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Sony STR-DH190 Stereo Receiver Reviewed

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the STR-DH190 stereo amplifier. I was talked into buying it to review a while back. The STR-DH190 costs an incredibly low US $140 from Amazon including free shipping! The economics of this is impossible to fathom. If I had to sell you its empty box I could not make a living at this retail price. So I imagine Sony is losing money on every one of these.

From the outside, the STR-DH190 looks like a smaller version of Sony AVRs with a rather elegant look:

SONY STR-DH190 Stereo Amplifier Review.jpg

I did not expect a full display and microprocessor to drive it but that is what we have. Likely because this is a featured AVR. Everything looks great until you touch the volume control and realize it is a stiff feeling thing, best left to look at than use. Fortunately a remote control is included so you can do exactly that.

You even get a radio and phono stage in this thing. And even a button named "pure direct" which did nothing but turn off the display.

The back panel shows the connectivity you expect in an analog amplifier:

SONY STR-DH190 Stereo Amplifier Back Panel Connections Review.jpg

I hated the spring loaded speaker terminals as I could not stuff my banana plugs into it. But hard to complain too bitterly at this price. Ditto for non-removable cord.

There is a "hot" symbol on top of the amp for a reason: even at modest output power this thing gets really warm and toasty on top. For this reason, and wanting to pass UL certification with respect to heat generated, Sony only specs the STR-DH190 for 6 ohm speaker load and higher. Don't worry, it works "fine" at 4 ohm as well as my measurements show.

As a sign of corners being cut to save money, notice how the rear feet are just the chassis bulge with a tiny little pad. The front feet that you do see are proper round plastic ones! Reminds of stainless tips on car exhausts to make you think the rest is made the same way.

Amplifier Audio Measurements
Let's run our dashboard with 4 ohm load and 1 kHz tone and see what happens:

SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier Frequency  Measurements.png


Typical power supply ripple is visible which we see in many amplifiers. I wish both channels were as good but they are not with one having good bit more distortion than the other. Averaging the SINAD for both channels lands the STR-DH190 in the middle of all amps tested with this metric:
Best Stereo Amplifiers.png


Signal to noise ratio is "OK":
SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier SNR Measurements.png


Frequency response measurement had me stomped for a while because it was anything but flat. There is no eq in this thing so what could it be? Then I realized it was the amplifier that was reducing power after a few seconds even though I was just running it at just 9 watts or so! You can see that in the top graph:

SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier Frequency Response Measurements.png


The sweep starts from right and goes to left and hence the reason you see the drop there. Running the same test with 5 watt output didn't cause that problem. But showed the same persistent rise in low frequencies.

32-tone test track shows what we already know as far as distortion floor:
SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier Multitone Measurements.png


At low frequencies power supply complains with rising ripple causing those spikes between our tones. At high frequencies the amp runs out of gain-bandwidth so distortion naturally rises some.

Most important here is the power versus distortion and noise so let's look at that with an 8 ohm load:

SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier Frequency Power into 8 Ohm Measurements.png


We just shy of the 100 watt rating of the amplifier which is fine.

With 4 ohm load we get lots more power still:

SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier Frequency Power into 4 Ohm Measurements.png


Again, wish one channel wasn't acting up but otherwise, we have lots of power here.

We can even get more if we measure max and peak power with 1% distortion into 8 ohm:
SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier Max and Peak Power into 8 Ohm Measurements.png


Couldn't run this test at 4 ohm because the amp would either shut down or when I reduced the level, not achieve 1% THD. More on this in a bit.

THD+N versus level and frequency shows orderly response, had it not been due to each channel acting differently:

SONY STR-DH190 Amplifier THD+N vs Frequency vs Power Measurements.png


At this point, I decided to run the 20 to 20 kHz power sweep, regulating the output to 1% THD. This involves the analyzer at each frequency point, raising and lowering the input level until distortion equals 1%. I kept failing to get there at all frequencies with the amp shutting down or not getting to high enough distortion. Needing to play with the parameters a lot, I put a fan on top the amplifier heatsinks and kept playing around. Next thing I know, it shuts down but no longer powers up. The power LED lights up but the rest of the display does not. And after about 8 or so seconds, it shuts itself down.

Left it to cool overnight but this morning still does not power up. Nothing is smoked in there but there is a smell of burnt varnish which points the finger likely at the power transformer.

Conclusions
Lowing our lofty standards good bit, the Sony STR-DH190 seems to be a good amplifier. It looks nice, has remote, multiple inputs, phono, etc. and produces a lot of power. It is certainly much better than a lot of Internet specials when it comes to amplifiers. What you pay for it gets you headphone amplifier and that is it. The value is therefore remarkable.

