Theta Intrepid Amp Reviewed

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So dazzling was Theta's first amplifier, the Dreadnaught, that I ended the March, 2000 review with, "It's a ******g masterpiece." But there was a catch, price aside: the Dreadnaught measures an absurd 17.75x8.5x24in deep including the fittings. In my lounge, the amp would jut out into the room, infuriating my wife and endangering my son, who would be bound to trip over it. If, that is, I could fit it the shelving system I use. And why would that be a 'must'? Because the sucker weighs just over 100 pounds...

Additional Resources
• Read more high end amp reviews from Krell, Mark Levinson, Audio Research, Musical Fidelity and many others.
• Read Theta reviews including the Dreadnaught amp, Theta Casablanca AV Preamp and their Universal Players.

But a solution has appeared: Theta reduced everything to come up with the sweet little Intrepid, with 5x100W in 8 ohms/200W into 4 ohms, similar width but height a tad under 6in, and a more manageable depth of 19in. The price? A drop from the five-channel Dreadnaught's £6899 to a more attainable £3998. In every respect, it looks like a scaled-down Dreadnaught.

All comments about its aesthetics are as per the Dreadnaught, which I thought was 'one of the most beautiful amplifiers I've ever seen.' It's available in silver or black; I'm partial to the former. As with its big brudder, even the top panel has been styled to please, its ventilation slots shaped into a pretty pattern in contrast to wire mesh or plain perforations. Intrepid's front panel is a mini-version of the Dreadnaught's curved, satin finish sections. Between them is a flat panel containing two LEDs, one of which goes from red in stand-by to green in 'on' mode, and a large, soft-touch mains button; primary AC on/off is via a rocker at the back. The second LED, marked 'thermal', switches on should any channel rise above the maximum operating temperature.

Less cluttered at the back than the Dreadnaught (you lose out on the big amp's 2-channel bypass 'stereo bus'), the Intrepid's hind section contains only the five vertical rows of connectors - speaker binding posts, single-ended RCA phono inputs and XLR balanced inputs - plus the aforementioned primary AC on/off and an IEC 3-pin mains input. Also fitted are sockets for remote triggering in custom install systems, for use with Theta processors, etc.

Slotted straight into my A/V system, the Theta drove a pair of Martin Logan Ascents, Theatre centre-channel and a pair of Scenarios at the back. Feeding it was Rotel's RSP-976 A/V processor and RDV-1080 DVD-Video/DVD-Audio player, the latter currently under review and thus providing plenty of opportunities to judge the Intrepid for music-only worth. Moreover, it got lots of two-channel usage, because I spent much time during the RDV-1080 listening sessions going from stereo to 5.1, from DTS to PCM to Dolby Digital, from CD to DVD, and more.

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