If you are looking to add some serious enhancements to your home theater system without replacing any of your existing components, the best choice would be to consider getting a home theater receiver providing that you don’t have one yet. Home theater receivers or AV receivers are all about boosting your home theater’s audio output so when looking for a home theater receiver, power is a very important specification because it affects the overall quality of the sound and pretty much determines how many components and channels the AV receiver can support. Higher wattages basically mean cleaner and more sophisticated sound effects which are easy to notice when you are watching high definition Blu-ray movies. AV receivers that output more than 1,000 watts of power are normally priced at over $500 but the Sony STR-DH830 nearly hits the 1,000-watt figure but has a rather tempting price tag. The STR-DH830 deserves a more in-depth look though because the other features need to be considered before making a purchase.
The Sony STR-DH830 may lack the industrial design chops that are necessary to compete with the AV receivers priced at $1,000 but it doesn’t need them. The STR-DH830 is a consumer-friendly home theater system where looks and usability matter more and the black design clearly shows as it has a style quite similar to Sony’s other products. On the functionality side, there are three knobs unlike many of the other AV receivers that usually have one or two knobs. This makes it simple if you want to control the volume, input source or tuning. There are not so many connection ports on the front so you are pretty much limited to plugging in Apple iOS devices and iPods on the front USB port or older components on the video 2 in jacks. A phones jack and a mic jack exclusively for calibration purposes can also be found at the front.
It is possible to hook up plenty of other modern devices through an HDMI cable but you have to go behind the Sony STR-DH830 and make the connections. Just keep in mind that the STR-DH830 weighs over 20 pounds making it more sensible to reserve the 4 HDMI inputs on the back for home theater components such as Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and cable boxes. Besides, all of these HDMI ports feature 3D pass-through and Audio Return Channel so your TV doesn’t need any extra cables for audio. There are also 2 component video inputs in case you need to hook up other HD components.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The STR-DH830 can use up to 980 watts to significantly amplify the room providing a 7.1-channel setup is used where 140 watts powers each channel. An obvious catch to getting that kind of cinematic quality is that you need to properly configure your speakers and make sure the settings conform to their placements. It takes some measuring and mathematics to get the job done but the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration feature provides an easy route which is something that average consumers should strongly consider. Making the necessary calibrations is as simple as connecting a microphone to the front jack and bringing it to the listening spot such as the couch. The Sony STR-DH830 will handle the rest in optimizing the sound parameters. The STR-DH830 features a friendly onscreen user interface that should make it easy for first-time users to configure the AV receiver. Once you nailed the basics, you can further improve the sound quality by applying modes like the Front Height mode for enabling vocal height or the 3D effects to add more depth to the sound.
Sony continues to promote the Blu-ray format because of the high amount of detail Blu-ray titles show. But the audio quality is also noticeably better when it comes to Blu-ray discs and the Advanced Blu-ray Disc Audio Decoding adds more emphasis by utilizing popular audio codecs including dts-HD Master Audio, ProLogic IIz and Dolby TrueHD. The 24p True Cinema display also allows the native frame rate of 24 frames per second to be used for Blu-ray titles as well as Sony PS3 games. 3D Blu-ray players and 3D displays can also be hooked up to the Sony STR-DH830 without the worry of losing the 3D functionality. Older input sources like DVD players do not get those enhancements but the STR-DH830 does a little bit of processing to upscale video signals to near HD quality.
With no networking features present in the Sony STR-DH830, there is not much else you can do with the STR-DH830. But the USB port on the front panel can be useful if you have an iPhone or iPod because you can play music and video for the Sony STR-DH830 to process after a connection is made. Pricier and more affordable AV receivers can do this too but Sony decided to include a dock with the STR-DH830 so you can easily connect or disconnect the Apple device. Since USB can also transmit power, a USB connection can also charge the device.
Once you made the proper connections and configurations, the Sony STR-DH830 will pretty much act as a central hub for your home theater components. So logically speaking, shutting down the AV receiver would cause all components connected to lose their connection. This isn’t the case with the STR-DH830, however, because the standby pass-through feature still lets you access these components. In fact, you can use a Sony remote to control these components as long as they are BRAVIA Sync Capable.
The Sony STR-DH830 costs about $400 and you may be able to find some AV receivers at that price point too. But Sony has a good reputation in making audio devices and Sony AV receivers can interact better with other Sony components. However, the STR-DH830 is sandwiched between two other Sony AV receivers. Add $100 and you can get the slightly more powerful STR-DN1030 which boasts home network connectivity and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. You can also save about $70 by getting the STR-DH720 which is slightly less powerful and lacks the dock.