(Noted August 10, 2017):
My discoveries so far with the CB-IVA:
1. Darn - Upmix sounds nice using my 4 ceiling speakers on lots of stuff. As Cannga noted, adds a bit of spaciousness that you notice not with loud stuff but simply with low to medium musical or other noise (like wind) passages. However, if you set the mode to Upmix, then I figured out by observation/listening that if you play a Dolby Atmos soundtrack: (A) You will only get the base Dolby (e.g., Dolby True HD) and not the Atmos "top" channels - the Atmos "top" channels will be upmixed and synthesized, but you will lose the original mixes for the Atmos channels; and (B) the front display will show you this, because it will read only the base Dolby mode and not show "Atmos" as well. On blu ray, playing a passage at the start of "Prometheus", I did feel that in my system, it sounded somewhat more musical and cleaner using the "Direct" mode than the "Upmix" mode, although "Upmix" still sounds very nice. I could hear more of a difference playing the blu ray "3-D" from Kraftwerk with a Dolby Atmos Soundtrack, simply showing that you do not want to use "Upmix" as opposed to "Direct" when the soundtrack is Dolby Atmos. How "Upmix" vs "Direct" sounds to you for non-Atmos soundtracks may depend on the movie, your system, and your ears/brain. On multi-channel (mostly hi res) music from my CAPSv3 server, although "Direct" is somewhat cleaner, I sometimes prefer "Upmix". I NEVER have any idea directionwise that sound is coming from the "top"/ceiling speakers - my dealer Craig/VGI was certainly right in strongly recommending the KEF Ci200RR in ceiling speakers for me which match well with my main Aerial Acoustics 7ts (5 of them).
2. The non-HDMI digital inputs (coaxial, balanced, and I presume toslink which I have not bothered to test, and toslink is limited to 96k whereas coaxial/balanced go up to 192k) are limited to receiving 48k. Anything above and you either show a signal being received (on the front display) with no sound, or that no signal is received and no sound. Theta Tech John Baloff and Craig/VGI (my "super" Theta dealer) have been on top of this since I first reported this early last Monday, and Theta has determined that it is a command issue which is limiting the bandwidth of the SPDIF inputs at this time, which is set in the new DSP chip from an outside vendor. Theta is already communicating with the vendor so that a software upgrade will turn the filter to the correct bandwith, so that the other digital inputs will have the same bandwith and accept incoming digital signals up to 192k. I assume this will then be easily enabled in a firmware/software update for the CBIV-A. As the CBII-HD (operating at 48k) and the CBIV (operating at 96k, as does the CBIV-A) accepted incoming digital signals up to 192k for all digital inputs (not just HDMI), no one could have possible thought this would occur! But this should be fixed soon! I just replaced my Sonore Microrendu (and its top line Sonore Signature Power Supply, which I traded-in for great value) with a brand spanking new Sonore Signature Rendu (which as its own built in power supply with even better performance than the Sonore Signature Power Supply) - but I really am holding off on using it until this non-HDMI digital input is fixed by a software/firmware upgrade. I set the Sonore stuff to output 96k (downsampling/upsampling as needed) to the CBIV and now IVa - sounds much better than outputting 48k or 44k to the CBIV or CBIVA. I will be very glad when this is all done - hopefully soon - again thanks to Craig/VGI, John Baloff, and of course ATI/Theta's owner Morris Kessler who personally is on top of this issue! (You folks using basic streaming devices and sources that do not output above 48k will not know that this is even an issue - but I do, as I've been doing hi res stereo and multi-channel since 2011, and again, I reiterate, the HDMI inputs all handle up to 192k input and then the CBIV-A DSP processes at 96k - so this is an issue perhaps for 5-6 Theta luvers that I've seen post on this forum over the past several years, and most of you would never know or notice this if I didn't open my "big" mouth).
So far I am very, very impressed with the CBIV-A and its sonics!!! Oh - "Game of Thrones" on HBO sounds better than ever!
(Noted August 12, 2017):
Theta Digital CBIV-A – MARVELOUS!!!
