Sony’s STR-AN1000 home theatre receiver: a clean 10 out of 10 rating

10/10

Summary

Sony STR-AN1000 Home Theatre Receiver

Here’s a home theatre receiver that not only has all the bells and whistles but also sounds great, writes a hugely impressed PAT PILCHER.

$1899

With Wellington’s weather at that miserable cold and wet stage that defines the tail end of Winter, movie-watching and music have played an important role in keeping our cabin fever at bay. While my Panasonic OLED TV supplies gorgeous visuals, I also managed to get my sweaty ears on Sony’s latest home theatre receiver, the STR-AN1000. Sporting a super affordable sticker price of $1899, It comes with most of the bells and whistles of Sony’s more up-market and costly ES home theatre amp range. Will it offer solid bang for buck value in an already crowded AV receiver market?

 

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On the specs front, the STR-AN1000 packs a 7.2-channel configuration at 100 watts per channel at 6 ohms. Dolby Atmos and DTS are supported out of the box. The big news is that it also supports Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology and has Digital Cinema Auto Calibration IX, allowing it to accurately acoustically map your listening/viewing room. Add in a dash of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast, Apple Airplay, the Google smart assistant, HD audio support, DSEE audio upscaling and Sonos, and it quickly became apparent that the STR-AN1000 isn’t your run-of-the-mill affordable home theatre amp.

The most important feature of the box is its auto-calibration system. Sony’s version of this is called DCAC IX (Digital Cinema Auto Calibration). Using a series of test tones, it can precisely and correctly compute the distance, angle, sound pressure and frequency response for each connected speaker to create the best surround and audio environment possible for your particular listening/viewing room’s reflective/absorbent surfaces and shape. Using DCAC IX proved dead easy. After connecting the bundled calibration mic, an on-screen calibration wizard stepped me through the process. After completing the DCAC IX setup, surround audio placement felt more precise and nuanced.

As you’d expect of a home theatre receiver, up-mixing tech such as Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X are included. These up-convert stereo 2-channel mixes to 5.1 or 7.1 channels. This came in dead handy for older movies and listening to non-SACD music. Dolby Speaker Virtualisation and DTS Virtual: X also allow audio to originate from virtual speakers where no actual speakers are placed. Like a lot of faux Dolby Atmos gear, virtualised audio is far less accurate or convincing than audio cranked out from actual speakers. Still, it’s handy for widening soundstages and putting yourself in amongst it all when watching older live concert videos.

Design-wise, the STR-AN1000 is an audio rack-sized chunky monkey weighing in at a hefty 9.4kg, and measuring 430 mm × 156 mm × 331 mm. It might be a big unit, but its design is fairly conventional, sporting the usual selection of knobs and buttons. As you’d expect on an AV receiver, there’s a power button, headphone jack, calibration mic socket, and a USB port for external media storage. Situated in the middle of everything is a display with controls.

Around the back are seven speaker terminals, six HDMI inputs, plus two outputs. There are also four stereo and two composite video inputs plus a single output, two subwoofer outputs and a Zone 3 stereo output. An Ethernet port, a SPDIF and coaxial digital audio input, an IR remote extender input, and antenna sockets round things out.

Four of the HDMI ports support HDMI 2.0 while the remaining two are HDMI 2.1 that in addition to supporting older formats, also support 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz, Deep Colour, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), 3D, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), ARC, eARC and as you’d expect, HDMI-CEC. You’re fairly well-covered input-wise in gaming, music or movies.

Under its hood, the STR-AN1000 incorporates a new power supply for cleaner audio, using capacitors specially developed by Sony. All the digital signal processing is done on a single custom chip, and PCM audio streams are processed at 32-bit. The amp’s DAC is also noteworthy because it uses a custom low-noise power supply, and its analogue output filter has been designed to improve the noise floor for cleaner audio.

