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Review and Measurements of Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Sony STR-ZA1100ES Audio/Video Receiver. It is on kind loan from a local member. It costs US $999. It must have price protection as Amazon price is only $1 cheaper.

Being part of the ES series from Sony, one expects good look and feel and performance. The latter we will see in measurements. Overall, I say it has a more elegant look among the crowded AVR market:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Audio Review.jpg

Sorry about the dark picture. Took this at night. In person the display is nice and gives the unit a more formal look. There is a panel with magnets that hides all the buttons if you wanted. The volume control has good feel unlike the stiff one I have used.

The back panel is full of connectors as you can imagine:

Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Back Panel Audio Review.jpg

For my testing, I focused on left and right channels of the amplifier. For DAC testing, I used Zone 2 output and S/PDIF input.

I did not test HDMI. It is a pain to route my PC output to it but if there is sufficient interest, I can test that.

Internal DAC Measurements
I connected the S/PDIF input to my audio analyzer and measured what came out of Zone 2 at full volume:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR SPDIF In DAC Zone 2 Out Audio Measurements.png


Nice to see nominal 2 volt output and near perfect channel matching. As we have learned, the internal DACs on these AVRs is not a match for external DACs and the situation repeats. Fortunately the STR-ZA1100ES is just good enough to straddle the third and fourth tier of all DACs tested:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Digital In SINAD Audio Measurements.png


So not embarrassing but nothing to match the ES sticker either.

Amplifier Audio Measurements
I started off by driving the unit to 5 watt into 4 ohm using 2-channel analog input:

Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In Audio Measurements.png


This is pretty disappointing performance. Noise floor is quite high, causing the THD+N to climb high, hence degrading SINAD (signal to noise and distortion). Realizing this input may be digitized, I selected the "Direct" mode and that nicely lowered the noise floor:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In Direct Audio Measurements.png


Ah, this is much better! The FFT looks worse but that is because the noise floor has gone down, revealing more of the spikes. But otherwise, we gained a ton in SINAD to 87 dB which is pretty respectable for an amplifier:
Best Audio Amplifiers Reviewed 2019.png


We are above our media of 77.

Digital input produces the same performance since the DAC is better than the amplifier:
Sony STR0ZA1100ES AVR Digital In Audio Measurements.png


The Direct mode also widens the bandwidth substantially:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


The analog to digital converter that is used on analog input suffers from higher noise then and sharp filtering. Note that if you are going to use the internal Room EQ, you would have to use the digital input/digitized analog.

Power into 8 ohm matches the spec and beats it on distortion:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In Power into 8 Ohm Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


Switching to 4 ohm load we get:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In Power into 4 Ohm Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


Some unhappiness before final clipping. And of course nowhere close to one of reference amplifiers based on Hypex NC400 module (in blue). Decent amount of power though at 140 watts with reasonable distortion figure.

We can compare that to Amazon Amp and SONOS:
Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In Power into 4 Ohm Amplifier Compared to SONOS Amazon Link Audio...png


Less power than SONOS but much lower noise. More power than Amazon and less distortion/noise. Not a bad showing.

Intermodulation distortion versus power also gives us comparison to Klipsch PowerGate amplifier:

Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In Intermodulation Distortion Audio Measurements.png


Definitely better than the Klipsch.

Distortion relative to power and frequency shows good behavior:

Sony STR-ZA1100ES AVR Analog In THD+N vs Power vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


Little odd that worst performance is at 2 kHz, not 20 kHz. And that unfortunately is where our hearing is most sensitive.

Conclusions
If you had any expectation of Sony STR-ZA1100ES beating separate components, that should be dashed by now. Another downer is the high noise floor of the internal analog to digital converter. Fortunately if you don't use the Room EQ, you can use the direct mode and get better performance. Speaking of room EQ, I did not have a chance to test the one on this unit. A few years back I tested it on another Sony AVR and results were very disappointing. Hopefully things have improved.

Operationally the unit operated well, never shutting down or getting too hot (despite using the flimsy heatsinks all AVR manufacturers use).

Overall, the STR-ZA1100ES gives me the impression of "good enough" performance and looks. Lowering my standards substantially, I am going to recommend it given how poor our other options have been in AVR land.

----------------------
Questions, comments, critique, etc. are welcome.

Guy is laying in bed with his wife. She turns to him and asks: "do you know what I am thinking?" He says, "if I said yes, do you still have to tell me???" What does that have to do with audio? Nothing. Just had to say something funny to then beg you for donations:

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/audiosciencereview), or
upgrading your membership here though Paypal (https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...eview-and-measurements.2164/page-3#post-59054).
 

maty

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#2
Within a few years, purchased second hand, for a second audio equipment focused on music can be a good choice thanks to Pure Direct. With the warranty expired you can experience different improvements to try to correct the deficiencies. :)

Given the placement of EI transformer, it is logical that it causes an increase in noise if the processing electronic works. Same comment about others modern AVR < $ 1000.

AVR-Sony-STR-ZA110ES-inside.jpg
 
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Wombat

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#3
Eyes and ears compete for attention. I think the 'eyes' predominate, usually. In other words, AV sound does not have to measure-up to pure audio standards. If it does, that is a bonus.
 

maxxevv

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#4
Within a few years, purchased second hand, for a second audio equipment focused on music can be a good choice thanks to Pure Direct. With the warranty expired you can experience different improvements to try to correct the deficiencies. :)

Given the placement of EI transformer, it is logical that it causes an increase in noise if the processing electronics work. Same comment about others modern AVR < $ 1000.

