Sony STR-DN1080

“The Sony STR-DN1080 stands out im­me­di­ately – it sounds fan­tas­tic. The sub­tlety and con­trol we loved in the Award-win­ning DN1050 of a few years ago is back”

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which makes it that bit easier to use in a dark­ened room. The oth­ers are still nice to hold, and they’re in­tu­itive enough to use when nav­i­gat­ing through the var­i­ous set-up menus.

Here comes the cru­cial step. Be­fore you start lis­ten­ing to any of the amps, you’ll want to plug in the sup­plied set-up mic and run the auto-cal­i­bra­tion process to get the best sound for your room’s acous­tics.

Vir­tual speaker po­si­tion­ing

Each man­u­fac­turer uses a dif­fer­ent mea­sur­ing pro­gram – Denon uses Audyssey Mul­teq, Yamaha uses YPAO, Sony uses DCAC EX – but they all do the same thing: take note of your ex­act speaker con­fig­u­ra­tion, emit ei­ther bliss­fully short or la­bo­ri­ously long test tones to mea­sure your speak­ers in re­la­tion to your room, and then op­ti­mise your sys­tem’s soft­ware sound ac­cord­ingly.

The cal­i­bra­tion is ad­vanced enough that you get pretty ac­cu­rate re­sults (recog­nis­ing whether our speak­ers are large or small is the only bit that tends to trip them up). We al­ways rec­om­mend delv­ing into the man­ual speaker set­tings to dou­ble-check and tweak the mea­sure­ments, though.

Sony also of­fers modes that cor­rect the po­si­tion­ing of your speak­ers vir­tu­ally – it’s par­tic­u­larly use­ful when your room sim­ply won’t al­low for the best speaker place­ment.

All three amps also come with a va­ri­ety of sound modes, too, from use­ful ones, such as Pure Di­rect, which cuts out all dig­i­tal in­ter­fer­ences for a purer sig­nal path (best used with ana­logue sources) to fun ones that em­u­late the at­mos­phere of a Mu­nich con­cert hall or LA’S Roxy Theatre. Yamaha’s sound modes (in­clud­ing ‘sci-fi’ and ‘drama’ ef­fects) are par­tic­u­larly fun to play around with.

It takes only a cou­ple of min­utes of lis­ten­ing to the Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where To Find Them 4K Blu-ray on each amp and we’re grin­ning. The Sony STR­DN1080 stands out im­me­di­ately – it sounds fan­tas­tic. The sub­tlety and con­trol we loved in the Award-win­ning DN1050 of a few years ago is back, but there’s more to it.

The 1080 reaches deep into its re­serves to de­liver sound packed with punch, dy­namism and author­ity in a way we haven’t heard at this sort of price be­fore.

Spell­bind­ing sound

There’s an in­cred­i­ble amount of de­tail, from nat­u­ral, ex­pres­sive voices to lay­ers of in­sight and depth sur­round­ing each sound ef­fect. As a glass win­dow shat­ters un­der a spell, there’s a sharp tin­kling as well as a deep, sonic note rippling around the ef­fect – it’s spell­bind­ing.

With the Denon AVR­X2400H, our first im­pres­sion is that the amp’s ar­tic­u­late, mea­sured char­ac­ter is very sim­i­lar to that of its pre­de­ces­sor. Considering that’s our cur­rent Award-win­ner, that’s no bad thing.

Scale and mus­cle

The ample amounts of de­tail are de­liv­ered with del­i­cacy. Voices have a nat­u­ral warmth, and there’s a spring in this amp’s step that means sur­round ef­fects are steered with agility and pre­ci­sion around the room.

The Denon sticks, not un­rea­son­ably, to its re­fined pre­sen­ta­tion. There’s still a fair amount of wal­lop as magic spells blast chunks off build­ings, but this isn’t a gi­ant leap for­ward from its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion. It does sound more solid than the older X2300W (but less solid than the Sony), though, with thun­der and ex­plo­sions mak­ing more of an im­pact than they do with its pre­de­ces­sor.

It’s crisper, too. You can hear slightly more de­tail in the swish of a cloak or in sharp, shat­ter­ing glass. Dialogue, in par­tic­u­lar, is clearer and packs more emo­tion. But we’d have liked a big­ger jump up in per­for­mance when it comes to all-out scale and mus­cle from the Denon.

If scale and mus­cle is what you’re af­ter, Yamaha is only too keen to show off its tal­ents with the RX­V583. The deep bass that comes from the pound­ing club scenes in the John Wick 4K Blu-ray hit you im­me­di­ately.

Dodg­ing a bul­let

Each thump is well placed and loaded with a fair amount of de­tail too, giv­ing you a sense of the lay­ers in each jud­der­ing elec­tronic beat.

SUB­TLE, RYTHMIC, DY­NAMIC

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