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Calling Casablanca Owners - Need help with Configuration Options

9585 Views 246 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  rick e
Hi all,

I will be ordering a CIII in about 1 month, and I'm planning on one Xtreme dac for the front 3 + sub, and one superior for surround and center back. I may get a 2nd Xtreme for sides and surrounds and skip the back center.

Without taking into consideration the DAC itself, is the side/surround array better (I've heard Theta uses the same signal for both, but time aligns and does a few other things) OR

Is it better to go with a Center Surround Channel? My room isn't that big, so I can't go with sides/rears and center surround.

What configuration do you guys have, and what do you think of the surround speaker array you have?

My room is 12x 19 x 9 high, and my surrounds are above my head and on the side walls and centered in the null area (between my ears), where they should be (dipoles) and I have 2 back surround channels (dipoles) in the ceiling shooting down at the listening position. My couch is on the back wall, so having sides/rears would literally be a straight line (my current surrounds and back channels are on the same horizontal plane).

Just not sure what's going to give me the most surround envelopment. I don't want 4 speakers on the same horizontal array giving me the same surround material (as would presumably be the case with side/surrounds).

So I'm thinking having the center back channel, and splitting the XLR cable to 2 amp channels, may be the way to go.

Lastly, IS CIRCLE SURROUND meant to work with sides/surrounds or surrounds/center surround configuration?

Thanks all, I appreciate it!

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Mine is on its way. Rather than answer your question for you, let me tell you what I did, based on my installer's advice and my research.

My room is about 16'x28'x9', so, not too different.

I have two side, and two rears. These are on STANDARD DACs - why? Because in surround mode, they do not receive full range signals anyway. For the front three, I am using the new Superior II DACs - according to my dealer (and to Theta) they are 95% of the Xtremes at 50% the cost. They were just introduced.

Hope this helps some.

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stieger - you should not double post. I posted a reply in the other forum. I did not know of the existance of the Superior II dacs. What sample rates can they handle?
Thanks gents. What is the scoop on the Superior II DAC? Why would they introduce it with 95% of the Xtreme's sound at half the price, seems like they are undercutting their own pricing.

Is it a superior dac that simply sounds better because of the OS, or is there actual differences in the DAC card compared to the "old" superior card?

I'm a little confused by the first reply - DTS and DD absolutely send full range sound to the surrounds - with the exception of the crossover point at 80hz or where ever you set it. I don't understand the logic (not arguing, just don't get it) why he'd tell you the rears / surrounds don't get the full frequency when the hole point to DTS and DD is 5 discrete channels of full-bandwidth sound.

Help me understand. If I understand this piont of view, you would have samed me some serious cash.

Please tell me what you think of your unit with the DACs you chose.

So you ordered 2 Superior DACs and one Standard Balanced to get all the channels (8)? Why not just get 2 Xtreme dacs - wouldn't that be clsoe in price - $8k for Xtreme vs. $2300 x 2 (?) + $1000 = 5600.

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The dealer was probably implying that the sides and surrounds in a movie get a limited amount of work when compared to the front three speakers. It is not like the sides and surrounds are being used all the time in every scene. Also the sounds that go through the sides and surrounds are usually some sort of sound effect that is limited in bandwidth whereas the sounds that come from the front three speakers are much more complex. It does not have to be that way but it often is. My guess is that for movies, the xtreme dacs are not as important for the side and surround speakers.

All bets are off if you are listening to multichannel music however, you will need good surround speakers as well as good processing to enjoy that.
Originally posted by stieger
............So you ordered 2 Superior DACs and one Standard Balanced to get all the channels (8)? Why not just get 2 Xtreme dacs - wouldn't that be clsoe in price - $8k for Xtreme vs. $2300 x 2 (?) + $1000 = 5600..........

Here's a thought. Won't save you much money but it might be nice for your system....especially if you're into 2 channel stuff. Have you ever considered using all used sup dacs in the CBIII and then bridging with a GenVIII? You would have to find the sups perhaps on Audiogon or somewhere. Last time I checked, they were going for around a grand. I think some guy a couple of weeks ago had 2 of them for sale for somewhere around 1200. Then you could send them to Theta for installation when you purchase the CBIII. They may also give you a deal if you go for both units. Just a thought.

