Sony currently has one of its strongest ever collections of AV receivers. The STR-DG710 sits near the bottom of the range; a 6.1-channel receiver lacking many of the features - multiroom, multichannel analogue inputs for example - of bigger Sony beasts.

Back in black

Style-wise, the all-black unit is a bit of a throwback to the brand's amps of the 90s. It's also available in silver, though the current trend towards black means only squares would want one of those...

The build-quality is better than average, but the scarily empty rear panel provides an indication of the receiver's budget status. For instance, there's no six-channel analogue inputs for SACD or DVD-Audio sources., and the speaker terminals are of the spring clip variety. Still, there are two HDMI inputs, which will take PCM, DD or DTS soundtracks from DVD and Blu-ray/HD DVD players, and one output capable of passing 1080p material.

A Digital Media (DM) port allows connection of portable audio/video devices, like an iPod or mobile phone. Auto calibration, using a supplied mic, makes system setup child's play. There's no onscreen menu system, but setup menus are easy to navigate using the receiver's display panel.

In terms of performance, it's apparent from the start that the STR-DG710 is a capable receiver. It happily drives full-range floorstanding speaker systems or satellite speaker systems with equal agility. Surround sound performance is expertly conveyed - with the DVD soundtrack of 300, sound staging is excellent and FX are moved around the room with a sense of dynamism.

Am I bothered?

There's plenty of competition at the low end of the receiver market, and this Sony is a bit short on connections and facilities when compared to rivals. Its above-average audio performance makes it a safe, if unexciting, buy, but there's too much missing here to warrant a recommendation.