I bought this preamp in 2003, I paid 6000 euros for it, its constrution is only comparable to the very best, but despite this, I mainly use my TA-N(80ES gold, because the latter sounds better to me with my power amplifiers, maybe this is a question of sinergy, the low impedance of 600 ohms is somethig for wich the TA-E80ES was designed to drive, so in the end, one ítem much more cheaper, can sound better (to me) under the right circuntances. After many years of being an audiophile, I can only say for sure, that 2 plus 2 in HI-FI, doesn't have to result 4.
I could go on and on about this preamp -- I will not since my fellow audiophiles here on audioreview.com have already written such excellent reviews about this piece. I can only write to say that they are correct. I am so pleased with this preamp that my written words here could not begin to express how great this unit really is. I would have NEVER imagined that I would sell my Krell KRC-HR for this preamp, but I am so glad I did. I can honestly write that if you use this preamp with the Sony SCD-1 you will never upgrade again! Thank you to the engineers at Sony Corp. for a job well done.
Wow! I saw the pre-amp on display and was mesmerized by its cool looks and outstanding construction. It sounded pretty good also and I had to buy it. This is one heavy piece (about 50lbs) and beautifully made. Absolutely gorgeous. I disconnected my Krell KRC-3 and plugged this in my seestem (M-L SL3's, Parasound AMP, Sony 9000 DVD/SACD, Straightwire speaker cables and Audioquest interconnects). Atta Boy! What a sweet irresistible sound/music- so clear, pristine and refined. I cannot beleive how a mere pre-amp can make the whole chain perform so much better. Folks- believe me when I say the Sony TAE-1 "creamed" the KRC-3. No contest. I also had on hand the BAT-VK20 which had just been bested by the KRC-3.
Construction/Use: The two large knobs (selector and volume) have the requisite feel and weight and are a joy to use. There are enough inputs (about 7-9 line ONLY) to handle all your sources. I wish they had 5.1ch input for SACD though but this was made pre- multichannel sacd. This preamp is a keeper.
Sony fans and non-anti-Sony audiophiles, I'm coming out of the closet. I'm probably the only consumer that actually bought one of these. I have a really low numbered serial number. Plus I can claim to have the first public review and hanging for all those so called audiophiles who use all that technical jargon but who don't really know what the heck are all those measurements and graphs mean unless offcourse your an engineer.
Before I continue, you need to know that I'm in R&D electronics (DSP and electrical) so I have to applaud and appreciate SONY's effort with this PreAMP. I'm not your average audiophile either, more of an extremist.
My review is simple and high-level, this is I personally appreciate the natural and transparent sound you get out of this preamp.
It has two large dials; one selector and the volume control the three buttons in front and has just enough selections to connect your ultra-hifi gear. It's idiot proof, simple and well engineered. Built to break your back cause its heavy and not to forget break your wallet too!
No digital (co-ax or glass) this preamp was made for those who want warm, natural, transparnt and open sound quality. Musicality and Sound stage is very smoooooth, crisp and extreemly accurate, especially if you have SCD-1 (and I do) but then again, this was engineered to match the SCD-1 performance.
No remote, so you have to push buttons and turn selector to desired source. Lots of expensive manufacturing and ultra high quality materials for-sure. The power on button détente you really have to push it in solid. Would be nice if it had remote Volume control but, I'm not lazy or and into high performance.
If you believe less is more (with the exception of the price of this unit) this preamp will do justice. I compared it to the Marklevinsons, BAT, Krell CAST etc... similar price range if not evern higher. The TAE1 SONY is matched for any of the ultra-hifi on the market today..
If you're somewhat of an artist, you'll appreciate the lines and design of this SONY line. It makes a conversation piece specially when it's matched with the SCD-1. Looks and sounds great. oh, I forgot the SSM9ED's look pretty sharp with that paino black finish and its unusual design. What more can you ask for?
Here's a high level rundown of what I compared it to: I did it in a controlled lab environment and also in my home but treated listening environment. Helps to have a friend who's an acoustisionist (can't spell) acoustical engineer..ah better....to help design your audio room plus access to lots of sound engineering software and electronic measuring devices.