My Long Road to the Theta Digital CBIV-A: My first Theta Digital purchase, a Theta Generation VA DAC, which I paired with a state of the art Citation 7.0 (analog) SSP, was 1993. Purchased the just out Theta Casablanca in 1997 and have upgraded as soon as available ever since (in the pre-HDMI digital CBIII-HD days even using the Six Shooter analog multi-channel preamp, and an Integra SSP to play blu rays analog out into the Six Shooter, with the CBIII from 2005-2011. In 2008 replaced my five Bryston 7B-ST monoblocks with five Theta Enterprise monoblocks. In 2011 replaced my front left & right Enterprises with Theta Citadel 1.5 monoblocks. In early 2014 replaced the Enterprises and Citadels with the very first in the world, out of the ATI/Theta factory, FIVE Theta Prometheus monoblocks. In 2011 I added a Theta Generation VIII Series 3 DAC for front left and right, and in 2014 I added two more Generation VIII Series 3 DACs, which replaced the Casablanca internal D2 DACs (which had replaced the Casablanca internal Superior DACs back in 2001). In 2016 the Generation VIII DACs were sold and replaced by two Casablanca internal D3 cards (12 channels, awaiting the Dolby Atmos upgrade), and I found no loss of sonics at all! Along the way I’ve had Theta disc players, Theta Voyager LD/DVD, then Theta Compli, then Theta Compli, Theta Compli Blu, and since 2012 Theta Compli Blu 3d.
Along the way, my speakers have been, starting when my dedicated home theatre room was built: As of 1997 – four Aerial 10Ts, Aerial CC3 center, five Vandersteen 2Wq subwoofers; 2001 replaced Aerial CC3 with Aerial CC5 center and added three Aerial SW12 subwoofers (and shortly thereafter sold off the five Vandersteen subwoofers); 2007 replaced the four Aerial 10ts with four Aerial 9s; early 2014 replaced the four Aerial 9s and Aerial CC5 with five Aerial 7ts, and replaced the three Aerial subwoofers with two JL Audio f212s.
As I initially “built” my multi-channel system along the concept of equidistant floorstanding speakers all around with equal electronics & speakers in each vector, if I made a change in any vector where equality was no longer I could hear it. In 2000 we soldered Bybee filters at the front left and right Aerial 7ts. After doing one speaker, and playing music, I was “pulled” to the Bybeeized speaker even though they were the same volume, as the Bybeeized speaker sounded better (though with more experience perhaps it sounded “different”, as I later realized that the filters may offer some sonic improvement but also perhaps some sonic loss of dynamics/microdynamics and didn’t use them on later speakers). Also, as we had yet to solder the Bybee filters into my center channel speaker, I noticed what a friend called a “hole” at the center channel, and compensated by turning up the center volume a few dB (even though it was louder using the dB meter). A few weeks later we soldered Bybee filters into the center speaker, the “hold” was gone, and I lowered the center volume to the same as my other speakers! In 2011 and for 3 years thereafter, with Theta Citadel 1.5 monoblocks and a Theta Generation VIII DAC at the front left and right but “only” Theta Enterprise monoblocks and Casablanca internal D2 DACs at the center and surrounds, although my system sounded “better” with the Citadels, particularly on two channel, I felt that I had lost some of the holographic imaging with my system more focuses on the front soundstage – with all of the marvelous holographic imaging restored with my 2014 “re-equalization” of five Aerial 7ts and five Theta Prometheus monoblocks!
Why tell you all of this? Because I was conflicted about upgrading to Dolby Atmos/DTS-X and adding four “top”/in ceiling speakers. I had thought about using four Aerial 5 speakers mounted off my 12 foot high ceiling for “top”/ceiling speakers, but not only was that too much $$, but even Michael Kelly of Aerial pooh poohed doing this stating that to sound right the Aerial 5s need to be a decent distance from the ceiling. I was deathly afraid that installing lesser amplifier and speakers for the “top”/ceiling speakers would detract from my sonics and that I was better off not upgrading and sticking with my “ground” based system (HA)!
I’d been going to a Dolby Atmos movie here and there at the Harkins Cine Capri (Tempe) and more recently AMC Stapley Dolby Cinema (Mesa). What I heard at times was not that much in terms of sounds coming clearly from above as a somewhat cleaner, clearer quieter better sounding movie (War for Planet of the Apes which I saw a month ago was the first Dolby Atmos movie where I really noticed sounded coming realistically from above).
