Pros: Good sound, reasonably easy set up, good set of features
Cons: Poor reliability, no 5.1 inputs for SACD, lousy remote control
I bought a Sony STR-DA50ES receiver in March, 1998 from an authorized online dealer. The unit retailed for $1000, and I was able to obtain it for $625 (delivered) .. a very nice deal. Before I bought it, I read reviews of the product, and the story was quite consistent - superb sound, with a less than perfect two-way remote control. Since I planned to use the unit with my own learning remote, I decided that this was the receiver I should have in my home theatre.
Set up of the unit was not particularly difficult. I was placing the unit in a nice home entertainment cabinet, so I had the ordinary difficulty you might anticipate with any unit getting things hooked up, but this really was not a Sony issue. I used Cambridge Soundworks "wife friendly" sat speakers and a 15 inch subwoofer. Other components hooked up included a Sony 36XBR200 television, two good quality hi-fi VCR (also Sony), a 300-disc Sony CD changer, a Sony ES dual-deck audio cassette unit, a Sony DVD/SACDplayer, and a Harmon Kardon audio CD dubbing deck. The remote I selected was the Sony AV-2100.
Like most A/V receivers in its class, the ES50 had built-in sound processing, to simulate various environments such as a stadium, a church, a jazz club, etc. I actually liked the processing that reproduced various Sony screening cinemas. Purists might skip the processing, and just listen to their movies and music "in the raw", without processing. I should clearly state that I am hardly an audiophile with golden ears, but overall, I was very happy with the quality of sound both when watching movies (especially DTS), and when using the unit for listening to music. The unit was being used in our family room, and we had it on every day. It never had any trouble - as far as I could tell.
About two weeks ago, my wife told me that this receiver would not power up. As an engineer, my first guess was that the power strip that held the unit was powered off. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the unit really was dead. Sony ES units carried 5 year warranties, so I was no longer covered for my repair expenses. I called Sony, and was told that I could ship my 45 pound plus unit from my home in California, to a facility in Texas, at my own expense, and with an initial payment of $210, and they would send a repair estimate. My other option was a local authorized repair facility, which would diagnose the unit for $70. I choose the latter option.
Yesterday, I heard back from the repair facility, and the news was not good. The technician reported that he found burnouts on at least 5 circuit boards, and he estimated the cost of repair at about $425. In the past, my experiences with Sony equipment were much better. A small (12 inch) Sony television purchased in 1980 (for about $400!) continues to show my daughter her Dora and Blues Clues videos in her bedroom. Much as I did not want to purchase a new receiver, spending $425 on a 6 year old unit that was purchased for about $625 .. with a definite possibility that more burn would take place .. it just did not make sense. So, I told the technician to junk the unit.
Until the unit failed, I would not have hesitated to recommend it. I really enjoyed it both for home theatre and for listening to music of all types. But, given its abrupt and totally unexpected collapse, after being carefully handled consistently, my overall opnion of the unit is sharply reduced. I guess Sony ES is not as good as I thought it is.