050 offers a great mix of features and performance, excellent sound quality and a class-leading user interface.
The Sony has most of the wireless features you'd expect including Bluetooth, Spotify, and Apple AirPlay. It also comes with a simplifieduser interface and a remote that is heads above other products at the price, which in the US is in the neighborhood of $525, £499 in the UK, and AU$1,199 in Australia. Performance too is another step beyond the similarly ticketed Onkyo TX-NR636. For the money, it's almost neck-and-neck between these two receivers, but ultimately if it's sound quality you're after, then opt for the Sony.
Unless you're looking at a top-end Marantz or an even more esoteric brand, home-theater convention dictates that receivers should be squat, black rectangles with a large, blue LED display emblazoned across the top. In recent years, Sony has hewn its receivers to this aesthetic, and the STR-DN1050 does so too, looking identical to the 1040 model it replaces. We praised that model for its simplicity and lack of button clutter, and the front-mounted USB and HDMI ports enhance convenience.
While the exterior of the DN1050 is relatively untouched, the company has made improvements to the remote. It is now a good deal smaller and no longer resembles a scientific calculator: it has a tighter collection of buttons, and its ergonomics are a step up. My only gripe is that, unlike with the Onkyo's remote, the Sony's wireless features aren't directly accessible with a shortcut button. Instead, the streaming options need to be accessed from a nest of menus via the home screen.
After years of flogging the XrossMediaBar, Sony overhauled its interface last year. The DN1050 continues in this vein with an attractive selection of screens that have colorful icons and readable text. Dig a little deeper, though, and the menus morph into the familiar long lists accompanied by a scroll bar as seen on the Onkyo. But at least the Sony's home screen and Settings page (arguably the two most used) are much less intimidating than the Onkyo's.
The STR-DN1050 is a 7.2-channel receiver rated at 165 watts per channel that decodes all of the important standards, save for Dolby Atmos.
While last year's STR-1040 featured eight HDMI inputs, this year's replacement pares that extravagance down to a still-healthy six. Times are tough at Sony, and now maybe at your place, too. The receiver does feature three HDMI outs (A, B, and Zone) in addition to two component ins and two composite ins. Audio inputs include four analog-in, two optical, and a single coaxial digital.
While Sony does support HDMI 2.0, if you're a stickler for future-proofing, you may want to know that the Onkyo TX-NR626 also has HDCP 2.2, and Dolby Atmos. We don't consider them very important however, so we're not dinging the Sony for their absence.