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Theta Casa Nova - anyone know if an update is in the pipeline?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by EvilMudge, Feb 11, 2003.

  1. EvilMudge

    EvilMudge
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    Having read Charlie W's gallery page, I'm seriously tempted by a Theta Pre/Pro, but can't possibly justify the cost of a Casablanca (assuming I get the job I've applied for :( ). However the CasaNova looks more like my price range, but seems quite outdated.
     
  2. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    Evil,

    I'm gratified that you are even considering Theta. Most look at the price tags and look away again. However, they are great sounding units, assuming that the rest of the system can do them justice.

    First thing, go and get yourself an audition of a CN or CB and see if you like the sound. Bear in mind that the CB has different DAC qualities available, so make sure you listen to one you just might be able to afford! :smoke: If you don't like the sound, then go and try Meridian or TAG, or Bryston or Lexicon or....

    Things to know about Theta.

    These guys work in California. If they were any more laid back they'd be past the horizontal! :clown:

    There was a time when if you asked them when an upgrade was going to become available, they would invariably say "within 3 months". Typically, the thing appeared about 18 months later if you were lucky. Belatedly, they have learnt that it is not a good idea to raise customer expectations and dash them too often. Nowadays, it is virtually impossible to get any idea of when upgrades will be available - they have become very tight-lipped. :(

    As for a Casanova upgrade, it is probably now somewhat overdue. I don't doubt that it will appear before long, and I guess it will include 7.1 capability and DPL II, DTS/ES, DD/EX, DTS24/96, DTS ES Discrete etc, but I have no inside knowledge. They have been working on these latter features for the CBII and these are in beta-testing for release soon (I hope!), so doing them for the CN should not take so long.

    Theta have by and large kept faith with their customers in providing a long-term upgrade path. The original Theta DS Pro DAC, introduced some 14-15 years ago, can still be upgraded to Gen VIII (the latest) specification for less cost than buying a Gen VIII new. Compared to that, TAG are only comparative newcomers to providing such upgradeability. :clap:

    If you want the ultimate in future proofing, you shouldn't dismiss the Casablanca II. It may be old now but ultimately I think it will have the longer life. It might even pay you to look to acquire one second-hand. They do appear on eBay and the like from time to time. Even a CBI can be upgraded to CBII (as mine was). With one of these you can take your time and upgrade cards one or two at a time as funds allow to get to your final goal. This is how I managed it.

    To give you some idea of Casablanca II pricing, these are from the 2001 price list. (May well have gone up again now. :()

    The basic chassis is £6,800. This provides 6 analog, 6 coax & 2 Toslink digital inputs, AC3 Rf Demod, A/D conversion, DD, DTS decoding.

    To make a sound you will need some DAC cards. How many depends on how many channels you want and how many channels there are on each card.

    6 channel, standard quality 18/48, single-ended £1,190
    3 channel, standard quality 18/48, XLR balanced £1,450
    3 channel, superios quality 20/96, XLR balanced £2,590
    4 channel, extreme quality 24/384, XLR Balanced £4,750

    You can put in a maximum of three cards.

    If you want video switching, add around £800, although the component switch card is more (don't know the price).

    As a guide then the most basic CBII with one 6-channel DAC card is about £8,000. Fully loaded with Xtreme DACs and all options you get to around £25,000.

    The above are all RRP and some dealers may well discount these.

    Another option is to look at the second hand market for CBI or II with standard DACs and get hold of some Superior DAC cards on the second hand market also. There are quite a few of these around as people upgrade to the Xtreme DACs and should provide a more affordable way to get what you want. The superior cards are a significant step up on the standard ones, and the xtreme ones even more so.

    Hope all this rambling helps, and let us know what you decide.... :)
     
  3. daninthemix

    daninthemix
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    Hey Charlie, I'm seriously looking at the Casablanca II at the mo as well. I just love the fact that you don't have to have sodding video switching (my pet hate!). I also love that you can have expensive DACs for the front channels only to maximise your budget:fun equation!

    If I got a Theta transport as well, and a Theta power amp, I could have a fully, proper, TRUE balanced system right through - both digital and analogue, proper dual-differential. Cool!

    Apparently the Extreme DACs are very similar to the heart of the Pro Gen VIII, which goes for $10,000...

