Sony STR-DA3500ES review

With its thorough HD specification, this Sony is a solid performer – but it just misses out on a fifth star Tested at £600.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

For once Sony doesn't hit the home cinema bullseye, but this is still a strong performer at this price


  • +

    Crisp, crunchy treble

  • +

    decent detail

  • +

    thorough HD specification


  • -

    Lacks dynamic reach

  • -

    misses bass weight

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The STR-DA3500ES is one of two new models in Sony's high-end Elevated Sound (ES) range. The world of home cinema has moved quickly since the emergence of HD and, as you'd expect, the '3500 is well up to speed.

With Sony's latest HD Digital Cinema Sound onboard, it offers 7.1-channels of 100W per channel sound, should you shoehorn in the speakers.

Four HDMI inputs and one output guarantee video switching opportunities, while there's 1080p upscaling and video upconversion, along with 7.1-multichannel analogue inputs.

Digital Media Port impresses
For internet radio you'll need to buy the far-pricier STR-DA5500 (£1300), the '3500 settling for FM and AM. We do like the Digital Media Port, though: it ensures connectivity for any portable devices, and multiroom capabilities for two other zones.

The '3500 doesn't match an Onkyo or Denon in the style and build stakes, but it's as simple to set up and use. The DCAC auto-calibration system is fast and efficient, while the Xross Media Bar is intuitive and clear.

Sonically we're impressed, too. As we assault ourselves with the Terminator Salvation Blu-ray, treble sounds are crisp and crunchy, while the midrange is blessed with plenty of detail.

Needs more weight and control
It's only at the bottom end of the frequency range that we're not wholly happy – it could use a little more weight and control.

There are Award-winning Denon units either side of this price point (see Also Consider panel), and we can't help thinking the Sony finds itself caught short. It lacks the all-round performance-per-pound of the cheaper Denon, while falling short of the dynamics and subtlety of the pricier machine.

The STR-DA3500ES turns in a strong performance, but with some superb performers looming large, it's not quite good enough.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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