Aragon Stage One - Initial Impression

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Michael Langdon, Jul 1, 2002.

  1. Michael Langdon

    Michael Langdon Stunt Coordinator

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    I just received my Stage One (DD,DTS, THX Surround EX, DTS-ES Matrix and Discrete, DPLII, DTS Neo:6, THX Ultra2) this weekend. I previously used a Denon 5800 as a pre/pro. First, the best thing about the Stage One is the setup. Speaker configuration is normal (large, small, 1 or 2 surround back, etc.). Speaker levels can be set in 0.5 db increments which means worst case scenario is a speaker 0.25 db different from another! Speaker distances can be set to the nearest inch! That's right, the Stage One claims a 1/12 ms accuracy on delay! Crossover availability is also the best I have personally found. Crossover (global) can be set from 25 to 120 Hz in 5 Hz increments. Speaker levels can be adjusted and memorized for each mode (DD, DTS, DPLII, etc.).
    Even though the setup for surround is great, the best part is that I can have a different configuration/bass management for stereo listening modes! Yes, I can have 2 different crossovers, one for surround and one for stereo which includes a different speaker configuration.
    My example:
    Surround:
    Fronts-small
    Center-small
    Surround-small
    Surround Back-small
    Sub: Yes
    Crossover: 65Hz (based on the highest low freq. response of all speakers in my setup)
    Stereo:
    Fronts-large (fronts are towers rated to 40 Hz)
    Sub: Yes
    Crossover: 40 Hz (to match freq. response of fronts)
    or
    Fronts-large
    Sub: No
    Previously, with the Denon, I had to re-enter the menu and change my speaker configuration. I had no control over the crossover point. Now with the upgraded 5800 I would have 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 Hz but I would still have to change it back and forth for surround and stereo listening.
    After setup, I listened to the Stage One with a few familiar movie clips. The short list was DTS Demo discs 3, 4 and 5, scenes from Blade, Phantom Menace, Matrix, Fifth Element, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park (DTS), Desperado (Superbit), and Super Speedway (new DTS version). The first thing that came to mind when listening to the Stage One was Dynamic Range. The Dynamic Range was so much greater with the Stage One over my previous Denon 5800! The Denon 5800 seemed compressed. Dialogue was much more clearer in the Stage One. My center channel (Boston Acoustics VR12) has never sounded as good. I really expected the sound difference to be more subtle since I was not buying a Lexicon or the like and the fact that the Denon is a flagship or previous flagship receiver. I am truly amazed at the difference in having true separates (since I was using the Denon 5800 as a pre/pro already having external amplification).
    Well, I will be giving the Stage One a thorough workout in the coming days. I will have more impressions to post, but I thought I would give my initial findings in the setup and first few listening experiences. Also, the blue lights on that silver finish sure does look pretty!
    Mike
    Stage One
     
  2. Darrel McBane

    Darrel McBane Second Unit

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    Thank you Michael. The Stage One was to hit the store shelves the first of March. And yours is the first write-up I've read.

    I take it you got the Silver. I'm waiting for the trade-in program to take hold and will also be getting the Silver model.

    Please give a good listen to two channel music. I have a feeling from reading the specs it will be stellar. Are you able to listen to any SACD or DVD-Audio disk? I'm curious how multichannel will sound with this unit. As well as two channel SACDs.

    Looking forward to your follow up review.
     
  3. Geo

    Geo Stunt Coordinator

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    Global bass management on a 4K pre/pro?
    What's up with that???????????

    geo
     
  4. Phil Mays

    Phil Mays Second Unit

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    Michael,
    I'm Jealous.!.:b [​IMG] :b This is the set-up I have wanted for some time but cannot afford the $7,000 (with amp) for the unit right now.
    You would help me alot if you would say it sounds like crap[​IMG] .
    What are your plans for the 5800?
    Phil
     
  5. Michael Langdon

    Michael Langdon Stunt Coordinator

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    Phil,

    Sorry, but the Stage One is an excellent sounding piece! I stopped listening temporarily to finalize some cable management in the back of my system. Listening will resume shortly! The Denon 5800 is sold.

    Also, it is my understanding that the Stage One is reviewed in the August issue of Home Theater magazine. I am eager to see a review on the Stage One.

    Mike
     
  6. DaveLenhert

    DaveLenhert Stunt Coordinator

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    Michael-
    A few questions for you.....
    1.) The display can be turned off, but is there a timer option for it. For example, i often listen to music at night and the lights from the reciever & CD player are VERY annoying. Denon has a simple option that every time you hit a button it will turn on the display for 5 seconds, then automatically shut it off. Does the Stage One have this option? (The manual says you can turn it On/Off, but not timer reference)

    2.) The Remote looks fantastic, is it well layed out to turn features on and off and easy to navigate?

    3.) Please keep us informed on how you like it & congrats on the new play toy!

    Geo-
    Why would you need localized base management? TO be realistic, there is really minimial need for seperate base management for DTS, DD, etc on movies, a general setting is sufficient. It is fantastic that they offer a special setting for stereo (if the stereo DSP does not harm the sound quality). I will grant you that one more crossover for DVD-A or SACD might be desirable.

    -Dbl
     
  7. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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  8. Geo

    Geo Stunt Coordinator

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    Dbl,
    I was referring to the fact that the Stage One doesn't let you set different crossover frequencies for each speaker group (front, center, surround). The Stage One, like most other pre/pros and receivers, forces you to choose one crossover frequency (global)for all speakers set to small.
    I'm not sure if sonically it makes a huge difference but it sure would be nice to have the bass management flexibility
    of something like what Sony uses, in more units.

    geo
     
  9. Michael Langdon

    Michael Langdon Stunt Coordinator

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    Dave,

    1) No timer on the display. Once it is off, it is off until turned back on again through the remote.

