The STR-DN1080 ($499.99) is Sony's contender in the mid-priced AV receiver category. In this difficult market segment, Sony has to strike just the right balance of features and performance. Those of you who are familiar with the Sony lineup will recognize the STR-DN1080 as the successor to the STR-DN1070. The newer model notably adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It has seven channels of amplification with 100 watts of power per channel at six ohms, 20 Hz to 20 kHz and 0.09 percent THD; the power rating climbs to a 165 watts per channel with only one channel driven and 0.9 percent THD.
The STR-DN1080 has a bevy of features, including built-in Wi-Fi (hardwired Ethernet is also available); Apple AirPlay; DLNA; Bluetooth with LDAC and NFC One-touch support; Google Home voice control; Spotify Connect; and Chromecast, which provides access to Pandora, Napster, Deezer, TIDAL, and more. You also get support for 4K, HDR10, and Dolby Vision pass-through, as well as hi-res audio playback--including DSD 2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz and up to 24-bit/192-kHz in a variety of audio formats. If you end up streaming lesser-quality audio files, Sony's DSEE HX system upscales lower-resolution content to improve the sound quality.
This particular Sony receiver has relatively limited inputs beyond HDMI. With six HDMI inputs and two outputs that are HDCP 2.2 compliant and support pass-through of 4K/60p (4:4:4) video, this receiver can handle all of the HDMI-based sources you would find in just about any system. However, for non-HDMI sources, you are limited to three analog stereo inputs, two composite video inputs, and two digital audio inputs (one coaxial and one optical). The seven speaker outputs are complemented by a pair of subwoofer outputs. For the second zone, you get both speaker-level and preamplifier outputs. The back panel also has a pair of antennas, an Ethernet port, an FM antenna input, and IR input/output connections.
The Sony receiver was very easy to hook up. Its relatively compact size and 21.4-pound weight made it easy to move the unit into position. Connecting sources via HDMI was a breeze, as was connecting my speakers and subwoofer. The plus side of not having a ton of connection jacks is that there's plenty of room to get your fingers in and make the connections.
Sony's graphic user interface was easy to follow, and I started my setup process by using Sony's "Easy Setup" system. My speaker setup consists of two B&W FPM 5s flanking an FPM 6 center up front and four of B&W's in-ceiling CCM80 speakers in the surround positions--with one pair in front of the main listening position and the second pair slightly behind it. Low-frequency duties are relegated to B&W's ASW610 powered subwoofer. I set up my speakers in a 5.1.2 configuration so that I could take advantage of the Sony's Atmos capability, but the receiver's amplifier section is flexible enough to be configured to power a 7.1 system, a 5.1 system and a second stereo zone, or a 5.1 system with bi-amped front speakers.
Sony eschews Audyssey in favor of its own proprietary DCAC EX auto calibration system. The DCAC EX system uses an unusually shaped stereo microphone that looks like a gently curved boomerang with a microphone at each end. DCAC EX's setup process is similar to that of most other systems in that it plays a series of tones as the microphone is placed in various positions, then it uses the information gathered to adjust the equalization and delay for each speaker. I played with the various equalization settings over a couple of weeks and ended up leaving the equalization off and changing some of the crossover settings selected by the DCAC system.
The Sony also has a "Phantom Surround" speaker option, which is said to create additional surround channels where no physical speakers exist in order to simulate a 7.1.2 setup with a 5.1.2 system.
The rest of the setup process consisted of making a network connection and configuring the Sony Music Center App. I downloaded the App to my iPhone and linked it to some streaming services to which I subscribe, such as Pandora, Spotify, and TIDAL. It was all pretty straightforward so long as you can remember your passwords.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...