    Oh yeah - what I wanted to know was, any chance of them releasing a transport that passes DVD-A/SACD through the digital output to the CBII?
     
  4. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    Yes, there is a strong resemblance between the Extremes and the DACs in the Pro Gen VIII, as indeed there was between the Superiors and the older Pro Gen Va. The dedicated external DACs do perform a fraction better because they are only dedicated to stereo and have more regulated power supplies.

    If you are REALLY serious about stereo quality, what you can do is substitute a digital output card in the CB in one of the DAC slots. This has a superior quality centre channel D/A converter and 6 or 12 digital outputs from which you could feed the front L&R to a Pro Gen VIII external DAC - the volume control on the external DAC can be slaved to the Casablanca II controller. You could use the other two DAC slots in the CB to supply up to six other analog channels. Or if you want to be really silly you can hook up 6 Pro Gen VIII's all slaved off the CB and have a mindless quality 8.4 or 7.5 system! :zonked: :eek:

    As for a digital link for DVD-A / SACD, Theta are sticking rigidly to the rule that they won't force you to use one of their own transports. So until an industry standard interface appears, they will not release their own proprietary one as per Meridian et al. I am in the same position waiting for this too... :(

    Oh, if you have any other Theta questions, ask away. :lesson:
     
  5. EvilMudge

    EvilMudge
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    Charlie,
    I would have thought that since most of the Theta transports are based on Pioneer mechanisms that a Theta version of the DV757i is probably on the cards - in which case a firewire link isn't out of the question either. Theta owners would then have the option of using either a Theta transport or a Pioneer one - and there are probably a lot more licensees waiting in the wings.
    TBH I'm more interested in picking up a Voyager DVD/LD/CD transport before I get a pre/pro.
     
  6. daninthemix

    daninthemix
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    Charlie - if I have Xtreme DACs on the front three, and Superior balanced on the rears/sub, are all channels able to do DVD-A/SACD then?

    I know they'll have to release a card with not only a digital link, but a chipset capable of unravelling DSD/MLP.
     
  7. EvilMudge

    EvilMudge
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    Not necessarily. The i.Link chipset in the 757 converts DSD to 88.1KHz PCM apparently, which makes sense since DSD is a streaming signal, whereas the IEE1394 interface has to use packets - trying to send DSD over it supposedly would result in unacceptable jitter levels. Presumably it also converts MLP to PCM - much easier than converting DSD but keeps things simple at the DAC end.
    If Theta license this unit then the Casa(either hopefully) will only have to process six channel PCM - as the Pioneer AX-10i does.

    Not quite sure how this fits in with the Theta philosophy, but since everything from the i.Link interface is just PCM, then all their patented jitter reduction techniques will still be valid.
     
  8. EvilMudge

    EvilMudge
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    Update For Those Interested:

    Theta have a universal digitally linked transport waiting in the wings - almost certainly Pioneer based (is there another player out there that' not based on a Pioneer?)

    Also, the 1394 link doesn't convert DSD to PCM as I thought, it's actually done in the reciever end, so presumably if needs be the DSD can go straight to the DACs.

    Still leaves me wondering when they'll update the CasaNova.:cool:
     
  9. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    In fact if you use an Extreme card, you will have four channels at your disposal. The Extremes will cope with 2-channel DVD-A at 24/192 easily and the Superior DACs will cope with multi-channel DVD-A at 24/96. From experience if you pass too great a data rate to any of these DACs they just mute. So long as whatever SACD converts to in terms of PCM doesn't exceed these rates, your chosen config should work. I suspect that if you want to use bass management with your stereo front L&R on DVD-A 2-channel material, you will probably have to use the last Extreme channel as your sub channel as it will need to cope with 24/192. Fortunately with the Extreme cards you can allocate specific channels to cards and output sockets pretty much as you wish. :smoke:
     
  10. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    You may be right, but we'll just have to wait and see what they come up with.

    Although I was originally interested in a Voyager, I am not convinced now that this is the best option. I think there are too many compromises with combi players. Apart from the fact that the Voyager is now discontinued, so I think you would struggle to find one new, if DVD performance is important to you, I would suggest you look at a David II (also discontinued but there may still be a few in stock) or a Carmen II. There are other killer LD players which you should be able to get hold of second hand if you are really wedded to your LD collection.
     

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