Sony's STR-DA1200ES is one of a rare breed of AV products that has managed to stand the test of time and despite the company recently releasing a new similarly priced model, there are still no plans to take it from the shelves.
Its longevity has been granted by a strong cast of features that still meet all readily available home cinema needs. There's no integrated decoding for high-definition audio formats but since there are so few compatible players around that do, it's not a deal breaker. Besides, there aren't many AV receivers costing £400 that sound as good as this.
You can always rely on Sony for a stylish design. The beveled aluminium front panel with a minimalist arrangement of controls makes this one of the most attractive budget AV receivers we've seen. Build quality is equally impressive.
The list of features includes seven channels of 100W amplification, HDMI video switching with support for 1080p signals and video up-conversion from composite and S-Video to component, which will improve the picture quality from your analogue sources. There's also an excellent automatic calibration system that sets up the receiver more quickly and accurately than any other model we've come across at this price point.
While there are a few receivers in this range with a comparable specification, only Onkyo's TX-STR605 can equal the Sony's sensational sound quality. The receiver creates an almost three-dimensional sound stage using far-reaching dynamics, seamless steering and tightly gripped low frequencies. Whatever film soundtrack you're playing, it never sounds strained or coloured, even at high volumes. There is plenty of power to spare, too -- subtleties are not left ignored with outstanding detail, especially in the midrange. Watching an ambient film like Into The Wild emphasises the difference in expressive dialogue compared to rival receivers.