PS - Part of why I am hesitant is I listened to a Marantz streamer, or SACD player and it was .... harsh.
I dunno Erik so take this for what it’s worth, but those Theta Casablancas seem to be held in really high regard, even as stereo preamps, to this day. So, if I’m going for absolute sound quality and the Theta has the connections/features you’re looking for I’d have a hard time picking either of the other two over it. But that’s just a dumb guess FWIW. Plus, owning a Theta would be kinda cool, so there’s that.
Hi @soix I had the Casanova and it was outstanding. The reasons I'm not seriously considering Theta right now is many-fold. First, they were SO far behind in getting HDMI working, plus of course the massive cost of a unit today. Lastly, they are not an enthusiast brand. They are a uber-high end billion dollar mansion builder brand. I'm not their target market/customer at all, especially not if I want to configure everything myself.
I’m also not sure Theta has the manual EQ features I’m looking for.
@nwres Yes, the Marantz would be HT only, using a Luxman stereo to handle music. My concern is just that the mass-market Japanese HT brands were just ... really so bad that I’m afraid of going back to a Japanese brand for HT.
I own a Theta Casablanca V. In my opinion, it is an outstanding AV preamp/processor/DAC in flexibility and sound quality (insofar as what it does, which is everything except SACD decoding and MQA decoding). It also has built-Dirac Live. I use mine to both watch movies and listen to music. My criticisms are two: its video switching is subpar in terms of its syncing consistency (not a problem for me because I use an external AVpro video switch); and it is very, very expensive.
It doesn’t make sense to compare a Casablanca with any other “comparable” AV unit because there aren’t any. The Casablanca is custom in the way an Aston Martin Valkyrie is.
I haven’t heard the Theta but do own an OPPO BP 103 I bought in 2014 and purchased the Marantz 7706 last year. I love the Marantz for tone/room control. I used the Audyssey but ended up using manual adjustments (there are two presets so can use both). The Audyssey told me I had a speaker out of phase (I didn’t) AND wanted to set the crossovers at 120hz for my monoblocked tower speakers! Ummm…no! That aside, the settings are very flexible. Distance measured in .1ft vs OPPO at .5ft. dB level settings +/-10 dB and crossover setting in 10hz increments from 40hz-120hz. Also, what’s really great is level adjustments for ALL channels on independent sources which solved the problem I had of my Amazon Fire always sounding lower than the OPPO or other sources! I primarily got the Marantz for ATMOS and am not disappointed.
One more thing about the Marantz and OPPO. I have a large collections of SACD’s and DVD-A’s as I enjoy multichannel music. The main reason I kept the OPPO is it plays all these formats with ease and with the OPPO can send either the native DSD over HDMI or can convert it to PCM first. The Marantz will take either stream via HDMI. The Marantz is just so super versatile. You can feed it any digital stream (DSD, FLAC, etc.) whether from your own device (like the OPPO or your PC) or from any high-rez streaming service and it will play it.
@jmeyers I wasn't trying to offend your brand loyalty. I just have experienced that there are some HT processors which are at least enjoyable to listen to and some that are just really not.
I thought maybe someone with experience listening to the same gear I have could give me a recommendation in the range I could afford. Clearly that wasn't something you felt comfortable doing.