Note: Just got this DAC off Audiogon used and it arrived 2-4-2011. I am gonna post stuff as I do stuff with it. For now my Theta CB3 SSP and Six shooter is out of my system, as is my PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC (PWD) and Bridge. I am awaiting my upgraded Theta CB3 HD! I am not necessarily AB comparing the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport (PWD) & PWT or Marantz UD9004 & PWD combos and how they sound to using the PWT or UD9004 with the Theta Generation VIII V2 DAC (Gen 8 V2). I know how my system sounds and if I am moved and really like how something sounds. My concern is long term happiness and enjoyment. Lets see if the Gen 8 V2 gives me this nirvana in two channel!
MY 2011 THETA DIGITAL LOG - Theta Generation VIII V2 DAC
Took my components in my three Michael Green audio video racks out completely. Took out all cables and power cords. Unscrewed, adjusted shelves, and rescrewed to fit components on how I wanted to rearrange them. Put everything back up. My right hip and legs hurt a good two days doing this but is it worth it – YES!
Right Michael Green AV rack, top to bottom: Marantz UD9004; PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport; Integra HD DVD player; DirecTV HD DVR #1; PS Audio Power Plant Premier.
Center Michael Green AV rack, top to bottom: CB3 HD (will be placed there when comes back from Theta); HVC D-VHS VCR; DirecTV HD DVR #2.
Left Michael Green AV rack, top to bottom: Lumagen Radiance XE (above top shelf); Theta Generation VIII V2 DAC (will be placed there when arrives, just purchased on Audiogon); Theta Six Shooter; APC S15 power conditioner.
I am not running anything using the Six Shooter for now.
Theta Generation VIII V2 DAC arrived today!
I connected to the Theta Generation VIII V2 DAC:
1 – coaxial digital – Marantz UD9004
2 – balanced digital – PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport (PWT)
3 – toslink – DirecTV HD DVR (set to stereo PCM)
4 – pair of balanced analog cables – Marantz UD9004
I went into the DAC’s setup menu and changed what I needed to. I set the DAC to use jitter jail instead of the standard reclocking.
After maybe 2 hours of playing in stereo, I started to do some listenin’.
Listened to CD of Roseanne Cash “The List” initially via UD9004 digital coxial. Easily as good or better than I remember via long term memory when I used the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC (PWD). I noted that the volume seemed to go higher, cleaner, more effortless. Had to go out for a few hours. Came back, played same CD using PWT, also sounded great. Which one is better? Heck if I know. I am just enjoying and not worrying about comparing for now.
However, I tried a Reference Recordings HRX 176-24 disc via PS Audio PW Transport, connected by Cardas balanced digital cable, but no sound. Theta’s website says the Gen VIII V2 has 24 bit/192 KHz DA conversion. So why doesn’t it handle the HRX 176-24? This is not a deal breaker for me – I have 8 HRX discs. I found a Secrets of Home Theater review online in this regard:
"JVS: Can the Gen. VIII handle 24/176.4 and 24/192 files?
DR: No, only because it’s limited by a receiver chip that’s on its own little board. That’s one of the things we’re looking at changing, which would take it up to 176.4 and 192"
I played the Neil Young blu ray disc of his 1971 live concert, “Live at Massey Hall”, via UD9004, the PCM 2.0 track (the blu ray menu says they offer a 192-24 stereo and also a 96-24 stereo track if the blu ray player can’t play 192-24.) over coaxial digital cable. Sounds great! Certainly as good as when I did this analog out from the UD9004 into Six Shooter. I also tried this same blu ray disc, via UD9004, the stereo analog XLRs. But the Theta DAC is easily just better, more relaxed, cleaner. Wonderful! And the stereo analog XLRs is no slouch at all, and sound like I remember it pre Gen VIII V2 DAC.
Now for “Flute Mystery”, Norwegian 2L’s blu ray & SACD combo package. I put on the blu ray disc. UD9004’s menu shows LPCM 96-24. Sounds great! Again I briefly tried the UD9004 XLR analog out but doesn’t sound as good to my ears! Though the analog sounded like it did via the Six Shooter when I had my CB3 Six Shooter combo. Can’t wait to get the CB3 HD back so I can play the DTS HD Master track!
Played some of AIX DVD-A 96-24 disc “Cheryl Bentyne”. The PWT won’t play this disc, the Marantz does play this disc. I selected stereo 96-24 track and I set the volume levels of the coaxial digital and analog stereo XLR inputs to the Gen 8, from the Marantz, approximately the same by using the “offset” feature in the Gen 8 setup menu. With equalized volume, I couldn’t differentiate between the two inputs.
