Theta Digital Enterprise monoblock power amplifier Manufacturer's Comment
Editor: "Wow, this is a really terrific review!" I thought, as soon as I got to the beginning of Michael Fremer's comments on the sound of the Enterprise. The second paragraph [of that section] starts with, "If you like your power amps on the rich and warmish side, the Enterprise probably won't be to your liking, though it will certainly gain your respect. If you like cleanness, transparency, and sonic law and order, the Enterprise will mesmerize you with clarity and definition—I could see into the soundstage for miles. It achieved its astonishing lucidity at the expense of a lush midrange..."
"Okay! Great!" I thought, because everyone knows he's referring to those happy, unsophisticated souls who equate an artificially euphonic, overly warm midrange and bloated bass with sonic bliss.
But then he decides that "the Enterprise's whole was less than the sum of its parts. In both cases, I was left respecting the Enterprise's musical presentation without ever warming up to it." The other amp referred to in "both cases" is the famed Halcro dm68. We're in good company—Halcro and Theta are the most-talked-about amps of the 21st century.
So MF didn't like the Halcro; didn't like Levinson or Krell amplifiers, either—the luminaries of the 20th century. If what Michael Fremer is trying to say is that he prefers tube sound over solid-state, it would be nice if he would just come out and say it.
I recall very well what can be accomplished using tubes from my days designing the euphonic Tempest tube analog CD player in my California Audio Labs period. Tubes sound lush and beautiful. Tubes make for a "warm" sound; they tend to give you a beautiful midrange and a fat bottom end. We used tubes in the analog stage of the Tempest as a sonic Band-Aid for digital harshness because, in 1985, we didn't know how to correct digital problems at the source.
It is okay to compare Theta's amplifiers with tube amplifiers, but I think it might have been more informative to do a comparison with another solid-state amplifier, preferably by someone who appreciates solid-state electronics. We feel somewhat like vintners who have just sent a subtle Chardonnay to a critic who likes only Cabernets.
But, all in all, we will gladly settle for MF's praise of the Enterprise's accuracy: "ultra-clean, fast, and detailed" performance in the highs that was "completely free of grain and etch"; its "pleasing extremes of low-level, HDTV-like resolution of detail, crystalline clarity"; its "giddy overload of spatial cues"; its "crystal-clear and revealing" midrange performance; and so on—despite, as he puts it, "some loss of mystery and plushness, but in exchange I could hear images with pinpoint focus and extraordinary resolution of low-level detail, down into the vanishingly low noise floor."
Okay, we'll take it, loss of mystery and plushness notwithstanding. (When we design a more Rubensesque amplifier, we'll be sure to let him know.) For a "didn't like it" review, this is pretty darned good.—Neil Sinclair, President, Theta Digital