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Sony STR-DN1060 review: Connected AV receiver boasts big sound

The Sony STR-DN1060 receiver offers more features than previous years while offering the same high level of performance.

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Ty Pendlebury
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Ty Pendlebury

Editor

Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.

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8 min read

For the past several years, Sony's midrange AV receivers have enjoyed a healthy mix of extensive features and compelling performance. For 2015, the STR-DN1060 ($600 list, widely available for $50 less) is the best model in Sony's middle tier (stepping up to the high-end ES line hits price points at $900 and up). And while some of the new bells and whistles don't work perfectly, the STR-DN1060 still offers a healthy upgrade from 2014's STR-DN1050 , along with a similar view to sonic performance.

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8.0

Sony STR-DN1060

The Good

The Sony STR-DN1060 offers solid design, a high level of usability, and excellent home theater surround sound. The AV receiver offers a number of useful features including Bluetooth headphone support and multiroom capability.

The Bad

Its sound is somewhat more suited to movies than music. The multiroom SongPal Link app isn't as robust as some competitors' offerings. Spotify Connect not available at launch.

The Bottom Line

The Sony STR-DN1060 AV receiver offers great sound and is chock full of solid streaming audio features, but rivals are nipping at its heels.

Sony has beefed up the STR-DN1060's wireless functionality with the addition of both Google Cast (the ability to send audio from phone or tablet apps at the touch of an onscreen button) and Sony's own SongPal Link multiroom system. While it seems the company is still ironing out some kinks (Spotify Connect is due to come in July 2015, and the SongPal Link app wasn't as robust as vanilla DLNA) these tweaks help keep the product fresh, especially in the face of few other hardware changes.

With excellent surround sound performance and solid music quality, the Sony STR-DN1060 is still one of the go-to receivers if you're looking to spend in the region of $500 to $600. Only the Onkyo TX-NR646 -- with its more-advanced Atmos and DTS:X surround support -- could potentially put a dent in the Sony's widespread appeal.

Design

Sarah Tew

While the company's high-end ES receivers have received a bit of design spit and polish this year, the DN line looks exactly the same as previous iterations. In other words, expect the same brutish black box as usual -- but at least the design standards and layout should be very intuitive to home-theater fans.

Sarah Tew

While most AV receiver manufacturers will put the input selection knob on the left and the volume on the right, Sony likes to arrange them both on the right-hand side. To their left is the large, blue LED readout, which is underpinned with assorted buttons and switches. It's a fair size receiver at 17 inches high by 6 7/8 inches high and 13 inches deep.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Sony overhauled its receiver interface in 2013 after using the PlayStation-inspired XMB (Xross Media Bar) for many years. The DN1060 presents an attractive home-screen with colorful icons and readable text. While most options offer simple, friendly icons, the Settings menu is still a long list accompanied by a scroll bar.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote control is economical in the amount of buttons it comprises, and it is easy to access the things you need.

Features

Sarah Tew

The Sony STR-DN1060 is a 7.2-channel receiver that offers a high level of physical and wireless connectivity. The receiver's built-in Wi-Fi supports Apple's AirPlay streaming protocol, DLNA for playback of songs stored on your home network, Spotify Connect (coming July 2015) and now Google Cast, all of which combine to replace the onboard apps of previous generations . Now, instead of a list of available apps, selecting "Music Services" from the Home Menu simply gives you instructions on how to use Google Cast. And, in addition to supporting straight-up Bluetooth streaming from mobile devices, the receiver is also able to beam out to a set of Bluetooth headphones -- great for late-night listening, for instance.

What all that means is that the Sony receiver is well-positioned to take audio from nearly any phone or tablet -- iOS, Android, whatever -- and stream it in one form or another. And by offloading most of the heavy lifting to your mobile device or PC, the apps at the source get the burden of staying up-to-date -- which is good, because they'll invariably be updated much more frequently than Sony would upgrade its receiver firmware.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Think you want DTS:X and Dolby Atmos -- the latest, greatest surround sound formats? Well, Sony doesn't think you do. While one of the Sony's biggest competitors, the Onkyo TX-NR646 , features both of those next-gen surround technologies, Sony has opted for greater connectivity instead. It's worth noting that the Onkyo is only capable of driving either front or rear height speakers at once, which is less than optimal than the simultaneous front and back, as Dolby recommends.

Sony has put its hat in the ring for both higher-quality video (4K) and higher-quality audio, and this approach is reflected by the STR-DN1060. On the video side, the receivers will output 4K content via its six HDMI ports (which offer HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 support). For audio, the receivers will also play high-res audio files, including Sony's own DSD format (whether it's incoming via Wi-Fi or the dual onboard USB ports).

Sarah Tew

For users who want to run a second (or even third) zone -- piping music and/or video from the DN1060 into multiple rooms of the house -- there is a shared surround back/powered zone 2 in addition to Zone 2 HDMI video. You can also choose to run a third powered zone from the surround speakers.

