After sending the email to Theta only last night, I got a reply from Mary Cardes very promptly. Here is some of what she said.
I found your note quite interesting, and enjoyed going through the comparisons._ Please let me know if I can answer any additional questions.
1. Meridian processor is card based - very upgradable._ Meridian has a track record for upgrade options.
In the current products, Meridian has done a well with upgrades._ Theta, however, was the first in the market with a true card-based architecture._ This architecture has served our customers well - - starting with DTS (we were the first licensee, and the only processor I am aware of which was a true upgrade - not a tradein), and through the 'II' and 'III' upgrades.
2. Theta has not offered an upgrade to their processor.
Every Casablanca made can be upgraded to the current version (Casablanca III)._ We've done many, many I to II, II to III and I to III upgrades._ The prices for the upgrades have been quite reasonable. The upgrades in each version have been significant - encompassing software flexibility, setup options, bass management, improved D-to-A converters, the number and type of channels available, and current DTS, Dolby Digital and Circle Surround processes._ I'm not sure what they were referring to with this statement.
3. Meridian has room correction - Theta does not.
This is true._ We have been researching various room EQ options for several years._ The new operating system created for the Casablanca III will allow us the processing power we need to bring this feature to reality._ I cannot predict when the feature might be ready, but I can tell you that it is a planned upgrade.
4. Meridian has upsampling in their audio section including movies and CD's._ They are the only company that offers 96/24 upsampling on all channels.
There is an interesting paper on our website about upsampling vs. oversampling._ It's quite technical, but you might find it to be interesting reading._ In the end, while upsampling to 96/24 is useful, we've found that oversampling all digital audio sources to 24/392 is better.
5. Meridian has a digital link for DVD-Audio - Theta does not.
We are working on our digital link now - and it will handle both DVDA and SACD._ The proprietary interlink (between our Compli transport and either the Generation VIII 2-ch DAC or the Casablanca III) will be shipping this summer.
6. Meridian builds their own DVD player, Theta retools a Pioneer DVD player.
We source a transport mechanism from Pioneer, but the balance of circuitry is Theta designed and manufactured._ If you haven't already, I would suggest that you experience both the audio and video from our transports, it is more than competitive with other products.
7. Meridian DVD player can scale 1080i out of the player and has HDMI.
Theta offers a dcdi-based 480p, and have chosen to leave any higher/further processing to companies which do this for a living._ We've found that most owners who want 1080 or greater are generally enamored with an outboard processor._ We also offer a 4:2:2 (digital output) video option to reduce the number of A-D and D-A conversions present in the video chain of most systems.
8. Meridian amplifiers are dual differential, fully balanced and are mono block amplifiers.
As are the Theta products.
9. Meridian amps have 9 layers of PC boards - one for signal, one for power, one for ground, and rest are for shield and isolated circuits which results in a very quiet amp.
I won't go into specifics, but Theta takes similar (and more extensive) measures to ensure the quietest, best sounding amps we can make.
10. Theta has not been a factor in the US for many years._ The Meridian rep travels the US and hasn't even seen any Theta on a sales floor for 4 years._ (This sounds confusing but I wrote it word for word.)
I have no interest in getting into territorial conflict with another manufacturer - life's too short!_ Our two factory reps travel the U.S. quite frequently, and offer I'm told is some of the best customer service in the industry._ Interestingly, I don't encounter much Meridian in my travels either._ There is a trend towards dealers carrying fewer lines - - with systems this complex it's impossible to keep staff trained on every nuance of every product line._ Many stores which carried both Theta and Meridian (and other lines - easy to do back in the 2-channel days!) have chosen one or the other over the past few years.
One other difference between Theta and Meridian is our philosophy of the 'whole system'._ While Meridian prefers that you have Meridian end-to-end, we believe that speakers are a very personal decision, and one that you should be able to change if you wish._ There are so many great speaker designs out there, I would hate to be limited._ Embarrassingly, I do not know how Meridian handles volume control - but I've been told it is done in the digital domain._ Theta (and other high-end companies) always does volume control in the analog domain - an extremely important factor in the quality of a system
Again, please let me know if I can answer any additional questions._ I'm interested to know which way you go with your system!
I could not have been happier with her reply. She seemed very knowledgeable and cleared quite a few things up for me. Glad to see first hand the kind of customer service people have been talking about.