- Written by Chris Heinonen
- Published on 04 November 2013
Introduction to the Sony STR-DN1040 Receiver
I'd image that no one I know is nostalgic for the old days of DOS on their computer. A cryptic command line with an arcane structure that is hard to navigate and practically required classes to learn. Now that we are using our nice graphical user interfaces, sometimes even touching them now, going back to those old, antiquated days doesn't sound like much fun.
If you do yearn for that old time experience, you can probably experience it by turning on your receiver and navigating the menu system. Screen after screen of blocky white text on a black background with no graphics at all. "User Friendly" is possibly the last description that anyone would heap upon one as well. The complexity of inputs and outputs provides a daunting experience for almost everyone. I still see units with arcane input tables that require me to find the manual to understand what is going on.
When I turn on the Sony STR-DN1040 and am greeted by a colorful, interactive full screen graphical interface, I am surprised. It is even in high definition! Someone has actually been listening to complaints from users and decided to do something about it. They are trying to make the home theater less complex than the PC of the 1980's. Is the Sony STR-DN1040 just a pretty face or does it have the brains and brawn to go along with its beauty?
SONY STR-DN1040 RECEIVER SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: 7.1 A/V Receiver
- Power Output: 165 WPC x 7 @ 1 kHz
- THD+N: 0.9% @ 8 ohms
- Video Connections: HDMI 1.4a (7 rear in, 1 front in, 3 out), Component (2 in, 1 out), Composite (2 in, 1 out)
- Audio Connections: RCA Stereo (4 in, 1 out), Optical (2 in), Coaxial Digital, Bluetooth, AirPlay Other Connections: Ethernet (Internet Radio, Networked Audio Firmware), Wi-Fi, USB, IR (1 in, 1 out), Headphone Jack (6.3mm)
- Dimensions: 6.8" H x 16.9" W x 13" D
- Weight: 22 Pounds
- MSRP: $550 USD
- SECRETS Tags: Sony, Receivers, Audio, 7.1
Design and Setup of the Sony STR-DN1040 Receiver
Beyond the fancy interface, the STR-DN1040 is a 7.2 channel receiver with a couple features we don't see all the time. It comes with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth integrated into the unit. No add-on adapters or anything else, just integrated from the start. It also incorporates AirPlay into the unit; making is easy to get all of your content to it. If you want to hard wire it with Ethernet, you have that ability as well.
All of your input needs are accounted for with the STR-DN1040. It has 8 HDMI inputs, including a front panel one that also serves as an MHL input for your tablet or smartphone. Pairs of component and composite video inputs are provided for legacy devices, and there are four sets of analog audio inputs. Dual HDMI outputs are available if you wish to run a projector and flat panel off of it and it scales up to 4K resolutions.
I'm happy to see Sony and others taking a minimalist approach on the front of their receivers. A pair of dials control the most important settings, volume and input, and there are a few discrete buttons to control certain other features. I also like access to HDMI and USB ports instead of being hidden away behind a door.
Setup of the STR-DN1040 is easy thanks to the on-screen GUI. It walks you through speaker and networking setup quickly and effectively. Unfortunately I found that the speaker setup detects all of my speakers as large. The center and surrounds should both be crossed over at 100 Hz otherwise there will be missing bass content. Running setup again reproduces the same issue, so I recommend doing the setup manually for speaker distance and crossovers.
Setting up your audio and video sources is done through an on-screen table, and is well laid out. Using a nice HD interface instead of the standard SD one makes it easy to read the text even with a lot of information on screen. The HDMI inputs are assigned to certain inputs, so if you select DVD to rename and use for a Roku player, it won't let you select an HDMI input for it. As long as you start with HDMI inputs for HDMI devices and then finish with analog devices you should be fine.
The Sony STR-DN1040 Receiver In Use
Like a Harmony remote, the Sony STR-DN1040 is activity based. Once your inputs are programmed correctly, you choose Watch or Listen from the main menu. Inputs that you have assigned to those pages will be available. If you have devices that you use for both, like an Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player, you can assign it to both pages. This setup makes the process of remembering inputs less confusing, and provides a nice, easy experience for people using the Sony.
AirPlay and Bluetooth work as advertised. I have no issues streaming my favorite playlists from Spotify to the Sony from any of my devices. I traditionally use Ethernet to ensure a better quality signal, but tested the Wi-Fi on the Sony as well. Or I attempted to, but when inputting my password, could not find a way to enter any of the symbols that I use for it. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to access symbols, but none of the pages had what I needed. Sony doesn't have this problem internally and they are investigating it now.
Playback of my music library over Ethernet from my NAS or my PC is easy. All of audio tracks, from mp3 to lossless CD rips to 24/96 and beyond play back without issue. Cover art and track details are available and the on-screen interface is quick and easy to navigate. The available Audio Remote app for iOS makes it easy to do this without needing to power on a display.
The opening guitar notes from the Wish You Were Here SACD are clear and precise but the soundstage is slightly constrained. Instruments are located between the speakers but do not extend beyond their boundaries. The depth is a bit shallower; the music playing back on a stage in front of me that is smaller than usual. Once the music kicks in the Sony has no issues using the surround channels to pull me in. I expected a larger step down from my reference system to the Sony, but it easily keeps me involved in the music.
Movies fare better on the Sony than music. The effects from Tron: Legacy are in full effect, and the bass rattles the room as always. The auto-room setup may have detected the crossover levels for speakers incorrectly, but it set the volume levels right. Panning effects are smooth between the speakers as well as the subwoofer. The STR-DN1040 surround experience is immersive and transparent. Even challenging sequences like the Fight Club mid-air collision are clear and detailed as I approach reference volume levels.
The 4K scaling is reasonably artifact and halo free. Using the 1080p Scaling pattern off Spears & Munsil, the inner spirals show a bit of artifacting but are free of halos. Performance is close to that of the internal scaler of the display I tested with but behind that of the Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player. Passing the upscaled 4K signal from the Oppo BDP-105 was flawless.
The Sony also does well handling the HDMI video bitstream. Full luma and chroma resolution are maintained, and no cropping or other anomalies occur. The Sony STR-DN1040 handles video much better than most receivers out there by passing along the signal and not distorting it in any way.
Conclusions about the Sony STR-DN1040 Receiver
At the end of my time with the Sony STR-DN1040 I am surprised and happy by what I found. More and more of the content we consume comes from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Getting it from there to your AV system is not nearly as easy as it could be. By integrating AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi into the STR-DN1040 Sony is trying to make the process as easy as possible. I found playing back my digital content to be simple, just like it should be.
As a traditional receiver the 1040 does a fantastic job as well. The imaging and detail are as good as other receivers I've heard in its price class. The interface and connectivity options are both way ahead of the competition and the value is outstanding. The main issue I ran into is the Wi-Fi password one which seems to be confined to my unit. Sony has found the source of this now and it should be resolved shortly.
The Sony STR-DN1040 does not resemble any of the mid-price receivers I've used before. It is a welcome breath of fresh air from this century that sounds and looks wonderful. A superb receiver that covers all of the bases and offers tremendous value.