Sony has finally launched a range of AV receivers capable of handling all of the latest gaming capabilities we’ve long had access to on the brand’s massively popular PS5 games console, albeit much later than most of its competitors.
All four of Sony’s new PS5-compatible AVRs (the gaming features they support also work well with the Xbox Series X and high-end PCs) are part of the company’s premium Elevated Standard (ES) product line. This means that the STR-AZ7000ES, STR-AZ5000ES, STR-AZ3000ES, and STR-AZ1000ES all benefit from superior build quality, which is achieved by combining a traditional frame beam chassis design with a transformer base, resulting in better, less distorted sound. The thickness of the new ES models’ exterior bodywork has been increased by 200% on the bottom edge and 120% on each side when compared to their predecessors.
While the four new ES AVRs are available for purchase and installation by anyone, Sony has worked hard to appeal to the custom install market by incorporating a number of high-end system integration features, such as flexible connectivity and advanced IP control compatibility with leading control systems.
Looking more closely at Sony’s latest ES AVRs’ new gaming features, each model includes HDMI 2.1 inputs and outputs capable of passing through 4K resolution graphics at 120Hz frame rates and supporting variable refresh rates. They also support the Automatic Low Latency Mode switching of HDMI 2.1, as well as Sony’s ‘Perfect for PS5′ features of Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode.
If you have a PC rig capable of delivering such cutting-edge experiences, all of the new receivers will even handle 8K graphics at refresh rates up to 60Hz. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles have yet to fully embrace their much-touted 8K capabilities…
With the buggy HDMI 2.1 ports that have plagued a number of other brands’ AVRs in recent years now seemingly a thing of the past, we can expect the new Sony ES AVRs to deliver their cutting-edge gaming features without issue.
Sony’s new ES AV receivers are the company’s first to support 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology. This generates multiple phantom speakers around the room, resulting in an immersive cinematic experience that sounds like it was created by more speakers than there are.
If you’ve heard Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping system in action, you’ll know that how effective it sounds is heavily dependent on how well the phantom speakers account for the specific characteristics of your room. With this in mind, Sony’s Digital Cinema Auto Calibration IX system is used in the new AVRs to correct the distance, angle, sound pressure, and frequency response of each speaker by measuring speaker placement in the context of a 3D audio space using a supplied microphone.
Naturally, the ES receivers can play Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio tracks, with the calibration system able to tailor the sound of these premium formats to your specific room conditions.
The new receivers’ HDMI ports are capable of passing through the HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision HDR formats, though there’s no mention of the HDR10+ format used on some content as an alternative to Dolby Vision. There’s also confirmed support, though, for pass-through of IMAX Enhanced video sources and the IMAX Enhanced variation of the DTS:X audio format.
All four ES series models will play high-resolution audio files, including native support for the high-quality lossless DSD format, as one would expect from a modern high-end AVR.
Sony has a poor track record of collaborating across departments to deliver value-added ‘Sony system’ features. Beyond the previously mentioned Perfect for PS5 features, the new ES AVRs provide a few extra goodies for owners of other Sony gear.
If you connect the AVRs to a Sony Bravia XR TV with Acoustic Center Sync functionality, for example, the AVRs will combine the audio from the TV with the audio from the centre speaker channel to improve the illusion that centre channel sound – particularly dialogue – is coming directly from the mouths of people speaking on the screen.
The new ES AVRs can also be controlled by Sony Bravia TV remotes and wirelessly connect to Sony speakers such as the SA-RS5, SA-RS3S, AS-SW5 and SA-SW3 units, which were originally designed as optional rear and subwoofer extras for Sony’s HT-A7000 soundbar. There is also support for a variety of third-party connection systems, such as Works With Sonos, Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, and Apple Airplay.
When comparing the four ES models, the flagship AZ7000ES supports 13.2 channels, has seven HDMI 2.1 inputs and two HDMI 2.1 outputs, and costs $3,299.99 ($4,499.99 CAD). The AZ5000ES has 11.2 channels, seven HDMI 2.1 inputs, and two HDMI 2.1 outputs. It costs £2,099.99 ($2,999.99 CAD). The AZ3000ES has 9.2 channels, six HDMI 2.1 inputs, and two HDMI 2.1 outputs for $1,699 ($2,599.99 CAD). Finally, the AZ1000ES supports 7.2 channels, six HDMI 2.1 inputs, and two HDMI 2.1 outputs for $1,099 ($1,699.99 CAD).
A new STR-AN1000ES receiver designed for “consumers looking to upgrade their current home theatre system” joins the quartet of new ES AVRs. It lacks the ES series’ premium build quality, but it still offers 7.2 channels, more 8K and 4K at 120Hz/VRR HDMI support, Hi-Res audio playback, Sony’s Digital Cinema Auto Calibration feature, and support for Sony’s 360 Spatial Sound Mapping system. The AN1000ES is available for $899.99 in the United States and $1,199.99 in Canada.
Sony has yet to confirm a final release date for its new AVR lineup, but they are already available for preorder on Sony’s US and Canadian