Sony announced its new 2011 line of midrange AV receivers this morning, adding lots of new iPhone/iPod connectivity features throughout the line. The $500 STR-DN1020 is also getting support (via an Ethernet port) for Sony's new streaming audio platform HomeShare, which we were impressed with back at CES 2011. There are a lot of changes from last year's models, and here are the key details announced so far.
Key features of the Sony STR-DH520:
- 7.1 AV receiver, 100 watts per channel
- Four HDMI inputs
- 3D video pass-through
- Standby pass-through and audio return channel (ARC) support
- Two component video inputs
- $230 list price; available in March
Key step-up features of the Sony STR-DH720:
- 7.1 AV receiver, 105 watts per channel
- Analog video upconversion (Faroudja DCDi Edge)
- iPhone/iPod video and music playback via USB
- Graphical user interface
- $300 list price; available in March
Key step-up features of the Sony STR-DH820:
- 7.1 AV receiver, 110 watts per channel
- Advanced graphical user interface
- Second zone audio and video
- Three component video inputs
- $400 list price, available in March
Key step-up features of the Sony STR-DN1020:
- Ethernet port
- Compatible with Sony HomeShare products
- DLNA compliant
- Slacker and vTuner streaming audio support
- Can be controlled by iPhone/iPod Touch/Android smartphone
- Dual subwoofer pre-outs
- $500 list price; available in May
One of the biggest improvements on these Sony models over last year's lineup is the USB iPod connectivity, allowing you to simply connect an iPod/iPhone via the USB port to play back music and videos, rather than having to buy a pricey iPod dock accessory. We're also interested to see how well the iPhone/iPod remote control app works, as we've had mixed experiences with similar apps in the past.
The added Ethernet connectivity to the STR-DN1020 is definitely a compelling upgrade, especially with HomeShare and DLNA compatibility. However, it's worth pointing out that Onkyo also released networked AV receivers this year at a lower cost, and those models also offer the ability to add a Wi-Fi (via a USB dongle) for a surprisingly reasonable $40. Also, as much as we like HomeShare, it's still not quite as enticing as AirPlay, and we're still holding out hope that we'll see a midrange AV receiver with AirPlay built-in this year.
Overall, there's a lot to like about Sony's updated AV receiver line, and we're looking forward to taking a listen to see if the company has improved on the lackluster sound quality we heard on last year's STR-DN1010.