The Sony STR-DN840 sits below the 2013 Award-winning, Product of the Year-grabbing STR-DN1040 in Sony’s range. Can it live up to its big brother’s reputation?
Features and connections
For the money, the STR-DN840 is very well equipped. You get 7.1-channel sound for a start. And unlike rivals such as the Yamaha RX-V375 and Pioneer VSX-528, internet access is provided with built-in wi-fi as well as an ethernet socket.
Wireless AirPlay streaming takes care of Apple devices, while DLNA certification means you can play audio from NAS drives and networked computers. File compatibility includes WAV, MP3, FLAC, WMA and AAC.
You can also stream music from internet services such as vTuner radio and the Sony Entertainment Network. Our European model doesn’t have Bluetooth, but we hear the US version does.
At the back, there are six HDMI inputs and one output with 3D and 4K pass-through. You get four sets of inputs for analogue audio and three for composite video, as well as one digital coaxial and two optical inputs.
Meanwhile, the front USB port will cater for Apple devices and memory sticks with files up to 24-bit/192kHz.
Setting up the DN840 is quite a mixed bag. Turning it on for the first time brings up the Easy Setup screen, which gives you options for speaker or network configuration.
Auto-calibration features one of the more pleasant test tones we’ve heard – it’s a playful series of notes, which is a nice change from the usual (and comparatively hostile) array of hisses and beeps.
It’s accurate, but make sure to check the small/large speaker settings correspond to your real-life set-up, otherwise it won’t sound as good as it could.
Network configuration is less straightforward, partly because of the remote control, which isn’t as intuitive or responsive as we’d like.
Trying to input the password to our wireless router had us swearing a bit. Still, you only need to do it once.
Updating the firmware is a simple affair, but it takes a very long time, during which the amp seems to hibernate. This went on for so long that we panicked a little, but it woke up again after about 45 minutes.
When it comes to sound, the STR-DN840 performs a lot like the bigger DN1040. We put on a Blu-ray of The Wolverine and it’s a forceful sound. Punches and gunshots hit hard, and arrows have a satisfying zing to them.
The soundfield is wide, and effects are steered with precision – all of which contributes to an immersive sense of atmosphere.
The low end is taut and articulate and the midrange is clean. There’s plenty of subtle detail too, conveying with ease the emotions and inflections in speech.
The bigger, pricier STR-DN1040 sounds weightier and more dynamic, but what we have here is a highly commendable performance.
It’s not an all-rounder, however. Surround amps at this price often sound brittle, and this is the case with the STR-DN840.
A lean sound is often advantageous, particularly when it creates a sense of agility, but here the amp just crosses the line from lean to thin, and at higher volumes gets a bit bright for our tastes.
Stereo performance is good, though. The Sony does better here than many rivals of this price, delivering music with rhythmic precision and plenty of attack. But we would like more delicacy.
As always, we recommend a dedicated stereo amplifier if you’re serious about listening to hi-fi music.
The Sony STR-DN840 is a very good home cinema amp, even if it doesn’t quite display the all-round strength of its bigger sibling.
It’s very well equipped in terms of features and connections, and its performance is precise and energetic. Match your system carefully, and you’re in for a treat.
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