I'm sorry if I mispoke.

While there are situations in which the surrounds receive a full-range signal, and the seakers should be full-range, in multi-channel movies, they are rarely mastered with the intention of sending them a "full-range" signal, it is just not necessary. Currently I am not an SACD or DVD-A convert (don't like what I've heard vs. 2-channel), so this is not an important consideration for me.

Now, as for the Superior II DACs, they are an upgrade from the Superior DACs, and my understanding is that they will replace them entirely once the Superior DACs are gone (probably why they have not been widely announced). Unlike the current Superior cards, these are software assignable (the current cards must be purchased pre-configured as either front or surround cards. The sample rate is the same, but my understanding is that the DACs and algorithms are different. According to my discussions with Theta, they were developed from the research they did resulting in the Xtreme DACs, and as such are quite similar in sound quality.

There are also rumours of this resulting in an Xtreme II as well, though I have not been able to confirm this.

Currently, with HD-DVD on the horizon, I would recommend staying away from the Xtreme DAC at the moment. While it can process a 384k sample rate, this is with 8x oversampling, and I am unsure as to what input it will take (read: you may have to replace your $4k DAC once HD-DVD ships). The Superior II should be fine at 96k, as I have confirmed it should be able to take this signal directly.

Given both of the new HD audio formats from Dolby and DTS, you will want 192k across your fronts (stereo direct will suppot this) and 96k for your surrounds (max for multi-channel).

Personally I am keeping to Standards for the rears (48k) for now) as I will switch the Superior to the rears and put an Xtreme III (if that is what it is called) to the front when and if required.

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Great info, thank you so much!

I have not heard of an HD audio signal from Dolby or DTS, what's the skinny on that? (Sorry for asking so many questions).

(Asking this because I don't understand) - Why would an Xtreme Dac need replacement for the HD Dolby or DTS signal if it's able to "process" up to 384kHz? I would think this sampling rate would allow it to play/decode a HD audio signal. Does it have something to do with the oversampling?

Very interested in learning more, thank you for helping me. I certainly don't want to buy a $4k Xtreme card to have to swop it out. I just don't understand why a "lesser" (Superior II) card would play the HD audio, but not the Xtreme.


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Dolby Digital Plus and I think it is called DTS+ will be new formats for HD-DVD audio. The sample rate for these is 96kHz to multiple channels. Part of the Dolby spec allows for 192kHz to the stereo channels.

Now, the current cards can accept 44.1 or 48 kHz and upsample this (8x in the case of the current Xtreme cards) to 384kHz. However, it is unclear if they can take in a 192KHz signal and do anything with it, as there is not as of yet 192kHz signal for them to use.

The Superior IIs can take in either 441, 48 or 96kHz and should be fine for the future surround formats. However, they are obviously not enough for the future 2 channel audio.

My recommendation, what I am doing, is getting Superior IIs for the front, and will probably move them to the backs once HD-DVD audio hits. Then whatever will handle the front channel 2-channel audio, will be put in the front.

Hope this helps.
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Sounds like the 96kHz input signal for DD+ or DTS+ will still work with/for the Extreme DAC. It sounds like the 2-channel 192kHz signal will be the question mark. Would you agree?

I've got a call into Theta. Who did you talk to?


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Originally posted by PeterS
............... I would recommend staying away from the Xtreme DAC at the moment.......Personally I am keeping to Standards for the rears (48k) for now) as I will switch the Superior to the rears and put an Xtreme III (if that is what it is called) to the front when and if required.

I will respectfully debate with Peter on holding off on going with an xtreme. We just don't know enough about when the HD-DVD format will become a reality yet. And even when it does, it will then take additional time for the new format to become standard. Although I don't really know, I'm guessing it'll be a couple of years before there's enough media out there to call the new format "standard". To me, that's enough time to enjoy the xtreme in it's current configuration. Then, when the technology and market saturation for the HD-DVD format reaches "standard mass", I would have to believe there would be an upgrade program for the xtreme DAC......... if one is even needed. Heck, as fast as the technology is evolving these days there could even be a CBIV by that time......it could happen.

