I talked to Sony ES today. The site says the HEIGHT 2 speaker terminals used for 11 channel ATMOS can be used by assigning it to any unused internal amp. I had done just this on my Denon 4300. I have very power hungry speakers and therefore the 130W that this receiver offers isn't near enough power for my front main speakers, so I have an external amplifier for the front mains. This means the front internal amp on the 5000ES isn't being used by me and I should therefore go into the setup and assign HEIGHT 2 to use the front main internal amp. This is exactly what I did on my Denon and it worked like a piece of cake. The 5000ES receiver on the back of the HEIGHT 2 speaker terminals even says the word (assignable). After calling Sony ES, it's sort of an OOPSY and sort of a lie as well! Technically if you aren't using surround back speakers, you can somehow assign that section of the amp to HEIGHT 2. Though if you want an ATMOS setup, you'll need the surround back speakers, so of course you won't be able to use the surround back's internal amp for the HEIGHT 2 speaker terminals. Therefore the HEIGHT 2 is therefore NOT assignable and those speaker terminals are worthless as you'll need an external amp to plug into the HEIGHT 2 pre-out and you'll plug the speakers into the external amp, not the flagship 5000ES. So, unlike the advertising of this receiver, if you want ATMOS and you use an external amp to drive your main speakers, you'll need TWO external amplifiers!! So a feature in my Denon that was half the cost, doesn't work on the flagship Sony ES. VERY DISAPPOINTED as far as that goes.
Next, the sound on my two year old STR-ZA3000ES was very impressive and the DCAC calibration system was a breeze. When I unboxed the 5000ES I was expecting better than the 3000ES, but it's just the same. The magnetic door has pegs in addition to the magnets. It makes installing and removing the front door panel almost impossible. I put the door flap on and I had to use a butter knife to pry it back off! What was wrong with just leaving it be a magnetic door? Remote is the same cheap remote that the overpriced 3000ES had. I complained to Sony about the 3000ES remote being so cheap, but the flagship model using the SAME remote is even more embarrassing. Running the DCAC EX gave wild results. I had to run it as a 7 channel system while I search for another external 2 channel amp just to run a pair of small ATMOS speakers. But I ran DCAC EX and it sounded terrible. I did A LOT of tweaking, only where it let me (frustrating) and it still sounded terrible. I have FOUR powered subwoofers. My Denon calibration system controlled TWO subs. The Sony ES flagship has two inputs for subwoofers but it only controls ONE. Another disappointment for a flagship receiver. Now how would I expect DCAC EX to calibrate four subwoofers? I don't. I powered off the back two subwoofers and then ran DCAC EX. After the setup was complete, I turned on all four of my subwoofers and tried some music and there just was hardly any bass at all! I have four Power Sound Audio V1801 subwoofers with 18" woofers each and I had the gains set on the subs to 90% and they had next to no bass! To achieve decent bass, I had to turn the gain up to +10 MAX and even that wasn't enough bass. So, I ran the DCAC EX again! This time I had the calibration ask me that famous last question that everyone says to say no to, and I said YES to the question. And with that, I had more bass. Still, I have my subs turned to 90% gain which is dangerous in my opinion and the gain set to +5. Now I have bass, but it's sloppy. When listening to MUSIC on A.F.D. Auto Format Direct mode, two channel plus subs, this is what I needed to set my settings at to achieve acceptable bass. But in certain frequencies of bass, the sounds were very sloppy and overemphasized. In other words, some bass notes needed more volume and some bass notes needed less volume. So, IMO the DCAC EX did a terrible job. And this receiver boasts having a 31 band equalizer but you can't see those results on the screen and you can't adjust them. You can adjust bass and treble, but not individual bands. I had to add treble into my front mains, and so I have great highs, but midrange is lacking. My reason that I gave up on Denon was because there was no way to add in high frequencies and now I had that challenge fixed, but the Denon had better midrange with Audyssey and Audyssey DEFINITELY manages bass in regards to subwoofer management, MUCH better.
So, overall, my opinion of the 5000ES is not as high as I would've liked it to be. Now full disclosure.....I bought TWO of these 5000ES receivers. One was new in the box and one was refurbished. I got the brand new unit in box for a three digit price beginning in 9. I then forgot about a low ball bid that I left on a refurbished unit. I won the refurbished unit also at a three digit price beginning with a 6. I've setup the brand new unit. I've tested the refurbished unit and it works fine and looks perfect. I got my last receiver, a Denon X4300H, for a three digit price beginning in 9. So, I'm not comparing the receiver to a 3000 price range receiver. It's not worth the MSRP. I expected better sound with the 5000ES compared to my 3000ES that I also still currently have. I am using the same speakers and same external amplifier that I did on the 3000ES and so I was expecting better results. I am getting worse results than the 3000ES and it has to be due to the new DCAC EX compared to the regular DCAC. I will say I think it is a good receiver on some levels. At least you can adjust bass and treble unlike the Denon. I also like the GUI but it has some things on there that just don't work or serve any purpose. FOR EXAMPLE. Under speaker settings there is a whole section devoted to speaker connections. It will show you what speakers you have and will show you where on the receiver they are connected. It shows my Front L and Front R speakers as being plugged into the back on the receiver in the "FRONT" terminals. They are NOT. They are connected into my external amplifier's back. If Sony went through the process to make this graphic, they should at least make it correct. And, they should allow you, right on that graphic, to SELECT that you are NOT using the Front speaker terminals so that the front speaker amp can then be used on the HEIGHT 2 setting, like Denon easily has done.
