Arcam P777 or Theta Intrepid

After weighing reviews, price, and designs, I have narrowed some multi-channel amp choices down to these two. I am looking used and spending @2500 tops, thus eliminating an Ayre V-6xe and Bryston 9BSST/SST2, which I was also considering. Also, I have a Bryston 2B-LP right not, and while I love its transients, bass, and control, I have always found it a bit harsh in the mids/uppers and really want to get away from that. I was considering an ATI amp, as well, but read some stuff that they might sound similar (It sucks not being able to listen to all this stuff myself!).

CAP has the Intrepid new for 1500, which seems like a stellar deal and to rank very high on the sound-for-money scale. Unfortunately, I cannot hear it locally and am going solely on reviews and having heard Ayre amps with a similar design (no global feedback and fully balanced). On paper, the Intrepid sounds like a truly hi-end design, perhaps just a little under powered, for a stupidly good price. I haven't heard the P777 either but have do currently have a C31 and CD36. I have heard Arcam amps in the past, only via their integrateds, and thought that they were not their strong suit, but this is obviously a much more powerful choice and dedicated design. I found them warm and nice but just not as detailed or spacious sounding. It also has the power and bi-amping my fronts capability advantage.

I will be running Vandersteen 2 Sigs, a VCC Sig, and VSMs in a 13x13x9 room. I also have a 2W to take some low end load off the 2s. I normally don't listen to movies all that loudly, honestly, and my focus is on music. I wanted to get some comments from people who might have heard both/either. Thanks!
I recently picked up a Theta Intrepid with the intention of using it as a solid state (thus summer friendly) back-up to my primary SET amplifier. I then got a killer deal on a pair of Bohlender Graebner 520DX loudspeakers so now the Intrepid is the amp in my secondary system. The BG Corp speakers are rated at 88dB/2.83v/1m which, I think, are 2 dB more sensitive than the Vandy 2ce Sigs (according to Stereophile reviews). I can play the system quite loudly without feeling that I'm running out of power but I do bi-amp the speakers so I am using 4 channels to drive 1 pair of speakers. I've also experimented with the Intrepid driving a much more efficient power of DIY loudspeakers using Eton/Peerless drivers (like Legacy Focus).

Now, let me express my one reservation about the Intrepid. If you've read the Stereophile review, you are aware that the Intrepid requires a good ground or you may very well experience hum issues. I ran the amp with a power cord without a ground and heard only a bit of hum. It was obvious on quieter passages but not too obtrusive with most music. However, I have found it to be very sensitive to what's in front of it. Initially, I connected it directly to the variable outputs on my Revox tuner to confirm its functionality. Later, when I installed it in my primary system, going from an Upgrade Company modded 3910 universal player into a custom passive volume control using a TKD pot, the amount of hum I experienced was shocking! With the pot fully off or the volume all the way up, there was no hum but, with any other attenuation, the hum level was completely unbearable. I then tried a Parasound Zpre just to see if there would be a problem with an active preamp and there was still hum but to a lesser degree. It was still to much for any kind of critical listening.

Presently, I drive the Intrepid directly from the variable outputs on an OPPO DV-983. I know this is a huge compromise in sound quality but I'll get an Upgrade Co modded OPPO 83SE or 95 as funds permit. With this player, the Intrepid has a lovely top end, delicate but detailed. The mids are clear without any stridency. Midbass is dynamic and punchy but the BG Corp 520DX loudspeakers are prematurely rolled off at 80hz so I can't comment on lower bass. Across the frequency spectrum, the sound is balanced and smooth. Nothing stands out nor offends but the sound is still quite engaging. I'm really looking forward to upgrading the source to hear what the Intrepid is actually capable of. I did run the Upgrade Co 3910 through the passive with the volume pot wide open on a very quietly recorded Anna Caram cd and found the sound to be delicate and transparent with gobs of detail. It really was completely satisfying but that's the only CD I could use for this experiment so, I would highly recommend the Intrepid on sound quality but be prepared to possibly have to work to get it hum free. It is worth the effort though. Good listening!
Thanks for the information. Hmmm, that is a bit concerning that you would have hum with the Parasound. Was it and your source grounded? That could have done it. There is nothing I hate more than trying to track down ground problems. I am moving into a new place in a few months and will be combining my 2-channel and movie systems, at least for a while. Since the new place is a total rehab, I was going to run a dedicated circuit for the amp, but then there is the possibility of a problem from the amp circuit interacting with a different one for my source and projector. The same ground will be shared at the panel, but I guess the length of run difference between the two circuits could cause a very slight difference in grounding potential.