Also, Stieger wrote:
"I certainly don't want to buy a $4k Xtreme card to have to swop it out."
The "swap out" is what you buy into when you go with Theta. It's at the heart of everything they do.....especially for their higher end products. In fact, you should COUNT ON having to send your unit [whatever it is] back to Theta every couple of years.

As slow as they are, Theta is among the best when it comes to modular upgrades. And I'm just absolutely sure that without an upgrade program for the xtreme [if needed], people would just stop buying them given the initial cost. And you know as well as I do that Theta doesn't want that. As for the compatibility issue of the xtreme sample rate with the HD-DVD format, it might be worth a phone call to John, Niel, or Mary at Theta before making a final decision. Given everything I've read in your posts, I'll respectfully disagree with Peter and say "go for it".

This is an interesting issue for me as well. I currently have an xtreme and 2 sups in a CBII. I'm toying with a CBIII upgrade and a Gen VIII but haven't totally made up my mind about it yet.

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Well, the formats have been announced and finalized.

HD-DVD (BlueRay or not) will begin shipping in 2005 (Christmas 2005 is reasonable).

If you are comfortable with Investing in the Xtreme DACs for anywhere from 12-24 months use, then go for it. Since the upgrade can happen any time, and they have just upgraded the Superior DACs, I am going to wait.

However, I would be interested in knowing what Theta has to say on the subject when you speak with them.

Looking forward to your post.

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Just checking in with Theta, there are Xtreme II DACs indeed "coming" though I do not have a date. No word how they will work with HD-DVD as no digital transport system has yet to be announced/finalized (though it is a good bet it will be HDMI based).

Hope this helps

That makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, it seems that a freind of mine mentioned the same thing about the Xtreme II coming out along with the upgrade on the Sups. Also, I could've sworn I heard that the Xtreme upgrade was going to be for free in some circumstances....though I don't remember what the circumstances are. In your conversation with Theta, did they say anything about the compatibility issues we talked about earlier?

BTW, I went searching around the net about HD-DVD and Blue-Ray and in essence, this is what I found.

"How the format is going to be is not yet decided but there is a strong will among the film studios and electronic makers that the format should arrive sooner rather than later. The earliest we can expect HD-DVD content is 2004 but 2005-2006 seems more like it."
In general, Peter is right. The technology has been announced and everyone wants it....BADLY. I still think that it will be awhile before it becomes standard technology though. But that's just my opinion.

Just spoke to my dealer. The Extreme Dac's will be field upgradable (software via laptop), by the end of this year. If I put in the Extreme now,as I am just upgrading to CB 3 status, the upgrade to Extreme 2 will be free. Hope this helps.

Do you know if Theta will have a upgrade path for Extreme DAcs. I have mine Since 2002 and I hope Theta will upgrade them even if they charge for the upgrade.
Sorry Ash, i don't know.

Has anyone asked about future HD-DVD compatibility?

Hi folks,

Would like to thank everyone for their interest and inputs in this thread.

I did speak with Theta for a minute about the Xtreme DACs possible problem with HD-DVD.

He called me back in the middle of something, so he said he would email a further explanation, but did state the Xtreme DAC and possible problem doesn't have anything to do with the 384kHz oversampling, but resides with the encryption of the digital bitstream prior to the signal hitting the DAC, and hence what the DAC will do when "introduced" to this new HD-DVD audio signal.

He did say the Xtreme Dac upgrade will be a download anyone can do, so it would be free. John also mentioned it should be available by the end of this calendar year!!

Lastly, I asked about the Superior II card, and he specifically said it was not 95% of the performance of the Xtreme at 50% of the cost. It is a different card, not a simple Superior I card that runs better with the new OS, but a change to the algorithms and signal integrity. Jitter is reduced even more on the Sup and Xtreme Card upgrade, equalling better sound.

When I get his email explaining it more thoroughly, I will post it.


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