DACs

Theta Generation VIII Series 2 Digital-to-Analog Converter/Preamp

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Theta Generation VIII Series 2 Digital-to-Analog Converter/Preamp

Introduction

Many moons ago, in March 2003, Secrets published one of the first reviews of Theta's then state-of-the-art two-channel DAC/preamp, the Generation VIII (aka Gen. VIII). Close to six years later, after umpteen advances in digital chip technology, Theta has released a significant, Series 2 upgrade to the original Gen. VIII. The upgrade, which can either be easily installed at home or purchased as part of a new unit, renders such significant improvements to the sound of the Gen. VIII as to demand a new review.

Specifications

  • Design: Two-channel DAC/Preamp with new 24/192 DAC chip
  • Digital Inputs: 6 (2 RCA, 1 BNC, 1 AES/EBU, 1 Toslink, 1 Open for Optional AT&T)
  • Analog Inputs: 2 Stereo Pairs, One RCA, One Balanced XLR
  • Analog Outputs: 2 Balanced XLR (L/R) and 2RCA
  • RS-232 External Control from Crestron®, AMX®
  • D/A Conversion: 24-bit Ladder (8x Oversampling). 2 DACs per Channel (Differential Operation)
  • Dynamic Range: 132 dB
  • MFR: 20 Hz - 20 kHz,± 0.1 dB
  • THD+N, Analog Input Section: Less than 0.0007% (Digital), 0.0005% (Analog) @ 1KHz, at 3V Output Level
  • THD+N, Balanced Output: Less than 0.0007% (Digital), 0.0005% (Analog) @ 1KHz, at 3V Output Level
  • THD+N, Single-ended Output: Less than 0.0015% (Digital and Analog) @ 1KHz, at 3V Output Level
  • Dimensions: 5" H x 17 5/8" W x17 ¾" D
  • Weight: 29 Pounds
  • Price: $13,500 USA for the Generation VIII Series 2; $1,875 USA for Upgrade from the Gen VIII
  • Theta

Much water has flowed under the proverbial bridge since the Gen. VIII first came on the scene. In Theta's case, the water almost took the bridge with it, as the company stopped issuing new products and let others sink from its roster while it slowly shifted hands from founder and digital design pioneer Neil Sinclair to new owner Morris Kessler of ATI.

Thankfully, Theta is in good hands. Dave Reich remains General Manager and Design Engineer, and Dave Kerstetter continues to develop and improve Theta's digital designs. After several years of treading water, the company is moving full steam ahead on several fronts. And thus we end our water analogies.

While this review will focus on the major improvements bestowed by the Gen. VIII Series 2 upgrade, it will also touch on exciting forthcoming upgrades to the Casablanca multi-channel processor, Dreadnaught amplifier, and other products. For most of my listening, I used Theta's top-of-the-line, now discontinued Carmen II transport. The photo that follows shows both the Carmen II and the Gen. VIII on my rack.