THE GOOD: The Sony STR-DN860 is an impressive little AV receiver. It kicks out impressive amounts of bass and has excellent clarity and detail. The fact that it also incorporates HDCP 2.2 makes it a total package.


THE BAD: Like the 1060, the 860 does not support Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.


SUMMARY: The Sony STR-DN860 is nearly the equal of the 1060. The 1060 has better multi-room capabilities and boasts a little more power. Besides that, the 860 is probably a better value. The only real misgiving I have about the 860 is its lack of support for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. However, it’s still too early to tell if either of these formats have the legs to stick around.




Sony 7.2 Channel STR-DN860 Review (MSRP: $499)

Sony STR-DN860 Review

In recent years, Sony has joined the ranks of Onkyo, Yamaha and Pioneer when it comes to producing affordable great sounding AV receivers. This year’s Sony STR-DN1060 was an improvement over last year’s model. When I received the opportunity to sample the STR-DN860, I was eager to see if it could best its predecessor as well.


Appearance & Design

The look and feel of Sony’s STR-DN series hasn’t changed much the past few years. Like most receivers the STR-DN860 is big and blocky, but thankfully, it does maintain a clean and uncluttered appearance.


I thought that last year’s 850 and 1050 had one of the best on-screen graphical user interfaces of any AV receiver I tested. Fortunately, Sony opted not to modify this fantastic interface and carried it over to this year’s 860. The GUI is smooth and intuitive with large graphical icons that make navigation quick and simple.


The simplified remote of the Sony STR-DN860 is also refreshing. Like last year’s models it boasts a simple design which eliminates buttons that are rarely used by users. This leaves a remote with minimal button clutter. The one caveat, is that for the deeper functions of the receiver you will need to navigate the onscreen menus a bit more.


As you’ll read in our performance review below, the 860 is extremely adept in the audio department. Much of this has to do with some of the design elements gleaned from Sony’s high-end ES series of AV receivers. Among these are a rigid steel chassis to reduce the effects of vibrations as well as a high-capacity power transformer and custom heat-sink.


The Sony STR-DN860 – Showing 4K Some Love

4K is starting to finally gain some traction in the home theater world. Most of last year’s models allowed for 4K pass through, but very few receivers were HDCP 2.2 compliant. HDCP 2.2 is a copy protection standard that’s been adopted by the industry to prevent the illegal copying and/or recording of 4K video. Unfortunately, AV receivers that don’t conform to this standard will not be able to pass through video that uses HDCP 2.2 encryption (of course industrious individuals can find a work around for this problem). However, owners of the 860 won’t have this problem. The 860 has five HDMI 2.0 inputs. One of its inputs and it’s output is HDCP 2.2 compliant. The receiver is also able to upscale high-definition video to 4K standards.

Sony STR-DN860 Connectivity

In addition to it’s HDMI input/outputs, the Sony STR-DN860 also includes four analog audio inputs and a total of 3 digital inputs (2 optical/1 coaxial). For network support, the 860 has an ethernet connection as well as built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. Apple’s AirPlay is also supported by the 860 as well as a host of internet radio streaming options such as Spotify. Android users can use Google Cast to push audio from their mobile device to the receiver since it’s also an included feature.



Audio wise, the receiver can decode the usual Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats. However, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are left on the bench this year. Music aficionados can enjoy several hi-res audio formats including MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV192k, FLAC 192k, ALAC, AIFF and DSD (2.8MHz).


The Sony STR-DN860 can also use its bluetooth abilities to send music to a pair of bluetooth headphones. Doing this was a simple and intuitive task that had me listening to my bluetooth headphones in seconds. The audio quality was probably better than most I’ve heard broadcast over bluetooth. This could have been because of Sony’s new LDAC tech, which allows for 3x the data transmission rate over bluetooth.


The Song Pal app, which is a free download from the Google Play and App Store, enables you to push your tunes to other Sony audio devices that you have sprinkled around your home. The app also works as a remote control for the receiver which lets you control its major functions. The app works OK, but it could make do with a little refinement.


Calibrating the Sony STR-DN860 is a straightforward, quick process which works well. Even so, it still mis-classified our front speakers as large (which they’re not). This was easy to fix in the settings menu, but it just highlights the need to always go in and check the settings after calibration.



When the STR-DN860 arrived at our offices, we also had the Sony 1060 on hand. It gave me the rare opportunity to do a head-to-head with these two receivers. Surprisingly the 860 held its own against its big brother.


Transformers: Age of Extinction and Edge of Tomorrow really showed how much brute force the 860 has. Bass output was remarkably strong without being muddy. The Sony STR-DN860 cast a wide sound stage with explosions and bullets ringing through my listening area. When compared to the 1060, the 860’s sound dispersion wasn’t quite as wide, but it was nonetheless engaging.


War of the Worlds and Avatar on Blu-ray proved that the STR-DN860 was capable of creating an immersive surround experience. Sounds bounced from channel to channel creating a robust and exciting sonic experience. Bass while thunderous when needed, was balanced by the 860’s clear and precise treble and mid-range. Action scenes were punchy and visceral when required while quieter on-screen moments came through crystal clear.


When playing back music, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. When given the opportunity to do a blind listening test both receivers sounded identical. When listening to Blaqk Audio’s CexCells Album, the Sony STR-DN860 like the 1060, seemed to favor higher frequencies. Despite this, listening to music on the 860 was extremely enjoyable and unless you plan on paying $1000+ for a receiver or getting a dedicated stereo amp, you won’t get better than this for $499.



When compared to the Sony STR-DN1060, which we just had in our offices, the 860 seems to be a better value. It has nearly the same feature set as the 1060 and it sounds almost identical. The 1060 has a slight edge in the power department and multi-room playback however, I was hard pressed to hear a major difference between the two when played side-by-side. Keeping all of this in mind, the STR-DN860 is a hundred bucks cheaper. Its only real weakness is its lack of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but it’s too soon to tell whether either format will be around for the long haul. In my opinion the lack of these two audio formats is no reason to miss out on a great AV receiver.

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