Nowadays, you can buy a 7.2-channel home theater receiver for under $300. In fact, some of the models being offered for such a low price happen to be Sony AV receivers, which serve as pretty decent companions for Sony HDTV or 4K displays and the latest Sony Blu-ray players. But there are some attached rewards if you decide to spend a little bit more on a 7.2-channel home theater receiver like the Sony STR-DN840.
The front of the Sony STR-DN840 is very much like the slightly older and less expensive Sony STR-DH740. But compared to the STR-DH830 which was launched more than a year before the Sony STR-DN840, the design is a nice improvement and the brushed aluminum finish better matches some of Sony’s current products like PlayStation 3 and any of Sony’s 2013 Blu-ray players.
The two common knobs that you see on many home theater receivers are on the STR-DN840 as well but are both placed on the right side of the front panel. Plus, the input selector knob is about half the size of the master volume for better distinction. Sony balanced the design by placing the very small number of ports on the left side just underneath the power button. All you can find is a USB port, phones jack and mic port for calibration which rules out the possibility of hooking up modern portable devices and even older camcorders. The display panel is pretty narrow limiting the amount of information you can see on the front panel but the subtle row of buttons located below the display give the overall design a nice minimalistic appearance.
On the back side, the Sony STR-DN840 offers a rather simple selection of ports that also resembles the STR-DH740. Don’t expect to plug in any equipment to the STR-DN840 using the component cable but at least this home theater receiver features 6 HDMI inputs rather than the 4 HDMI inputs offered in the STR-DH740. The other notable difference is the Ethernet port which is why Sony refers the Sony STR-DN840 as a network receiver. But you don’t have to use this port since there is an antenna placed right next to the Ethernet port which enables wireless networking capabilities.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Spec-wise, the Sony STR-DN840 performs similarly to the STR-DH740. But main set of features that deserve attention are the networking features. With built-in wireless LAN onboard, it is relatively easy to connect this home theater receiver to the local network and Internet. Local networking features are already impressive with support for AirPlay allowing iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices to connect directly to the home theater receiver and stream audio. There are plenty of iOS apps that use AirPlay including iHeartRadio and Spotify making it a cool way to stream music to the receiver. Of course, your iTunes playlist can be streamed as well. But if you prefer other music services such as Pandora, Slacker, vTuner and Music Unlimited, you don’t need an iOS device or other smartphone to stream music as the receiver can stream directly from these online services. The USB port opens up another way to play music from your iPod or iPhone and it keeps the device charged too.
Android devices lack AirPlay integration but it is still possible to stream audio to the receiver via Bluetooth. Bluetooth may seem like a dated technology but it is good that Sony added this to the receiver without the need of an extra accessory since it allows feature phones and other portable media players to play music to the receiver wirelessly.
Having an iOS or Android device is still recommended because smartphones and tablets running those operating systems can run the TV SideView app. This app lets your touch device connect to the receiver so you can change inputs, adjust the volume or change other settings right from the app’s interface. If you have a supported Sony TV and Blu-ray player, that same app can control those devices. But if you are not comfortable in using your smartphone or tablet to control the STR-DN840, you can still rely on the friendly on-screen GUI that outputs to your TV. The Sony STR-DN840 is also BRAVIA Sync Capable which means the STR-DN840 remote control can also be used to control the Sony BRAVIA HDTV and Sony Blu-ray player if they are connected through HDMI.
In addition to HDMI CEC support, all 6 HDMI inputs and single HDMI output support 4K pass-through allowing the receiver to process 4K video streams to a 4K television. The end result is unprecedented video quality although 4K displays are still expensive. Still, the Sony STR-DN840 provides a decent video experience with 3D pass-through support for 3D movies and 24p True Cinema which adds to the cinema authenticity as you can watch Blu-ray movies in their proper 24 fps frame rate.
With 150 watts per channel, the STR-DN840 is slightly more powerful than the STR-DH740 on the audio side of things. Like other home theater receivers, you can get better results if you use the Advanced Digital Cinema Auto Calibration setup which provides an easy means for setting up your speakers. After connecting and positioning the microphone, the receiver can make all the necessary optimizations for improved audio quality relative to the speaker positions. You can enhance the sound quality even further through modes like the Front Height mode which adds some depth to movies that support it. The Sound Optimizer feature can also be enabled if you want to hear distinct sound effects even at the lower volume levels.
The Sony STR-DH740 remains as an interesting $299 home theater receiver as long as you are contented with the limited number of HDMI inputs and lack of networking functions. But the additional HDMI inputs provided by the Sony STR-DN840 allow larger home theater systems to be set up. Plus, the complete set of networking features provide tremendous value as the Sony STR-DN840 still manages to be priced at $449. There are not so many home theater receivers that cost under $500 and have both built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Since the audio quality and other features do not disappoint, the STR-DN840 gets an easy recommendation.