    2) I am actually glad the Stage One comes with the Pronto NEO. Before deciding on the Stage One, I had come to the conclusion that no matter what pre/pro I buy, I am going to have to buy a better remote (Anthem AVM 20, etc.). I had considered purchasing the Pronto TSU2000. However, after getting the NEO, I am happy. Once you get the Pronto NEO in your hands, you will be pleased. It fits the hand better (narrower) than the previous remote I used (Aktis for the Denon 5800). I also like more hard buttons to program like you get with the NEO. The NEO edit software is great. Everything can be customized to your liking. Look at Remote Central (remotecentral.com) for plenty of configuration files and utilities (NEO Hack, NEO Sync) to customize the Pronto NEO.

    I continue to be amazed at the sound quality of this piece. Details in movies are being revealed that I never knew existed. Sometimes it is so revealing, I find myself scanning backwards in a movie because I think something is wrong with my speaker, only to find a repeatabl effect in the soundtrack! For example, this is the first time I noticed the cigarette "sizzle" when the patron in the club scene of Blade (forget chapter - club scene with oriental girls dressed like school girls) draws on his cigarette. I thought something was wrong with my center channel until I repeated the scene. Blade is one of my favorite movies and I used it everytime I bought a new receiver to determine differences in sound (center channel clarity, detail, dynamic range, etc.). I have owned the Yamaha DSPA1, Denon 5700, 4800, and 5800 receivers. The 4800 and 5800 were used with the same amp I have now as processors.

    Aragon went the extra mile in preserving sound quality. If you have no sub, or set any speakers to large, bass management is done in the analog domain instead of being attenuated (to keep from overloading the DSP) and digitized. Also, the lack of an on screen display as to not compromise the video path. I for one find it refreshing to do the complete setup from the front panel. You can turn the test tones off, thus, I can change the speaker levels (with no test tone noise) for any mode from the front panel and they will be remembered when I use that mode again. Try that with the Denon 5800/5803. For stereo and surround, I can change the crossover points, again, without an OSD. The menu system is very straightforward. I do not need a picture of a room layout or a blinking speaker. I think I know where my left front speaker is located.

    Mike
     
  10. Karl L

    Karl L Agent

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    Michael,
    I'm in a similar situation as you as I'm upgrading from a Pioneer Elite 49-tx (which I have been using in tandem with a Theta Dreadnaught)to my first true pre/pro. It looks like the choice has been narrowed down to the Aragon based on the features I need at this time (not to hard on the eyes either). Couldn't find the owners manual on the Klipsch site, so I have a couple of questions I was wondering if you could answer. Are there bass and treble controls? Is there some sort of subwoofer plus setting, if I want to run my mains as large during 2 channel listening and use a sub as well? Is the subwoofer active in Analog Bypass mode? Can reequalization be selected independent of having to use the THX mode?

    Couldn't find a local dealer in San Diego on there site. Any idea of an authorized dealer online whose stocking the Aragon? If you could PM me with a good deal on the unit if you know of one to be had that would be much appreciated as well. Thanks in advance!

    Karl
     
  11. rodneyH

    rodneyH Supporting Actor

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    I just got the HTmag today with it n there, sounds like they really liked the unit and amp. Too bad they seemed to spend more time on the Klipsch speakers than the pre/ amp.

    Interestingly enough, there is an article with the Anthem AVM20 and the $4k receivers from pioneer and denon. It sounds like the anthem set up won and actually got a slightly better score (by 1 point) than the Aragon??

    of course the aragon and anthem were not going head to head, so that may make a difference
     
  12. Michael Langdon

    Michael Langdon Stunt Coordinator

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    Karl L,
    I will try to answer your questions.
    "Are there bass and treble controls?"
    Answer: There are no bass and treble controls.
    "Is there some sort of subwoofer plus setting, if I want to run my mains as large during 2 channel listening and use a sub as well?"
    Answer: There is no subwoofer plus setting but you can have separate speaker configurations and bass management for surround versus stereo modes. For surround, you can have all speakers set to small, set the sub equal to "YES" and then set an 80 Hz crossover for example. For stereo or direct stereo modes, you can have your fronts set to large and sub equal to "YES" or fronts set to small, set sub equal to "YES" and then lower your crossover, say to 35 Hz. The Stage One supports a crossover setting of 25 to 120 Hz in 5 Hz increments. When setting the fronts to large, you can still select a lower crossover point for low frequency fill from the subwoofer in stereo listening.
    "Is the subwoofer active in Analog Bypass mode?"
    Answer: Yes. According to the manual, Stereo Direct is the analog bypass mode. The subwoofer, if one is present, is active. You can turn it off by lowering its channel level to below -10dB.
    "Can reequalization be selected independent of having to use the THX mode?"
    Answer: I am not sure. Reequalization can be set to either "YES" or "NO" in the setup menu. THX can be set to "YES" or "NO" also. Even though you can have reequalization set to "YES" and THX set to "NO", I think setting THX to off turns off all THX functions of the Stage One. I am guessing that you can have all the THX functions except reeq. by setting THX to "YES" and reeq. to "NO".
    Here is a link to the Stage One manual:
    Stage One Manual v1.1
     
  13. Karl L

    Karl L Agent

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    Michael,
    Thanks for the informative reply. Not entirely sure what my plan of attack is now...Aragon Stage One, Bryston SP1.7, or go all out and get a Lexicon. Guess I should take advantage of the balanced input on my Theta Dreadnaught, and the Aragon lacks that...decisions, decisions.
     

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