Nonetheless, I am a bit of a technology home theatre junkie, and the addiction won out over my experienced judgment. Plus the fact that my long long longstanding Theta dealer, VGI/Craig Shumer, was of the opinion that one of the new ATI Class D multi-channel amplifiers and four KEF Ci2000rr in ceiling speakers would work well and sound excellentwith my on the ground Aerial speakers! And the price was reasonable, too! I actually got the new gear last December and I held off with the install until just over two weeks ago, as I was about to finally get my upgraded Theta CBIV-A with Dolby Atmos & DTS-X!
I took down all of my component racks and components (except I left monoblock amplifiers and speakers where they were) and moved out from the “component wall” so my installers would have room for ladder, etc to install the ceiling speakers (it was a good time to clean and condition all connections, which I did). The CBIV-A came back towards the end of July and my in ceiling speakers were installed two days later (Thursday July 27). Then the tedious task of moving the component racks back to the wall and loading the components, connecting all the cables, etc. Taking my time so as not to blow out my replaced right hip or two need any other joint replacements, and getting sore as hell in the process causing my hiatial hernia to act up for the first time in 6 months!
After parts of 2 days, my system is up (except for some adjusting and tweaking over the next few weeks). Even play a blu ray movie with my Theta Compli Blu 3d a few days later! And guess what! The next day, the Compli Blu 3d “died” on me. So I ordered and 2 days later (last Saturday) received a brand new Oppo UDP-205 4k blu ray player. (I got the heavier, more solidly built with video jitter reduction 205 instead of the 203 becausing the 205 is supposedly per a reviewer more musical for multichannel music and hoping that would translate over to movies as my system is so “musical” particularly as I am replacing the wonderful sounding over HDMI Theta Compli Blu 3d). Note the Oppo UDP-205 appears to be built more like a Theta player when it comes to weight, vibration control, better power supplies, etc. Since getting the Oppo a week ago, I have pretty much been burning it in around the clock playing the new Kraftwerk 3-D blu ray using the Dolby Atmos track (when I am out of room, leaving only the ATI multi-channel amplifier on for the “top”/ceiling speakers).
I have really liked using the “Upmix” mode for DirecTV programming, like “Game of Thrones”. Compared to my prior CBIV, I feel that the CBIV-A on DirecTV simply sounds at least a bit quieter and cleaner/clearer.
Note that I also have an Oppo UDP-103D blu ray player – which I’ve been using to rip SACDs, not for playing blu rays, as my Theta Compli Blu 3d simply sounded better for movies over HDMI (Theta players with upgraded power supply, etc have always sounded better then the corresponding Oppo players, which I have owned, in my system.) I recently compared the Kraftwerk Dolby Atmos track with the Oppo 103 & 205, and the 205 was clearly more musical, more dynamic, simply easily better sounding!
Meanwhile, I discover, which Theta is working to rectify with a software upgrade, that although HDMI inputs accept up to 192k, that the other digital inputs (I tested balanced and coaxial) only accept up to 48k. And I just received my brand new just out Sonore Signature Rendu to play two channel via USB out into my Berkeley Audio USB converter, then out balanced digital to my Theta CBIV-A SSP. Accordingly, the sonics with this new Rendu are just not there until the CBIV-A hopefully soon receives the software upgrade, and I am “merely” listening to my CAPSv3 HDMI multi-channel music server (which sounds better than ever with the CBIV-A, but my two channel via USB has always been my very best sounding musically). Although my multi-channel music sounds better than ever, since I moved by Western Digital MyCloudPR4100 AND Sonic Transporter i5 (both connecting via Ethernet) to my home office “far” away from my theatre room, that can perhaps account for some sonic improvement of my multi-channel music, not necessarily the upgraded CBIV-A (I think both “moves” contribute to better sonics.) I find that the CBIV-A’s direct digital mode is somewhat cleaner/clearer for multi-channel music, but sometimes I like the added ambience I get using the “ Upmix”mode.
A few days ago, I played “Deepwater Horizon”. However, I had the CBIV-A source input set for “Upmix”, thinking that when the SSP received a Dolby Atmos signal, it would automatically switch to Dolby Atmos. Sonics were nice, but I felt that something was missing. This is when I realized that on “Upmix”, the CBIV-A front display doesn’t show “Atmos”, and on “Upmix” the Atmos channels are being synthesized and you don’t get the original channels. To get the original Atmos channels, you need to set the source input for digital direct.