The STR-DN1060 includes IP control capability for use in AMX and Crestron home automation systems. This is a trickle-down from the company's ES receivers which have had Ethernet switching and automation capabilities for several years.

SongPal Link

Sony has joined the ranks of Denon, Samsung, LG and Bose -- and pretty much every other audio manufacturer you can think of -- to bring its own flavor of Sonos-style multiroom streaming audio to the market. Sony's is called SongPal Link, and it's built in to the STR-DN1060, as well as Sony's newest sound bars and the SRS-X99 and SRS-X88 Wireless Speakers.

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Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

While the app is an evolution of the original Bluetooth SongPal controller, it's not quite ready yet to challenge the more fully-featured Sonos and Play-Fis of this world. For instance, there is no "Now Playing" screen to tell you which input you're set to or which song you are currently streaming. If you're playing music from a network device, the current song's details are nested within menus (for example Home Network-> All Folders-> Artist Name-> Album), and choosing a new song means navigating all of these menus again. Additionally you can't build dynamic playlists ("play next" or "add to end") as you can with other systems such as Sonos or AllPlay. Thankfully, there is at least a set of playback controls at the bottom of the screen, but incorporating "Now Playing" details would make this much more usable.

Compared to the more robust Bubble UPnP app, we also had some trouble finding and playing media served via our Asus router -- something that also vexed our AllPlay app. As a result, we're inclined to believe it was a potential network configuration/incompatibility issue.

That said, playing media directly from a phone worked fine. So if you're sticking with straight streaming via Bluetooth, AirPlay or GoogleCast, you won't even encounter any potential SongPal issues.

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Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

While it still needs some work, using the old-fashioned remote control and your television using "Home Network" (DLNA) works a lot more reliably. Be aware that if you control media this way you lose the ability to play the music directly from your phone or to enable multi-room. We also had great results using the Bubble UPnP app ($4.69) for Android, which has the added benefit of incorporating lossless streaming from the Tidal online music service.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though we had problems getting streaming to work, when it did the results could be glorious. Using the Sony streaming music to the Klipsch RP-160M speakers in stereo mode, we found the song "Pauper's Dough" by King Creosote to be truly affecting. The heartbreak present in the singer's voice was palpable, and once the vocal choir pitched in it, was hard not to be swept away by the music.

Performance and sound quality

Sony representatives told us recently that unlike other regions, the US version of the company's receivers are tweaked toward home-theater performance. In our head-to-head testing against another home-theater giant, the Onkyo TX-SR646 , we found this to be true. While if you want to listen to music exclusively, a Marantz or dedicated integrated amp would be better, both of the former brands offer solid all-around audio amplification.

The Sony was more subtle in its rendering of home-theater sonics than the musical Marantz , for while the Marantz was able to supply more boom to the storm scene in "The Life of Pi" (Chapter 22), it was totally at odds with both the Sony and Onkyo. For whatever reason, the Marantz overcompensates with ultra-strong LFE (bass) signals during movies that aren't apparent during manual setup. Additionally, while there were more discernible details over the Marantz's surround channels compared to those of the Sony, this isn't necessarily a good thing: you want to be able to concentrate on the screen. The Sony gave a more refined and even-handed performance that enabled you to focus on the movie at hand.

While the Sony was better for home theater, the Marantz is still the king of musical home theater. Compared to the smoother Marantz NR1605 , the Sony lacked its competitors' ability to image. For example, Will Sheff's hysterical wailing in Okkervil River's "Black" -- against a backdrop of crisp high-hat hits and banged-out acoustic guitars -- became almost screeching when translated by the Sony. Swapping the Sony out for last year's equivalent, the DN1050 , it was a relief to find that both receivers shared the same musical signatures; that receiver was quite sonically accomplished. In comparison to all of the above receivers, the Onkyo SR646 was able to present the widest soundstage: the left and right speakers simply dissolved.

Lastly, setting up Bluetooth streaming to a set of headphones was remarkably easy, and we were able to start watching "Avatar" on a pair of Koss BT540i headphones with no dropouts and no discernible lip sync issues. Helpfully, there is also a shortcut button on the remote that lets you toggle the transmit feature on and off.

Conclusion

While some of the more esoteric network features of the Sony STR-DN1060 are either not yet activated (Spotify Connect) nor 100 percent foolproof (SongPal Link), it's almost immaterial: this receiver still does everything the way last year's did, and for the same money. As the DN1050 was a good deal, the DN1060 almost gets the immunity card for this year. Almost. The Sony still has a lot of competitors just coming on to the market with more home-theater-centric features and just as many streaming options. It will be interesting to see how 2015 pans out in the AV receiver space.

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8.0

Sony STR-DN1060

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Sound 8Value 7
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