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I never thought I would replace my Sony TAE/TAP combo. I used the TAE for 4 years and the software just kept getting better and better. I was never happy with analog music with the TAE (it does fine with digital input from a CD player though)so I purchased the TAP about 2 years ago for the analog bypass. This improved my system by a lot and I thought I was all set UNTIL Ricky T told me about his Aragon Soundstage he was going to sell for a Stage One.

Ricky was nice enough to send me his Soundstage BEFORE I sold my combo in case I wanted to keep my combo. Suffice to say I have already sold the TAP and the TAE should be right behind. I really like to live with a preamp (or any new piece) for a while before posting thoughts and I've used the Soundstage for about 1 week.

What really sold me on the Soundstage was MUSIC. This is a great 2 channel analog preamp FIRST and foremost. It's 6 channel analog input is at least as good as the TAP's but music invokes a warmer feel than before. The bass is so real. I think that was the biggest improvement. My turntable sounds better than using the TAP as well. There is an extra layer of transparancy while at the same time, a warmer sound. Almost sounds impossible but thats how I can describe the sound.

For movies, things are a bit closer. The TAE really has some GREAT DSP's and sounds fantastic with movies. The soundstage gives up nothing in vanilla DTS and DD to the TAE. Indeed, the Soundstage's extra layer of transparancy with movies it apparant over the TAE but the TAE kind of pulls even with some of its great DSP modes.

Just the overall package of 1 preamp this good with both movies and music makes me keep the Soundstage over the Sony Combo. The Sony combo is one of the biggest diminishing returns products out there IMO and the Soundstage certainly is not worth the 4k retail original price over the Sony's $2400 original price. But I didn't pay 4k for the Soundstage. Indeed, I am probably going to get within $100 or so for my combo for what I paid for the Soundstage.

What really puts the Soundstage in my A list is how flexible it is with bass management. I have my home theater BM setup like this...Front main NHT VT2's 30hz, NHT VS2a 80hz, NHT VT1.2 35hz with the Atlantic Tech sub low pass from the soundstage. However, I am also able to use the 6 channel input and tell my DVD player I have 5 large speakers and high pass the center at 80hz. So I have no BM problems with SACD or DVD-Audio.

I would say anyone who is a big music freak like myself but also loves movies, you can't go wrong with the Soundstage in a 5.1 setup.
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