View attachment 27846
Would a toroidal or R-type replacement help in that aspect ?
 

maty

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maty

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#6
Allow me an evil :cool:

The Pure Direct reminds me that many say (multimedia forums) they are unable to tell the difference, like so many others with MP3 vs FLAC and... You know, my theory/speech about bottlenecks.

- End off topic -
 
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#7
These devices are packed with bells and whistles. Nothing clever can come out of that. Especially when a huge transformer or SMPSU radiates everywhere. Too much is not better. Unfortunately, these consumer devices never had anything to do with HiFi. But for the average listener, that's enough.
 

MZKM

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#8
Thanks, now all we need is a Denon X3400/X3500 measured as a comparison :p.
Especially as Denon/Marantz and Yamaha seem to the most favored among enthusiasts, mainly because of their room corrections and not having rampant hardware failures (cough Onkyo cough). Also, Denon/Marantz seem to be the best in regards to wattage for the surround channels, some other brands will have like 120W for the L/R but something like 40W for the surrounds.
 
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#9
This looks to have the same feature set as the STR-DN1080. Bet its the same unit in a different shell.
 

maty

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#10
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MZKM

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#11
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#12
I’m confused by their wattage graphs, unless they mixed up the labels, the 4ohm wattage is usually less than the 8ohm. Audioholics has measured AVRs, so I know that’s not the case.
4 ohm wattage is usually more than 8 ohm.

Just as one example, NAD specs their M32 amp 'dynamic power' as 220 watts into 8 ohms and 360 watts into 4.

That said, 4 ohms, is not a load that many amps seem to be rated to drive, though I've never had a problem at normal listening levels, even using cheap AVRs, to drive a 4 ohm speaker.
 
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PierreV

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#14
They explain in the text why the 4 Ohm power is lower than the 8 Ohm power: it is apparently artificially limited for thermal reasons.

And as with the AVR-X4500H, the power at 4 Ω is "artificially" limited well below the potential of the terminals themselves, especially in the initial measurement of a single channel;then it is only 60 W, in stereo it is 2 x 59 W, then 5 x 52 W and 9 x 41 W. Then (in multi-channel operation and at 4 Ω) SR6013 and so much gets hot.

and

We started with 8 Ω, with one controlled channel obtaining 159 W, with two - 2 152 W, and with all nine - 9 x 50 W. To measure power at 4 Ω, you must first select the appropriate impedance selector mode. The system is calibrated very belayly and the power drops drastically. Most likely, it was about maintaining the appliance's low temperature and conforming to European safety standards. This is not the first case.
 
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#15
These devices are packed with bells and whistles. Nothing clever can come out of that. Especially when a huge transformer or SMPSU radiates everywhere. Too much is not better. Unfortunately, these consumer devices never had anything to do with HiFi. But for the average listener, that's enough.
What's not Hi-Fi about this device exactly? Are you sure you'll able to hear -87db distortion products in a typical room with ~30-40 db spl noise?
Just because it's amir's home it doesn't mean you have to agree with his golden ear/hi-rez pimping tendencies, a minuscule amount of people will be bothered by this kind performance in reality.
 
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FrantzM

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#16
Hi

Manufacturers need to be more innovative with AVR. The formula is getting lame: Lot of inputs, lot of (unused) features. Poor interfaces and so-so objective performance.
I believe technology and needs are there to present something else to the consumer.
Denon with their HEOS are somewhat on the right track but seem to see HeOS as a SONOS (read "Lifestyle") competition, not a full-fledged HT approach ... or at least that is the way I perceive their HeOS startegy. I would love to see PrePro that easily hook-up to wireless speakers from different manufacturers. The Audio industry may have to come up come up with an Audio equivalent of WiFi if current Bluetooth are not up to snuff for an in room wireless audio network.
On that I am more and ore interested to go full wireless for my HT ... Too many wires.... It would be good if the King would test some wireless Line level Interfaces to present to the people their performance. The time for wireless is now.

PM coming to the King.
 
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#17
I wouldn't count on any of the in-house room EQ's being as capable as Audyessy or another more established suite. Sadly, it seems Denon/Marantz are the only one that haven't moved in-house.
 

Frank Dernie

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#18
They explain in the text why the 4 Ohm power is lower than the 8 Ohm power: it is apparently artificially limited for thermal reasons.

And as with the AVR-X4500H, the power at 4 Ω is "artificially" limited well below the potential of the terminals themselves, especially in the initial measurement of a single channel;then it is only 60 W, in stereo it is 2 x 59 W, then 5 x 52 W and 9 x 41 W. Then (in multi-channel operation and at 4 Ω) SR6013 and so much gets hot.

and

We started with 8 Ω, with one controlled channel obtaining 159 W, with two - 2 152 W, and with all nine - 9 x 50 W. To measure power at 4 Ω, you must first select the appropriate impedance selector mode. The system is calibrated very belayly and the power drops drastically. Most likely, it was about maintaining the appliance's low temperature and conforming to European safety standards. This is not the first case.
Since the power transformer is by far the most expensive item in the product my guess is that the limit is entirely due to the maximum current the power supply can come up with.
That explains less power into 4 ohms than 8 and the drop in power as more channels are driven, and is entirely understandable if heavily controlling production cost.

Edit: just seen the picture of the inside @maty posted. That transformer is teensy-weeny :)
 
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MZKM

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#20
To measure power at 4 Ω, you must first select the appropriate impedance selector mode.
Ah, that’s why, that mode should never be used. Audioholics has measured ample power in 4ohm with multiple channels driven.

All that is is to be able to reduce the power consumption enough to pass Energy Star ratings or whathaveyou.
 
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