I have not heard either but, my local dealer told me that he has not found a dac that outperforms the Theta. He told me that he was smitten by its sound and just did not expect it to be as good as it is.
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How resolving is the rest of your system? Sometimes the differences between two components can be obscured because they are 'filtered' through the cables and other components and the speakers in the system.
Also, switching 'back and forth' only tells some of the story - how well can you 'live with' the sound of each DAC? Over the period of hours do you become fatigued? Over the period of days do you lose interest in listening to your system with one DAC or another?
Or maybe the Theta is just a great DAC and the differences (and there are always differences) are too unimportant to matter for your particular tastes and system.
-Mike (not a dealer for either of these well-loved DACs)
not having heard the Theta, it is difficult to question your results......but there are a few possibilities.
1. are you using the DAC6 with a modified Philips SACD 1000 to take full advantage of the performance of the DAC6? this makes a dramatic difference.
2. all HT pre/processors i have listened to will "dumb-down" the ultra-refinement of the DAC6......and who knows exactly the circut differences between the 'pass-thru' and the Theta's internal DAC's. my Lexicon MC-12 is really congested with it's 'pass-thru' compared to my previous Proceed AVP.......and the AVP isn't anywhere close to my 2-channel reference Placette passive. so unless you a/b your Theta with a high quality 2-channel pre you won't know it's contribution to the result.
3.also, as Mike mentions, the rest of your system may either restrict the benefit of what the DAC6 does.....or.....the Theta DAC's might simply synergise better with your system.
4. what do you mean by 'outperform'?
5. the Theta may just be 'that good'.
in my experience, the emmlabs DAC6/ modified Philips SACD 1000 is easily the best digital i have ever heard.....if the Theta DAC's within a HT processor are in that league i would be surprised.....but it's possible.
Mike, I am using the Meitner modified Phillips transport. I believe you a probably right in that the Theta is either dumming -down the signal or the Theta really is that good. I am using a XLR Shunyata Aries from the dac into the Theta, but my Theta only has rca imputs. I am using a Purist Audio xlr to rca adapter for the Theta imput. I wonder if this might be part of the problem? I won't be able to find out for sure until I insert a good two channel pre with a pass thru into my setup. What would anyone recommend for a pre? Kind of hate to just go out and buy a good pre just get that answer.
i assume you are in Portland (your moniker).....if so, contact Jonathan Tinn (as a Meitner owner, i would assume you know him). he can loan you a few different choices.....personally, in my system, the Placette RVC passive balanced.....has bettered all comers (to some degree, at any price) and is pretty reasonable.
the Placette is a particularly good tool to have around since it can be easily connected to any source and allow you to see what is really happening. there are active preamps that will do certain things better in some systems......and you may prefer them....but nothing will get out of the way as well as a single resistor in the signal path (the antithesis of a HT processor). if i did deciede to go with an active preamp i'd keep my Placette as a reference.
I have gone the route of using a simple multichannel preamp with no digital or processing components. I am using the Bel Canto Pre 6, but I understand that Meitner makes a similar unit. This way all the digital processing happens before the signal gets to the preamp, and the preamp can be kept as pure as possible.