The Good
The Sony STR-DN850 is a great sounding AV receiver, good for both movies and music. It also has an ample supply of features such as WiFi and Bluetooth. The 850 may have the nicest looking user interface on the market.



The Bad
Calibration on the 850 can be hit or miss. Even after using the automatic calibration you may find yourself going back in and manually adjusting the settings.


The Sony STR-DN850, packs a lot of features into it’s little black box and has ample power for most home theaters. Calibration can pose a few difficulties, but once you overcome these your left with an AV receiver that should be able to power your home theater for years to come.


Appearance Connectivity & Features

Sony STR-DN850

If the Sony STR-DN850 looks familiar to you, it’s probably because it’s basically identical to last years models. Like most AV receivers it’s basically just a big black box, but Sony’s managed to keep the front of the receiver very clean and simple. On the inside, Sony’s implemented some of the technology they’ve used in their high-end ES line beginning with the rigid chassis which helps reduce vibrations. The 850, which boasts roughly 145 watts per channel, also includes a high capacity power transformer and custom heat sink.

Sony STR-DN850 Connectivity

Something that you’ll notice on newer AV receivers, is the slow but steady disappearance of analog connections in favor of digital. The STR-DN850 follows this trend. It has 5 HDMI 2.0 inputs, 2 digital optical inputs, and 1 coaxial digital input. It does have 4 analog audio inputs, but it doesn’t have an S-video or composite video connections. For most people this won’t be a big deal since most modern AV equipment use HDMI. The 850 also sports an ethernet connection as well as built-in WiFi and Bluetooth.



The 850 in a lot of ways is a true “HD” receiver. It can handle a variety of HD music files including FLAC, AAC, AIFF, ALAC and WAV.  With an eye towards the future, the Sony STR-DN850 is also 4K compatible. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to have a 4K TV, the 850 allows both 4K Ultra HD pass through and upscaling. In addition to 4K, the STR-DN850 is also 3D compatilbe.


Sony STR-DN850 Set-Up and Calibration

The Sony STR-DN850 probably has one of the slickest looking interfaces of any av receiver. Clicking on the home button on the remote pulls up the default menu page. On this page you’ll be greeted by 5 graphical icons “Watch”, “Listen”, “Custom Preset”, “Sound Effects” and “Settings”.  Delving into these menus allows you to access all of the features of 850, including adjusting the HDMI input presets.


The simplified remote of the STR-DN850 will be hit and miss for some users. When compared to the past remotes that came bundled with Sony’s receivers, the 850 has less button clutter. The uncomplicated layout won’t appeal to some, but I personally liked it. The simplified button layout means that you’ll need to dig through Sony’s snazzy on screen menu a bit, but overall it’s not too bad. Once you learn your way around, it becomes easier to navigate, but be prepared to do some exploration.


The calibration is relatively painless, however we do have a couple of gripes. We usually like to test our receivers using various speaker configurations, so for our initial setup we used a 2.1 stereo configuration. Our favorite budget speakers, the Pioneer SP-BS22, were designated as the guinea pig for our first test and this is where we ran into a slight issue. On our initial calibration test, the Sony STR-DN850 identified the SP-BS22s as full range. While the SP-BS22’s sound great, they are by no means full range speakers. Re-running the calibration solved this issue, but it was interesting that it did this initially.


Calibration for a 7 channel setup also revealed a few issues. The 850 had difficulty correctly identifying the distance of our subwoofer and setting the correct crossover frequency of our attached speakers. Both of which required us to go in and make manual adjustments. This isn’t too big of an issue, but if you’re the type that doesn’t like to manually make adjustments it could be a slight annoyance.


Sony STR-DN850 Performance

The STR-DN850 did a fantastic job with most of the source material we threw at it. Bluetooth and WiFi worked seamlessly for streaming music from our mobile devices with the assistance of the songpal app which is available for download from Google Play Store or iTunes. If you have an iOS device, AirPlay is also a viable option for streaming media to the STR-DN850. Internet radio choices on the unit are a little sparse. By default, it comes with Pandora, TuneIn and Music Unlimited. Unlike Onkyo, the 850 doesn’t have a lot of built-in music streaming apps which may disappoint some people.


Like Yamaha’s AV receiver offerings, the STR-DN850 has a host of pre-set sound settings. Most of them aren’t practical for everyday listening, but they’re fun to play around with. We decided to hit the 850 with a few high resolution audio files to gauge it’s music prowess. Overall, it sounded great. It handled a variety of genres of music well from classical, to jazz and rock it was agile enough to handle everything we threw at it. It also handled both stereo and multi-channel reproduction equally well. The only thing we did notice was that in some tracks that were especially bass heavy, the bass was a little too punchy. However, this small grievance wasn’t enough to ruin our listening experience. In fact, the Sony 850’s music reproduction is on par with receivers that are far more expensive.


For movie watching, the Sony STR-DN850 is a wonderful performer. When sampling several Blu-Rays the audio was great. Dialogue was crystal clear. Bass was smooth and authoritative without being overpowering. The bass disconnect we heard with music playback all but disappeared with movie soundtracks. The 850 also produced a buttery smooth mid-range. Sounds moved effortlessly from the various surround channels and created an enveloping sound field.



Despite the calibration issues, the Sony STR-DN850 is a fantastic sounding AV receiver which sounds great for both music and movies. Throw in the WiFi and Bluetooth features and it appears to be a pretty good deal. The MSRP of the 850 is about $499 which is about on par with the receivers in this class. It’s combination of great sound and networking features makes it one of the top options for anyone looking for an AV receiver.



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