I guess I should also mention Cary Audio. Looks like I could pick up a 7.125 for my price point, as well.
Arcam is a 2-dimensional brand. I sold it for about 8 years. I know the talents/properties well. Theta has some depth in the way they let you hear the stage.
Another multichannel amplifier that sounds amazing is the Balanced Audio Technology designed Integra Research RDA-7. These can be purchased inexpensively as they are no longer manufactured.
Bo, this is the third brand you have mentioned in your posts as being 2 dimensional. You said the same about Denon and Marantz. Onkyo however is OK along with Theta. So I guess these must 3 dimensional. Maybe even 4.

I am curious if dimensionality is a specification or an opinion. If a specification, could you please tell me where i could find these specs? I looked at the Theta Intrepid manual and it gave values for the same specifications listed in the Arcam manual. Sorry, no mention of dimension. I thought I was familar with all the important specs that electronics should have, but this one eludes me. So I am beginning to think that this may be an opinion.

Could you please enlighten me as to what makes one brand 2 dimensional and another multi? I don't want to make the mistake of buying a 2 dimensional brand. BTW, I own Parasound so maybe I already made the mistake.
I'm glad someone jumped in about the 2 dimensional comment. I'm an Arcam dealer, so I didn't. My opinion is a full 180 from Bo's. I really like their gear. I actually use a P7 at home myself and love it. I've got all Arcam in my own main system now. I won't say its the very best I've ever heard, but to me, it is my favorite at the price. Nothing 2 dimensional about it. I don't think anybody drops Arcam by choice. Probably just sour grapes. For the record, I'm a Theta fan. I wouldn't choose the intrepid over the 777. The dreadnaught might be a different story.
I had almost every Arcam in the shop ( current models). And I had almost every Primare as well. Wenn I used Monitor Audio Platinum speakers the difference in depth and wide was very big. Primare had a much wider and deeper stage. Arcam is better in sound than Cambridge, Nad and Marantz. But in stage they are almost the same. Quite flat. Maximum of 1 metre depth. With Primare you have 4 metres of depth. Wenn you go to highend audio like Pass labs the stage become even deeper and wider. Difference between Pass Labs and Arcam is huge in stage depth, wide and sound realism. Theta I tested had more depth than Arcam. But Pass Labs was superior in every aspect compared to Theta.
I sold many brands in my life. Every single tool ( cable, amp, pre-amp, source, conditioner etc)I test. I want to know what talents/properties it has. Use speakers which can give a wide and deep stage. Use a poweramp, pre-map which also can give a wide and deep stage. You can easilly hear how good a source or amp can give a 3d stage. I also used tubes for this. Wenn I changed a source by an Arcam dvd player or cd player most of the depth was gone. Also with a Arcam amp and source togheter you get the same kind of stage.

Since you are an Arcam dealer, you have heard their other amps and integrateds. Do you agree that the amplification in the integrateds are not bad but less than stellar? Too warm and not as detailed and controlled as other stuff? I just wondering if you recognize that the P777 is an improvement over these and by how much of a margin? I have read so-so comments about the P38, so I'm just worried that it won't be that much of an improvement. It sure looks good on paper, though!

I am also a big fan of Arcam because of the performance-for-money value of the brand. I have found that for X dollars, they do really, really well. That is based on what I have heard, of course, and we all know there are endless brands and options in hi-fi that are not carried by one's local shops. I used to have an Alpha 9CD and Alpha 9Pre before upgrading to the FMJ stuff, and it was a big jump. As I have upgraded my cables, the sound keeps getting better. Their amps have been the only question mark for me.

Does anyone know how many output transistors per channel they use in the P777? I don't see it anywhere. Also, they are not fully balanced, correct? I don't think their XLRs are really balanced, either, if I read correctly. That stuff worries me from a design standpoint.