Next, played the DVD-A disc of Emmylou Harris “Producers Cut”. Again, only playable on the Marantz. I selected the stereo 96-24 track. Sounded as good as ever via the coaxial digital input to Gen 8. Again, I really couldn’t differentiate between the coaxial digital and stereo analog XLR inputs. They are equally outstanding.
I continue to feel that the overall sonics are somewhat better and volumewise more effortless than when I had the Six Shooter in the system paired with the Marantz – but I will not know for sure unless and until at some point I decide to put the Six Shooter back in at least for demo purposes.
Playing CD of Emmylou Harris “Spyboy”. I alternated between playing some cuts on the PWT and the Marantz, with the later alternating between coaxial digital and analog stereo XLR. Just as in my system prior to the Theta Gen 8, when I used the Six Shooter, the Marantz is better – voices are more “microphonic” like a live performance (this is a live performance), Everything just sound more “right”. Yea, the Marantz is simply more “magical”. And the Marantz whether by analog stereo XLR or coaxial digital sounds marvelous but I defy anyone to differientiate between the two, they sound the same to me.
Now for the XRCD of Jacintha “Here’s To Ben”. My audiologic-brain response is the same as for “Spyboy” above, except perhaps even more so due to the top notch recording quality of this XRCD.
Keep in mind since for now I am “only” two channel with no subwoofer, that I am letting my brain ignore the added kick to low bass I get when my Aerial subs are in use. I know from experience that this is a real advantage to using digital v. analog stereo out of the Marantz. And of course the CB3 HD, when I get it, will allow me to have Extreme DACs for the rest of 5.3 channels (front left and right, front center, surround left and right, three subs) “synthesized” per DPL2 or DTS Neo.
Now to try a SACD – Doobie Bros “Takin’ It to the Streets”. One of my all time favorites since my second year of law school when it came out. Playing the SACD stereo track via Marantz, via stereo analog XLR, sounds very nice. If I switch to coaxial digital, I get nothing, since I am playing the SACD stereo track and as the Gen 8 doesn’t convert DSD. Switching to the CD track, still is very nice and listenable, but not as good as SACD! Whats interesting though is that playing it in redbook, the Marantz’ internal DAC conversion, analog XLR out, sounds equivalent to coaxial digital from the Marantz with the Gen 8 doing the conversion. In my “prior” setup with the Marantz to PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC (PWD) via coaxial digital, then analog XLR out to Six Shooter, vs Marantz stereo analog XLR out to Six Shooter, the Marantz digital out was easily superior musically. But now with CD the sonics are virtually indistinguishable. Is this due to the superiority of the Gen 8 over the Six Shooter as an analog preamp???
Now been listenin’ to Steely Dan “Two Against Nature” DVD-A in stereo 96-24 via Marantz, switching some between coaxial digital and stereo analog XLR. Again, the two inputs are simply indistinguishable. Sounds as good or better than ever! Probably better than ever as I’m only playing the stereo track, where in my prior CB3 and Six Shooter system using Marantz multi-channel analog out I listed in multi-channel DVD-A. Just think how much even better it will be when I get the CB3 HD so with the CB3 HD & Gen 8 V2 combo I will be able to do multi-channel DVD-A including whatever hi pass/low pass bass crossover I choose!!! And being able to throw my Aerial subs in the mix. WOW!
Now listenin’ to Steely Dan “Gaucho” SACD in stereo via Marantz stereo analog XLRs. Again, simply outstanding. Can’t wait to make it even better once I get the CB3 HD so I can play in 5.3 (I have three subs) multi-channel SACD!!! AGAIN WOWEE! This is really nice!!@@@ Next I played some of the CD (Mobile Fidelity) of “Gaucho”. Most important, though sounds great, played by Marantz, sounding equivalent whether using Marantz analog stereo XLRs or coaxial digital, clearly not as good sounding as the SACD was. But if I wasn’t comparing SACD v CD the CD would still be excellent and moving!
The more I listen to stuff, the more I see that I will be selling both the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC and Transport. The Marantz coaxial digital out is clearly superior on redbook used with the Gen 8 compared to the PWT. And using the Gen 8 as a preamp, the Marantz coaxial digital out vs the Marantz stereo analog XLR out sounds the same via the Gen 8. The Marantz is most impressive indeed as is everything about the Gen 8 (except that the Gen 8 currently doesn't do 176-24 or 192-24, though my understanding is that Theta simply needs to replace a receiver chip to accomplish this and hopefully at some point in the near future Theta will do this, so that the Gen 8 can play everything. Nice if Theta would add a port like USB, firewire, etc for music from a computer. My initial research indicates that per a Secrets of Home Theater Gen 8 review in 2009, the Halide Design USB to SPDIF Bridge (up to 96-24) for $450.00 works well for quaity sonics. They also noted the Wavelength 192 kHz Bridge, but thats more expensive and the Gen 8 currently can only do up to 96-24.