Review of the Sony STR-DG820 AV Receiver

Every once in a while an amplifier comes along that achieves a legendary status in their market place. The Sony STR-DB940 and more recently the Onkyo 605 are great examples. The Sony STR-DG820 has a performance and set of features that initially makes you look twice at the price – does this mean the Sony DG820 is a legend in the making?

Sony STR-DG820 AV Receiver

When taking the STR-DG820 out of the box for the first time, it is easy to see how the very competitive price has been achieved. The unit weights a little lighter than we were expecting, and the build quality whilst perfectly adequate is not in the bulletproof category. Looking at the Sony 820 you will either be disappointed by its simple looking design, or delighted by it – its clean lines and well placed knobs making the often dauting world of separates amplifers seem much more accessible, but this may not appeal to some.

The design and build do make a hint towards its budget price, but this certainly does not tell the full full story of its capabilities. As well as providing the standard requirements of Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, one of the big selling points of the Sony STR-DG820 is the ability to decode Dolby True HD and DTS Master high definition sound. This makes it an ideal amplifier to use as the hub of your system with the ability to accept up four HDMI inputs as well as the usual optical and component.

Whilst the features and build are an important factor in deciding which amplifier to go for, the performance is always going to make or break your decision. Fortunately, the Sony STR-DG820 doesn’t disappoint in this area, it positively excels. Performance from the amplifier is powerful and controlled and whilst its not up with the best, for the price it is very impressive giving a quality of surround sound that will surprise and delight. Even stereo music, a traditional weak point of home cinema amplifiers is enjoyable with the 820. You can also of course connect a suitable digital music player like the Cowon iAudio to the amplifier so you can enjoy your digitally store music too.

Why you should buy the Sony STR-DG820

For the money you’ll pay, the Sony 820 does much more than you could expect of it. The sound is great and all the features you really need are there – it is an easy purchase decision at this price point.

Why you should not buy the Sony STR-DG820

Whilst having four HDMI inputs should be enough for most people, only one HDMI output may be limiting for people who want to run video to two displays (a projector and an LCD for example) as might the lack of multichannel inputs. The unit also lacks an ‘on volume’ setting so if you’ve cranked it up for a loud movie session, make sure you turn the sound down before you turn it off! There have also been some issues with surround sound using a Sky+ HD box with earlier models, but this has now been fixed.


Available in black or silver, the Sony STR-DG820 is a fully featured and great performing high definition amplifier and when combined with a carefully chosen set of speakers will easily outperform many all in one systems for a similar price. A fine purchase.