The beheaded pink panther is making a showing here naturally due to the unit failing. The protection circuit should have saved this product but it did not. Likely it doesn't look to the power supply getting overburdened. Now I have to figure how to get this unit serviced. If they tell me to ship it to them at my expense, that will be the end of this journey as it wouldn't be worth the cost or aggravation. We do have a Sony repair center about 40 miles from here but who wants to drive back and forth and wait for who knows how long to get this fixed?

Of course, I waited months to test this so can't return it to Amazon where I bought it.

I suspect none of you will stress it to the extent I did though. As a back up if you drive it hard, you may want to get one of those fan coolers and put it on top.

No recommendation one way or the there. You have the data to decide.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

The "talent" fees are double the usual amount due to the need to hire two panthers for the product shot. So, appreciate you all donating generously so I am not out that fee on top of lost $140 for this amplifier using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Blumlein 88

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#3
Seems like someone at Sony should have investigated the proper fuse value to protect the unit. Mainstream electronic amps seem to be really pitiful one way or another. The unit is cheap I guess. Then again it is one of those units where maybe it simply shouldn't have been made or they should charge another $50 or $100 to make it worth owning.
 

LTig

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#4
AFAIR JA also killed a few boutique power amps with his stress test, one of them costing 100 times of what you payed for the Sony.
 

Herbert

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#5
Amir, you are Audiosciencereview! Sony should be happy to send you another!
But I assume it is still a warranty case.
Very likely that the amp will be scrapped when being returned to Amazon.
So it adds to the pile of electronic waste.
So maybe somebody in your circle of friends might be happy to repair it for his personal use -
putting in some decent power transistors...
 

Cahudson42

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#7
Thanks for the review! AVRs like this at such a low price are always enticing, and pop up over and over in various recommendations. Great to see the facts on them.

Another is the $150 Yamaha R-S202BL.. Maybe one day do this?

Also the Onkyo TX-RZ820, currently Amazon at $399:
Onkyo TX-RZ820 THX-Certified 7.2-Channel 4K Network A/V Receiver https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071VF518B/

And,of course, the Yamaha as301 at $349...

I have come to the conclusion that 'one size does not fit all' and AVR units for Home Theater are one thing, critical listening systems another. Trying to combine both is an expensive exercise in futility..
 

RayDunzl

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#8
Left it to cool overnight but this morning still does not power up. Nothing is smoked in there but there is a smell of burnt varnish which points the finger likely at the power transformer.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #9
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amirm

amirm

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So maybe somebody in your circle of friends might be happy to repair it for his personal use -
I put myself through college repairing hundreds of pieces of electronics from audio to RF (CB and VHF radios) and turntables. And grew up with electronics being my hobby. So I can fix it but don't know if I want to spend the time on it, especially if it is the transformer that has gone bad. It has a two year warranty so I am kind of interesting to see what Sony will do about it.
 

garbulky

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#11
Conclusions
Lowing our lofty standards good bit, the Sony STR-DH190 seems to be a good amplifier. It looks nice, has remote, multiple inputs, phono, etc. and produces a lot of power. It is certainly much better than a lot of Internet specials when it comes to amplifiers. What you pay for it gets you headphone amplifier and that is it. The value is therefore remarkable.

The beheaded pink panther is making a showing here naturally due to the unit failing. The protection circuit should have saved this product but it did not. Likely it doesn't look to the power supply getting overburdened. Now I have to figure how to get this unit serviced. If they tell me to ship it to them at my expense, that will be the end of this journey as it wouldn't be worth the cost or aggravation. We do have a Sony repair center about 40 miles from here but who wants to drive back and forth and wait for who knows how long to get this fixed?
I don't think I would be as kind to describe it as a good amplifier. It starts limiting power at 9 watts, and then failed. Imo that is a bad amplifier especially considering it was a new purchase.
 

tktran303

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#13
Amir,

Have you had other amps fail in testing like this?
What do you think is the likelihood that music program material would cause it to fail in a similar way?

Brent Butterworth tested (and listened to) this amp and rates it favourably; at least in relation other stereo receivers on the market for general public consumption (~US$200).

It’s not going to win any awards Product of the Year awards. But it’s priced fairly.

There are products that have lower power, poorer build, but more distortion, and channel imbalance and price!

If it didn’t go kaput, I think on the value stakes are pretty high...
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #14
Amir,

Have you had other amps fail in testing like this?
Yes, blew up the power supply in another amplifier by running it continuously near max power for a few minutes.
 
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amirm

amirm

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What do you think is the likelihood that music program material would cause it to fail in a similar way?
I don't think it is very likely and hence the reason for the second panther with its head still on. :) I do however recommend a fan on this if you listen at any elevated levels.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Willem

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#19
Given that it sells for a song, this is not that bad I think. I notice that it is the successor to the STR-DH 130 which was rather heavier, probably because it had a beefier power supply.
Even so, I think the a little bit more expensive Yamaha AS301 (265 euro in the Netherlands) would be a better buy at the budget end, if only because it also has digital inputs, so you save on the cost of a DAC.
 
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