Home Theater Systems Buying Guide
Home Theater Receivers Buying Guide
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During CEDIA 2022 in Dallas Texas, I was invited to a special meeting. In an unlabeled hotel conference room I was introduced to not only the designers of Sony’s latest ES A/V receivers, but got a sneak peek of what was to come.
In the room, there was a screen for Sony’s presentation and on the side of the room there was a long table with a black sheet on top (how curious). With the caveat of not taking pictures, we were given some of the first looks at the upcoming line-up of Sony’s ES A/V receivers. I was very excited to explore what Sony would be offering and came up with a list of good questions. I left the meeting with a lot of unanswered questions, because Sony is a very smart organization who doesn’t let the cat out of the bag to just anyone (and I tried). It was great fun to see them all laid out and be let in on the secret. I continued with my questioning with their engineers. I even thanked the designer for making the HDMIs in the back of the STR-AZ3000ES, STR-AZ5000ES, and STR-AZ7000ES lineup with the buttons on the front. A small detail that integrators love, and he smiled when I said it because it was something that he had fought for during the years they spent creating the new lineup. We shared a nerdy giggle and I knew we were in for a treat when these finally rolled out. I left the meeting waiting for the day, I’d get to lay my eyes on these receivers again, and also to finally be free of the NDA, so I could chat about them. And that day has finally come.
Every model has (2) HDMI outputs, and there are two great uses for those outputs.
First, you can have an extreme media room by connecting your receiver to a TV and a projector. We’ve set these up for someone who wants to have a 65” TV for the majority of their TV watching, but when it comes to sitting down and getting immersed in the action, we’ll have a drop-down 120” screen paired with a projector in the same room. All of the same sources are available, but you can nearly double the screen size for when it’s time to party.
Second, you could share your sources with another area of your home. World Wide Stereo has installed this in many living rooms and then share it with an office. Sony made sure that every receiver they were releasing this year had this capability. If this sounds like too much for you to do yourself, be sure to give World Wide Stereo a call, because we have a team of installers who can make it happen for you.
An important feature that Sony is introducing is the “Center Speaker Lift Up." This changes the audio playback so even if your center is sitting below the TV, the receiver will “lift” the sound “up” so it feels like it’s coming from the center of the screen so it feels more natural that the dialog is coming from the characters on the screen and not from below.
Let’s talk about gaming. Gaming is at the forefront of the best resolution and video out right now. Rich textures and fast response is necessary to for a competitive edge. The Sony ES Receivers have the ability to make use of all of the latest formats to bring the best gaming experience in front of you.
Sony Music Center is front and center in the new line of receivers. You have control of Sony’s audio system in your hand. Download the app so you can seamlessly play music whether you’re at home or out and about. You’ll also have the ability to control the various sound modes offered by the receivers through this function. And last but not least, you’ll have Hi-Res playback available so you can play the best. This control is available on iOS, Android, and PCs (sorry, no Mac compatibility).
I will note one thing that is unfortunately absent from each model, a phono input. If you’re looking at connecting a turntable, make sure you pick up a record player with a pre-amp built-in or pick out one of your favorite separates.
The following are available in every model. From the stripped-down STR-AN1000, all the way up to the feature-rich STR-AZ7000ES.
The STR-AN1000 is the entry level model in Sony’s new Receiver lineup. It’s a stripped down, less bells and whistle model (mostly taking away the specialized integrations), but that doesn’t mean that it’s not built for a purpose.
I think this is a perfect receiver for an area that isn’t your main space, and it’s not really meant to be the center piece of a home system (unless you are into minimalism, then this hits the nail on the head).
I envision this as a perfect gaming surround sound system. You can have a full 7.2 channel experience and be blown away by the immersive environment you can have in a game (just as much as you would in a movie).
The STR-AN1000 is able to show off 8K & 4K/120 video from devices like Sony’s own PlayStation 5 by having (2) dedicated inputs with that capability and it’s HDMI 2.1 support makes it so you have ultra-low latency because of Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate. This is what you will want to match your PS5 to, so you will be unstoppable as you hunt down your opponent and get that split second advantage.
STR-AN1000 7.2 Channel 8K Home Theater AV Receiver with Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, IMAX Enhanced, Google Assistant, & Works with Sonos
The first model in Sony’s lineup that is dedicated to the premium experience of their ES lineup. The STR-AZ1000 shares the same chassis as the STR-AN100, but it is customizable in its setup.
The STR-AZ100 is a Surround Sound Receiver that is created for the custom installation realm (which is a huge component of World Wide Stereo’s success). With its RS232C connection, it begins to offer the bells and whistles that were missing in the STR-AN1000 (like support for control from Savant and remote monitoring from OvrC), and a major takeaway is that Sony extended the warranty from 2 years to 5 years.
I really appreciate that the AZ lineup all have detachable power cords for two reasons. One is selfishly, they’re easy to install and service if you ever need to make any adjustments or changes meaning you can test different lengths, so you’re not stuck with too much wire management. Two, this gives you the ability to experiment with upgraded power cords to see another way that you can improve your sound experience.
STR-AZ1000ES 7.2 Channel 8K Home Theater AV Receiver with Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, IMAX Enhanced, Google Assistant, & Works with Sonos
Welcome to the next level, with the STR-AZ3000.
Sony starts to show a different chassis from the 1000 series as you move to the 3000 series and above ES Receiver. Eye up the front and especially the back of the unit. The back of the STR-AZ3000 has all the empty spaces that will get filled out once you get to the top of the mountain, the STR-AZ7000.
