Presumably in an effort to steal some of the buzz from Denon's line show yesterday, Sony announced three new receivers in its ES line slated to come out over the next few months. The flagship model is the STR-DA5300ES, successor to the excellent and innovative STR-DA5200ES, and we already have a full review. The big news about the STR-DA5300ES is undoubtedly its connectivity. There are six HDMI inputs, which is more than we've seen on any receiver in this price range. Match that up with its three component video inputs and the STR-DA5300ES's plentiful input names, and you have a receiver that can easily switch among nine high-def components. Wow. Also, like its predecessor, the STR-DA5300ES boasts a slick graphical user interface, similar to the Cross Media Bar ("XMB") nav bar found on the PSP. There's a lot more to say about this receiver, so head over to the full review for all the details.
While we were extremely impressed by the STR-DA5300ES, we're not quite as excited about the step-down models. The STR-DA4300ES is similar to the 5300ES, but it steps down to three HDMI inputs, has a little less power, and lacks the component video output for a second zone. Like the 5300ES, the 4300ES also boasts onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, plus it features the slick graphical user interface. While that still adds up to a nice receiver, Sony faces some tough competition from the Onkyo TX-SR705, which has many of the same features without the graphical user interface. While users might be willing to pay for the nice menu system, the price difference is large: The 4300ES will have a retail price of $1,300 when it comes out in October, and the TX-SR705 will be available soon with a list price of $900.
The next step-down is the STR-DA3300ES, which also features three HDMI inputs, but lacks Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding. This could be a smart buy for savvy buyers, as right now it's impossible to take advantage of onboard decoding of these new soundtracks because there are no HD DVD or Blu-ray players that will output them in bitstream mode--although Denon has announced a Blu-ray player that will be able to do so. The STR-DA330ES is coming out in August for about $1,000.