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Thread: Sony TAE-1000ESD - Review

  1. #1
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

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    I'm Martin.

    Default Sony TAE-1000ESD - Review




    If youíre under the age of around forty, and youíre reading this, then the year 1989 probably seems like ancient history to you. But, for the rest of us, itís like it was only a couple of months back.

    Letís get our heads together though - it was thirty-five years ago.

    Mobile phones were like bricks, the Soviet Union still existed, and nobody normal had ever even heard of Microsoft.

    The world has moved on of course and, although we have slipped back in a few ways since then (for example we still had supersonic passenger air travel back in Ď89 and we don't anymore), as far as hi-fi goes weíve advanced some distance.

    Havenít we?

    Well, if you asked me that a few months back Iíd probably have said, ĎYes. Yes we have.í But then I stumble across this Sony digital pre-amp that came out in the same year that the Berlin Wall came down, and I have to think again.

    Whilst the UK Hi-Fi scene had a lot of problems in the 1980s, the Japanese were surging ahead, and they were able to turn out some very serious equipment that in many cases has still not been surpassed. And thanks to the under-valued Yen, it wasnít even that expensive. This pre-amp under review cost around £1000 in 1990. About £2.5K today.

    So what makes it so great?

    Feature-wise youíve got everything - except the kitchen sink and an MC phono stage. (It does have an MM stage which I havenít tested).

    There is an 18 bit analogue to digital convertor inside, so all analogue sources connected have their signal digitised. There is no option to bypass, so this is not a pre-amp for the analogue purist. However, they could look for the successor unit to this one, the TAE-2000ESD, which does have a bypass feature.

    Otherwise, if the Technics SL1200 is the Toyota Hilux of turntables, then this Sony is the Nissan Skyline of pre-amplification:

    There are pre-set surround sound settings for concert hall, club, arena etc. These are available for use if you are using the pre-amp in a multi-channel loudspeaker set up, and they are the exact same deal as you get on any A/V receiver.
    I donít think anyone ever seriously uses these things - do they? Still, if you want this then youíve got it.

    There is a fully adjustable and variable dynamic range expander and compressor. Essentially a Ďloudnessí control that works both ways.

    A clipping indicator which lights if either the digital input or the output are clipped (there is both digital and analogue variable attenuators to fix this issue if it happens), and there are three bands of digital parametric EQ.

    The last feature is really the party piece of this pre-amp. Nowadays, you can do parametric digital EQ in software like Roon; and some all in one streamer-DACs and some stand-alone DACs offer this feature too. But back in Ď89 it was new to domestic equipment.

    Essentially, it does the same job as an analogue equaliser, but since it is working digitally no noise or distortion is added, and far more accurate adjustments can be made to the frequency response.

    You set a centre frequency in the area you want to cut or boost, select the amount of cut or boost in 0.1dB steps, and select how broad a frequency band you want to affect either side of your centre frequency by setting the Q factor. A little space-invaders style graph on the display shows the slope of the adjusted FR.

    The most useful application for this is in the low frequencies. Got a big room mode centred on, say, 100Hz? No problem. You can just dial out that boom without wrecking anything else. Unless you have more than three bass peaks, you can get rid of all of them this way. And you can save up to ten different settings Ė if you want to.

    So, why would you get this vintage unit when you can get a modern one that does all this?
    Well, itís the little things that you wonít get on almost any modern device (okay maybe on an Accuphase).

    The (metal) motorized volume control that still physically turns even when you use the remote volume.

    The little green LED embedded into the motorized volume control that lights up when you switch out of stand-by mode, to show you the volume level.
    (Now in the UK we just painted a white stripe on the pot and, yes, that did the job. But that wasnít good enough for your 1980s Japanese. They went the extra mile).

    There are no nasty modern blue LEDS designed to burn out your retinas in low lighting conditions. This unit uses a mix of just green and red LEDS, and an orange text/graph display.

    It has proper ĎJapanese feetí, not those crappy looking rubber studs.

    The remote control is massive, with more buttons than Cadburyís. And itís programmable.
    The flap along the base of the fascia that hides yet more controls is made of metal, not plastic.

    Okay, whatever.

    But the other thing is the sound quality:

    I know what youíre thinking Ė

    ĎItís 1980s digital.í

    ĎItís got all those bells and whistles - that must have subtracted from the budget for the sound.í

    ĎItís a Sony, and theyíre a mid-fi, mass-market brand that never did anything that was properly good.í

    Well, youíre wrong, wrong, wrong. At least, in my experience. This is quite the best pre-amp Iíve ever had here.

    Perhaps, for some obscure technical reason, it is just a really good match for the Krell power amp I am using? I donít know.

    But really, it has everything. Clarity that is shocking at times. Sumptuous instrumental timbre. Deep, tight bass. Yes, the sort of bass with the texture.

    Donít get me wrong, Iím really surprised myself. I bought it thinking that I would have a play about with it for a while, and then relegate it to the TV system. Not a chance now!
    Initially I was a bit disappointed that it sounded a little thin, but just slightly reducing the digital output attenuation from the default setting fixed that.

