REVIEW: Sony STR-DH550 5.2 Channel Receiver
The Sony STR-DH550 is a somewhat barebones receiver, but If WiFi and Bluetooth aren’t important to you then the Sony STR-DH550 should be on your short list of AV receivers.

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The Good
  • The Sony STRDH550 will sound great in small or medium size rooms. Very solid performer for both music and movies. Competitively priced.
The Bad
  • No WiFi or Bluetooth, but if you’re looking at AV receivers in this price range these features probably don’t matter to you. Archaic interface.
8Overall Score

The Sony STRDH550 is one of Sony’s entry level receivers for this year. Unlike some of it’s more expensive relatives, it doesn’t have any advanced networking features like WiFi or Bluetooth. However, this AV receiver isn’t designed for people who want that fancy schmancy stuff. Sony’s designed this receiver for people who don’t care about WiFi or streaming music. Instead, it’s geared towards people who want one thing and one thing only… great sound quality. And that is the area where the STR-DH550 excels.



Sony STR-DH550 Review

The Sony STR-DH550’s design is modern and simple. It’s not as pretty as Marantz’s designs however, the front is clean and uncluttered with buttons. The remote features a new design as well. As soon as you pull the remote out of the box you’ll notice that quite a few buttons are missing. This year’s remote doesn’t try to be  a universal remote. Instead it focuses on controlling the main functions of the receiver.  The 550’s remote is almost identical to that of the Sony STR-DN850. We enjoyed the simplicity of the 850’s remote and the 550’s is basically the same.


The user interface on the Sony STR-DH550 is bare-bones to say the least. Sony’s more expensive receivers have a slick icon driven interface which is reminiscent of the GUI on the Sony PS3. However, you don’t get this on the 550. Instead, hitting the home button on the remote pulls up a black and white text menu. While it’s not as intuitive as the 850’s interface, it manages to get the job done.



Sony STR-DH550 Review
The DH550 comes equipped with 4 HDMI 2.0 inputs. All 4 allow for 4K-Ultra HD pass through. So at some point when 4K becomes the new HD standard the 550 will still be relevant. It also comes equipped with a handful of analog connections as well as three digital inputs. As mentioned earlier, the Sony STR-DH550 lacks WiFi and Bluetooth. If these features aren’t important to you then you have nothing to worry about. The front of the unit has a convenient front USB port that you can use for compatible devices. For you music aficionados out there, the 550 is capable of decoding MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA files.



Sony STR-DH550 Setup & Calibration

Like many of Sony’s receivers, the DH550  uses Sony’s Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (D.C.A.C.). Essentially, you connect the included microphone into the calibration jack on the front of the receiver and select the calibration option on the menu screen. The receiver then sends a series of test tones to each of your attached speakers. Each of the melodies that pour out of the speakers are picked up by the calibration microphone. The Sony STRDH550 then calculates the distance of each of your speakers, sets the decibel levels and also the crossover frequency needed for each speaker.


Sony’s calibration system has always been hit or miss for us. It could be because of our particular room’s acoustics, but we usually need to go in and manually calibrate the settings on our speakers. This time was no different. When we reviewed the Sony STR-DN850, the D.C.A.C. calibration incorrectly set the crossover setting of our speakers. We had the same issue with the 550’s calibration. We did listen to the speakers at the crossover settings the 550 had prescribed and it sounded OK. However, since we know what the crossover setting should be we went in adjusted them manually. The auto calibration has four settings “None”, “Flat” , “Engineer” and “Front Reference”. Flat, makes the frequency output from each speaker flat. Engineer sets your speakers to “Sony’s listening room standard”. Front reference adjusts the characteristics of all of the speakers to match the characteristics of the front speaker. By default the 550 chose the Engineer setting, however for our listening tests we preferred the “Front Reference” setting.



We listened to a variety of music samples through the receiver and it excelled. Vocal performances were clear and precise. We listened to several of Miles Davis’s jazzy tunes and the Sony STR-DH550 didn’t miss a beat. Each note was precisely reproduced without any coloration. When comparing it’s performance to the Sony STR-DN850, they sounded nearly identical although the 850’s sound reproduction seemed to have slightly more body.


It’s performance with movie sound tracks were equally as impressive. When listening to the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Smaug’s voice was satisfyingly boomy and thunderous. One scene in the movie where the dragon expels it’s flames around the room, the sounds of the rampaging flames  happily bounced from speaker to speaker creating an enveloping sound stage.


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, while not the greatest movie, can be an aural torture test for speakers and AV receivers alike. Michael Bay’s kinetic visual style carries over to his movie’s sound mix. His movies, which are heavy on action, usually have a very visceral and energetic sound stage which make them a good test for an AV receiver’s prowess. The Sony STRDH550 didn’t disappoint. Every click and clank came through loud and clear. Every foot step and explosion was thunderous. The “pop” of each bullet accurately bounced from speaker to speaker. In sound quality it reminded us of the Yamaha RX-V377 which is one of it’s competitors in this price range. That being said it also shared one weakness with the 377. Even though the 550 is supposedly rated at 145 watts per channel at 6 ohms, it’s real world output will be far less than that. With that in mind, we noticed that when played at high volumes the sound quality of the 550 did start to degrade. This basically means that this isn’t an ideal receiver for large rooms with power hungry speakers. Ideally, this receiver should work fine in small to medium size rooms at normal listening levels.



Overall, the Sony STR-DH550 is a great receiver if you’re not interested in extensive networking features. It has great sound quality and is relatively inexpensive with a suggested MSRP of $279. It’s direct competitors in this price range are the Yamaha RX-V377 and the Pioneer VSX-524. The Yamaha 377 may have a slight edge just because of the Virtual Cinema Front feature that we liked when we reviewed it. However, the Sony STRDH550 is still a great choice for anyone looking for a simple good sounding AV receiver.

By: Chris Murray

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