Sony STR-DG920 review: Sony STR-DG920

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The Good Four HDMI inputs; basic graphical user interface; onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding; XM-ready; upconverts analog signals to 1080p over HDMI output with good quality; automatic speaker calibration.

The Bad No multiroom functionality; no S-Video inputs; sound quality a bit below some competitors; some minor video scaling issues.

The Bottom Line Sony's STR-DG920 is a standout midrange AV receiver, with a basic graphical user interface, four HDMI inputs, and solid video processing.

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8.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7

Back in 2006, the STR-DA5200ES was the first AV receiver to feature a high-definition graphical user interface (GUI) for setup, finally replacing the ugly VCR-style text menu offered on even the most expensive AV receivers at the time. Sony has finally let this technology trickle down its product line, as the Sony STR-DG920 is the first midrange receiver we've seen to include a basic GUI. On top of pretty menus, the STR-DG920 also has one of the better feature packages we've seen with four HDMI inputs, 1080p HDMI upconversion, and the ability to connect eight video devices at a time. Its big weakness is a complete lack of multiroom support, and audiophiles will be disappointed that it doesn't sound quite as good as the best receivers in this price range; if you need either of those features, check out the Pioneer VSX-1018AH or the Onkyo TX-SR606. Otherwise, the STR-DG920 one of the best values in this price range, with a combination of features well-suited for a modern, high-def home theater.

We liked the minimalist look of the STR-DG920. It's easy to fill the front of an AV receiver with tons of buttons, but the Sony is relatively sparse except for four large knobs that control functions like volume and input selection. The included remote is also excellent, with big, easy-to-read buttons for selecting inputs and button rockers at the bottom for volume.

The STR-DG920's GUI isn't as good as the one found on the Sony's ES series of receivers, but it's better than anything else in this price range.

Unlike every other receiver we've tested at this price range, the STR-DG920 comes with a GUI, rather than the unsightly text-based menus that are standard. We've been fans of Sony's GUI on receivers since first seen on the STR-DG5200ES, but it's worth pointing out that the STR-DG920's interface is a step down from the slick ES-series menus. Think of it as a hybrid between a full-on GUI and a text-based menu; the icons and animated menus are there, but so is the blocky white text. An improvement, for sure, but don't expect high-def eye candy. The menus will overlay on top of standard-definition sources, but not on HDMI sources.

Sony's DCAC (digital cinema auto calibration) automatic speaker calibration system checks to see if the speaker cables are wired correctly, adjusts each speaker's volume, measures the distance between each speaker and the listening position, and determines the "size" of each speaker and the subwoofer-to-satellite speaker's crossover frequency.

We actually botched the very first step of the auto calibration: plugging in the included microphone. We thought it was plugged in, but since the plug wasn't fully inserted, the auto setup aborted after running test tones through all the speakers and subwoofer. The onscreen display indicated "Error Code 33" had occurred, but didn't offer any advice about how to correct the error. Turned out the problem was that we hadn't fully inserted the mic plug into the jack. It's a bit of a tight fit.

Once we pushed the mic in all the way, we found the GUI-aided autosetup faster and easier than competing receiver's auto setups.

With that snag out of the way, the auto setup proceeded without a hitch. Auto calibration takes just a couple of minutes; it's quicker and easier than what we've seen from Onkyo and Denon's auto calibration systems. We listened to two "auto calibration type" (EQ) settings, Flat and Front Reference, and couldn't hear much difference between the two. In either case we felt the subwoofer (LFE) volume was set a little too high for our tastes, so we turned the subwoofer's volume control down.


Key features
Dolby TrueHD + DTS-HD MA Yes Onscreen display GUI
Analog upconversion 1080p Source renaming Yes
Selectable output resolution Yes Satellite radio XM

The biggest advantage the STR-DG920 has over its competitors is the inclusion of a basic graphical user interface. It's also strong on analog upconversion, capable of upconverting analog signals up to 1080p; even 1080i component video sources can be converted, which is rare at any price point. The STR-DG920 is XM-ready, but now that Sirius and XM have merged, that means you'll still have access to the bulk of the unified satellite radio programming dial. (You'll need to invest in an XM Mini-Tuner and a Home Dock--plus a monthly subscription--to get XM service on the DG920.)

HDMI inputs 4 Optical audio inputs 3
Component video inputs 3 Coaxial audio inputs 2
Max connected HD devices 7 Stereo analog audio inputs 2
Composite AV inputs 5 Analog multichannel inputs 7.1
Max connected video devices 8 Phono input Yes

Like the Onkyo TX-SR606, the STR-DG920 features four HDMI inputs, which is the most you're going to see at this price point. It does a good job covering analog video signals, too, with three component video inputs and five AV inputs, although note that the STR-DG920 completely lacks S-Video inputs.

The Sony also generously allows you to connect eight simultaneous video devices (and seven simultaneous HD devices), thanks to plenty of inputs "slots" (such as "BD" and "DVD"). All of the inputs can also be renamed, which means you'll have no problem assigning your inputs to something easy to remember like "TiVo" or "Xbox 360."

Sony also has its proprietary DM port, which allows you to connect one of four compatible accessories, which range in price from $80 to $200: the TDM-NC1 (a Wi-Fi music streamer), the TDM-BT1 (a Bluetooth adapter), the TDM-NW1 (a dock for certain Sony Walkman MP3 models), and the TDM-IP50 (an iPod dock). We weren't thrilled with any of those devices we tested, and would recommend going with more generic, non-Sony alternatives instead, and just connecting them to one of the free audio inputs.