Sony STR-AN1000 8K 7.2 AV Receiver Review

Posted on 6th February, 2024

Sony STR-AN1000 8K 7.2 AV Receiver Review

Tony O’Brien auditions an affordable, spacious sounding 7.1 channel home cinema receiver…

Sony

STR-AN1000 AV Receiver

AUD $1,699 RRP

Sony may be synonymous with video, but it isn’t exactly the first name that comes to mind regarding AV receivers in 2024. Be that as it may, the Japanese company has produced some formidable designs over the years. Its dreadnaught-like products may be a thing of the past, but Sony still produces a range of affordable home theatre solutions. And it seems its engineers are again making waves, albeit at the more affordable end of the market, with their 360 Spatial Sound Mapping Technology (SSMT). This leverages the existing speakers to create additional phantom speakers and is clever stuff.

Sony has three receivers in its lineup featuring the technology – the STR-DH590, STR-DH790 and the subject of this review, the STR-AN1000. The latter also comes equipped with Sony’s Speaker Relocation/ Phantom Surround Back technology – try saying that in a hurry! – which maps the locations of the room’s existing speakers to create phantom rear speakers. And if that’s not enough technological wizardry for you, the unit also sports Sony’s Acoustic Centre Sync. Working in conjunction with compatible Bravia XR televisions, it uses the television as an additional centre channel.

This is a 7.1 channel receiver rated at 120 watts (6 ohms, 1kHz, THD 0.9%). Wisened readers will look at these power ratings with a raised eyebrow, and I’d recommend you do the same. There’s a fair dash of ambiguity in these numbers, and the STR-AN1000’s real-world power ratings with all speakers driven is likely to be much lower…

It sports the latest surround audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Imax Enhanced. And, like the rest of Sony’s lineup, the STR-AN1000 is compatible with Sony’s wireless speaker range. On the video front, it’s compatible with the latest standards in video and gaming, with 8K HDR/4K 120 support, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). On the music side, it supports High Res Audio (including Wireless) DSD and 360 Reality Audio. It’s also compatible with Spotify, Apple AirPlay, Sonos and Roon Tested. Both Google Home and Alexa are compatibility is offered. The unit is also equipped with Sony’s proprietary D.C.A.C. IX Auto Calibration system.

GETTING GOING

Finished in gloss black, the STR-AN1000 is a fusion of modern and retro that’s rather easy on the eye, if somewhat unconventional. Unlike the button-light designs of the past few years, a cornucopia of buttons adorns its front. Volume and source dials dominate its left side, while a long row of buttons is situated below a centrally-mounted LC display. To the right sits a large power button with a headphone jack and a single USB input at the bottom of the receiver.

Around the back are two 8K/4K120 (HDCP 2.3) HDMI inputs, four 4K HDMI inputs, and dual 8K HDMI outputs with eARC/ARC (output 1). Other connections include coaxial and TOSLINK digital inputs, two composite video inputs, a composite video output, a LAN connection and an S centre output (for compatible Sony televisions). The Sony is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatible.

Supporting 7.1, 5.1.2 and 5.1 speaker configurations, the STR-AN1000 has fourteen speaker binding posts and dual subwoofer outputs. It’s worth noting, though, that its subwoofer outputs are bridged. This means that both subwoofers share distance and level settings, which can present its own set of challenges, depending on where the subwoofers are located. Clever enthusiasts will circumvent this limitation by adding a digital signal processor, such as the affordable miniDSP.

Encased in aluminium, the overall build quality is excellent. Accessories include the remote, a calibration microphone and stand, batteries, a quick start guide and an FM antenna. Weighing 10.3kg, the STR-AN1000 has a reassuring heft, and its modest dimensions (156x430x331mm) make it easy enough to accommodate – although it’s worth checking the online manual to ensure you allow sufficient ventilation.

Like any hot-blooded AV enthusiast, I ignored the quick-start manual and got stuck in – and with the STR-AN1000, there’s no reason not to. Connect it to your display, add power, and you’re greeted with an intuitive setup guide that steps you through everything from connecting cables to calibration. Granted, it doesn’t offer the same level of polish as the Denon or Marantz camp, but it’s up there with the best of them in terms of ease.

