Review : Sony STRDH190 stereo receiver, Mark Audio, 9horn speaker stands, Element hz cable

Budget Esoterica Review Magazine
January 2021 Issue

Today's system consists of the Sony STRDH190 stereo receiver, Mark Audio Alpair 4 inch full range driver, 9horn speaker stands and Element hz stereo interconnects and coaxial digital cable.

I like to judge a receiver by its ability to play well with a variety of speakers. In that regard the Sony STRDH190 is near the top echelons of the lowly stereo receiver. I tried the Sony with a number of different speakers including some vintage speakers that are hard to get good sound out of. It sounded fine with all of them. What gives the Sony this ability? I think it is because it is a very musical receiver that sounds clean and liquid. I also like the Sony because it is a well balanced receiver. The amp is good, the tuner is good and the phono stage is also good. 

If we open up the top of the receiver we see proprietary capacitors, a generous heat sink as well as an all discrete circuit. 
I think the Sony engineers set out to build an audiophile quality receiver that everyone could afford. There is also a pure direct switch for the purist audiophile. The only drawback is the ubiquitous spring clips speaker terminal that are usually found on cheaper components. The excellent design of the receiver also found its way into the remote, which is just about as user friendly as you can get.  Bravo Sony!

For the DIY crowd out there we have the Mark Audio Alpair 4 inch full range driver. I had a custom built cabinet made for them that are approximately 14 inches high, 5 inches wide and 7 inches deep. The drivers are available from Madisound for around $60 each on sale. If you like this type of speaker and have good woodworking skills you can make yourself a nice pair of speakers for not much money. 

I know audiophiles usually eschew wood speaker stands , but i just happen to like the 9horn 24 inch wood speaker stands.
They weigh 11 pounds per stand and have a capacity of 70 pounds per stand. They are made from MDF wood and PVC veneer that looks like leather. Floor spikes are also included. They sell for $90 and up depending on where you buy them. 

If you need good sounding inexpensive interconnects, Element hz is the answer. $7 for a 1 meter stereo interconnect and half that for a digital coaxial companion. For most people this is all you need. Good build quality and good sound. 

The Mark Audio drivers don't have much bass , but i was able to get "Eminence Front" by the Who thumping a little bit at higher volumes. While listening to "One Life's Enough", i noticed pure and clear vocals with good clarity. Neutrality was also good. The song "Why Did I Fall For That", had a real nice sense of rhythm and timing. "A Man Is A Man" had nice and crisp high frequencies. On the live version of "It's Hard" i heard a musical , lively and rhythmic sound.

If you are a fan of Diana Krall, check out "Stepping Out The Early Recordings" album. Listening to track number two, "Straighten Up And Fly Right", i noticed a good sense of space, good treble energy and the high piano notes were nicely reproduced. The mid range was fairly smooth. The Sony receivers ability with rhythm and timing was once again apparent while listening to the song "Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea". The drum solos were pretty natural sounding. The piano had a slight weight to it. Track number five, "Body And Soul" had a very direct and pure sound. I also noticed good levels of resolution and detail. The piano notes were strong sounding. 

The system i reviewed today made for an excellent entry level stereo system. I think even collectors of vintage receivers would appreciate what the Sony can do. The purity, musicality and liquidity alone makes it an excellent entry level offering. The Mark Audio speaker drivers look cool, sound good and are a good choice for  the DIY audiophile. I love the 9horn speaker stands. They are stylish and will hold a fairly large and heavy speaker without any problems. The top plate is larger and deeper than my other speaker stands. I noticed that cheap interconnects are getting better and better. The Element hz are a strong example of this. It is now possible to put together a nice stereo system without spending too much money.

@honda6 - I just put "It's Hard" on my TT, sat down and clicked on your review. What a coincidence that you used the same album in your review.

Thanks for what you do. Not much attention on the inexpensive end of things.....