Sony's receivers lack the pizzazz of its sleek, Dreamy home-theater-in-a-box offerings--even the flagship STR-DE997 looks fairly plain-Jane on the outside. This receiver also lacks the ease of setup and use that characterizes most of the company's A/V offerings. On the other hand, it is jam-packed with connections, offers soul-stirring power, and retails for $500--well below the price of most competitors' top models. If you like its laid-back sound and don't mind the setup hassles, the Sony STR-DE997 makes a tempting choice. We're just guessing, but it looks like Sony's renowned stylists didn't get a chance to work their magic on this receiver, as the DE997's unadorned black-plastic cosmetics are decidedly uninspired. On the upside, the receiver's front-panel controls are nicely laid out, and the display is informative. The DE997's trim dimensions (17 inches wide, 6.2 inches high, and 14.6 inches deep), along with its 24.7-pound weight place it in the midsize category. The included, smallish remote features an illuminated LCD and a scrolling tab that makes it easy to select inputs.
The Sony STR-DE997's system-setup logistics are counterintuitive, and consulting the owner's manual doesn't offer any relief. After much head scratching, we eventually had everything sorted out. Novices will need to enlist the aid of an experienced friend--or go for one of the better autocalibrated receivers, such as.
Sony doesn't specify the receiver's satellite/subwoofer crossover frequency, but we guess it's fixed at 100 hertz. That'll work with most midsize to large sats but will likely sacrifice midbass response on tiny sats with 3.5-inch or smaller woofers. When running larger speakers (we recommend doing this with speakers that have 6-inch or larger woofers), the crossover is switched out of the circuit.
Sony currently offers six receivers, starting with the $150 STR-DE197. The DE997 is the top-of-the-line model.The DE997 delivers 120 watts to each of its seven channels and boasts a full complement of surround-processing options (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, DTS, DTS Neo:6, DTS ES Discrete 6.1, and DTS ES 96/24), which make this receiver as fully featured as any midprice model on the market. Bass and treble controls are also available on the setup menu.
For connectivity, the receiver features two switchable component-video sources; four A/V inputs/two outputs; two stereo inputs plus one turntable in; three optical/two coaxial digital audio inputs; and one optical output. It's also one of the only units we've seen to include two separate sets of analog 5.1-channel SACD/DVD-Audio inputs. Why you'd ever need both is beyond us, unless maybe you invested in an SACD player, then realized it couldn't play your DVD-Audio discs, so you had to buy another player for that format, too.