● Codecs: DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, CD, CD-R,
CD-RW, MP3, HDCD, VCD, SVCD, Kodak
Outputs: Composite, S-Video, Component
● MFR: 20 Hz -20 kHz ± 0.5 dB
● THD: 0.002%
Dynamic range, 24bit, XLR Out 106dBA
Dynamic range, 24bit, RCA Out 104dBA
● Dimensions: (W x H x D) 420 x 95 x 290mm
Weight: 14 Pounds
● MSRP: $2999 USA
This past fall, Secrets staff member Kris Deering sent me the following
“I read your review of the Integra DPC 8.5 six-disc universal player and
saw your comment on being anxious to check out a higher end DVD player for
I think I have a player here that will fit the bill: the Thule DVA250B. It's
their flagship design. I had them include their upsampling board for two-channel
playback and put balanced outputs for two-channel. It also has DVD-A playback.
Would you be interested in reviewing it once I've tested it for the
Kris’ evaluation of the Thule as a DVD-V player has since appeared in the
October 2004 DVD Benchmark.
This review therefore will focus exclusively on the Thule’s capability as a
two-channel CD and DVD-A player.
As I noted in my September 2004
Integra review, the Integra bargain changer gave me my first in-home taste
of SACD and DVD-A. As good as this player is for the price, it cannot touch
the level of CD playback achieved by the far more costly Theta Gen. VIII DAC/preamp
and Theta Carmen II transport combo that I use as a reference. The Thule, therefore, presented my
initial opportunity to experience DVD-A playback on a unit of purported
audiophile quality. In this regard, it is especially interesting to note
Thule’s assertion on its website:
“Even with the many disc formats available, you will not sacrifice two- channel
CD stereo - in fact the DVA250B should be compared with CD Players in the same
Design and Function
The audio section of the DVA250B features a 5.1 analog output, and stereo output is
available in balanced XLR configuration. The D/A converter is the Burr-Brown
PCM1716 D with multi-level Delta-Sigma and a separate power supply for the D/A
converter section. The particular unit I received is upgraded with Thule’s
DIGIT II 192kHz asynchronous upsampling board, which is claimed to suppress
For the five or so Secrets readers who, like me, prefer to keep their TV set
out of view so that it neither dominates the listening room nor interferes
with optimal audio imaging and reproduction, the news that all menu choices
can be viewed (albeit in somewhat cryptic, encoded fashion) on the unit’s
display, obviating the need to turn on the TV to achieve the desired level of
CD and DVD-A playback, is a welcome relief. I only had to plug in my TV once
to make sure that Kris had not left the unit set to a mode that my system
could not decode.
Kris has already commented on the remote control’s frustrating shortcomings
from a video standpoint. To that I add that both player and remote control
lack the ability to achieve multi-track audio programming. I could not, for
example, program the player to first play break-in tones, then a
demagnetization sweep. The absence of this basic function is lamentable. Thule
would be wise to reconsider its design.
The front of the unit boasts a handsome, tasteful appearance. Its curved
brushed aluminum front and minimal six-button control bespeaks a welcome
industrial elegance one might expect from a Danish manufacturer.
Unfortunately, these buttons do not include the ability to move forward
through a specific track. The rear also scores high marks for simplicity of
I took advantage of the Thule’s XLR outputs to run the signal balanced into
my Theta Gen. VIII’s preamp. From there I went single-ended into either the
Red Planet Labs STR201 stereo amp or the Jadis Defy-7 Mk. II. All
interconnects, speaker cable, and power cables were Nordost Valhalla. Every
component including speakers was supported by Ganymede ball-bearing
My dual goals in assessing this player were (a) to enjoy myself, and (b) to
report my findings to you as clearly as possible. For (a), I give this player
a solid 9 for DVD-A and a bright wink. As for (b), I’ll let you be the judge.
I chose three recordings for audition: Naxos’ recent DSD-recorded disc of the
Sibelius Violin Concerto, available in both DVD-A and hybrid SACD formats:
EMI’s PCM recording of Sir Simon Rattle’s Mahler No. 10, which I have in both
DVD-A and standard CD formats; and Telarc’s DSD recording of Weather Report,
which I have in both DVD-A and hybrid SACD formats.
The Sibelius, previously reviewed on this site, came first. When I played the
hybrid SACD through the Thule, I was immediately impressed by its
extraordinarily wide, seemingly boundless soundstage. Blown away is more like
it. I LOVE the huge, boundless soundstage this player creates.
As involving as was the soundstage size, CD reproduction itself seemed
somewhat flat and uninvolving. There simply wasn’t enough life in the
presentation for me. Granted, I am spoiled by a Theta set-up that costs five
times as much. For anyone accustomed to the sound of a mass-market player in
the $300-$700 price range, I have no doubt that the Thule DVA250B will
represent a marked sonic upgrade. Its sound on CD is light years ahead of the
Integra DPC 8.5’s.