Anyone heard the Cary 7.125?
Arcam is in the mid segment the most warm sounding brand. There are many speakers which sound better cause of the warm sound. Many people prefer the warm sound over the more natural or clean sounding amps. I do not see this as a disadvantage. With Arcam you never can go wrong. A few yeard ago I visit the factory in England. There work about 60 people. Very kind and down to earth people.
No problem Zydo. I like Arcam gear and I don't believe for one minute one amp can be 2 dimensional while another 3 or more. An amp can be more powerful, quieter, better S/N specs, damping factor, etc and all these specs can be measured. An amp can also be better built and parts, weight and construction can all be verified.

But to say one amp is 2 dimensional while another is not is pure subjective opinion that cannot be substantiated. Its not a spec - its a made up term. And from a salesman to boot! I really don't care if Bo prefers one brand over another. We all do. But I don't like anyone peddling their wares by slamming the competition and using make believe terms like 2 dimensional to do it. Not a good way to sell.

Makes me want to buy an Arcam.

I guess I wouldn't go so far as to call them "stellar" Something would have to be pretty special for me to use a term like that. I will say the Arcam amp i'm using now is the best I've owned myself. I don't own the store. so I buy things I have just like everybody else. I would agree Arcam, in general, is more on the warm side. I like that. I don't think it gives up much in detail. I replaced Sunfire separates with it. The amps had twice the rated power, and one 4 times. The Arcam I have is better in every way. (my opinion, and I also sold Sunfire) I always have found the Sunfire amps to be over rated. The Arcam I would call very conservative in ratings. Doesn't mean I don't like Sunfire, or Bob Carver. Certain things are great. I guess bottom line is yes, I like the integrateds too. I don't think it's the same as the 777, but we are talking about a big difference in price, and they don't appeal to the same market. If I were in the market, they would be on my list. There are to many things to take into consideration. Room, cables, system synergy, personal taste. The list goes on and on. I would never tell anyone that something is the right, or the perfect amp for them. I'm only speaking from my personal experience, and what I happen to like. I will go out on limb, and say I would be extremely surprised if a 777 didn't keep almost everybody that tried one happy. Unless I hit the lotto, mines not going anywhere.
It is as it is. Arcam is compared to Primare and Pass a 2-dimensional brand. But who cares if in there price range others are 2 dimensional as well. Difference between 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional is very easy to compare. All brands have there own talents/properties. Wenn you test them and compare them you will easily understand the difference. Depth for a speaker will occure wenn a brand is able to make very good cross over filter for there speakers. But for amps, pre-amps, sources you need the quality to make a stage behind the speakers. Even cables can make a big difference in how wide and deep a stage is. But wenn 1 tool is not good at depth, you will loose most of it. Instruments and voices are very small and direct in real. Because there are still many brands in cables who will make an instrument or voice to big in proportion. You will loose intimate focus. This menas the music is more away from you. This means less emotion. It is very esasy to let people hear the difference between 2-dimensional and 3-dimensinal sound. Just by using the talents/properties of brands. Nothin more, nothing less.
Well Zydo, there you have it. Arcam is still a 2 dimensional brand merely because Bo says so. As he says "it is very easy to let people hear the difference between 2 and 3 dimensional sound just by using the talents and properties of brands".

Now brands have talents too.

To the OP who posted the original question. Either the Theta or Arcam will do a fine job in your system. One amp is not more talented or dimensional than the other.
I run my Theta Intrepid to Avalon Ascendants and its always been dead quiet. My guess is the Stereophile review sample was defective. At $1,500 the Intrepid is a bargain.
" One amp is not more talented or dimensional than the other" ........are you deaf.....or even stuppid. Wenn you do not even know the different properties of these brands you do not understand music and audio. Arcam has a much less deep and less wide stage compared to Pass labs. Wenn you don't know this, I would look for another hobby if I were you!!
Guess you are referring to me Bo. Yes, I said that and hold by it. Please point to amplifier specs that measure and verify "talent" and dimensionality". If they exist, I will gladly say your right and retrack my statement to the OP.

Regarding your other statements..for one, I am certainly not deaf. Second, before you call someone stupid Bo, I suggest you learn how to spell the word. And other words too. Now you are really calling the kettle black. If you understand what this idiom means.

