Sony STR-DA4300ES A/V Receiver Real-World Performance
To test the Dolby TrueHD decoding capabilities of the AVR vs. the HD-A35, I popped in The Matrix on HD DVD and proceeded to the lobby scene. The difference was subtle, but I decided that the AVR was superior at decoding TrueHD compared with the player.
Some of the best audio is available from uncompressed PCM soundtrack, such as the one on Pixar's Ratatouille on Blu-ray. The mix is an aggressive surround experience that envelops the listener with excellent dynamics and superior fidelity. At normal listening levels, the 4300ES was able to reproduce the soundtrack as I have heard on equipment priced three times, but when pushed to reference levels, the Sony started to run out of steam and sounded slightly strained.
Next, I tried The Eagles' Hell Freezes Over DVD and listened to the PCM stereo track. With the receiver set to -15dB below reference, Don Henley's golden voice rang true on "Hotel California," but as I pushed the volume past the -10dB point, the clarity of the vocals became strained and sounded unnatural, demonstrating the limitations of the AVR's power output. It should be noted that my speakers are power-hungry, and the specified 100 watts that the 4300ES brings to the table might not be enough to feed the appetite of the M&Ks at ear-splitting volume levels.
Even though SACD never caught on as a mainstream product, I still enjoy having some titles in my collection. One such title is Billy Joel's An Innocent Man. Through the 4300ES, imaging in the front soundstage was excellent, and the sound was transparent at normal listening levels. But once again, as I pushed the volume past the -10dB point, the strain started to show and it became fatiguing to listen to for more than a few minutes.
Overall, the sound quality from the 4300ES was good but slightly bright. At normal listening levels (-15dB to reference and below), I didn't have any complaints with the sound, but as the volume increased, it was readily apparent that the combination of this AVR and my speakers was not a good match.