How can my $300 6 year old entry level Rotel sound

i just got back from a california historical radio society (CHRS) meet. my friend has been hosting the swap meet for over 10 years. great bunch of guys. i go there with my other classic hi fi friends as there are some great deals on tubes and old hi fi besides all the beautiful old radios (that i don't collect)

anyway, to get to the point. i gave my friend a sumo andromeda amplifier 2 years ago. one channel was shorted. no bad transistors, but a bad solder joint. he can fix anything.

he has a vintage radio and hi fi museum in his repair shop. i notice two hulking black boxes laying sideways on the ground. one is a theta series II universal transport and the other is a theta generation III DSPro DAC. the two pieces together must weigh over 60 pounds!

i was suprised to see ultra high end stuff in his shop filled with classic fisher, hadley, heathkit and cutom built (by him) 300B amplifiers. (he has over 2000 pieces in the museum - between radios and hi fi).

he said a guy came in with the theta equipment along with some busted audio research classic 120 amps. my friend said he hasn't tried the theta but it's mine if i want them. heck yeah!

we hooked it up, other than the transport need to close the tray after i open it (worn belt), seems to work just fine. i was stoked. my first piece of obnoxiously expensive hi fi!

i think this stuff dates to the mid 90's, right? anyway, being i have radioshack cables and no 75 ohm coax to connect the transport to the dsp processor, i went to buy some better (but still cheap by many's standards) tributaries delta cables.

the rest of my system consists of McIntosh MC60 monoblock tube amps, conrad johnson PV1 preamp (factory modded to PV2a specs) , apogee centaur minor ribbon speakers, powered B&W subwoofer and my trusty old Rotel 930AX cd player i bought back in 1997 the day i graduated college.

so, after i lugged the HEAVY theta components up to my apartment, i was ready for audio nirvana...or at least an improvment over my Rotel. not that i had a problem with the Rotel. many reviews at the time all said the mids were huge, if not slightly grainy and the highs were a little soft. i basically agree. and being i collect vintage hifi, i'm all about thick mids and rolled off highs ;-)

well, i power the thetas up and put on beck's new album (sea of changes? - can't remember). this cd sounds awesome on my rotel. loosy goosy bass, rich mids, maybe a little recessed in the soundstage.

on the theta, his voice is right in your face, which is a big improvement, BUT the highs are,, really HIGH! and harsh to my ears. the mids are just not as sweet as my Rotel, which really bummed me out. i LOVE rich mids. the bass is tight as heck though.

so, here's my question. can a 1997 $300 entry level Rotel sound better than a 2 years older (approximatly) $6,000 (?) cd transport and d/a converter? sounds odd to me. but, i have never owned this kind of stuff before.

maybe this is what old super cd players sounded like and digital didn't get to sounding acceptable until the late 1990s, or something's wrong with the components, or am i nuts?

if this theta stuff is older than i thought, are they worth modding? i'd like to make it sound better because i LOVE the looks. and i'm a bit of a label whore. theta was the ultimate in my younger years. besides, why have a 10 lb cd player when you can have 60 lbs of equipment to play one CD! COOL!

see ya,
Its all very system dependent. The 16+ yr. old close to top of the line NEC CDP which I recently purchased sounds fantastic to my ears in context with the other components of my system. Go figure! 2X over-sampling and 16 bits, but very high mid-80's quality. Paying exorbitant prices for equipment doesn't necesarily equate to sonic bliss if there is no synergy.
I had both of those Theta pieces and agree with you; great bass but the treble was a bit too much. There was an upgrade to the dac which made it a IIIa that would help but I wouldn't spend the money even if it is still available.

I think these are early 90's and digital has come a long way in the past ten years. These pieces are a bit dated.
I can only tell you that I had a Nakamichi CD2 CD that I bought brand new and used for years but when I bought a Sony 333 it made the Nak sound like a plastic kazoo in direct redbook (and I love Nak, I still have a Nak high com noise reduction for my Revox r to r and a Nak ZX7 cassette deck) and SACD was another ballpark.

