Sony Announces Their New Lineup Of ES (Elevated Standard) AV Receivers
In a bit of a surprise to many, Sony announces their new lineup of ES (Elevated Standard) AV Receivers. Those in the AV game will recognize the Sony ES moniker. In the ’90s, I lusted after Sony ES gear but never had the cash to get any. But over the next few decades, Sony’s lead in the home audio market waned, and names like Denon, Marantz, and Yamaha became de facto standards in the AV space. Fast forward to HDMI 2.1, and those same companies stumbled in producing HDMI 2.1 devices that were flawed or hampered. Remember the infamous HDMI 2.1 bug that plagued the first gen of HDMI 2.1 AV receivers? Sony remained in the shadows throughout, but have they emerged like the Phoenix to retake their rightful place in the AV space? Let’s discuss.
What’s New With The Sony ES Lineup?
The obvious answer is the addition of HDMI 2.1 support to the five AV receiver lineup. But there is a caveat. Just like my next-gen Onkyo TX-NR7100, not all ports are capable of supporting full bandwidth HDMI 2.1. Depending on the Sony model you choose, you will get two to four HDMI 2.1 “full-bandwidth” (40Gbps) ports, and the rest will be HDMI 2.0. I don’t worry too much about this because of slow adoption of HDMI 2.1, with the biggest adopters being next-gen video game consoles. But the ports that support HDMI 2.1 will give you all the goodies like 8K60/4K120, ALLM, VRR and eARC.
Of course, the ES line will support all of the most popular sound formats. This includes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but Sony also adds 360 Reality Audio. 360 Reality Audio is a Sony invention for spatial audio. The 2023 Sony ES lineup also uses 360 mapping which uses phantom speakers to create a more immersive spatial audio experience. These technologies are akin to virtualization from Atmos and DTS. We will have to wait and see how well it is implemented.
There is some cool new Sony-only tech included. They all use Sony S-Center which allows you to use compatible Sony TVs as a center channel. Or you can use a dedicated center and TV-as-a-center to create an “acoustic center.” If you have the AZ5000ES or AZ7000ES you will be able to use dual centers (one above and one below the TV). All of the new AV receivers can use the center lift-up feature. Room correction is handled by Sony’s proprietary Digital Cinema Audio Calibration IX. It uses the included stereo microphone to take a stereo measurement at two different heights.
Lastly, Sony redesigned the chassis to make them more custom-installer friendly. The AV receivers feature a cleaner, removable faceplate that allows access to all buttons if needed.
Under The Hood
The 2023 Sony ES AV receiver lineup offers four ES models (AZ1000ES, AZ3000ES, AZ5000ES, and AZ7000ES), and a single non-ES model (AN1000). The models range from $900 for the AN1000, up to $3300 for the flagship AZ7000ES. Let’s jump into some specs.
First in the 2023 lineup is the Sony STR-AZ1000ES ($1100) is a 7.2 (100 watts-per-channel) channel AV receiver with two HDMI 2.1 inputs, six total HDMI inputs, and no pre-outs aside from dual subwoofer outputs. The AZ1000ES does not have discrete dual subwoofer outputs, it’s just an internal Y-splitter. That doesn’t bother me at all, because if you follow our guide to setting up dual subwoofers, you want to treat dual subs as a single, bass-producing unit. The AN1000 ($900) has all of the specs of the ES model, but lacks the professional installer features. Not a deal breaker for me!
Next in line is the 9.2 (120wpc) channel STR-AZ3000ES ($1700). For $600 more you get two additional channels of processing and amplification, and four of the six HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.1 compliant. You still don’t get dedicated pre-outs aside from dual (y-split) subwoofer pre-outs. This might be the sweet spot for those who don’t want to move past 5.2.4. Though, it is still more expensive than my Onkyo 7100 ($1299) with Dirac Live.
Moving up to the 11.2 (130wpc) channel STR-AZ5000ES ($2100) gets you 11 built-in amps, a full set of pre-outs and four out of seven HDMI inputs are 2.1 compliant.
If you want the flagship Sony ES model, the STR-AZ7000ES ($3300) is where you want to be. It features 13.2 (150WPC) channels, with 13 built-in amps, a full set of pre-outs, and four of seven HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.1 compliant.
It’s always nice to see a venerable line like the Sony ES resurrected. Even better is a new line of AV receivers with full-bandwidth HMDI 2.1 ports! The new updated look is slick, and those who want to integrate them into their systems will enjoy the streamlined look.
But…I think that Sony is going to struggle with these new AV receivers. They are priced higher than comparable AV receivers that offer more and have better room correction. Sony will need to deliver big with this new line-up if they want to be a disrupter in an already crowded AV receiver market.
What do you think? Is a new Sony ES AV receiver in your future? Let us know in the comments below.