Wow, you are going straight for the top. They are both stellar, but I think Meridian gets the nod becuase it does BOTH HT and 2 channel so well. Both very upgradeable, but the meridian is probably the more so. A full meridian system is as good as it gets IMHO.
I agree with Jamesw20, the Meridian 861/800 is as good as 2 channel/HT can get. And we should also be hearing from Brianwater on this as well.
I do have the 861/800 Version 3,with the latest software.The sound is very good.The video is OK. Only down side with meridian you either are very good with operating that computer or have access to a VERY good installer.
I sold my Theta in favor of Meridian 861 V4.
I auditioned both the Meridian 861/800 version 4's and the Theta Casablanca III/Esoteric UX-1 combos in my system and feel the Meridian combo stood shoulders above the Casa III/UX-1 combination in my system and room. I tried the Meridian combo hooked-up two ways, both with their proprietary 3-cable direct digital transfer and with using the analogue outputs/inputs. I thought the Meridian sounded better hooked up either way (much better with the direct digital hook-up) as compared to the Casa III/UX-1 combo hooked-up with the analogue outputs/inputs. I think the Meridian 3-cable direct digital hook-up is tough to beat. If you don't want to spend a fortune, one good alternative you may want to consider is the Meridian G68/G98 combo. I auditioned this also with the above two combo's and feel it sounded very similar to slightly better as compared to the Casa III/UX-1 combo, especially and again with the direct digital connections on the G combo! Beleive me, the Casa III/UX-1 combo is no slouch as it sounded pretty fantastic and if I hadn't listened to it in a direct A/B comparison with the Meridian pieces in my home with my system, I could have easily went with the Casa III! Good luck!
I had compared Theta CB2 with xtreme DACs to Meridian 861v3 and there was no comparison- 861 was much better wrt soundstage, clarity and overall better sonics. I was actually surprised- with v4 it was a no brainer (if your room is poor in bass coverage then v4 offers even more improvement)
I personally feel Meridian is one of the top pre-pros to beat and once you hear anc play with Trifield- you will not listen to 2 Ch music (provided you have an equal or almost matched center channel with front 2 speakers)
BTW I uses analog speakers not Meridian.
861 v4 is the current end of the road
To be fair , the Cas 111 is right there beside it and either choice represents , along with the mark Levinson processor , "the best of the best of the best".... sir!
Another really good one in that price range is Tag McClaren. I would hands down buy Meridian over Theta in any class. Also, I like the G series Meridian. They are just a much more reliable product from what I have heard.
I have owned Theta Casablance (Syandard Dacs), Lexicon MC12 V3, AVP, PAV/PDSD and the Gseries 91/68. I also auditioned the Mark levinson 40 in house for 2 days. What do I have now: current versions Meridian 800/861. The absolute best I have owned or heard. PERIOD.
Thanks for the responses- Do you feel(I know it is subjective) that the Meridian is up to the task to be used as a 2 channel preamp vs, a seperate hi-end pre?>I am trying to simplify mys ystem- I currently have the Lex mc12B and I feel that it is terrible for music - therefore the need for a seperate preamp- gary
Many feel that the Meridian is the ONLY processor that competes with high end 2-channel preamps. For the money you'll spend on it, your dealer should let you have a home trial.
hey - I just noticed a Accuphase a/v700 for sale- Anyone know anything about it and how it stacks up to the Meridian- thanks
Owned Theta products and just about every Meridian product. The Meridian 861 with an 800 (or g91, g98DH) is in the current state of high end home theatre. The configuration options, room correction, and sound quality can not be compared. No one can argue. Go with the 861
I have not owned the two products that you are looking at but do have a Meridian 568 upgraded to 568.2 for 4 years. In that time I have never had a software or mechanical problem with the unit. In reading the avsforum it appears that Theta CasI, CasII or CasIII all have software lockup problems to some degree, with the CasIII having the least problems. However, I do have two Theta products the Dreadnaught I and a Theta Carmen II, both of which are excellent products. If your are looking for high quality two channel sound then you would be much better served by buying a high quality tube preamp with home theater by pass. I have the Aesthetix Calypso and it is substantially better that the Meridian 568.2 and if your read the Audio Perfectnist they think any good quality tube or solid state preamp is better for stereo than the Theta CasIII. I have not heard the Meridian 861 but would be hard pressed to think that the Meridian would be better than a good preamp. However, If your interest is simply home theater then the Meridian or Theta is hard to beat. By the way if you go Theta, make sure it is balanced all the way as the Theta Amps do not like and unbalanced signal.
If you want great 2 channel plus great HT, and at the $$ level of Meridian/Cas., you should look at Linn Kinos/Kisto. I have the Kinos and can vouch for it's 2 channel capability as well as HT.
Try them at home.