After multiple attempts of running the DCAC EX and many many settings corrections and tweaks. I finally got it to sound good enough, though far from perfect, for MUSIC. But then I put on a movie and it handles BASS so much more different. So I had to change tons of settings just to get it to sound average for MOVIES. My Denon receiver sounded far better on movies but just not as well on the high frequencies on music. I am HOPING that I can setup custom presets and have one for music and one for movies. I know that is possible, but I don't know if you are limited on what you can change. For example, to get my 5000ES to sound decent on movies, I have to change tone settings, I have to change levels on multiple speakers and especially subwoofers, and change audio settings as well. I don't know if the custom presets can be set with all of those settings yet. I still have that to try.
Right now I am dealing with another issue. This particular issue that I am having has to do with A.F.D. This made my remember the one thing I hated about my Sony 3000ES. The receiver is supposed to be able to automatically determine the surround sound format and play it automatically. I have a Sony 4K HDTV and I have a 4K media server and a FireStick running on the TV. Even though I am watching 5.1channel formats, the receiver's A.F.D. only detects it as 2 channel for some reason. Under "Input Settings", under TV it says OPT2. But I am using ARC. Under inputs, TV, I turned off OPT2, which then turned turned off ARC with HDMI. And when OPT2 for TV input is turned off, ANALOG turns on by default. So, I've tried running an optical cable from the TV to the receiver just to get basic 5.1 sound but it doesn't work. And with no optical cable and ARC HDMI turned on, I get audio but it's only 2 channel. I thought it could be the TV settings but it's not. So, I haven't had time yet to find another expensive external amplifier, or two of them since I now own 2 of the 5000ES. I'm sure I'll figure things out one at a time.
All in all, I am not sure exactly at this early time, what I think of the receiver. It's definitely lacking in some major ways for a flagship receiver. I see no benefit over the 3000ES, now 3100ES. Since it doesn't actually have assignable speaker inputs, if you want to use an external amp for your main expensive speakers, you'll be stuck with a 7 channel receiver. I noticed no better quality in the 5000ES vs 3000ES. The door flap is worse and the mic calibration setup IMO isn't as good. And therefore the sound on the 5000ES isn't any better than the 3000ES and in fact, I still can't get it to sound as good. There are a few more options in the GUI, and that isn't good. Most of them aren't needed or can't be used anyways. For a 2000 or 3000 priced receiver I just don't see the value. For a three digit price, then maybe it's worth that. I'm thinking now of comparing it with my Denon X4300H, due to my Denon being a three digit priced receiver before taxes. But the 5000ES should be in a different league, shouldn't it? If I could get some high frequency sound into my Denon, I'd stick with that I think. But I've tried everything to make the Denon sound good with both bass and treble and it's either one way or the other. I even paid for a $20 app that let's you tweak the Audyssey results to curve up the high frequency, but it locks up and doesn't transfer, as most users said it wouldn't work.
In this particular part of the times, our choices are becoming more limited I feel. Remember when Best Buy, not Magnolia, but all Best Buy stores had a speaker department with tons of speaker options? And they had tons of receivers and components. Now my local Best Buy has no preview room at all. They sell Polk and Klipsch speakers that aren't even hooked up. They only sell the most basic cheap receivers. What happened to all the competition? Why isn't there a perfect receiver solution?
I've owned and tested Pioneer Elite and they sounded good but were just so buggy. But now they sound terrible. When I reviewed a Pioneer Elite and it just didn't sound right, I was then told it was made and now owned by Onkyo. And Onkyo went down the drain and just recently have been trying to get back. Harmon Kardon went down the drain. They used to make an amazing receiver. Denon and Marantz are basically the same and you either love them or hate them. I can't stand the tiny display on the Marantz receivers. Honestly the 5000ES display screen isn't that nice either. Denon receivers have a nice display but their feature packed receivers have features that have many issues. Now Sony ES seems to be going up in price and down in quality. My favorite "sounding" receiver has been sold and now are terrible and that is NAD. They are having HUGE firmware issues right now and they are having Dirac mic calibration issues as well. We can blame whatever we want to. I blame Audyssey and once Audyssey was out there, all the other companies either adopted Audyssey or made their own version, be it YPAO or MCACC or AccuPhase or Dirac or DCAC/DCAC EX. My best receivers all had a bass knob and treble knob. No fancy mic calibration. Think that mic calibration is better? McIntosh doesn't think so. I want my old Harman Kardon Flagship to have HDMI but obviously it doesn't. I want my old NAD receiver and miss that pure sound. What has happened to receivers? So honestly, even though I am disappointed in the 5000ES, I can't think of anything better, in a receiver anyways. And I don't want to get a pre/pro setup even though I have an external amp. I don't want to have to buy individual amps for 11 channels! And I want ATMOS and DTS:X and all of that in one package. But I am getting frustrated with the options. I hope Sony improves, especially with the DCAC EX. Sometimes if it isn't broken, don't fix it!