    With the parametric EQ, I have, after extensive experimentation, settled for only a small cut over the narrowest band centred on 1Khz. (My room is quite large, the speakers donít go that low, so I donít have any bass boom in my room).

    Crossover point from mid to tweeter is at 1.5K on the speakers I use. Not sure what exactly is happening with this, but the improvement was something special. A bit of midrange Ďclatterí disappeared and additional tonality was revealed.
    (Thatís not very clear, I know, but how to describe it? - ĎIt sounded quite a bit betterí will have to do).
    Maybe itís just at the point where the midrange driver is starting to go Ďoffí as it rolls out? Or maybe I just have a peak in my hearing around there? I donít know. Whatever, it works for me.

    Yes, as well as the ADC, inside this unit is a DAC from 1989. Even though it is an 18 bit DAC, itís probably still some distance in specs from the almost technically perfect DACs you can get today for not much money. Happily I donít perceive any substantial differences in DACs, even the ones that cost 5 figures, so this doesnít really matter to me, but your mileage may vary.

    So to sum up - Superb looking and sounding pre-amp. Great build quality. Almost every feature under the sun Ė and it can be had pretty cheap, even for a good one (about £350).

    If youíre needing a pre-amp and are tempted to get something from Hi-Fiís golden age into your system, then itís well worth a punt.

    TAE1000ESD:

    On The Vintage Knob: http://www.thevintageknob.org/sony-TA-E1000ESD.html

    On Hi-Fi Review: https://www.hifi-review.com/153713-s...-e1000esd.html

    On Youtube:



    (Note: As any Sony ES fan kno, the UK models don't have the wooden end cheeks).
    Current Lash Up:

    TEAC VRDS 701T > Sony TAE1000ESD > Krell KSA50S > JM Labs Focal Electra 926.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

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    I'm James.

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    Who is Sergio?
    Main system : VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T / 2M Black / Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Heco Celan GT 702

    Second System : Goldring Lenco GL75 / AT95EX / Pioneer SX590 / Spendor SP2

  3. #3
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

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    I'm Martin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Who is Sergio?
    I don't know. Just some bloke doing videos on Youtube?

    Maybe it's Sergio Tacchini, the greatest sportswear designer ever? Probably not him though.
    Current Lash Up:

    TEAC VRDS 701T > Sony TAE1000ESD > Krell KSA50S > JM Labs Focal Electra 926.

  4. #4
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    Alex_UK is offline Spotify + Facebook Moderator / Chilled-Out Wino and only here for the shilling
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    Great write up Martin, I now think I need one of these in my life but after your review the prices will probably go skywards!
    Alex

    Main System: Digital: HP Laptop/M2Tech Hiface/Logitech Media Server/FLAC; Marantz SA7001 KI Signature SACD Player and other digital stuff into Gatorised Beresford Caiman DAC Vinyl: Garrard 401/SME 3009 SII Improved/Sumiko HS/Nagaoka MP-30
    Amplifier: Rega Brio R. Speakers: Spendor SP1. Cables: Various, mainly Mark Grant.
    Please see "about me" for the rest of my cr@p! Gallery


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  5. #5
    Join Date: Aug 2009

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    I'm Martin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex_UK View Post
    Great write up Martin, I now think I need one of these in my life but after your review the prices will probably go skywards!
    Nah, most people are always after the latest and greatest. I predict that these will stay under the radar.
    Current Lash Up:

    TEAC VRDS 701T > Sony TAE1000ESD > Krell KSA50S > JM Labs Focal Electra 926.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Oct 2012

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    ' This is quite the best pre-amp I’ve ever had here.'

    Wow it must be good, excellent find Martin!
    I love Hendrix for so many reasons. He was so much more than just a blues guitarist - he played damn well any kind of guitar he wanted. In fact I'm not sure if he even played the guitar - he played music. - Stevie Ray Vaughan

  7. #7
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

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    I'm Martin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Firebottle View Post
    ' This is quite the best pre-amp I’ve ever had here.'

    Wow it must be good, excellent find Martin!
    I brought it along to the last NEBO but I think you showed up after it had already had its turn.
    But yes, in my system at least, it's stunning.
    Current Lash Up:

    TEAC VRDS 701T > Sony TAE1000ESD > Krell KSA50S > JM Labs Focal Electra 926.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Jan 2013

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    I'm James.

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    Those were the days when Sony made great products. I bet that would cost £3000-5000 nowadays?
    Main system : VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T / 2M Black / Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Heco Celan GT 702

    Second System : Goldring Lenco GL75 / AT95EX / Pioneer SX590 / Spendor SP2

  9. #9
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

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    I'm Martin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Those were the days when Sony made great products. I bet that would cost £3000-5000 nowadays?
    Strictly by inflation calculator it would be £2.5K - but for various reasons I doubt it would be so inexpensive if made in Japan today. Five grand would be my guess.
    Current Lash Up:

    TEAC VRDS 701T > Sony TAE1000ESD > Krell KSA50S > JM Labs Focal Electra 926.

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