Experiment and have fun. I know some of the members here will know if/who can do modifications.
I learned the sound doesn't always live up to the hype. I had a Sony 707ES CD player a friend inherited and gave to me. I enjoyed it, but wantoing to see what was better, took it to a local shop. They had the latest CD palyer that redefined the state of the art (according to Stereophile), a $1400 Rotel with selectable filters, as well as CAL separates, also highly regarded. I was surprised when the salesman shook his head and said my Sony was way out of the league of these snob-appeal units, but when I listened, the sony smoked them - deeper bass, stronger dynamics, richer detail - it wasn't subtle! I have several experiences in which highly reviewed stuff was a big disappoinntment.

My theory is that the magazines have to come up with a gaggle of "redefines the state of the art" products every month or no one will buy the magazine to read about competent but not spectacular components. Almost every review I read says great things about the component. There is information in the reviews, but it is contained in what is not said, as well as how enthusiastically other things are said.
Trust your ears not the magazine's hype,if needed audiophile websites usually have great recommendations for future purchases.....Like anything else in retail new product lines has to justified to the buyer to "upgrade" from the older models,to do so sometimes "greasing of the hands" of reviewers is very common.If a XXX audio company spend hundred's of thousand $$$ advertising in a magazine,you think the reviewer will give a bad review,I doubt it.......
latest hi-fi update! all points bulliten! ;-)

well, i let the thetas warm up for about 5 hours. WOW, that made a HUGE difference. my being a vintage guy (aka, cheap;-), i thought all this warm up stuff for digital equipment was a bunch of hooey, not to mention "breaking in" cables.

i guess there is something to be said for all that jazz. the vocals sound awesome now. very close to the sound i was getting on the 4 ohm tap on my macs. i put them back to 8 ohms a while back as i need the full 60 wpc as opposed to 30.

the highs are still a touch bright, although not nearly as glaring as before. i bet the separates would be in a totally different league i fi left the boys on for 2 full days. not to mention, the 930AX is sort of known for having no highs, so my ears are probably in shock. the bass is huge! it took me 1 hour to realize i didn't have the subwoofer on.

but, being i can't soldier on a "rat-free" power cord until this weekend, i think i'll shut the system down until then. no sense in burning the place down. a far stretch, but i have never been one for luck.

i checked theta's website ( they have a whole history section. impressive stuff indeed. they are like the cray supercomputers of the digital audio world. my gen III DSPro and Data II were close to $11,000 dollars new in 1993. nuts, i tell ya! 3 burr brown dacs, 30 megahertz. crap, my centris 650 macintosh i bought in 1992 only had one processor running at 25 mhz. lol!

the important thing is theta's upgrade policy. they will mod ANY theta product to be the most curremt. so, i could theoretically have gen VIII DSPro guts put in my dac. most likely, way too expensive. but i have an idea:

what if i just upgrade to, say, gen V? i also found out that the chip sets are as easy to swap as in computers. something to look into. might not be worth it, but what the heck/ i have all of $0 invested in these components.

but, before getting carried away, let just fix the "rat cord." ;-)

this explains a lot. here's an excerpt from the theta site:

One-bit technology was headline news around this time. It was touted by major hi-fi manufacturers as being the next revolution in digital sound. They said multibit technology was dead. Theta’s design team tried this new technology in high-performance designs and found it smooth sounding but lacking in aliveness, dynamics and bass. They envisioned one-bit technology as a palliative for less expensive products. Most inexpensive CD players and outboard D to A converters sounded shrill and harsh. The smoothness of the one-bit D to A could be implemented to reduce "glare" and other irritating characteristics, to bring new musicality to otherwise unacceptable components. It meant Theta had something to offer in a price realm previously thought hopelessly compromised. The DS Pro Prime was introduced in May of 1991.

i finally found out what i have. theta has had WAY too many models over the years: they are 1993 theta genereation III DSPro d/a converter and a theta data II universal transport.

as far as the one bit jazz, they are right. it describes why i like the rotel so much. sloppy bass, real rich mids and rolled off highs. keep in mind that if you diminish the bass and treble response, the mids are going to shine. that's a lot of the idea behind not only tube amps, but especially all this single ended Class A jazz.

but, theta is right, it comes at the expense of tight deep bass and extended highs. and we all know how bright apogees can be up top. i swear, i didn't have the sub hooked up for about 3 hours until i realized it wasn't on. i bought the B&W sub because i thought the apogees were very bass deficient.

the highs really warmed up after the 4 hours or so i left the thetas on. but being that theta now uses hybrid multibit and 1 bit dacs, it obvious that they realize the benefit of 1 bit mids as well.

see ya,