DVD-A was another story altogether on the Thule. I immediately heard and felt
far more air than through the CD layer of the SACD. The orchestral sound was
literally haunting. The violin moved back from its initial flat,
front and center position, with considerably more air around it. The
soundstage was if anything even wider than the Theta’s, with a sense of
boundlessness I find thrilling. I also heard far more reverberation from the
hall, and greater color from the orchestra. The darkness of Sibelius’
landscape became that more involving through DVD-A.
One of my complaints about the Integra was that its bass could not approach
the Theta’s. No such complaint here. The bass is quite full. Equally
impressive is the stunning dynamic range of the Thule player.
Thule seems to have tuned its unit to create a soft, atmospheric presentation.
While this is certainly preferable to harsh, digital glare, those looking for
naturally vibrant highs will discover themselves seated a little farther back
in the halls, where highs naturally roll off.
Also noticeable, especially through high quality equipment, is a certain lack
of complex overtones and upper level harmonics. There was more of the violin’s
sound to be heard through the all-Theta chain. The sound is also
more liquid through the Theta, in part because of the extra clarity on high.
But we’re comparing the one-piece Thule to a transport that alone costs the
same, plus a separate DAC that costs considerably more. (and if you’re
connecting and powering the two with Nordost Valhalla, throw in an extra $5000
to hold it all together). Hearing how great DVD-A sounds through the Thule
makes me pray that Theta will announce its DVD-A and SACD upgrades before too
On the Mahler No. 10, the DVD-A played on the Thule delivered a truly
wonderful sense of air around the Berlin Philharmonic’s violins. I could also
easily hear that this PCM recording was not in the same league as Naxos’
Sibelius DSD production of four years later. Playing the regular CD on the
Theta revealed a soundstage diminished in size, with less atmosphere and air
around the orchestra. This was a clear case of DVD-A triumphing over Redbook
Auditioning the very different music of Telarc’s DSD-recorded Weather Report
disc confirmed these findings. Through the Thule, the DVD-A was captivatingly
atmospheric. The sound seemed to come from everywhere before me, with no
defined sense of boundaries. Nor did it seem in any way flat or
one-dimensional. While the highs were not as vibrant as I would have wished,
this was music, pure and simple. The presentation was thrilling.
Playing the CD layer of the hybrid SACD on the Thule produced sound noticeably
less involving, with atmosphere, color contrasts, and depth considerably
Playing the SACD’s CD layer on the Theta allowed me to hear subtleties of
background instruments, a clarification of inner voices, and a host of
overtones that had been minimized through the Thule. Bass also seemed a bit
more cutting and faster, with more control on the deepest tones. And there was
no question that the highs sounded more vibrant, with more edge, color and
complexity. But as for atmosphere, reverberation, and air, the Thule with
DVD-A continued to reign.
The Thule DVA250B does an outstanding job reproducing DVD-A in two-channel,
and a more than passable job on CD. Its presentation on highs, a bit
soft-grained and lacking in ultimate harmonic complexity, may prove an asset
for people with bright systems. As for atmosphere, soundstage, bass extension,
depth, and overall musicality, the Thule DVA250B equipped with its optional
DIGIT II 192kHz asynchronous upsampling board is nothing short of thrilling.
This player makes music.
- Jason Victor Serinus -
Digital Front End
Sony 707ES transport modified by Alexander Peychev of APL Hi-Fi
Theta Gen VIII DAC/Preamp
Theta Carmen II transport (on loan from Theta)
Jadis Defy 7 Mk. II soon to be upgraded to the current model
Red Planet Labs STR201
Talon Khorus X speakers MK. II (with latest modifications and Bybee filters on
woofers and tweeters)
Nordost Valhalla single-ended and balanced interconnects and balanced digital
Nordost Valhalla bi-wired speaker cable
Nordost Silver Shadow digital interconnect for DVD-V
Nordost Valhalla Power Cables
Also on hand and sometimes used:
Interconnects: WireWorld Gold Eclipse 5 and Gold Starlight 5 digital, Harmonic
Tech Magic One, Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II balanced, and Nirvana
Power cables: Elrod EPS Signature 2 and 3 plus EPS 1, 2, and 3; WireWorld
Silver Electra 5, PS Audio X-treme Statement, Harmonic Tech, and AudioPrism
PS Audio P600 Power Plant power synthesizer with MultiWave II
PS Audio Ultimate Outlet; PS Audio Power Ports
Ganymede supports in main digital chain and under speakers
Michael Green Deluxe Ultrarack, Basic Racks and Corner Tunes
Michael Green Audiopoints, and Black Diamond Racing Cones elsewhere
Shakti stones on amp, Theta, and transport
Stillpoints ERS EMI/RFI sheets on most components
Bedini Dual Beam Ultraclarifier, Audioprism CD Stoplight,
Marigo Signature Mat for use atop CDs, Ayre demagnetizing CD and the original
Sheffield/XLO demagnetizing and break-in CD.
25.5’ deep, 37’ wide opposite the speakers, 21.5’ wide in the listening area.
Ceilings are 9’2” high with heavy wooden cross-beams. Floors hardwood and
carpet. Speakers are totally decoupled from the floor, resting on Ganymede
supports and maple.
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