Sorry to disappoint you folks, I'm married to a beautify lady, I'm a total Jock, do extreem sports, snow board, cyclist, camper, outdoors, climber etc... So, I'm not your average engineer. I'm pretty cool and down to earth. not to forget pretty handsome... pretty funny huh, thought I would throw that in to break the ice.
Con't....high level review
AMP: this counts!!! TUBES and SOLID STATEs, Stereo's and mono's KRELL FBP3's mono and High end Stereo, Macintosh, Mark Levinson Ref. ,Mono Classe, Audio Research Mono's, PASS X600's X350's.
PASSLAB by far was the overall performer. Best have the power source to power these babies up and 20-amp plug and service. PASS by far gave the best sound over all neutral and natural end to end. All I have to say is WOW!!! X600 if you have the money, X350 still a hurts the pocket book and depending on your speakers be careful not to fry them with all this power and don't let the POS and NEG touch either!!! You can arcweld with any of these. By the way, have really clean power. Filtered, treated, DC voltage, do ripple measurements.
Cables used: varied to many to list but only used cables that were in the category of "REFERENCE". the "ULTRA-HIGH" end. As an engineer, there is truth to what these cable manufactures claim with regard to design and materials used. not to forget shielding. Gold, Silver, Solid, Stranded, twisted, best ones are patented and proprietary<-love that one. I have access to electronic measuring devices and a professional sound room that meets ITU P.800 specs with adjustable room acoustics by means of adding or removing sound panels in short a sophisticated room that was 25'x15'and sound measurement devices and sensitive electrical measurement devices.
Cables can and do make a difference but, you don't need to spend a bazillion dollars on cables, save the money and take a vacation instead or buy gold or sterling silver ingots and save it for a rainy day or for your kids college.
Transparent , Cardas, Nordst, Harmonic Tech, Siltech, Kimber SilverSelect Silver, gold, oval etc.. Each did make a difference between the Highs, Mids and Bass but again this is all personal preference to the listener. I ended up with the Siltech line. Why, well engineered, construction and the real truth I got a big discount cause I tooled my entire system with it. I hope to melt then down later incase I loose my job or something.... also, I auditioned the non-mass marketed cable manufactures like LAT Int. Horizon Cable and others, these performed just as good as the high dollar cables so save the money if you can and don't waste it like me.
Speakers auditioned: Martin Logans, BW, REVEL, Magana's, Krell. in short all the ultra expensive speakers near or above the $10K price. Crazy and to your surprise, I gave in and purchased the matching SSM9ED. Didn't pay full price, that's why I bought it, besides they look really cool, they have an unusual but nice design and height they are well constructed too and are backbreakers. Not to forget, these speakers were designed by another well know speaker designer, besides like I've been saying all along, its a listeners preference...search Sterophile for the review on the original SSM9's got real good reviews a surprise to many!! So keep in mind that the speakers were not not really SONY's they just slapped their name on it.
Engineers are known to neither be expressive nor spell well or write like doctors. Scary thing isn't it, but the Geeks and Nerds now a days aren't scared to admit they are Geeks or Nerds. They do make the equipment you have and improve(or complicated)our lives. If it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be this many selections and we would have so much fun.
Comment: It's too bad many of high end audio dealers are snobish and under estimate their customers and worse of all, give Sony such bad press, funny though, many times, for the average and above average audio enthusiast (who are wise with their expenses) are turned towards the SONY ES line (or others like ROTEL, ADCOM, B&K , ARCAM, etc.. . )
So then I ask, why then sell it in these "entry" level gear and treat the customers as if they can only afford the mass marketed equipment? Honest reply I ever got, to keep their doors open because there are probably about 3% of the world's population that would dish out this kinda of capital.
As for me it's just an expensive hobby and I really enjoy music, BTW, I play the PIANO, lots of classicals, Motzart, Chopin, Rac-man-n-off, I also play the SAX, Clarinet, Oboe, Trumpet, drums. I almost feel like I was raised like the dude on the show "Pretender" Jarred... funny.. you only live once so don't sell yourself short and have fun with what ever you do.
Anyway I thought I would put a review out there for fun. Hope someone who claims they are an audiophile and has this PreAMP will now come out of the closet.