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Sony STR-DE997 (black) review: Sony STR-DE997 (black)

Sony STR-DE997 (black)

headshots_Steve_Guttenberg.jpg
Steve Guttenberg
headshots_Steve_Guttenberg.jpg
Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

4 min read

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 Pioneer's VSX-D914-K.

7.0

Sony STR-DE997 (black)

The Good

Potent-sounding 7.1-channel A/V receiver; two sets of multichannel SACD/DVD-Audio inputs; component-video switching; A-B speaker switching.

The Bad

Bland cosmetics; awkward setup ergonomics.

The Bottom Line

The feature-packed STR-DE997 is a good value if you don't care about style.
Intro
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.

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.

Speaker connections are generous, including A-B speaker switching plus seven main speakers. Composite and S-Video sources can be upconverted to component video. The front panel boasts a full set of A/V inputs for easily hooking up camcorders, game systems, and portable audio players. Multiroom provisions are limited to a set of stereo audio outputs that can feed an amplifier in another room.

The Stepford Wives DVD is a comedy with sonic gravitas to die for, and the Sony STR-DE997 delivered the goods without working very hard. In fact, the Sony felt more powerful than your average $500 receiver, and its muscular sound encouraged us to play DVDs at louder than normal volume. Fearsome explosions and mayhem from our favorite war-flick DVDs, U-571 and The Thin Red Line, were well served by the DE997.

As we listened to more DVDs, we noted the receiver's tonal balance was on the mellow side, so much so, we thought we'd accidentally turned down the treble and nudged the bass controls up, but no, that's the way the DE997 sounds. We're sure some folks will love the laid-back sound, and we'd guess this receiver would be the ideal match for bright speakers, such as Klipsch's RF-15 towers.

Derek and the Dominos' classic Layla has just come out on SACD, and we used the STR-DE997 to check out the new 5.1 surround mix. We heard all sorts of new thrills in Eric Clapton and Duane Allman's dueling guitars--the old CD's murky sound has been replaced with a vibrant clarity. We did note that the DE997's bass was punchy and solid, but definition was a little muddy, so individual bass notes on Carl Radle's electric bass blurred together. As we recall, the Pioneer D914-K's balance was more detailed and the bass was more clearly defined. But that's our preference; you may prefer the DE997's sweeter sound, gutsy power, and extensive connectivity options.

7.0

Sony STR-DE997 (black)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 7
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