By Daniel McAdam.
Is the Sony STR-DH550 the answer to putting together an excellent budget home theater system? That was the question in my mind when I purchased on in November, 2016. I'll provide an unbiased answer, but first provide a little background.
I'd been hamstrung for quite a while in upgrading the sound of my home theater system because the heart of my old system was a combined receiver/DVD player. Put simply, combined components are never a good idea, because: a) there are usually too many design compromises, and; b) when a combined unit stops working, it doesn't matter if part of it still works. And that's what happened - the DVD transport in my old receiver/DVD player stopped working and could not be repaired. (At least, not cost-effectively.)
Thus, I needed a new receiver and a new DVD player, and this time they were going to be separate components. As far as my wish list for a receiver, it was very basic. I wanted a receiver that would provide really good sound, easy connectivity to other components, and reliability. And I wanted it to be inexpensive. The Sony STR-DH550 meets all of these requirements.
The receiver can be found online for around $150. For what you get, that's a terrific price. Here's a quick overview of some of the item's specifications from the manufacturer:
The STR-DH550 is very easy to set up. Basically, you have one HDMI cable going out from the receiver to your television set, and four (if you need four) HDMI cables coming into the receiver; one for your cable or satellite box, one for your DVD player, one for a game console, and one labeled, "Video (MHL)." Regarding speaker connections, you simply run speaker wire out of the five speaker connections - two front, one center and two surround. There are two RCA connections in the "Subwoofer Out" location, which would allow you to connect two subwoofers. (Which would be overkill, and would make me happy not to be your neighbor.)
There are also two optical connectors - one in from the cable or satellite box, one in from the television. And there are some other connectors as well, including a connector for an AM antenna (provided) and a coax connector for an FM antenna (also provided, though of course very basic.) Yes, that's right, there's still such a thing as broadcast radio, and you can actually listen to it on this receiver.
My current television is not 4k, so I cannot speak to that aspect of video reception. That being said, the transmission of the video signal through the receiver to the television is excellent. If you have a DVD player that plays Blu-ray 3D™ movies, and a television that properly works with the 3D technology, this receiver will accurately pass that signal through. Note that this receiver is not HDCP 2.2-compliant, so will not support copy-protected 4K video content.
I'm very pleased with the sound from this receiver, and actually think it's a steal at its current price. Power to the speakers is quite sufficient for home use. Sound is clearly reproduced. Naturally, the speakers you have will largely determine sound quality, but the speakers I'm currently using, which were the same ones utilized in my old system, are now producing sound that is so significantly better than what I experienced previously that I'm amazed at the difference.
You can plug a USB stick into the USB 2.0 port on the front and play music, which I've done very successfully, and you also have the option of shuffling songs within a folder or across folders. FLAC playback is not supported; MP3, AAC, WMA and WAV48kHz are. There are also various music settings, like jazz club, stadium, concert, etc. If you're playing MP3 files, try the "Portable" music setting. (As a side note, the FLAC playback issue was solved by getting a reasonably-priced Blu-ray player with a USB port and FLAC capability.)
For the very reasonable price I paid this is a great receiver, and I'm very pleased with my purchase. If I'd wanted Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connectivity - I didn't - then I'd have had to get something else (like the Sony STR-DN1070) and would have had to pay more. But my requirements for a home theater system are currently very simple, and this simply does the job. Highly recommended.
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