I think I'll continue to stay in this hobby Bo. I wish you lots of luck as an Audio Salesman.
It was a joke ofcourse, don't take it personal. Every amp has his own personal sound and the way the stage is build. What I did for some years wenn I worked in a shop. These days I only do consulting and presentations for some brands. I gave a demo with different amps to let people hear the difference between a 2-dimensional and a 3-dimensional sound. The most positive thing about it was that all people prefer depth and a 3-dimensional sound far over a 2-dimensional sound. So What is a 2-dimensional sound. Wenn there is no depth or maximun of 1 metre. Instruments and voices of a recording are almost on the same line. Wenn you use this recording and use stuff what can make a deep and wide stage you easilly can hear that the instuments are a lot different in depth. There is a better separation of all the parts of tehe recording. Wenn you also get a more sharp focussed image and instruments and voices will have the right proportion as in real music will become more intimate. At shows you often hear a wide and deep stage but with instruments and voices played too big in proportion. You need to solve this problem as well. Wenn you do many tests as I do you can easilly hear and understand all the differences in amps, sources, cables etc. Wenn you use the different properties/talents of all the tools in your system you can get a more what I call complete sound. How good a speaker can give a deep and wide stage has to do with the quality of the filters and the box were the spakers are put in. Crossover filter quality will a big influence how good the stage will be. For example I used the more expensive B&W spakers for over 8 years. The 800 Signature was the last one. B&W is an example pof a brand who is not the best in making crossover filters. My stage was not that deep. I wanted to go to a higher level in sound realism. So I sold the B&W and wanted a speaker who can give a wide and deep stage. With this you enojoy your music a lot more. Now you hear all the parts of the recording in your room. There are no speakers anymore. It is playing live infront of you.

I apologize for my bad writing. I have to admit that I do not read back what I write. I am a little lazy in this. You are right about this. It is as it is!
Even Arcam is a 2-dimensional brand, it is one of my favorite brands in there price range. I sold it a lot and I had a lot of fun with it. I love the sound and I met the people of Arcam. Very nice and dadicated people.
I just wanted to let people know that I was able to borrow a P38 from a local dealer in a test of Arcam amplification. If this is their best 2-channel amp, then I assume the quality of sound from the P777, although a different amp, I know, will be similar.

Honestly, I am really disappointed. I don't have many, if any, good things to say about it so far. The upper and lower ends of the spectrum are missing. It thus sounds midrange heavy and congested/compressed at that. Imaging is more vague and not as big. It does sound fairly flat. Control definitely took a step down, and vocals sound less real... The one positive is that it sounds a little less edgy than the Bryston, but that is, of course, because those frequencies are probably missing.

I have let it play for two days and will continue to break it in. Not impressed, though. We are talking about a comparison versus a Bryston 2B-LP. That amp's design is at least a decade old--before ST even. It's rated at 60W (tested at 75W on their sheet), cost @1000 new, and walked all over this P38 at 1600 new and 105W, with updated technology. I really don't think amplification is Arcam's game, at all, which is what led me to the Bryston amp years ago with the Arcam preamp and CD. Now, I wonder about their quality, though... I tested the highest end Adcom (GFA-something?) at the time and even a BP25 preamp and just found it too dry. I thought the Arcam/Bryston combo was nice.

I can borrow an Anthem amp from another dealer, which I might do, but I think I will end up with the Theta. I have heard nothing but good things about it, and the Ayre stuff (very similar design) sounds really good.
Arcam has a quite warm overwhole sound. This means the focus is more to the mid's. Bryston has a total different sound. It depends about your taste and speakers you use? Maybe it is not the best match. There is one important thing you should think about. I did a lot of testing in roomcorrection in the last 2 years. With Audessey Pro I reached a level which I never would be possible in sound. In stereo I also reached a level what is better than when I had the Pass Labs XP-20. ( I owned for 2 years) These days I use a subwoofer because I have a full stealth integration. I never liked subwoofers for stereo use. Because of Audessey pro I got the sound where I dreamed of. The focus and 3d image is stunning. I play about 4 metres behind the speakers. And about 1 metre beside the speakers. With the Pass Labs XP-20 my stage was less deep and wide. Wenn you use Audessey Dynamics and volume correctly the articulation of voices well be so much more open and easy to follow.