Sony’s D.C.A.C. IX Auto Calibration is the simplest calibration system I’ve worked with. Provide it with room dimensions, take two measurements with the included microphone, and you’re done. Which brings me to my biggest beef with the STR-AN1000. It offers level and phase correction for speakers but doesn’t perform any parametric EQ (PEQ). PEQ is particularly important in the bass domain, and without it, there’s no way to tame peaks that – depending on your room and subwoofers – can result in inflated bass.

AV enthusiasts may view this as a show-stopper, but it needn’t be. The miniDSP mentioned above provides enthusiasts with the best of both worlds, namely PEQ and Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping Technology. On the other hand, if the mere mention of calibration, automatic or otherwise, invokes rigorous head-shaking, then feel free to disregard my comments. At a minimum, I recommend entering your room dimensions to make the most of the 360 Spatial Sound Mapping Technology. 

For this review, the STR-AN1000 was partnered with VAF Signature i91 front and centre loudspeakers and four VAF i90 speakers, used for surround and overhead Atmos channels. The Sony’s subwoofer outputs were connected to two Ascendo SV-12 subwoofers in a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration. Video devices consisted of an Oppo UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player and Apple TV, connected directly to a Lumagen Radiance Pro. Images were projected onto a 100” Severtson Cinegray 16.9 screen by a Sony VPL-XW5000ES 4K projector.

THE LISTENING

Sony’s STR-AN1000 produces a muscular and dynamic home cinema sound that punches well above its modest price point. It creates a vast soundstage that envelopes viewers, although bass can sound bloated due to its lack of PEQ, as previously mentioned. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem on 4K UHD is a fun romp with a cracking Atmos soundtrack, which sounded gutsy through the Sony. It had no qualms, filling my theatre room with loud, dynamic sound. 

Whereas many receivers at this price point sound thin, this was anything but – indeed, it sounded like a more expensive design. And while the bass was thunderous, it had more to do with my room’s interaction with my subwoofers and the lack of PEQ on the STR-AN1000, so much so that I turned down the overall level sub-level to compensate. Wanting to find out how much of an issue this was, I turned my attention to the ‘eye scene’ on the 4K Ultra HD of Blade Runner 2049. This has an abundance of bass, and while it energised the room, it did so at the cost of detail, with the sound of K’s ship flying overhead sounding bloated.

Switching to the 1080p Blu-ray of The Wolverine, and the STR-AN1000 once again put in a dynamic home theatre performance. Tasked with the DTS-HD Master soundtrack, it created an impressive soundstage with a wonderful sense of space and being, enveloping the viewing position in sound. It’s a level of performance that I would expect to pay more for. It is down to Sony’s 360 SSM Technology, which provides the illusion of more speakers and a larger soundstage. Turn it off, and this becomes a completely different-sounding receiver with a lateral sound field that’s unimpressive by comparison.

Switching to the Atmos soundtrack on 2016’s 4K UltraHD of The Shallows, and the STR-AN1000 again put in an excellent performance – the sound of the wind and the lapping of waves seemingly extending beyond the confines of my speakers. There’s an abundance of detail to be found here, such as the shrieking of gulls and splashing of waves. I strongly suspect much of this is the work of the 360 SSM Technology, which increased perceived detail. Playing the Atmos soundtrack on 2018’s Hunter Killer, with the USS Arkansas going head-to-head with a Soviet Akula class submarine, it created a large sound field with torpedoes swooshing convincingly around my listening room. And while the Sony couldn’t match my own much more expensive JBL Synthesis AV Receiver, it still delivers an admirable performance.

VERDICT

If you haven’t already guessed, Sony’s STR-AN1000 is a mixed bag. It puts in a muscular, dynamic home theatre performance that wraps the viewer in sound, thanks to the company’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping Technology, which creates a much bigger sound field than otherwise possible. On the other hand, the lack of Parametric EQ can result in bloated bass. Some won’t be bothered by this, while savvy enthusiasts will look to external devices such as a miniDSP. By doing so, they’ll regain the control they need and better leverage this AV receiver’s impressive technology.

For more information visit Sony

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    Tony O'Brien's avatar

    Tony O'Brien

    As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

    Posted in:Home Theatre Amplifiers AV Receivers & Processors
    Tags: sony  audio active 



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