On Black Friday last year, I decided to pick up a low-cost Sony STRD-H550 AVR to temporarily replace a failing unit that cost more than 10 times as much when I bought it (I won’t name names).
This box was installed in my living room and was mainly used for watching TV with the occasional movie here and there. I have a listening room that I use for my higher end gear, but for watching shows with my wife or when the kids watch TV all day, I don’t need high-end separates with a tube amp and a $1000 worth of cables.
I like to think it’s the same as for cars; I could daily drive a perfectly-kept ‘97 BMW 745i to work every day and it would be awesome. But that’s a lot of wear and tear on such a nice car to waste it driving to work and so it makes far more sense to drive a Camry instead. Then I can save my BMW for the weekend drives to the lake. Back to AVRs, since I don’t have the budget (and you may not either) to spend thousands, and I don’t want something that is unreliable or expensive to fix, this begs the question – is the Sony STRD-H550 the daily-driver of AVRs? Read on to find out!
MSRP $249.99 (I paid $142 on Black Friday 2016 from Amazon)
- 5 channels – 90wpc into 6 ohms (20-20,000 Hz) at 0.09% THD, with 2 channels driven
- 4K passthrough
- HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC)
- HDMI passthrough
- 3D support
- BRAVIA® SYNC™ (CEC CONTROL)
Input and output terminals
- HDMI Video In/Out (4/1)
- Composite Video Input (2)
- Composite Monitor Out (1)
- Optical Audio Input (2)
- Coax Audio Input (1)
- Analog Audio Input (4)
- Headphone Output
- USB (1 Front: iPhone/WM)
- MHL (1 Rear)
- DTS-HD MA/DOLBY TRUEHD/DOLBY DIGITAL+
- DOLBY DIGITAL/DTS
- DOLBY DIGITAL EX
- DTS-ES (MATRIX6.1/DISCRETE6.1)
- DTS 96/24
- DOLBY PROLOGIC
- DOLBY PROLOGIC II
- DOLBY DUAL MONO
- 96K/24 BIT PCM
Size & Weight
- 6.14 x 16.93 x 12.97in (WxHxD)
Secrets tags – Sony, AVR, Audio, Home Theater, Budget
First off, this AVR presents a huge amount of value at its price point. Five channels at 90 watts each is not the best, but it’s not bad either. I have no complaints about the audio quality for the money. Pair it with a good sub or two and some decent speakers and you will be good to go! If you like to tinker though, this AVR doesn’t offer many options to fine tune the sound. This really bugged me as I feel the audio definitely needs some correction to better fit my living room. It does offer a digital optical input, but no corresponding output, so can’t be used with a Sonos soundbar. Don’t forget that this unit is offered in a seven-channel version for not much more!
It’s likely you will use mostly HDMI and you will probably have at least two sources and perhaps more. I have four sources connected to my TV, an Amazon Fire Stick, Steam Link, a Sony Blu-ray player, and an Xbox One. One thing I don’t like is that I can’t rename inputs, so say you have your Xbox plugged into the “Game” input, it would be nice to rename that to “Xbox” or something like that. I wish it had component video input and one more HDMI port would be nice, but I am sure they left those out to save cost. This unit does not offer 4K upscaling, but it does have 4K passthrough, so unless you have a 4K source and a 4K TV I wouldn’t worry about that just yet.
I am currently using IR control via a Control4 EA-1 to manage my AVR over IP from a Samsung Galaxy Tab on my coffee table. I have a one-touch macro that turns my entire system on and off. One of the biggest reasons I choose this AVR is that Sony discrete codes are so simple and easy to work with. What that means is if you prefer to control it with something other than the provided remote, like a URC or Harmony, it’s easier to configure.
- Affordable, offers an incredible amount of value for the price
- Just the right amount of inputs and outputs for most systems
- Excellent control options
- Non-detachable power cord (I like to upgrade most of my gear with a power cord from AudioQuest)
- Can’t rename inputs
- No component video input
- Not all analog pre-outs are available to use with a standalone amp
- No support for HDCP 2.2
If you need something that just works, is easy to control, and sounds better than TV speakers for an affordable price, the Sony STRD-H550 provides that. It’s an ideal choice for buyers that want better sound and control, but have a limited budget.