Sony's new 4K receivers have a lot of great features aimed at custom AV integrators and home enthusiasts alike. After working with the Sony Str-za3000es for the last couple of months we have found that it sounds excellent, is more or less future proof for 4K, and is a breeze to set up.
Sony's new receivers look fantastic. They are all black, with minimal styling, and have a magnetic faceplate to cover onboard controls. With the faceplate on, there is no possibility of accidental button presses, which is nice for novice users, or when integrating into a home automation system like Savant.
Sony includes a microphone for auto calibration in the box, which means that users are moments away from great sound in almost any room. Auto calibration takes about 30 seconds to complete, and delivers impressive results. We were surprised at how easy it was to coax excellent sound out of this receiver. With this unit, Sony has proved there is no need to be a fancy boutique audio brand to provide excellent sound.
Once users connect the Sony Str-za3000es to a home network, it becomes extremely easy to set up. No remote is needed. Sony provides a "ping" button on the front of the unit, useful for determining the receiver's network address. Users need only type that numbered address into the web browser of a computer on the same network, and they are ready to adjust every setting the receiver has. The browser interface is very intuitive and takes a lot of the headaches out of configuring an AV receiver. With 10 minutes of practice we are confident even novice users will be able to configure the basics (like input and speaker setup) of this particular receiver. More effort will definitely be spent on the physical connections to the receiver (HDMI, speaker cable, etc.) than configuring its settings.
The Future of 4K
The Sony Str-za3000es is unique in that it has both HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compliant connections. This makes displaying 4K sources through it relatively future proof, and users don't need to worry about this unit becoming obsolete before all of the best 4K gear comes out. It's important when upgrading a piece of home theater equipment to plan for what might be coming next, and this is especially true during transitionary periods like right now. There is a lot of buzz about 4K, but hardware for viewing the higher resolution is still limited in a home theater setting. Those looking to upgrade to a new home theater AV receiver now, but still want be ready to watch 4K sources in the future, can rest easy with this Sony unit. It has all of the necessary technology built in to be able to enjoy 4K video currently, and when it becomes more widely available.
Sony's Str-za3000es also includes a lot of nice to have add ons for use with SONOS whole home audio, a dedicated home automation system like Savant, or integration into a user's home network.
The first is a 8 port gigabit switch on the back of the sony receiver. This allows users to provide a wired internet connection to bandwidth hungry devices like a smart TV, apple TV, or Roku. Not only does this help reduce cabinet clutter, by eliminating the need for a dedicated switch, it also allows for home networks to retain the highest possible speeds.
Next is the ability to 'adopt' a SONOS connect unit that is wired to the receiver. By doing this, the Sony receiver will turn on automatically when a user presses play for that particular SONOS connect zone. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but for avid SONOS users, it is huge. This feature makes a surround zone perform almost the same as any other SONOS zone. It is no longer necessary to turn on the amp separately to enjoy SONOS music from it.
Last is onboard IP control for use with most popular home automation systems. Provided that this receiver has a dedicated network address, there is no need for IR or serial control connections. When it comes to home automation, the less wires, the better, and the Sony Str-za3000es achieves this by including network control.