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Battle of the Sonys: TA-E9000ES vs. STR-DA4ES

by Steve DellaSala January 14, 2003
The Competitors

The Competitors

Since 1995, The Sony TA-E9000ES has held it’s ground as one of the best, most complete, Digital 5.1 Processors on the market for under $2k. Today, it continues to be sought after by some of the most refined Audioholic’s who seek something more than the norm in their Processor. The sad news for these elite supporters, is Sony’s announcement ending Software development for this powerhouse. Furthermore, Sony has no plans for developing a new Digital 6.1/7.1 Processor in the future. Since the TA-E9000ES does not have 6-channel inputs or DTS-96/24, those who have it, or are looking to buy one, are out of luck when it comes to the fast pace, growing formats such as DVD-Audio, SACD and a new, upcoming DTS Movie Sound Format. There is a Sony TA-P9000ES 5.1 Pre-Amplifier available that offers TA-E9000ES users 6-channel inputs, but Audioholics has not had an opportunity to review this unit yet. Stay tuned for a future review of this unit.

sony_TA-E9000ES2 So what alternatives do we have as we look for a complete Processor without software flaws or bugs, as typical with many US and/or Canada made Processors, and at an economical $2k or under price tag? Gene (GDS) recently found that many of the new Processors available through Outlaw, Sherbourn and Atlantic Technologies, are actually clones of the same Korean made unit, but with different front panels. Without getting into the details in this article, it would not be my first choice of Processor. My guess is that some may actually consider the processing power of a Receiver. Yes, that’s correct, a Receiver. Realizing that most Receivers in the $1k to $2k price range do not have sufficient amplification to satisfy many high end Speakers, but they do offer the processing options and completeness that those who prefer affordable separates are seeking after. One such example is the new family of Receivers from Sony, including the STR-DA4ES and the STR-DA7ES. These Receivers recently replaced the STR-DA5ES and lists at a price of $1,100 and $2,300 respectively. Both come with all the latest software decoding, 64-Bit processor, and a host of DSP Modes as well as Pro-logic II (music and movie) and DTS-Neo (music and movie). With its 6-channel inputs, they are equipped to handle DVD-Audio and SACD as well as having 6 channel outputs for connecting to any powered Amplifiers. With all this to offer in a complete package, it’s tempting to consider purchasing one of these Receivers to use as a Processor / Pre-Amplifier with whatever high current Amplifier(s) you wish. In addition, most users with mid-price and mid-range speakers, will even consider these two units as their primary Receiver for their Home Theater System.  Prior to making such a leap of faith and replacing a Sony TA-E9000ES Processor or using the Sony 4ES or 7ES Receiver, it is helpful to have a better understanding of these units.

Being a Sony TA-E9000ES owner and user for two years, it’s hard for me to consider the idea of replacing such an awesome unit with an ordinary Receiver just to obtain 6-channel inputs, a Tuner, and the ability to acquire and play the latest formats. Before charging ahead, I thought it be beneficial to have the two units (TA-E9000ES and STR-DA4ES) in a side-by-side battle. I must point out up front that this article currently focuses on the STR-DA4ES as a point of comparison. As of now, Audioholic’s understanding of the STR-DA7ES is that it has a larger power supply, and a more expensive remote control, but the pre-amp and processor are the same. On that note, it is safe to say that the technical information presented about the 4ES holds true for the 7ES. Another key element about this review is that the STR-DA4ES was tested as a Processor only. Both the TA-E9000ES and the STR-DA4ES were set up with the same 5-channel amplifier for comparing sound quality.


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