The Theta Casablanca
It’s Amazing 20 Year Journey!
by Craig Shumer
American made. Audiophile quality. Music and cinema controllers, amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, and transports.
The Amazing History of the Casablanca Dacs and The Evolution of the Casablanca 4 !
The D/A Convertors are the key instrument in any Audio system and what most people don’t understand is that its not about the speed of a DAC like for instance 24/192 or 24/96 but the design that really matters. Theta has been in the DAC business for 20 years and has focused building the most beautiful sounding Dacs anyone has ever heard. Back in the day , people bought the Theta Dacs for their 2 channel listening before there were high end Preamp Processors. Theta saw where this was going and developed the Casablanca and intended the Casablanca to be around for a long time with open architecture and upgradability. Lots of other companies came and went with this concept but like I said came and went. For almost 2 decades the Casablanca has remained fully upgradable and the sound of this machine has gotten better and better as its technology progresses.
The Casablanca 4 is being release March of 2014 and is once again adding amazing features in a Pre Amp that no other has. Theta is proud to introduce the Dirac Room Correction system that when activated will allow for room anomalies to be controlled and any room in any house can now sound incredible. The Mic they include is world class and you can see pics below. The CB4 also adds the option for 4K video Pass through for those of you who are using a 4K Tv or Projector. Theta is the first High End Pre Amp to offer this.
The CB4 has a new Processing Card called PR3 which now allows all digital inputs on CB4 to support full 24/192 input. This new Processor is future proof and has the power to bring many new features to CB4 over the coming years.
The Casablanca 4 which was released in March 2014 sets a new standard for Casablanca’s. It has a wide range of DACS available and since the HD machine was released they have made even the older DACS compatible and they have figured out a way to make them all sounds great. Now of course the higher the DAC level the better the sound but you don’t have to spend a fortune to get incredible Audio.
Theta has spent tons of money in R&D to develop the CB4 and what’s important to understand is a CB4 is not a CB3HD in any way shape or form. The CB4 is completely new with its new PR3 Main Processor and its 2014 software is completely re-written. When you send in a CB4 for upgrade people are under the impression that Theta Puts in an HDMI board and voila its a CB4. Not the case ! When a CB3 is sent in for Upgrade to become a CB4, The whole machine is redone from its Brand new World Class Power supply to the new PR3 system along with the new 4K HDMI Solution. Its all new including lots of new Metal and alloy aluminum covers to the new left Side Tower Logo and Metal work to an all new Operating system, the list goes on. The CB4 is the worlds finest Pre Pro that does things that no other Pre Pro can do. Let me explain –
Casablanca has a remarkable setup capability with something that for years I have praised and tried to explain to many people. People who understand it realize that owning a CB4 brings not inly the best sound and upgrade path but the configuration software that rivals all. So what am i saying ?
Okay try this on for size – The CB4 operating system allow for 12 Unique environments which we can call Inputs but its unlike any other Input in the world. Each of the 12 Inputs/Environments allows for 100% totally unique sound settings from Bass Management Cross Over settings to which speakers are active and not active. Okay let me break this down a little further.
You can setup input ONE for instance to 2 Channel listening with the Front Left and Right Speakers on set to Full Range with no cross overs and with ONE button press on input ONE , you have a 2 Channel listening Environment.
You could setup input TWO for instance to 2 Channel listening with your Sub on enabling the Front Left and Right Speakers on with lets say a cross over of 40HZ and your Sub on Handling the Frequency below 40Z. This is now a single button push on input TWO and one Press and you have 2 Channel With Sub.
You could Setup Input THREE for instance for 2 Channel Listening with Sub but maybe you want the Sub laid back a little for lets say night-time listening. You could set the Sub levels back a few DB so its a bit quieter but still musically for-fills your bass needs but doesn’t wake anyone up. This again is all with one button push now on Input THREE
You could Setup Input FOUR to be your DVD Multi Channel input that will have your 5.1 or 7.1 or 7.2 setup activated and all of your speakers on with all the levels the way you want and again a single button press.
Of course you could have INPUT 5 as your Cable/Directv Input for Multi Channel and have all speakers on and now that your getting the hang of this, you could have another with the BASS set down for night time DVD or SAT or CABLE watching.
What is fascinating here as once you understand the Software setup on Casablanca you will ask why every Pre Pro on the market doesn’t do this and your answer is not a single machine on the market does this. This open form of Setup has been on Casablanca for so many years and no one else has this. One every other Pre Pro you essentially set your Cross over for the Entire Machine like for instance you set 40HZ for your Sub Crossover and then Everything you listen to or Watch requires the Same Cross Over for all devices and inputs and if you want to change the frequency you have to go into its config and change the setting. You could never do this and enjoy using the machine. You may this you dont need this flexible software config but when you get it and start to play with it and enjoy having single button environment changes you will never go back. I consider this a necessity and so do all my Theta Customers. Without this flexibility its like having a CAR that has 1 Speed , it wouldn’t be too fun to drive.
Now Couple all of this Flexibility into a Chassis that can be upgraded not only from its HDMI engine but to its Software and D/A convertors and what more could you ask for?
