Once the Sony STR-DA5800ES receiver is licensed and “unlocked” by a Control4-certified dealer, it enters “Control4 World,” completely changing the GUI and looking, programming, and functioning like any other Control4 processor.Packed with features, AV receivers are like the multi-tools of the technology universe. And, comparatively, Sony’s new STR-DA5800ES is the equivalent of the Victorinox SwissChamp XAVT pocketknife, with just about every feature a modern receiver could need or want.
Sony’s ES (Elevated Standard) product line always has highlighted the company’s best offerings, and as receivers go, the 5800ES is an impressive beast with premium build quality. It is so feature and option rich that merely listing all of its capabilities as bullet points would exceed this review’s word count. Highlights include numerous inputs: nine HDMI, three each optical and coaxial, two component, nine analog, and 7.1 multi-channel audio. In total, the receiver boasts nine channels of amplification, allowing it to drive surround systems with both back and front height channels. (Amp channels can also be reassigned to either bi-amp front speakers or drive a second zone.) Multi-zone HD video is supported via component or HDMI in Zone 2, with an audio-only Zone 3. A four-port network switch allows connecting other sources and four IR emitter outputs can control other components.
The installation process showcases Sony’s new GUI, which employs colorful graphics that are years beyond the simple text or images found in other models. Initial input and speaker assignment is fairly straightforward, albeit with tons of options like phantom front height and virtual speaker repositioning. The 5800ES incorporates Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (D.C.A.C.), Sony’s take on auto speaker set-up, and the included stereo calibration mic did an impressive job of accurately and quickly measuring speaker distance and levels.
I found the process of using the 5800ES to control other gear clunky. The on-screen programming wizard was slow and cumbersome and, worse, the included Sony remote is frustrating to use. I frequently pressed the home button by mistake, throwing me out of the current activity and into the control GUI. Also the remote offers no backlighting whatsoever, making it unusable in a darkened room.
Fortunately the receiver can be controlled by other means, including any third party IR remote, Sony’s Android and iOS app, and via RS-232. Of course, its Control4 capabilities are a huge bonus, and I’ll get to those shortly. Non-Control4 certified Sony dealers can rest assured that this is a potent receiver, packing every modern feature and tons of performance that can still integrate with your automation/control system of choice.
I was overwhelmed by the number of streaming internet services that the 5800ES supports–by far the most I’ve seen in a receiver. On top of the usual Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Hulu, and Vudu services, you get many others. (I counted 56 different streaming video options.) As an entertainment portal, the Sony is unchallenged. Unfortunately, the 5800ES doesn’t support AirPlay.
I watched several Blu-ray discs, and the 5800ES never disappointed or stumbled sonically even when played near reference volume levels. The subtle atmospheric cues like distant water dripping and ambient cave sounds from Prometheus created the right atmosphere, and the different tonal qualities of characters’ voices as they spoke through their helmets and masks was spot on. The dynamics on gunshots and explosions in Dark Knight Rises were outstanding, keeping up with all of the on-screen mayhem, and it conveyed all of the cacophony of squealing tires, crunching metal, and breaking glass in Safe House. More importantly, it kept dialog intelligible and clear throughout.
Initially, I had an issue with stereo music listening; putting the system into “stereo” mode bypassed the bass management settings and defeated the subwoofer. With many systems, this would produce thin audio. However, putting the 5800ES into “AFD” (auto format decode) mode uses the bassmanagement settings and produces 2.1 audio.
Highlights of Sony’s 5800ES include numerous inputs: nine HDMI, three each optical and coaxial, two component, nine analog, and 7.1 multi-channel audio.Without a doubt, one of the 5800ES’s biggest tricks is its ability to function as a full Control4 processor, elevating it to a whole new level of control. Once the receiver is licensed and “unlocked” by a Control4-certified dealer, it enters “Control4 World,” completely changing the GUI and looking, programming, and functioning like any other Control4 processor. After being unlocked, programming is done via Control4’s Composer software, and other devices—lighting, HVAC, security—as well as advanced if/then/ else programming variables can be added and interfaced.
Customers can continue using the Sony remote, but Control4’s SR-250 remote is not only far better designed, it’s fully backlit and operates on Zigbee radio frequency, so it doesn’t have to be aimed. Licenses for iOS, Android, and PC control can also be added.
The 5800ES has roughly 40 percent of the computing horsepower of Control4’s HC-250, and it’s a bit sluggish jumping in and out of control menus where the GUI is in use. Fortunately, the receiver can live with Control4 processors in a larger system and share processing resources, and the 5800ES is also the first receiver to offer Control4 Simple Device Discover Protocol (SDDP) for automatic identification and driver loading in a Control4 system.
The Sony STR-DA5800ES is a potent, worthy flagship receiver, packed with features and delivering impressive audio performance. The addition of Control4 makes it even more powerful, offering something other receivers can’t. For dealers handling both Sony and Control4, it creates a powerful and compelling synergy.
Includes practically every feature imaginable; Control4 integration; media streaming options
Original remote is clunky, no AirPlay support
Dimensions: 7.5 x 17 x 16.6-inches (HxWxD); Weight 39.7 pounds
• Control4 certified and ability to be unlocked by Control4 dealer for full Control4 functionality
• 9 HDMI inputs with 3 HDMI outputs
• Proprietary D.C.A.C autosetup/ calibration and room/speaker EQ system
• LAN with four-port Ethernet switch and network streaming
• Huge array of network and Internet audio and video streaming options
• Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master, DSD, Dolby IIz, DTS Neo:X and additional proprietary surround modes
• Five-year Sony ES warranty