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Regarding handyman's comments, it's kind of an unfair comparison, as the Calypso is a 2-channel stereo TUBE preamp. You are not going to get the "organic" sound out of the Theta Casablanca. Also, the Theta is not a true analog preamp. All of the analog inputs are automatically converted to digital (A/D convertor) and then re-processed and reclocked for digital output.
That being said, I also had the same experience that handyman had. I actually bought an upgraded Casablanca IV with Xtreme DACs and the Dirac room control. I could not get the thing to sound good. Like handyman indicated, it had a very clinical and sterile sound to it and it wasn't really "full" sounding. As far as Dirac, I also could never get it to sound good. Some people love Dirac room control, but I am from the side that does not like room control. Dirac did weird things to the phasing and caused the sound to be "in your head" like headphones instead of way out in front of you. I could tame this by cutting back on the Dirac processing percentage and doing a multi-point microphone measurement, but it never sounded as good as with Dirac turned off. Dirac also over-compensated some of the bass frequencies causing the subwoofer to peak at frequencies that were room nulls. I discovered later that the only way to deal with bass problems is with tuned membrane bass traps.
I had an older Krell HTS 7.1 at the time and when I gave up on the Theta and went back to the Krell, it was like "god damn, this Krell sounds so good!!". The Theta just did not "sing" like the Krell. The HTS 7.1, and the S1200 that I own now, have the Krell fully discrete Class A analog circuits that are just magic, in my opinion.
The Krell Foundation is very good, but I don't know what it uses for analog circuits. Based on the price and all the Krell descriptions, I will have to assume that it uses op amps at this point.
Regarding the MiniDSP DDRC-88A Dirac Live processor that is a HDMI correction device. The miniDSP will have to decode any Dolby Digital / DTS type data stream and then apply Dirac corrections to that. It will then have to re-encode those audio channels back to Dolby Digital or just send 5.1 PCM on the output. Either case, this is not optimum because it messes with the clocking of the audio data. If you really need room correction, it is a solution. But it is ultimately better to look at room acoustic treatments (panels / bass traps).
Oh, I was mistaken. The DDRC-88a is an analog input / analog output processor. This means that all analog inputs will need to be converted to digital before Dirac processing. Then converted back to analog using lower quality DACs and analog stages. And it uses a garbage wall-wart switching power supply. It is, ultimately, going to degrade your sound quality further, but it will give you Dirac room control.
I initially thought you were talking about the nanoAVR DL product, which does Dirac Room correction at the HDMI level. However, further reading states that you cannot use Dolby Digital or DTS from your source (i.e. bluray / satellite / streamer). You have to configure your source to send PCM 5.1 or PCM 7.1 only, which is doable, but it is lower sound quality than Dolby Digital / DTS because of the audio clocking problems that occur with HDMI data interface.
Thank you both for sharing your in depth observation, knowledge and experience. After reading your posts, I am thinking may be I can explore Krell S-1200 or S1200U which are based on 707 Analog circuitry. Evo has ARES, not sure if S1200 has or not. May be that way my Music will sound better than Foundation, and even the Movies will present more realistic sound ... I will connect my 4k Oppo 203 directly to JVC DLA-X790R which is also handle video at close to 4k (it's not native 4k, but does pretty good job per the reviews).
Will that be a good plan or rather stay put with Foundation?
Both my HTS 7.1 and my S1200 had modified/recapped power supplies. These units use the Krell fully discrete Class A audio circuits and they both have shunt regulated power supplies. The Class A circuits require a lot of current and It is my opinion these two units have undersized power supplies. With stock units, you may find that these Krell processors sound rather thin/bright (lean bass with a sharp mids/highs). There really isn't enough capacitance in the power supply to keep up with this and the audio circuits are starved as a result. Increasing the power supply capacitance solves this problem.
The S1200 does not have ARES room correction. However, it does have a Room EQ where you can apply up to 3 filters to each audio channel. Several filters are available: High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter, Notch filter (like a conventional EQ), Low Shelf Filter, High Shelf Filter, Peaking Filter (parametric EQ). I do not use EQ except for applying a Low Shelf filter at 25hz so that my subwoofer does not peak.
Another thing. There is a known problem with many S1200 units where the DSP board has a hardware failure. This can be shown as unstable audio when decoding Dolby/DTS from HDMI input and other things like DTS-HD bass management, loud beeps/clicks, loud static when changing video resolution formats, inability to decode Dolby Digital Plus, etc. The solution is to send in the S1200 to Krell so that they can replace the DSP board with a new one. I'm not sure about the cost of this as my unit was still under warranty.
