DOLBY DIGITAL PERFORMANCE
All data were obtained from various test DVDs using 16-bit dithered test signals, which set limits on measured distortion and noise performance. Reference input level is –20 dBFS, and reference output is 1 watt into 8 ohms. Volume setting for reference level was -4. All level trims at zero, except for subwoofer-related tests, all speakers were set to “large,” subwoofer on. All are worst-case figures where applicable.
MULTICHANNEL PERFORMANCE, ANALOG INPUT
Reference input and output level is 200 mV; volume setting for reference output level was -0.5.
STEREO PERFORMANCE, DIGITAL INPUT
Reference level is –20 dBFS; all level trims at zero. Volume setting for reference level was 0.
Measured results obtained with Dolby Digital test signals.
Sony’s latest flagship produced generally solid test-bench results, with only multichannel power requiring much explication. Two exceptions: noise performance in the analog and 96/24 realms was only middling, suggesting analog-domain noise as the limiting factor; and Sony’s subwoofer crossover, consistent with the firm’s long-standing, trend-bucking practice, was 6 dB/octave high-pass, 12 dB/octave low-pass. (The de facto, and THX standard is 12/24 dB/octave high/low.)
Regarding multichannel power: Our first unit failed under test after a few seconds at around 110 watts x five channels, entering a “Protector” mode and refusing to exit it even after multiple reboot and re-power attempts over several days. Sony kindly sent a second sample: after less than a second of driving all 5 channels at a roughly 100 watt level, it shut off its outputs, displayed “PROTECTOR,” and self-powered down. It then sat, clicking an internal relay every 8 seconds but otherwise unresponsive, including to its power key, for more than an hour, by which time it was fairly cool but still clicking.
Re-booting by unplugging the AC cord for a minute restored normal operation. Re-trying the test, I briefly saw a 5-channel clipping point of approximately 110 watts, a few seconds of which induced a current-limiting “limp-mode” that reduced power output to no more than 20 watts from any or all channels. Reducing drive to a few watts for 15 seconds or so restored normal ops. I was able to rinse & repeat this cycle several times without re-visiting either the unresponsive/clicking mode, or the living-dead trance of the earlier unit.
I took this second-effort behavior as the designers’ intended response to excessive demands (the 5800ES has small, quiet internal fans that turn on under more “normal” higher power demands). However, I know when I’m well off and did not press the matter with 7-channel testing.
That said, this self-protect behavior, like most others, has little or no bearing on real-world performance: It’s vanishingly unlikely that actual an program will drive all 5 (or 7) channels to even half power, exactly simultaneously and in-phase, for even 100 ms, far less one full or a few seconds steady-state, which is, necessarily, how we test. —D.K.
Sony’s STR-DA5800ES A/V receiver couples impressive audio and video performance with a number of intriguing innovations. Most users will encounter ergonomic choices they love; others, like myself, may run into a few they actively dislike. That said, if you — or your installer — opts to unlock the Sony’s Control4 features, some of the ergonomic challenges I’ve mentioned will melt away. The DA5800ES’s range of capabilities is so broad, and its underlying performance so good, that I would encourage you to check it out for yourself.
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