The Good Relatively inexpensive 7.1 AV receiver; three HDMI inputs; three component video inputs; automatic speaker calibration; Sirius-ready.
The Bad Subpar sound; no onscreen display; no onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
The Bottom Line Sony's STR-DH700 is an inexpensive 7.1 AV receiver, but its lackluster sound and dearth of features make it tough to recommend.
Even for savvy home theater enthusiasts, buying an AV receiver can be a chore, requiring hours hunched over spec sheets trying to figure out what each model offers. From a general perspective, the Sony STR-DH700 looks to offer a good value, as a 7.1 AV receiver with three HDMI inputs, widely available for less than $300. However, the details aren't as kind to Sony's receiver, as it lacks onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and an onscreen display--both of which are available on Pioneer's VSX-819H, which has a street price only slightly higher. We could have overlooked this if the STR-DH700 performed better than average for its price, but we were mostly underwhelmed by its sonics, although it's a decent choice for movies as long as you don't crank it too loud. While the STR-DH700 is a perfectly capable AV receiver at a budget price, we think most buyers will be better served by alternatives. Die-hard Sony fans, meanwhile, will need to spend more for one of the better-appointed receivers in the company's 2009 line-up.
AV receivers are typically the workhorses of home theaters and the STR-DH700 has an appropriately utilitarian look for the task. The front panel is all black, and about two-thirds of the way down it bevels out, which is more visually appealing than the sheer design of last year's STR-DG820. There are two small knobs on the left--tone control and input selector--and a larger volume knob on the far right. Between the knobs is the LCD screen, which is of average size, although because the STR-DH700 lacks onscreen menus, it would be nice if the screen was a little larger.
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