If you are willing to solder in some large capacitors onto the S1200 power supply, then the S1200 will likely be the best sounding processor out there. Of course, 4K and HDR are not supported.
However, if you want 4K and HDR, the Foundation is likely one of the better sounding units.
First, the CB3 does not have DIRAC room control. I think it may be complicated to setup because the CB3 has all these different crossover points and crossover slopes/types. If I remember right, you can actually set your subwoofer crossover frequency different than you rmain speakers, and use a completely differenct crossover type (such as Butterworth vs. Linkwitz-Riley).
Since the CB4 needs to support DIRAC room correction, they got rid of all that complex crossover options and just went with the industry standard where you set the crossover point for each speaker and anything under that point is automatically sent to the subwoofers. The CB4 upgrade is primarily the DSP board and the HDMI 2.0 board (which support 4K passthrough). The CB4 also supports DSP and DIRAC processing at 96khz (it even sends 96khz to the DAC boards). The CB3 only support 48khz processing, if I remember right. The CB4 supports all DAC boards compatible with the CB3. The firmware on the DAC boards needs to be updated also to support CB4 DSP board.
The CB4a (new model) supports Dolby Atmos and the new Xtreme 3 DAC board, which has 6 output channels. The CB4a supports up to 12 output channels. It also supports HDR over 4K.
As far as sound quality, it's all Theta sonic signature. The Theta DSP does weird things to the waveforms when it processes in DSP. I think they have some sort of waveform smoothing, which they rave about. To me, the Theta sounds bright and sterile. I don't know if it's this weird processing or the design of the DAC boards or what, but it's not my preference.
Thinking more about your sound quality question, it highly depends on the DAC boards you get. The Theta Xtreme DAC is the best. It is cleaner/clearer sounding than the Superior DAC (which is one step down).
Between CB3 and CB4, I'm not sure about differences. The CB4 will process and send 96khz digital audio on the backplane to each of the DAC cards. There may be some improvement on overall sound quality of CB4 when compared to CB3.
I am almost pulling the trigger for CB III HD. Not sure if I will hear significant difference between CB and my current Krell Foundation... Since the Theta is used, I am not going to be on hook for a huge potential disappointment if it doesn't prove to what many claims - one of the five best Processor of the world, Meridian, Datasat, Trinnov & Bryston included!
Let us know what you think. Changing processors can be expensive. If you are buying from Craig Shumer from Theatermax, he does not offer returns, so you'd have to try to sell it on your own if it doesn't work out. But, he does offer his own full warranty on any upgraded Theta you buy from him.
I went through three different processors when I was looking to upgrade from my old Krell HTS 7.1, before just deciding to go back to Krell with a S1200. It definitely was an expensive journey.
"One of five best processors in the world" is really based on the eye of the beholder. Some people will put Datasat and Trinnov into that area. It all depends on what you think makes up the best. Datasat and Trinnov have very specific processing features, but I do not think either of them have the best analog stages. Same for Meridian. Bryston has good analog stages, but poor DAC/digital card and their analog stage is voice to be soft/laid back. Bryston's new "SP4" offering might be better on the DAC/DSP side, since they are adopting the base Storm Audio product as their base platform and plan on implementing their own discrete Class A analog output stages.
Sure I will, but it will be sometime later, as my HT room is going to take a while to be completed - a month or so. Honestly, I don't have any thing to complain about Krell Foundation, it is truly very enjoyable machine. However, I just want to try a different one. If it doesn't meet my expectation (benefit/cost ratio-wise), I always will have a fallback option - back to Foundation:)
auxinput, I finally bought the Theta CB III HD. Got shipped. Opened the box, it's black. Looks good. Its about 10 years old, upgraded from CB III to III HD last year. Trying to determine if I should further upgrade ...
I am also looked at MINIDSP DDRC 88D/BM to have the room correction ability. It is not as powerful as DIRAC of CB IV or IVa, but good enough for the money. BM option give option to control the Subs as well.
Cool. It must be exciting for you. I would say to get the CBIII hooked up and see if it sounds good at that point. The DDRC 88D will adjust or degrade sound quality because it has to convert all analog to digital to do the Dirac processing. Then it has to convert back to analog using it's own internal DACs. If you feel you still need Dirac, then you can get it.
@gbabu5y: How does your Theta sound? I loved mine for video. It’s very versatile, with all of the different types of crossovers and their adjustable settings. You can go direct with LP pass or many other choices, as I’m sure you found out. It took me a while to learn the remote. Mine has a video board I connect to a small screen, by my listening chair.