At least on paper, Sony's newest entry-level AV receiver, the $279 STR-DH590, is designed for someone like me. Who am I, you ask? Well, I'm someone who loves my home theater system but is more of a videophile than an audiophile. I'm on the cutting edge when it comes to video--with a 4K/HDR-capable display and source devices--and I absolutely demand surround sound to go along with them. However, I have no real desire to expand beyond a 5.1-channel speaker setup. I'm not going add rear surrounds or make the jump to Atmos and DTS:X. I just want a good, easy-to-use AV receiver to complete my home theater experience.
The STR-DH590 does exactly that. Here, Sony has done a nice job of assembling a value-oriented package that delivers the essential technologies while omitting many features that are nice but not necessary.
The STR-DH590 is a 5.1-channel receiver (it has two subwoofer pre outs, but they are treated as one) with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, as well as onboard DSD decoding. The website and box pronounce a power rating of 145 watts, but that's at six ohms, 1 kHz, 0.9 percent THD, one channel driven. Visit the specifications page in the owner's manual, and you'll find a more real-world listing of 90 watts RMS with six-ohm loads, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, 0.09 percent THD, two channels driven.
On the video side, the DH590 can pass through a full 4K/60p 4:4:4 signal, with support for 3D, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. That last one is a big selling point for me, as someone who wants full compatibility with all the latest video formats.
One way that Sony saves money is by eliminating the network functionality built into many higher-priced AV receivers--and all the licensing costs that go along with it. It costs money to integrate technologies like AirPlay, Chromecast, and DTS Play-Fi, as well as services like Spotify, Pandora, TIDAL, and TuneIn. What you do get with DH590 is Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, so you can stream those services from a computer or mobile device, if you wish.
Those are basic specs. Now let's dig deeper into the DH590's setup and performance.
Not surprisingly for an entry-level model, the STR-DH590 is more petite than your average AV receiver--most certainly, it's smaller and lighter than my reference AV receiver, the Onkyo TX-RZ900 (which is way more receiver than I really need). The DH590 measures just 17 inches wide by 11.75 deep by 5.25 high. I was actually a little surprised by the receiver's decent heft when I first picked it up: 15.75 pounds isn't a ton, but it's more than you would think, given the product's dimensions.
The front panel has a simple but elegant design with a brushed black finish, two knobs for input and volume, a headphone output, one long row of black buttons for various tasks (speakers on/off, FM tuning, sound mode selection, Bluetooth, Pure Direct mode, etc.), and a medium-sized LCD located near the top.
The back panel sports a modest amount of inputs and thus is cleanly laid out. The only video input option is HDMI, and you get four HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2, plus a single HDMI 2.0a output with Audio Return Channel. The DH590 passes through a video signal as is, with no upscaling ability (which is standard in this price range).
HDMI inputs 1 and 2 are labeled Media Box and BD/DVD, which lines up exactly with my source types. I relied primarily on a Sony UHD Blu-ray player for movie and music playback (switching between the X800 and the new X700 that I just reviewed). I also used an Apple TV, and I streamed music content via Bluetooth from my MacBook Pro and iPhone 6S. I had no trouble pairing my Bluetooth devices with the receiver (there's a pairing button on the remote), and I never lost the connection once paired. When you switch to Bluetooth, the receiver remembers the last paired source. And when the receiver is off, the act of connecting to it via your Bluetooth device will power it back on and switch to the Bluetooth input. It was seamless.
The back panel also sports one coaxial and one optical digital audio input, plus four stereo audio ins, two subwoofer pre outs, and an FM antenna input. A single Type-A USB port is available to power a connected mobile device, but it does not support media playback.
In terms of speaker connections, you get a pair of five-way binding posts for the main left/right channels, but only small spring-clip connectors for the other three channels. This worked out okay for me: for my main left/right channels, I use SVS SoundPath Ultra speaker cable that I ordered pre-terminated with banana plugs, so I was able to stick with that. For my other channels, I use Monster 12-gauge speaker cable to which I added my own banana plugs, so I just pulled the plugs off, twisted the wire, and inserted it directly into the spring clips. The 12-gauge cable just barely fit into the connectors with the tightest twisting I could muster.
My all-RBH speaker system consists of MC6-CT tower speakers for the left/right channels, an MC-414C center, MC-6C bookshelf speakers for the side surrounds, and a TS-12A subwoofer. Needless to say, I was a little concerned about how well an entry-level receiver could drive my towers, but we'll talk more about that in the next section.
The DH590's onscreen setup process could not be easier, mostly because there's just not that much to do. Once you connect your speakers, sources, and display, power on the receiver, and select your language of choice, you're instructed via the onscreen menu to connect the supplied microphone cable to run Sony's DCAC automatic setup. In this entry-level model, DCAC takes less than 30 seconds to run: it measures from just one location and quickly runs through test tones to determine speaker channels, size, distance, and level. That's it. Once it's done, you can go into the Speaker Settings menu from the OSD's home page and check to see how it did.
In my case, DCAC set all my speakers to large, which always happens with my RBH system. I left the tower speakers set to large, and it was easy to manually change the size of the center and surrounds to small and select a crossover (it ranges from 40 to 200 Hz in 10-Hz increments). The distances looked about right. The only level setting that caught my eye was for the subwoofer, which was boosted 9 dB. I suspected that was going to be way too much bass, but I left it alone to start, just to see if the Sony receiver knew something I didn't.
The receiver comes with a small remote, pretty much the same size as the one that Sony sends with its Blu-ray players. It lacks backlighting but has a clean, logical layout--with source buttons grouped up at the top (including a dedicated Bluetooth source button), sound modes just below that, then the navigation/display/home buttons, and volume control and transport controls (to control other set-top boxes) at the bottom.
Hitting the home menu brings up a basic black-and-white OSD with five options: Watch (to choose an HDMI source), Listen (to choose an audio source), Easy Setup (to run initial setup again), Sound Effects (to select a listening mode), and Speaker Settings (which I described above).
The remote features an Options button that pulls up a toolbar with a few adjustments: Pure Direct on/off, Sound Field selection, Night Mode on/off, Dual Mono, and AV Sync. There's no onscreen menu to perform advanced AV adjustments, but you can tweak a few parameters using the front-panel LCD and the "Amp Menu" button on the remote. You can launch DCAC directly, adjust speaker size/level, rename the HDMI inputs, reassign the digital audio inputs, adjust bass and treble, perform AV sync, and make HDMI adjustments, such as setting up ARC and setting each HDMI input to pass either a Standard or Enhanced signal. All four HDMI inputs are set to Standard by default, but you should set BD/DVD and perhaps Media Box to Enhanced to send a full 4K/60p 4:4:4 HDR signal.
That's about it. Not a whole lot to set up. Not a whole lot to adjust. I was up and running in a few minutes.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competion, and Conclusion...