The bundled remote is simple, with a plastic body and rubberised buttons. Its layout is similar to previous Sony AV receiver clickers with input buttons at the top, a D-pad navigation control in its middle, and playback controls on the bottom. Annoyingly, there is no backlighting, which seems an odd omission for a home theatre remote. While you can drive the AN1000 using the remote, the STR-AN1000 will also play nice with a mobile app (iOS/Android). The app provides a surprisingly intuitive way of controlling multi-zone settings, audio volume levels, playback, source selection and all the usual home theatre receiver bits and bobs you’d expect.

Its seven channels can each can output 100 watts (6 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, THD 0.09%). This spec only applies to two channels; output power falls when all seven media are used. It also supports twin subs, which should be more than ample for most well-heeled bass addicts. In use, this typically translates into 5.1.2 channels. That’s the usual front centre, rears, a single sub and two ceiling speakers. For testing purposes, I went with my existing 5.1 setup, as my wife would have been most displeased had I hacked holes in the ceiling to place Atmos speakers. As the STR-AN1000 is compatible with Sony’s wireless rear speakers and subs, I also gave them a test run alongside my Theophany Epiphany sub.

The Rise Of Skywalker Blu-ray in Dolby Digital+ delivered the goods sonically. The Theophany Epiphany speakers in my lounge filled it with sounds in the front, while Sony’s wireless rears added surround left and right. The Theophany and Sony subs also threatened to shift my lounge off the foundations. The soundstage felt super immersive, with a real sense of atmosphere, which really helped to pull me into the movie. The front left and right channels were distinct, with the centre channel supplying clean dialogue regardless of what was happening on screen. Surround effects saw x-wings and tie fighters zipping across my lounge. At the same time, the menacing hum and clash of lightsabres showcased the STR-AN1000’s audio capabilities beautifully. Equally impressive was the aplomb with which the Amp delivered atmospheric background audio. There was a convincing sense of space from the windswept bleakness of the planet Ahch-To through to the cavernous and massive lair where Kylo Ren fights it out against Palpatine.

When it came to music, the AN1000 supports an improbable number of audio codecs. These include the usual low-res suspects such as MP3, WMA and AAC, but dedicated lossless/hi-res formats, including FLAC, MPEG-H, AIFF and DSD, are also well catered for. If you have a collection of MP3 audio, the good news is that the STR-AN1000 has Sony’s DSEE baked in. It uses machine learning to upscale lo-res audio, delivering sharper, more vibrant audio that really sparkles. Home theatre receivers often struggle with music, but the STR-AN1000 exceeded my expectations and some. A dedicated music amp and setup will obviously deliver better performance. Still, compared to other AV receivers I’ve previously listened to music on, it was a revelation. Overall, the music had a clean, uncoloured sound, and this balanced approach to delivering tuneage made for very easy listening, regardless of what genre I tried. Everything was super crisp but not shrill. I could have easily spent another month reviewing my music collection with the amp.

The Works With Sonos feature was, unfortunately, a bust. To get it to work, you need to purchase a Sonos Port and let the Works With Sonos set-up routine detect and configure it.

While the STR-AN1000 offers huge functionality, I was somewhat puzzled by its missing PHONO input. If spinning records is a big part of your audio routine, this might be a deal breaker – unless you have a phono pre-amp spare. (Having said this, it’s likely that LP buffs will do their two-channel listening on a dedicated amp).

Streaming music to the STR-AN1000 is possible via a boggling number of options. Airplay is supported if you own a fruity phone, and Android users are catered for with Chromecast. Ethernet and USB also mean hooking up a USB or network drive, which also worked fine. Bluetooth cans are also able to be paired, reducing cable clutter. If you own Sony ear gear, you’ll also be able to make use of their hi-res LDAC codec, which makes a huge difference to audio.

In the past, affordability has traditionally meant missing features. Not with the STR-AN1000. It is one of those ultra-rare AV unicorn devices where you get all the good stuff without having to part with a kidney or your firstborn. Be it music or TV/movies, its sound is incredibly good. Add in HDMI 2.1, and there’s plenty to recommend. If you’re on a budget, the STR-AN1000 is THE go-to home theatre amp of the moment.

https://www.sony.co.nz/home-theatre-sound-bars/products/str-an1000

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