Last night, I played “The Girl on a Train” in DTS-X! No upmixing for the “top”/ceiling speakers this time! Even in DTS-X will the new Oppo UDP-205 (with audio jitter reduction circuitry for HDMI) sounds as good as my Theta Compli Blu 3d would have? I had my doubts! But alas, this is easily the best my system has ever, ever sounded on a blu ray movie. Spectacular. Cleaner, quieter, musically the best@! I am very very happy!
The BIGGEST improvement with the CBIV-A and Dolby Atmos/DTS-X is the extra crystal clear dialogue and “separation” of the dialogue from the “background” or “foreground” soundtrack/music. The fact that I have “lesser” speakers and amplifier for the “top”/ceiling channels is not something that I notice at all – so contrary to my expectations as discussed above. I do thank my dealer Craig/VGI because no doubt the KEF in-ceiling speakers work so well in my theatre with my ground floor Aerial 7ts.
THIS IS EXCITING! I GRADE THE CBIV-A UPGRADE AN A+!!!
OK. I put on "Deepwater Horizon" again, watching a few passages, this time using the CBIV-A's digital direct mode, where the CBIV-A display says "Atmos" and plays the original "top"/ceiling channels. Can clearly hear the sonic improvement over the "Upmix" mode. Nice!
Played some of the "Batman v Superman" blu ray. Just watched this abou two months ago with my CBIV system! Dolby Atmos in CBIV-A digital direct mode with front display saying "Atmos"!
Sounds even better than I remember (even though again I'm using the Oppo UDP-205 and not the Theta Compli Blu 3d I had used two months ago). My comments on sonic improvement as discussed above for the DTS-X track of "The Girl on a Train" stand as the same!! NICE! NICE!
I alsp played a bit of a 96-24 multi-channel blu ray of Julienne Taylor. Sounds great, as good as I remember a few months ago (my memory ain't good enough on this one to say better - but as good for me using the Oppo makes me very very happy)!
The CBIV-A is a KEEPER!!!@@@ As is the ATI multi-channel amp and KEF Ci2000RR-THX in ceiling speakers!
(Noted on August 16, 2017):
I watched the blu ray, Dolby Atmos, of "Alien:Covenant" last night! Again, using direct digital mode so I get all original channels in the soundtrack including "top"/ceiling channels. Sounded great!!!@@@ Best sonics ever for a blu ray with of course special effects galore done well! I've always had great imaging even pre-Atmos, but again, with Dolby Atmos, the surround sound and holographic 3D imaging is simply quieter and appreciably much better/more intense (in a relaxing way, which is outstanding) (I didn't think this would be possible) and of course dialogue is clearer than ever standing out more from everything else goin' on!
I am also starting to burn-in my brand spankin' new Sonore Signature Rendu, USB out for two channel. As noted above, until the CBIV-A gets a software upgrade so digital balanced/coaxial accepts up to 192-24 (right now accepts only up to 48-24), I have set the Rendu to output 44-16 redbook as 44-16 untouched, 48-16 or 48-24 as the original untouched, and I'm downsampling everything else to its even integers of either 48-24 or 44-24! And I must say, whether untouched, upsampled or downsampled, sounds marvelous! No matter how good the CBIV-A sounds over HDMI (and it does), its even better for two channel over digital balanced/coaxial (using Berkeley Audio USB to digital converter, and Berkeley recommends balanced digital as sounding best with also bnc digital sounding excellent as well).
I've already burned in the HDMI out on my new Oppo UDP-205 4k blu ray player. Now I'm burning in the Rendu.
I will soon be connecting analog stereo from Oppo to CBIV-A and burning in and trying that! I will also connect Rendu USB to Oppo, then via analog stereo to CBIV-A, and try that!
I also tried (I've done this before with prior Oppo/Theta blu ray players) using the Oppo connecting to my network and my music stored therein and playing over Oppo HDMI to CBIV-A.
As I always found in the past, this sound is pretty sterile - my HDMI out CAPSv3 music server sounds leagues better in this regard.