The Deal with the DACS –
I get people every week asking about the DAC Cards and why there are so many and why the cost range is so broad. Let me explain this :
When the Casablanca One came out there were 3 Different Dac Cards available.
The Standard 3 Channel Balanced Card with 3 XLR connectors and 3 RCA Connectors
The 6 Channel Standard Card with 6 RCA Connectors
The Superior ONE Card with 3 Balanced Connectors and 3 RCA connectors
Years Later Theta Developed the Extreme DAC which was a Monster in the Industry. This card was the first 4 Channel Card and had the highest powered D/A convertors available on the market. The Xtreme has 4 XLR Balanced Connectors and of course can be used with Single Ended RCA connectors with Adapters which do not alter the Sound Quality at all. Fitting 4 Connectors on one card allowed the Casablanca with its 3 DAC slots to now have 12 Channels of DAC/OUTPUTS.
Following the Extreme DAC came two more cards –
The Superior 2 DAC which is a 3 Channel Balanced Card with 3 XLR Balanced connectors and 3 RCA connectors.
And lastly the PREMIUM DAC which is 4 Channels XLR Balanced like the Extreme and allowed for 12 channel configs like the Extreme Card.
The CB4 supports the newer dacs.
What does this all mean as far as price and quality ?
Well of course I would love to own a 600 Horse Power Ferrari but if I can buy a really nice BMW with 400HP for 1/8 the price, the BMW starts to look pretty good.
In essence here is what you have –
All the Theta Dacs in a CB4 machine sound incredible and sound better than every other Pre Pro available today. I know thats a tough one to Swallow but its true. The Mechanics and architecture of the Casablanca is why this is the case. The Chassis is Card Based and very open internally and noise between cards is limited because of this. In all other Pre Pro’s you find that the boards are stacked and connected because of space constraints and cost. Its much cheaper to build a Pre Pro with a few boards with everything including the DACs on those few boards. The problem is when you do this you cant have the upgradability and the sound that the CB4 has.
If you buy a CB4 today with lets say 2 Premium Cards you can always simply open the top and add or change the dacs as you wish. Lets say you want an Extreme Dac next year. Just open the top and Add it.. Its that simple.
Quality Levels of Dacs usable on CB4
Premium 4 Channel Dac – Amazing and support 24/192 all channels
Extreme 4 Channel Dac – Slightly better than Premium 24/192 all channels
Keep in mind that both Premium and Extreme Dacs are amazing and in a CB4 they sound incredible. You still get all the Bass management and Setup control when using any of the DACS.
Understanding the Owner of Theta and the Philosophy –
Buying into a Product Today is something that we have all became more aware of in the last few years. For instance some of us have found safety in Apple Products because they seem to hold up well and perform effortlessly and hold their value. This value for me is usually derived from the people behind the company. What I want to share with you is who is behind Theta and why I believe so much in this brand. Morris Kessler who owns Theta which is a Division of his main company Amplifier Technologies is based in Southern California. Morris has been in this business longer than most and back in the day he designed and sold a great product line Called SAE. SAE was gorgeous high end 2 Channel Gear that so many of us today had owned back in the day. His company Amplifier Technologies Inc or ATI designs and builds Amplifiers for themselves marketed under their name and then also they OEM manufacturer Amps for over a dozen companies who put their trust in ATI to produce amps for them. They are Master Amp Designers and Builders and in their High Tech Factory Theta Lives a Semi Autonomous Life. Dave Reich who has run Theta for years and Man behind the Amazing Dreadnaught and Citadel Amps now heads up the on going technology driving the entire Theta Line. He has the resources of the rest of ATI available to him but Theta remains a Unique piece of ATI that is the High end of the Audio industry. Morris is totally involved with Theta an puts an incredible amount of resources and money into them allowing them to grow and keep advancing the Casablanca so it will remain the finest Pre Pro on the Market. He assured me years ago he would continue to grow the Casablanca and he has kept his promise every step of the way. For me it was crucial as I have hundreds of happy Casablanca Customers who want to upgrade and keep their machines state of the art for the coming years.
Dirac Room Correction NOW –
Theta has worked tirelessly on a new Processing engine called PR3 along with a Room Correction module that will reside on the PR3 engine. The new PR3 engine you can see pictured in one of the photos and is now in CB4. Its the Largest and most powerful card the Casablanca has ever seen and in all reality its probably the most advanced CPU found in any AV processor available today. Its loaded with the latest Processing and has speeds way beyond what we need today. It will allow for CB4 to scale and grow for many years. One of the Areas of the new Card allows for a Full Implementation of Dirac Room Correction which is considered to be possibly the best Room EQ available. Trinnov and Dirac are for sure the two best in class and Dirac in a residential Pre Amp is a stellar move for Theta. The new Engine allows for other things in the future as there are other spaces on the card for them to grow. This new PR3 card and Dirac Room Correction will retail for 3995 and of course for people who own a CB3HD currently or buy one today the upgrade to PR3/Dirac will have very special intro pricing. You can email or call me to discuss this anytime.
Buying a Casablanca 4 today gets you the worlds most amazing most upgradable by far the most solid upgrade path Pre-Pro to ever hit this planet.
Boca Raton, Florida
Manalapan, New Jersey
West Hills, California