Sony's 2014 AV receivers get better wireless features, simple remote

/ Updated: April 25, 2014 10:24 AM PDT

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Sony

AV receivers tend to improve at a glacial pace, but Sony's had a good run recently, with the last year's STR-DN840 standing head-and-shoulders above the competition.

Sony announced its new 2014 slate of AV receivers today, with four models ranging from $280 to $600. The two higher-end models, the STR-DN850 and STR-DN1050, improve on last year's excellent wireless connectivity features, keeping built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth, plus adding support for both aptX and NFC.

All of the new AV receivers will be available in May; here's a rundown of the major feature differences between the STR-DN850 and STR-DN1050:

Sony STR-DN850 ($500)

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Sony

  • 7.2 channels
  • 150 watts per channel
  • 5 HDMI inputs
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Built-in Bluetooth (with aptX and NFC)
  • Built-in AirPlay
  • 192k/24bit support for WAV and FLAC files over USB and DLNA

Sony STR-DN1050 ($600) step-up features

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Sony

  • 165 watts per channel
  • 6 HDMI inputs
  • Three HDMI outputs, including a second zone HDMI output
  • Powered second zone
  • Support for DSD files

There are a couple of significant changes from last year's models that are worth highlighting. One is that the excellent user interface from the last year's STR-DN1040 will be available on both the STR-DN850 and the STR-DN1050 this year. When most AV receiver onscreen menus look like this, it's refreshing to see Sony make an effort to make the AV receiver approachable.

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Sony

Also new on the simplification side is a drastically redesigned remote. The new clicker looks to be huge improvement, ditching rarely-used buttons and adopting a more straightforward layout.

Finally, the Sony STR-DN1050's second-zone support is the most extensive I've seen at this price. While most AV receivers limit your second-zone sources to analog inputs, the STR-DN1050 is capable of playing any source, including Bluetooth and AirPlay, in the second zone using the second-zone HDMI output. Most buyers won't need this extra functionality, but it's a nice step-up if you're looking for a two-room solution.

While most of the improvements are for the better, the STR-DN850 and STR-DN1050 both offer fewer HDMI inputs than last year's models. While five HDMI inputs is probably enough for most home theaters, it is nice to have room to expand, especially given the rate that new streaming media boxes are being released.

In addition to the two higher-end models, Sony also announced the STR-DH550 ($280) and STR-DH750 ($350). The features break down as follows:

STR-DH550 ($280)

  • 5.2 channels
  • 145 watts per channel

STR-DH750 ($349) step-up features

  • 7.2 channel
  • 145 watts per channel
  • 4 HDMI inputs
  • Built-in Bluetooth (with aptX and NFC)

The STR-DH750 seems like a particularly good value for non-iOS households, offering wireless music playback via Bluetooth at a lower cost by ditching the less necessary Wi-Fi and AirPlay features.

I've requested several of Sony's 2014 models for review, but at first glance this looks to be a solid improvement on what was already strong lineup from last year.

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