Lambda vs Theta Data Basic

RH compared the Lambda with the Theta Data Basic in March 1994 (Vol.17 No.3):

A natural point of comparison for the Theta Data Basic was the similarly priced PS Audio Lambda transport. The auditioning was restricted to coaxial and AES/EBU.

I wondered just how similar—or different—the Data Basic would sound compared with the nearly identical Lambda. In my review of the Lambda last October, I concluded that it offered terrific performance for the money. From the listening, it was clear that the Lambda and Data Basic resembled each other in their musical presentations yet were decidedly different in other areas. First, the similarities.

The Data Basic had a clean, open, and very dynamic character. The transport's clarity, excellent bass, and transparent soundstage were very much like that of the Lambda. Starting with the bass, the Data Basic had a full, robust, and well-defined bass presentation. Bass drum had a nice solidity, acoustic bass was warm and round, and the presentation had a good sense of weight. The Data Basic's bass tended to be a little leaner, tighter, and better defined than the Lambda's, although both were similarly impressive. The Lambda seemed to have a little more extension at the very bottom end, giving more heft to bass drum. The Basic, however, sounded quicker and had better pitch definition in the midbass. Overall, the Lambda had a slightly stronger sense of pace, but not by much. Both transports were superb in conveying the music's rhythmic elements.

Dynamics were equally impressive from both the Data Basic and the Lambda—this is one area in which both transports are hard to beat. Music had a powerful, dynamic expression that was extremely compelling. Bass drum had plenty of slam and weight, and musical climaxes were reproduced with a sense of effortlessness.

Despite these similarities with the Lambda, the Data Basic had its own sound. First, the Data Basic had a more laid-back perspective. The Lambda tended to be drier and more forward by comparison. I heard a greater sense of ease to the music through the Data Basic as a result of its more relaxed presentation. Instrumental images were more set back in the soundstage through the Data Basic, a quality that I found greatly appealing.

The Data Basic's less aggressive perspective was enhanced by its wonderful resolution of space and air. The Data Basic was superb at revealing space, depth, and subtle spatial cues. Moreover, a beautiful bloom surrounded instrumental outlines. In comparison with the Lambda, the Data Basic was more spacious, three-dimensional, and had greater resolution of spatial information. Reverberation decay was well portrayed, with the impression of hanging in space longer. The wealth of spatial detail on the Three Way Mirror disc (Reference RR-24CD) was conveyed without the music losing its immediacy. The Data Basic was among the best I've heard from any transport in its ability to portray bloom, space, depth, and air around instrumental outlines.

Treble information was presented with smoothness and a high degree of refinement. The top octaves were noticeably cleaner through the Data Basic than through the Lambda. Sibilance was less pronounced, cymbals were smoother, and strings had less grain when reproduced by the Data Basic. This treble purity greatly added to the Data Basic's sense of ease and smoothness. Although the Data Basic's treble was more incisive and forward than the C.E.C. TL 1's, it was decidedly less up-front than the Lambda's.

I thought the Data Basic revealed more information than the Lambda did, with more nuance, subtlety, and finely filigreed treble detail, despite the Data Basic's softer treble. I ended up preferring the Data Basic over the Lambda with each processor I auditioned it with and over a wide range of music.—Robert Harley

PS Audio
4826 Sterling Drive
Boulder, CO 80301
(720) 406-8946