Sony may be struggling financially but the company still has a massive brand advantage compared to some of the smaller brands in various industries. People that already have a Sony BRAVIA TV are likely to purchase matching Sony Blu-ray products and possibly even Sony AV receivers. But there are several Sony home theater receiver models available and blindly picking one isn’t recommended. Many home theater receivers are quite expensive and you might find yourself spending more on features or specifications that you won’t use or care about. The Sony STR-DH740 is an affordable home theater receiver with some decent features and is one of Sony’s first home theater receivers for 2013.

Sony STR-DH740

Sony STR-DH740

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Design

Sony is adding a few interesting twists to the typical brushed aluminum build so the STR-DH740 stands out more. The overall look of the front panel looks more minimal than the past models with a nice smooth black bar that houses the info display. The single row of buttons located just below the display are barely recognizable to contribute to the simple look. The strangest thing that Sony did with the design of the Sony STR-DH740 was to place both the input and master volume knobs on the right side. Overall, the design looks nice although the connection ports are on the minimal side as well with just a mic jack for calibration, a phones jack and a USB port.

Moving on to the back of the STR-DH740, the arrangement of ports look pretty simple too due to the entry-level nature of this particular home theater receiver. You have 4 HDMI inputs available and the labels suggest that you can set up a Blu-ray player, a DVD player, a game console such as Sony’s own PlayStation 3, and a portable video device like a digital camcorder. Unfortunately, MHL isn’t supported so you won’t be able to charge a smartphone or tablet through one of the HDMI ports.

Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.

Sony STR-DH740 Back Panel

Sony STR-DH740 Back Panel

Features

The Sony STR-DH740 is a 7.1-channel home theater receiver that is in line with the older STR-DH520 model but features some welcome improvements. On a power scale, the STR-DH740 barely exceeds 1000 watts so the overall sound quality should be pretty similar to those $500 home theater receivers released in previous years.

It is also designed to work with the latest standards so today’s home theater components and future models can work just fine with this receiver. 4K pass-through is the main addition here and it allows native 4K-resolution content to be passed on to those massive 4K displays. 4K wasn’t really such a big deal the previous year because the technology was so expensive. But Sony is offering a few 4K displays that are still pricey but more down-to-earth ($5,000 for the 55-inch model). Once more 4K content starts rolling in, these prices will go down and the STR-DH740 will be all set to handle the technology. There is even a rumor that the upcoming PlayStation 4 supports 4K as well. 3D is supported too so you won’t have any problems in passing 3D content from 3D Blu-ray players to supported 3D displays using HDMI cables.

Regarding the rest of the features, the STR-DH740 is a lot like the Sony STR-DH540 which is Sony’s more affordable 2013 entry-level model that launched alongside the Sony STR-DH740. The main exception is the added support for Dolby Pro Logic IIz audio processing which adds a vertical sound reinforcement to the sound stage. Sony decided to add this feature to the STR-DH740 because it works best with 7.1-channel setups. This lets you add two additional front speakers without ruining the rest of the speaker setup. Of course, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio support is provided for the onboard decoder too so the latest Blu-ray movies really make good use of the receiver for optimal audio quality.

Those that are not so familiar in setting up a home theater system will likely face difficulties in placing the speakers. The audio quality may not sound so great for the speaker arrangement and solving the problem has to involve making adjustments to each speaker through the receiver. Sony is making this easier by including the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (D.C.A.C.) system so you can feel that surround sound experience from your preferred listening area in just a few steps. The purpose of the microphone that is included with the Sony STR-DH740 is to help the receiver identify your ideal listening spot. Once you place the microphone on that spot and run the calibration, the speakers will generate test sounds that the microphone will capture. The STR-DH740 will use that information to configure each speaker automatically and you should notice improved results.

During those days where you are not using the receiver for watching movies, you can still use the Sony STR-DH740 as a powerful component for amplifying the music collection in your iPhone, iPod or iPad. This is the main use of the USB port on the front and you should be able to use the same USB cable that you use for charging the device. In fact, you don’t even have to worry about the device running out of the battery since the USB port can charge the mobile device as well. If you don’t need to amplify the sound, you can turn the receiver off and still be able to switch to one of the four sources since the receiver can run in standby mode which saves power but keeps the connectivity.

As mentioned earlier, people owning Sony TVs are likely to purchase a Sony home theater receiver if ever a receiver is needed. This doesn’t just make the receiver blend better with the TV but it also makes it easier to interact with multiple components. The BRAVIA Sync support featured in many recent Sony displays and Sony components including the STR-DH740 allows you to control these devices using a single Sony remote control.

Bottom Line

If you are contented with a 5.1-channel speaker setup, you can save $50 by going for the Sony STR-DH540. The Sony STR-DH740 simply provides the same set of features while offering more flexibility for your speaker setup. The STR-DH740 is a must-have if you need the front high, bi-amp or surround back channels but don’t want to spend more than $300.

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