|Sony STR-DA3100ES Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Thursday, 01 September 2005|
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Sony is widely recognized as a true technology leader in the world of home electronics. In today’s marketplace, Sony boasts some of the most forward-thinking products available at any price, including Qualia SRXD video displays, Blu-ray discs and far beyond. While Sony has launched new lines in Qualia (ultra-high-end gear) and Bravia (LCD TVs), they are also out to breathe new life into their Elevated Standards (ES) line for an entirely new generation of buyers. This starts with a new 7.1-channel A/V receiver called the STR-DA3100ES. Seven channels are supported by 120 watts of crisp power, countless features and numerous input/outputs for a list price of $999.99.
The front of the STR-DA3100ES is an attractive sight. The brushed aluminum face and the aluminum-colored chassis are pleasant changes from the traditional jet-black finishes that are synonymous with A/V components. The two-line dot matrix display is recessed from the front of the unit where the input and volume dials are located. The display shows the current volume level in dB, the type of input selection, the DSP being used and the current speaker configuration. The power button and some of the common DSP modes are placed on the transition between the display and the front of the unit, adding to the trick look of this receiver. An ultra-cool blue LED lights up when you have a multi-channel output selected and there is an orange icon that lights up when a Digital Cinema Sound DSP is selected.
The size of the unit is not especially large for a seven-channel receiver at six-and-seven-eighths inches tall, 17 inches wide and 18-and-a-half inches deep. I might suggest that you wear some sturdy shoes and enlist a friend to assist you in placing this baby. 46 pounds may not sound like much, but it is all located on the left side of the unit due to a huge transformer, adding to the awkwardness of handling this unit.
Most of the DA3100ES’s controls, headphone jacks and front A/V inputs for gaming consoles and camcorders, including a composite and S-video video input, an optical digital audio input and a pair of analog audio RCAs, are hidden beneath the flip-down door on the front part of the unit. Controls like the tuner navigation, bass/treble knobs, A/B speaker switching and the menu navigation knobs are all tucked away in the hidden panel. The front part of the unit has a large volume control knob that takes a little wrist strength to crank up or down. The resistive feel provides a solid, quality feel. A smaller aluminum knob allows the user to peruse the various inputs that the DA3100ES is capable of handling.
Glancing at the back of connector-laden panel can make you dizzy. Fear not, although there are an enormous amount of connectors on the back of this unit, the layout is well thought-out and designed for simplicity. All the speaker connections are to the right of the unit, all the analog inputs/outputs (I/O) are in the center of the unit and the digital I/O is located to the left. I really like how Sony put all the analog video and audio inputs close together, since those cables are frequently fastened together and would otherwise become a rat’s nest behind the unit.
The Sony DA3100ES has four A/V inputs with composite and S-video, four optical and two coaxial digital inputs, two composite video inputs, a phono input and two recording loops for a DAT and cassette tape recorder. Automation features include 24V trigger outputs for an external amplifier, IR inputs for using remotes in another room, an S-link, and an RS232 port for connection to a Creston-type control system or firmware updates to the DA3100ES. The Sony DA3100ES also provides another necessity: a set of 7.1-channel analog audio inputs for connecting SACD and DVD-Audio players, as well as two switched AC outlets and a detachable AC power cord.
For outputs, the DA3100ES provides an optical digital output, monitor video outputs for all the types of inputs list above, 7.1-channel preamp outputs for use with external amplifiers and, of course, the speaker outputs. There are seven pairs of outputs for all seven discrete channels. Multi-zone set-ups are available by using the surround back channels for output to speakers in another room. The speaker terminals are not my favorite. I like that they are color-coded for easy identification. I don’t care for the flimsy plastic screw-down binding posts that only have a small entrance for a bare wire. I use spade connectors on my speaker cables and they will not work on this style of post. If you have banana plug terminations or bare wire ends, then this will not be a problem for you.
The amplifier of the DA3100ES has the expected 120 watts (minimum) of continuous RMS power to each of the seven channels at eight ohms, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, with no more than 0.05 percent THD. Besides having big power output, this receiver is nicely designed for a tailored fit into any room or speaker configuration. An equalizer function can adjust the treble, bass and midrange (center only) frequencies for all the speakers. You can also adjust the amount of speakers that you currently have hooked up to allow you to build your home theater in stages. A subwoofer crossover option offers 13 points of adjustment to suit your needs. Lastly, an extensive analog bass management system is also available for SACD and DVD-Audio playback.
Sony is famous for having more digital sound fields than Terrell Owens does sit-ups in his driveway. Four movie modes and seven music modes are at your disposal. More importantly, Sony supports all the common movie DSP modes, such at Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES. Like some of the other current receivers in this price range, a multi-channel analog direct mode is provided to remove any unnecessary signal inference from the digital sections of the receiver when listening to multi-channel inputs from a SACD or DVD-Audio player.
Other cool necessities of the DA3100ES are the video up-conversion capabilities that can take video inputs from inferior cables, such as composite or S-video, and turn them into gold. Gold, in this case, happens to be component video output. This not only improves your video from your old VCR, but also reduces the amount of cables slithering their way into the back of that plasma TV or projector of yours. There is also a very good radio tuner included that can store up to 30 stations.
A learning remote is provided that does pretty much everything that the front panel menu allows. A macro function and preprogrammed component IR codes are also available at your fingertips. There is a game pad-type selector and an input selector switch that can be used to flip through menus. An orange backlit LCD screen allows you to see in the dark, the environment for which most people watch movies. The DVD controls and the volume buttons are glow in the dark for easy access when the lights are off, a very cool feature, and a secondary remote with some simple controls is also provided for the second zone operation.