OK, my review is on the older version of the 940 amp, but I'm led to believe that the differences between the versions are mainly cosmetic. I purchased my amp in 1999 from my local Sony Centre for the "reduced" price as-was-then of £495. It had only just been released, and I had to wait some weeks before my silver-ordered unit was delivered. They "loaned" me a black version while I waited - a shop display unit, and tried to fob me off about me ordered silver unit, I think they wanted to pocket some cash by offloading their display model, and saving money on what was a more expensive silver finish. Anyway, I kicked enough stink to finally get my silver unit some 5 months later. All that aside, I have been extremely pleased with this unit. I am someone who gets bored of hi-fi very quickly, and most of my components only last 12-15 months in my house before they get replaced with newer, more advanced components. Yet this amp has been around nearly 4 years, and I'm still not seriously considering replacing it. Why? Well because it is simply stunning. In the past, I have had technics, yamaha, denon and marantz combined amp/home theatre setups, and none have been able to offer so much punch when watching movies, yet show supreme musical control when playing CDs or tapes as this unit. Having said that, it is a git to get set up initially. The menu system is complicated, and it takes a lot of experimentation, trial and error to work out the best bass/trebble/midrange settings. I am not an audio pureist who leaves these settings untouched, although there is a handy tonal control by-pass setting, if you need to turn off that at any time. Also, the computer control centre allows you to set the positioning and sizing of your speakers, so that it can decode the signals, and weight the sound and delay based on what you input. Again - a pain in the bum to set up, but once it's right, it's breathtaking
. The sony implementation of the Dolby Digital decoder is awesome. The construction of the unit is solid to say the least. Every time I move the unit, I am surprised by how heavy it is, and the solid metal fascia inspires confidence everytime you touch it. The controls, again, feel very well constructed. The remote control is a law unto itself. I spent many an unhappy hour trying to figure out how it works, and now I just use it to turn the volume up and down! It can be all things to all men, and can control your dvd, tv, cd, coffee maker, and can iron your washing if you can work your way through the menu, and put in the right control codes - sadly I couldn't. As I said, this unit has been superceded, but not by much, the current sony models are still based on the same technology as far as I can see - and if they're better than what I have, then you will be very impressed!
Knowing precious little about the whole Home Cinema thing, I started by reading around the subject to try and decide what I needed/wanted (on the Internet and in magazines). After a few weeks of research I decided what I wanted was an amplifier with a built in Dolby Digital decoder and an RDS receiver. Which in itself is a fairly short list of features. That's just the essentials though. Extra points would be awarded for DTS decoding, number of inputs, expansion/future-proofing options, price and last but by no means least, style. It was a pretty close run thing between the Kenwood 7030D and the Sony DB940. Both offered the features I was looking for; Dolby/DTS decoding, RDS receiver, DVD, TV and 3 auxiliary AV inputs along with all the usual Hi-Fi connectors, optical and coaxial digital inputs etc, etc. And the Kenwood was cheaper than the Sony. Ultimately, however, I ended up buying the Sony. The reason for this was two-fold. Kenwood had announced that the 7030D was end-of-life and I couldn't find one anywhere, for love nor money. If I had, I would probably have got one. But in my search I happened across a Sony dealer that told me the STR-DB940 was going to be end-of-life imminently and was offering a substantial (read £150) discount. Suffice to say I bought it. When I got it home and wrestled it out of the polystyrene packaging I was bewildered by the array of plugs, connectors, sockets and switches on the thing. This was one wiring job that I would definitely have to sit down and read the manual before attempting. For a piece of equipment as capable as this, the manual is surprisingly thin; "almost worryingly thin" I thought as I pulled it from the plastic bag. My fears were, I am pleased to say, completely unfounded, as the manual was incredibly easy to follow, line drawings with numbered keys telling me everything I needed to know for starters. At this point, a word of advice. Once you've bought an amplifier,
