Theta Intrepid Amp Reviewed

Published On: January 10, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Theta Intrepid Amp Reviewed

The little brother of Theta Digital's well reviewed Dreadnaught power amp is the Theta Intrepid. While still rocking the battleship analogies - this amp is a little lighter, less powerful but still very stout.

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.


Aaah, bliss! It all came flooding back, given that I barely made the Dreadnaught work for its keep, while even the Intrepid found the MartinLogans a doddle to drive. So let's deal with power first: you'd need to own some seriously hungry speakers to find the limits of the Intrepid. No amount of Hollywood blockbustering could make the amp clip and never did I trigger the thermal overload, not with the newly-remastered DTS versions of the Die Hard movies, not Armageddon, not even the cannons in the exquisite Last of the Mohicans. But the Intrepid boasted something which was first apparent with movies, then with music.

True, I don't have the amps side by side, but I swear that the Intrepid seems sweeter in the midband than the Dreadnaught, and that centre-channel dialogue seemed warmer and even less susceptible to artefacts such as rasp, sibilance or chestiness. Fed five channels worth of DVD-Audio, including Chesky's superb Christy Baron disc and Steely Dan's Two Against Nature, I found myself wondering if maybe, just maybe DVD-Audio might not suck after all. (Please, let's not get onto the subject of butchering archive material here.) With straight stereo CDs, the Intrepid handled the Persuasions' versions of Grateful Dead tunes with both subtlety and finesse, making you forget that this is a behemoth, not a plum 60W tube treasure. Soundstage is massive and well-defined, images are placed with utter precision and the sound has exactly the control an conviction which made me love its predecessor.

My verdict? Let's just say that I'm buying an Intrepid. In silver. And I won't miss having a Dreadnaught at all. Unless I find three more Scintillas...

As with the bigger amp, the Intrepid employs fully-balanced differential circuits and employs no global negative feedback. The input stage consists of four precision matched J-FETs arranged in a complementary common-source differential amplifier topology, the second stage boasts four hand-selected MOSFETs, with the third amplification stage featuring of eight high-power, Motorola bipolar output transistors in a fully-balanced, differential, complementary emitter-follower configuration. A unique DC-servo for each channel, limited only to the output stage and adhering to the zero global feedback design of the original Dreadnaught amplifier, eliminates the manual adjustment of DC offset at the amplifier outputs.

A single, massive 1100 VA power transformer and a 35 Amp bridge rectifier for all five channels sits right behind the centre of the fascia, and Wima film capacitors were used for power supply bypassing; each channel has its own capacitor bank for the output current gain stage. Also found inside are Nichicon electrolytic capacitors for power supply filtering, three- and four-layer custom-made glass-epoxy circuit boards with heavy copper plating. 

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.

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