I have no skin in this game since never owned a Theta, Datasat, Storm, Anthem, Lexicon, Meredian or other boutique SSP.
What I will say is:
1. Build quality, specific DSP chips, DACs, ADC's, special jitter-control technologies and others, were some of the parameters I used to justify my continuing to cycle-buy my preferred mfg's flagship AVR's ever few yrs, losing a lot of money on each one I replaced. I used to buy flagship $2K blu-ray and SACD players because I thought the extra build quality and specific components "had" to make an audible difference.
2. Every one of those flagships quickly got obsoleted by the mfg or by the ever-advancing technology targets. It was only 6 months after I bought Pioneer's highly acclaimed SC-09TX Susano AVR @$7K and they came out with a new "flagship" with the same Ice amps, new networking features like internet radio, new Dolby & DTS modes, that they could not or would not offer to Susano owners, because of hardware
limitations and their worsening financials. While Denon offered an upgrade path for their acclaimed AVP prepro & flagship AVR, Pioneer did nothing other than continue to release new AVR's that obsoleted ones only 1yr or less older. On the blu-ray side, the $500 Oppo 93 ran circles around the $2K Pioneer, and could do things in FW that the Pioneer couldn't due to its older chip hardware limitations. So all that high priced build quality I used to believe was most important doesn't mean squat in this rapidly changing AV environment.
3. I first heard about Trinnov at CEDIA 2010 in Atlanta. I went to ADA's booth who at the time was partnering with Trinnov on an external 8 ch ADA Optimizer box. I went to their demo. Don't remember the speaker brand or amps used but it was a 7.1 system. During the demo, they played clips from Chris Botti live in Boston; one track was Steve Tyler doing vocals with Botti playing his horn. They did an A/B comparison with the Optimizer on, then off, then back on again. I was blown away at what difference their room correction made. Up until that time, I was using Pioneer's own MCACC system, EQ, some phase control & group delay adjustments as well as the usual level, distance settings. While Pioneer made some differences, mostly they were subtle and it's debatable which is an audibly "better" difference. OTOH, Trinnov made simple 5.1 audio a far more seamless and integrated soundfield than I ever heard in my room. It a bubble of sound vs. specific sounds from each speaker. Turning it off made the whole bubble collapse into individual speakers playing individual sounds. It was like you were in the concert hall seated in front of the performers.
From 2010 to 2018, I really wanted Trinnov but couldn't afford or justify spending the money for it. I've been retired and last year I just did it. Circumstances allowed me to spend the money.
My paradigm shifted from build quality/DAC chips/features #1
to getting the best end results
and a device that would be kept current on a timely basis, not become obsoleted every few years.
Some will prefer to remain in the build quality-hardware #1
camp and that's great. They will pay for that with continued spending for glacially slow upgrades, whether hardware, or chips to implement updated features. A card cage architecture is no
benefit if the company is always lagging behind the technology curve by several yrs. This is the one constant
theme I've read about with Theta since I joined AVS Forum. It's the same debate over & over. The audio quality is renowned but life is too short IMO to continue having to wait yrs while they implement rapidly changing AV technology.
Some will prefer the Trinnov approach of using PC architecture & software to do upgrades. And that's great too.
Sure, the PC part is a minimal cost of the total but it isn't ordinary flavor Linux & software that we can go buy and slap an audio card & DAC board on. You are paying for Trinnov's R&D & intellectual property, not a PC & audio boards. Their algorithms, their corrections, their approach, their ability to have many presets with many curves, filter options, many more speaker layout options = end results. Plus longevity
in having a SSP that is bound not by hardware cards & chips but by code.
It took me 8 yrs to make that choice. Theta/Datasat type SSP owners can make theirs. I'm happy with mine!
As far as Trinnov being a rip-off, the Altitude 16 costs $17000. My cost, including ~20% discounts, from 2003-2016, for CE flagships was ~$15000. 3 flagship Pioneer AVR's: VSX-49txi, 59txi, & their 1st $7K Ice amp model, the SC-09TX. Plus a Marantz AV8802A prepro. All acclaimed, all known for robust "build quality" for their respective CE product types and all using hi-perf DAC & DSP chips.
Over their life cycle, I spent almost the same money, only it took 13 yrs. The Trinnov has potential to be kept "current" & on a timely basis
. It could be a ~10 yr life cycle product with the only part to upgrade being HDMI from 2.0 to 2.1. Even that isn't really a need-to with dual output sources.
Is Trinnov really a rip-off? The build-camp folks, out of habit, may say yes. I chose having superior room correction & immersion, timely
software upgrades, long life cycle along with great audio performance. Can anyone really hear a couple dB difference in SNR from a specific DAC board anyway?
Every product & company has its strengths & maybe some weaknesses. Everyone gets to make choices based on what their priorities are. There is no perfect product. But some are indeed better than the majority of their peers. Trinnov is in that group of world-class products.
All I know is that Trinnov results in a much more integrated, immersive soundfield where things just sound right with all the formats, than any previous gear I've had in my room, with my speakers - Maggies - and my ears. Even the Marantz & Audyssey isn't as seamless to my ears. I also get Auro3D to add to music, which most other SSP's don't have.