read through the manuals and work out what cables you need, then go out and buy them. All of them. It's an absolute nightmare scrabbling round the back of this thing trying to add/remove things when 80% of all your wires are in place. 30 minutes and a pile of speaker cable off-cuts later and I was all cabled up and ready to go. Powering the unit on illuminated the front display and got things going. First off, I had to tell it how many speakers were connected, how big and how far from my favorite listening position each pair was located. This done, a test-tone was played from each speaker in turn, allowing me to fine-tune the output from each pair, ensuring the most realistic sound-stage possible. And that was it. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty more configuration options, but it was the minimum amount of work I needed to do before I could settle back and enjoy my first 5.1 surround-sound DVD. And what a difference it made! For my first full-on dolby-digital 5.1 surround sound experience at home, I opted for The Matrix. Maybe not the best reference DVD around, but incredibly good fun and made all the better by 5.1 channels of sound! Bullets whizzed around the room, helicopter blades thudded about the place and explosions filled the whole house with sound! I no longer 'watch' a DVD, it?s much more than visual. Not having had a dolby decoder before the Sony, it's hard to compare it but the 5 separate channels are noticeable and incredibly well defined. The bass notes are rich and 'meaty' whilst the high notes (breaking glass, screams etc) are incredibly sharp. I can't say there's a massive difference between Dolby 5.1 and DTS, but that is probably as much down to my hearing as anything else. What about the other features on offer? The unit comes with Sony's top-of-the-range remote control, which comes pre-programmed with the controls for hundreds of other vendor's e
quipment (a lot like one of these 'All-in-One' jobbies). Programming it to recognize my TV/DVD player was simple, the cable TV box (a Pace box supplied by Telewest), unfortunately, wasn't recognized. On the up-side, the remote can also record signals from other handsets, allowing you to set it up to do virtually anything any of your other remotes can. If only it were so simple though. I still have half a dozen remotes sitting on the arm of the sofa(!), and they all get used throughout a normal week. Maybe if I spent more time setting up my 'learning' remote I could ditch a few, but adding new functions/setting up new devices is awkward. On the front of the amp there is a flip-down panel that reveals a whole host of buttons and dials that are used to further configure the unit, from tuning in the radio to any number of other features. All useful, but rarely used so it's nice that they are hidden. Also behind this panel is a set of AV connectors for AV-Input 3 which come in handy for plugging in things like camcorders. The front display shows you everything you need to know, and dims itself after 5-10 seconds. There's a huge, bright blue light that comes on whenever the unit is fed a Dolby-Digital or DTS signal to decode which is a bit off-putting at first but again, it dims after a few seconds. The only time you really notice it is when a DVD changes layers the amp gets sent a new digital signal and so all the lights come on again, in the middle of the film. The RDS receiver is fine, providing all the usual RDS EON functions like Station information, Traffic Announce, and station type. I still find tuning in radio stations to be a pain but mainly because I haven't bothered to set up many preset stations. The Digital Signal Processing is excellent, allowing you to simulate all manner of environments ranging from Jazz Clubs, to Churches and Stadiums. How often you actually use them is another thing. Pr
obably only when you're showing off to someone and ask them if they've ever heard the news being read in a church? Impressive? Yes. Useful? Not very, but it does come in handy for PS2 games where you can create pseudo-surround sound and take full advantage of all 5 speakers. So 6 months on, am I happy with it? Oh yes. For the £350 I paid, it more than meets my requirements. But it is end-of-life now, so you shouldn't be paying the £500 list that it was 6 months ago.
Having being thoroughly impressed with surround sound through the use of my Sony Pro-Logic decoder I was hesitant to move to full blown Dolby Digital. Would the addition of rear stereo really make the difference? Well when the local Hi Fi shop knocked the price down to £345 from the usual £500 I just had to give this unit a go. Does it make a difference! The answer is a resounding yes! Not only does rear stereo bring the movie to life the unit adds clarity, power and a multitude of surround effects. Throw in a 2 way remote and you have a very refined and user friendly system. Even with basic surround speakers this Sony AV Amp works wonders. Dial in if the speakers are small or large for Center, front and rears, even choosing the distance they are from the viewer/listner and the system will adjust the output from each channel. I highly recommend this unit. But be warned. You will want to watch your entire DVD collection all over again! Hmmm... time for Apollo 13 I think! Rich