So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- 170W per channel, easy speaker setup function, excellent sound range
- No Dolby Pro Logic IIx support, no multi-channel pre-outs
Expensive, but stacked with features and has power to burn.
Price$ 2,999.00 (AUD)
With a golden fascia and angular approach, the small Sony STRDA5000ES looks rather smart. A bevy of buttons and knobs are hidden beneath the front panel, leaving only the essentials on top.
There's plenty of power to be found here: the 5000ES is rated at 170W at 8 ohms through all seven channels (1kHz, 0.7% THD) and 150W x 2 in stereo mode (20Hz to 20kHz, 0.9% THD). The words "S-Master Pro" adorning the Sony stand for something more than just marketing hype, too: it's Sony's name for its proprietary digital amplification technology. At its most basic level, digital amplification means the digital signal from a source remains in the digital realm longer, theoretically providing a purer audio signal. We're inclined to agree, judging by the output. All the expected processing options are present except for the newer (and somewhat inconsequential in the scheme of things) Dolby Pro Logic IIx, and a number of DSP modes are thrown in for good measure.
Eight sets of binding posts include front "A" and "B" speakers for switching and multi-room listening and there are two complete sets of multi-channel inputs for SACD or DVD-Audio. No multi-channel pre-outs--save for a lone subwoofer pre-out--are available. Other inputs are in abundance: four optical digital inputs and one optical digital output plus two coaxial digital inputs. Another bonus is the inclusion of component video up-conversion.
Even though there is no fully automated setup routine, Sony does provide an easy speaker setup function that lets you choose from a number of different speaker patterns (from two to eight or more speakers). A comprehensive range of manual setup options are also on hand to get the system sounding its best. What's more, they're incredibly easy to operate thanks to a well-thought-out menu system and three dedicated selector knobs for changing values. The 5000ES is supremely easy to operate, with a universal remote control that's top notch.
Perhaps the best word to describe the performance of the Sony is "effortless". The ease with which it was able to drive our reference speakers was plainly evident from the very first track, and even at high volumes it pushed the Audio Pro speakers we used for testing smoothly and cleanly. DVD movies love having such dynamic headroom to play with, and the extremes of volume on our Master and Commander test disc gave all our receivers a real workout. In this case the Sony didn't even break a sweat when cannon balls started criss-crossing the Atlantic. Feed it something gentler like Chicago and the 5000ES comes to life with rich, well-defined audio. Musical performance was just as satisfying, and strongly vocal tracks such as 'Don't Give Up' by Peter Gabriel stood out with a convincing realness.
The Sony is a little more expensive than some comparable receivers, but it's stacked with features and has power to burn.
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