The STR-AZ3000 is where you start to see how much more you get for the money. It changes from (2) HDMI inputs that take in 8K and 4K/120 to (4) inputs. Sony does continue with the ability to have (2) areas of video (an easy way to expand your living room to your patio combined with an outdoor TV).
The STR-AZ3000 is also the first in the lineup to have Zone 2 or Zone 3 analog outputs to let you expand to the whole house (or even outside at your pool). A keen eye will also notice that there is a 12 volt trigger. The 12 volt trigger is used engage something like an ancillary amplifier as you expand the musical capabilities of your home.
STR-AZ3000ES 9.2 Channel 8K Home Theater AV Receiver with Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, IMAX Enhanced, Google Assistant, & Works with Sonos
You’ve really made it once you’ve reached the STR-AZ5000. It’s the perfect straddle between the 3000 series and the 7000 series ES A/V receiver. Why?
You’re getting the more customizable A/V receiver in the Sony ES lineup. How?
Sony added analog pre-outs for every channel and not just the subwoofer. This gives you the ability to use more powerful amplifiers for any speaker in your system. Sony also increased the 12 volt triggers from the (1) available in the STR-AZ3000 and upped it to (3) trigger inputs. All of these features give you the expandability to grow out your home theater setup so you don’t have to do it all at once.
The STR-AZ5000 is also the first in the lineup to add a 7th HDMI input, which they placed on the front of the receiver. This is really convenient if you want to temporarily connect your laptop to your system. It’s right in the front and you won’t have to feel overwhelmed by moving wires around. That input is only 4K, so it’s not really meant for those next generation gaming consoles (like the PlayStation 5) because it won’t handle the 4K/120 you’d want to see.
STR-AZ5000ES 11.2 Channel 8K Home Theater AV Receiver with Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, IMAX Enhanced, Google Assistant, & Works with Sonos
You’ve reached the top of the mountain with the STR-AZ7000. This top-of-the-line receiver has the ability to decode AND power 13 channels of audio AND it does 8K!!!
The AZ7000 also has dedicated analog pre-outs so if you want to upgrade a power amplifier for your front speakers for an even cleaner sound at lower volumes, you have no limits. In fact, you could decide to not use a single amplification channel from the AZ7000 (although I don’t know why you would) you can do that.
The AZ7000 is built to be a showstopper. Sony upgraded the power supplies, heatsinks, new large-capacity power transformers, you know - all the things that take your experience to the next level.
The AZ7000 is the only A/V receiver in the new Sony ES release to have Dual Center capability. What is a dual center? Well, the label doesn’t lie; the AZ7000 has the ability to do a pair of center speakers for when you have a large screen (imagine a 100” flat panel with a center speaker above and below).
Sony also developed a new capacitor for high power by creating a new block capacitor based on their extensive experience with developing sound quality capacitors with a focus on making sure the materials they used were of the highest quality but also created the highest quality sound.
They even went as far as to offset the position of the screw in the feet of the receiver. Sony did this to increase rigidity and improve resonance control. When you’re focusing on something as small as the foot of a receiver to make sure it’s not the entry point for unwanted vibration on “just a A/V receiver” you know that you’ve made the right decision in your purchase. In fact, Sony made all the right decisions for you already. You just get to sit back and enjoy it. That’s even better, right?
STR-AZ7000ES 13.2 Channel 8K Home Theater AV Receiver with Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, IMAX Enhanced, Google Assistant, & Works with Sonos
The all-new Sony ES A/V Receiver lineup has all the capabilities you may not know that you want.
Picking your model is dependent on what Home Theater system you’re looking to create.
Sony wanted their newest receiver to have all the bells and whistles that consumers have been asking for and their team of world class engineers have spent the better part of the last 5 years going through what the market demands are and started ticking off the boxes so they could release a receiver lineup that will excite the masses and make custom integrators (like World Wide Stereo) smile, because they’ll easily be able to answer “Yes” to your request.
We’d love to know what you’d like to do that this lineup would be unable to do. (Within reasons folks. A receiver can’t do your taxes or walk your dog).
Custom integrators like us at World Wide Stereo absolutely love Sony products because not only do they create excitement in your home theater but Sony also make incredible products.
Sony aims to make their products the piece in a system that no one needs to worry about or wonder if it’s going to perform to the expectations you have. But for good measure remember all of the ES-Series receivers have dedicated toll-free support staff and 5 year warranties.
You can do that with every model in the system.
You can do that too! Did you know that was something that you wanted? Hopefully. If not, I hope you learned something new.
Sony made Spotify Connect available in every receiver in the lineup.
You sure can with the
dedicated Zone 2 output. You can do this without losing any video
resolution. They don’t limit playback of digital sources into other
rooms of the home (Manufacturers call this Zone 2).
You can do that. Sony made this available from their STR-AN1000 (their entry level model) up to their flagship A/V receiver the STR-AZ7000. If you start thinking about it, a model in the lineup is more than likely to be able to do it.
Sony does this flawlessly. Simplify your life with a single remote that will turn on your TV and Surround receiver with the press of a single button.
Well, Sony receivers (as well as Sony TVs, projectors, sound bars, etc…) make that an easy ask. We’ll spend less time trying to make it work because it just will. IT JUST WORKS. Without questions. Without issues.
This new line of Sony receivers can communicate to their wireless rear speakers and subwoofers.
If you live in an apartment or condo (like me) where the only way to wire up rear speakers is to have them exposed, this is a great option to have a full theater system without having to wires everywhere.
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