What really convinced me to request this receiver for review was a recent blog I wrote on the current state of 4K-capable receivers. The Sony STR-ZA3000ES stands alone as the only AVR on the market that will handle more than one true 4K (HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2) source, and matrix them to two separate 4K displays. (The Krell Foundation 4K UHD does offer four HDCP 2.2 inputs, but at a significantly higher price.)
As part of Sony’s ES (Elevated Standard) lineup, this receiver features premium build quality, includes a five-year parts-and-labor warranty, and has tightly controlled distribution. To truly test the receiver’s 4K capabilities, I also had Sony send the only true 4K source available, the company’s FMP-X10 4K Ultra- HD media player. So, armed with a true 4K source, two 4K TVs and the Sony ZA3000ES receiver, I was ready to see if this receiver was all it was cracked up to be.
As part of Sony’s ES (Elevated Standard) lineup, it features premium build quality, includes a five-year parts-and-labor warranty, and has tightly controlled distribution. There is also a dedicated ES installer tech support phone line.
The front panel includes nearly every button from the remote, but doesn’t look crowded or confusing. In fact, with the receiver’s menu system and two-line display, you can easily set up the receiver from the front panel. One surprisingly handy button is labeled “Ping,” which immediately displays the receiver’s IP address and MAC ID on the front panel, and also fires discovery protocols for things like Control4’s SDDP and AMX Beacon. The receiver comes with a nice magnetic aluminum faceplate that can cover everything except for the power button and volume knob. An optional rack-mount kit is also available.
Installers will appreciate the well-designed back panel, with enough connections to support virtually any system. Sony showed a lot of thought in the design layout, such as arranging the speaker binding posts horizontally along the bottom, making for easier wire management. I also appreciated the eight-port gigabit switch with two PoE ports, enabling the receiver to serve as the local network nexus.
For control, the ZA3000ES supports integration with AMX, Crestron, Control4, ELAN, RTI, Savant, URC, and Vantage via IP. It also has RS232 and IR connections, and three addressable 12-volt triggers. There is a really handy web utility that makes initial setup a breeze, letting you quickly configure and customize every option within the receiver.
One incredibly cool and unique feature is called Music Connect. With this, the receiver can “scan” your network and find any Sonos players. You assign the player to an input and set a turn-on volume (like 0 dB), and then whenever that Sonos player begins playing–say from the Sonos app–the receiver automatically turns on and switches to the correct input and volume.
Installers will appreciate the well-designed back panel, with enough connections to support virtually any system. Sony Also cool is a separate DAC for the Zone 2 analog audio output. With this, the receiver can take audio from an HDMI or digital input and down-convert it to two-channel analog for output to another listening zone. The only issue I had was when the incoming audio was Dolby Digital or DTS encoded, in which case the Zone 2 would only output audio when the main zone was selected to the same source.
Before listening, I ran the auto speaker setup/calibration with the included mic. While it pretty much nailed speaker distances and channel levels, it was way off on the subwoofer level, setting it about +15 dB every time I ran it.
To check out the receiver’s 4K chops, I downloaded Fury from Sony’s Video Unlimited 4K store. This film details the harsh and brutal realities of World War II warfare, full of bullets, gritty mud, blood, and guts. I sent one HDMI output to a 70-inch Sony 4K TV and the other to a 49-inch Sony 4K set and both TVs displayed the full 4K image with no issues. As the dual outputs are independent, I was able to easily route different video to each set. The only “hiccup” is that whenever I changed inputs in one zone or turned one of the TVs off, the signal momentarily dropped out as the receiver reestablished the HDCP handshake.
Sonically, the ZA3000ES was a stellar performer, handling all the tank mayhem and explosions Fury had to offer. From ammunition rounds clanging off armor plating, to the whistle of incoming fire, to the scattering of dirt and debris around the room following explosions, the receiver handled it all with aplomb. The receiver really captured the claustrophobic, confined sense of being stuck inside a tank with the hatches clamped down, with little ambient rattles and drips, and metal-groaning sounds coming all around the room. Even listening at reference volume–which was quite loud–the amp never sounded strained or harsh, and kept the dialog anchored and intelligible, letting me feel the heavy Tiger tank’s big diesel engine and massive treads fluttering my pant legs.
The receiver sounded equally good with two-channel music, producing a stereo image that was so locked in and centered I actually got up to make sure I was in stereo mode. This is where I found Sony’s room-calibrated audio to really shine, delivering much tighter and more focused sound. Toggling it off caused the sound to become somewhat amorphous and indistinct with more bloated bass.
There are some things notably missing from a receiver at this price. For one, there are no music streaming capabilities at all. No network audio, no USB audio, no Bluetooth, no AirPlay. The receiver also doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. There is no app for phone or tablet control. And the receiver can’t be firmware updated or backed up across the network, instead requiring a front panel USB connection.
Terrific back panel layout and design; two true 4K inputs/outputs; awesome Sonos integration; integrated 8-port gigabit switch with two PoE
Missing many popular features like streaming audio, app control, and Dolby Atmos
► 100-watts x 7 (6 Ohms, 20-20kHz, 0.09 percent THD)
► 6x2 HDMI switching, with HDCP 2.2 support on two inputs and both outputs and 4K upscaling
► Analog audio Zone 2 and Zone 3 outputs
► 8-port gigabit ethernet switch with two PoE outputs
► Web browser configurable set-up
► IP integration and support with AMX, Crestron, Control4, Elan, RTI, Savant, URC, and Vantage
► Five-year warranty
In last month’s review of SnapAV’s Wirepath NVR and IP Cameras, Dennis Burger incorrectly stated that Control4 is the only system whose drivers support pan-tilt-zoom controls. In fact, RTI has a Wirepath PTZ Camera driver that is specifically for controlling Wirepath Cameras using Pan-Tilt-Zoom. RTI also has a Wirepath DVR/NVR driver, which allows control of the Network Video Recorder. We regret the error.