Review of Sony STR-DA2800ES Receiver

Reviewed by Joe Whitaker



Sony STR-DA2800ES Receiver


The Sony STR-DA2800ES features awesome audio, video, networking and built-in Control4 home automation.

Rating: 9.8 out of 10



Features

The Sony STR-DA2800ES is the industry’s first AVR with built-in home automation. You heard me right, and I mean straight out of the box. In teaming with Control4, Sony has been able to add some of the most important pieces of home automation and bring them to the masses in a package that most consumers are already used to.

Not a Control4 fan? Not a problem. The AVRs have AMX Device Discovery and they’re Crestron-certified, making it the first AVR (I think) to be both Control4- and Crestron-certified.

The “gateway product” uses a method for automation delivery called “Easy Automation”. This just-a-taste feature employs Sony’s new GUI, inspired by Control4. It allows homeowners themselves to add device control through a simple wizard, leveraging Control4’s extensive database of IR drivers. The receivers boast four onboard 3.5mm plugs for standard IR emitters.

And then there’s the ZigBee RF home automation technology, also built in, allowing homeowners to experience just a little piece of the home automation ecosystem that we dealers evangelize on a daily basis.

Sony has taken some other cues from Control4, allowing consumers to program up to four scenes – or macros, as we call them. Not only can these scenes be configured to control A/V devices and lights, they also can be set to launch various settings in the AVR such as the sound settings, triggers, giving homeowners the power to create the perfect entertainment experience. These four simple scenes - MOVIE, MUSIC, PARTY and NIGHT - can be programmed by the user to give them a glimpse of the value that home automation brings, without having to take a huge leap of faith.

Sony takes a couple noted turns on the video side as well, deploying its first AVR with a real zone-2 HDMI output. With advanced HDMI functions, high speed switching - yes it is really fast - and preview, this is a lot more than I expect from an AVR. I tested this on the 2800ES and it was almost like having an additional 8-input 2-output HDMI switch at no additional expense or installation troubles.

As an added benefit, it offers real 4k upscaling and 4k pass through. But I guess you shouldn’t expect anything less from the same company that showed an 84-inch 4K TV at CEDIA Expo 2012 and gave us that amazing 4K projector at CEDIA Expo 2011.

Adding to the same great features and quality from the previous models, paired with these new innovations, makes this AVR a sure thing in any home theater set-up. The video quality from the receiver is simply amazing!

Rating: 10.0 out of 10


Ease of Installation

The first thing I should point out is the set-up of the STR-DA2800ES. Although Sony no longer uses Setup Manager from a PC, the new set-up caters more to the everyday user. The simple set-up wizard easily guides any A/V novice through every portion to get this receiver running right from the onscreen GUI.

The user gets walked through networking, home theater set-up, and even lighting. The GUI for this evolution of ES receivers looks very similar to its predecessors and is easy to use and navigate; however, Sony threw us all a bone this time.

Inspired perhaps by Control4, Sony has added GUI apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Yes we have seen Sony control apps before, like Media Remote, but this time they made the free app GUI visually identical to the onscreen GUI that is prepackaged with this receiver. While most other brands have apps that look nothing like what you see with the device, Sony stepped up and created a universal GUI that, due to the familiarity, will create an easy-to-use interface that bridges the common devices that homeowners already own.

Inside of this Sony AVR is almost the equivalent of an HC-250 automation controller ($599 retail) from Control4, with most of the power and feature set of a standalone controller.

To “turn on” all of the features, however, a consumer must contact an authorized Control4 dealer and go through an activation process. This simple activation adds full Control4 functionality including Control4’s award-winning flash interface that is already built into this gem of an AVR.

From this point, all standard products like lighting control, thermostats, door locks, motion sensors, etc., can be added to the built-in Control4 controller for a full-on automation experience.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Since Sony has been putting these neat little four-port network switches on their receivers, we now have ports for - you guessed it - built-in IP-based control of devices when the receiver is tied into the home’s router.

The magic is that this AVR can run as a single master controller in a small home automation setup or be added to a full scale large system running on an HC-1000 or HC-800 Control4 controller. As a secondary controller, the AVR works just like an HC-250 controller would. In either configuration the 2800es has been the easiest-to-integrate A/V device I have ever added to a system or set up as a standalone piece.

Rating: 10.0 out of 10


Reliability

The reliability of Sony AVRs has been excellent. With their proven track record you should expect to experience many years of flawless operation from this receiver.
Of course the embedded Control4 controller functionality adds new complexity to this AVR.

Sony receivers with or without full Control4 Automation enjoy Sony’s award-winning ES 5-year warranty and advanced replacement policy.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10