THRAX Orpheus Reference tube phono preamplifier with LCR RIAA equaliser

TX 02 PS ORPH
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 16,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 30,995.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 14,000.00 (incl. GST)
On Behalf
WE ARE SELLING ON-BEHALF ONE OF THESE BEAUTIFUL,, WORLD CLASS PHONOSTAGES FOR A CLIENT DUE TO DOWN SIZING, YOU MAY NOT SEE AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE THIS COME UP AGAIN! (partnered with magnificient Dohmann Helix-1 turntable also on special)

Orpheus Phono Phono Pre Amplifier with LCR RIAA equaliser - The phono preamplifier is responsible for extracting the last bit of information from the cartridge by providing optimal loading while maintaining very high noise immunity. After vastly amplifying the input signal and applying the standard RIAA equalisation it interfaces at line level with the rest of the system via balanced or unbalanced lines. The LCR method used to apply the RIAA correction is very rare due to complexity and cost.

Orpheus uses two tube gain stages with zero feedback and passive LCR equaliser with 2 inputs on RCA and one on XLR connectors. All inputs are balanced differential unless the grounding option is engaged on the RCA inputs. As we switch the ground plane when switching inputs there are no hum loops and induced ground noise 

The input stage is a super low noise D3a German Post tube used as a triode. Loaded by a constant current cascode it provides the necessary gain and output impedance to feed the custom passive LCR RIAA correction following it. The switchable input transformer interfaces to MC cartridges and has selectable gain and loading impedance. 

The equalisation is passive and the next stage is another super low noise tube loaded by a transformer to bring the signal up to the necessary level and provide complete isolation of this sensitive circuit from the following components.

The filter is out of any gain loops and sits between the two gain stages protected from any unpredictable influences. The equalisation is realised through the use of constant impedance LCR filters using coils wound with OFC wire and BeeWax impregnated paper capacitors. 

This way that the input stage sees a constant load, making its behaviour predictable at any signal level. 

The power supply of Orpheus uses a choke input full wave tube rectifier arrangement. This eliminates switching noise and any other disturbance that comes before the choke. The other benefit of this topology is that the choke keeps the voltage on the capacitor bank constant. In our case, this allows for a capacitor bank made with vibration resistant military paper in oil capacitors to last a lifetime. 

All this is governed by a microprocessor switching the appropriate combination of relays and monitoring the status and incoming command. 

The chassis is milled in house from solid plates of different thickness aluminium that are interlocked together to form a ring like structure. We have the power supply mounted on the left sidewall of this structure and the signal transformers on the right side. Two semi-flexible bars on which the motherboard and its heat sink are attached, which then support this ring. 

The top and bottom plates link all sides of the ring with the flexible bars and the feet made from carbon doped plastic on flexible screws. 

There are no screws visible anywhere on the chassis. And the chassis feels like a solid block. 

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

Built in step up transformer
Automatic cartridge gain and loading selection
Programmable gain and loading
Accepts both balanced and unbalanced input signals on RCA and XLR connectors
Switches ground plane with input selection preventing ground loops
Programmable ground arrangement for large systems
Balanced and unbalanced output
Programmable absolute phase per input
Shunt regulated constant current PSU for lowest noise and best dynamic behaviour
Choke input tube rectifier for lowest switching noise
Custom vacuum encapsulated signal relays for ultimate sound and reliability
Modular construction
Microprocessor controlled
Interlocking solid aluminum chassis
High reliability and MIL spec parts

Specifications

Tube compliment :
- 2 x D3a amplification
- 2 x 6C4П amplification
- 1 х 6U4N rectifier
Inputs
- 2 x RCA or XLR – MM or MC phone cartridges
Output
- RCA or XLR
Power consumption: 50W
Dimensions: 432W x 400D x 120H mm
Weight: 15 kg
Finish: Black or Silver anodised aluminium

Reviews

The Thrax Audio quest is quintessential. True refinement of actual/factual high performance outcome. Real expertise is shown when the implementation of the solid state and tube technologies become subordinate to the one and only master. The music!T

REVIEW SUMMARY: Orpheus explore the analog universe of vinyl in its own complex, unique and highly involving way. This phono preamplifier stand out a lot among the highly acclaimed products offering from across the ocean and from the land of the rising sun. .......and this is where Thrax Audio Orpheus phono preamplifier shines with the torch of the natural light. Nor saturated melahonic light. Nor modern led overly exposed lighting. What happens with the Thrax Orpheus is a palpable rendition of the ear catching sublime reconstruction of the anchor points. This complexity of focus points drives phono reproduction into the 21st century and evoke large emotional burst expected with the esoteric high-end audio equipment. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: There are few high-end audio companies, that are operating on the level, that really works and stand out in my book of high-end audio dealings these days. Among these is definitely Thrax Audio from Bulgaria. I’ve had some insights into their business from the past experiences with the brand products, but my recent visit to the factory changed a lot. Seeing the dedication, R & D and most importantly the enthusiasm that goes into their product was an eye opener. 

In past few years I’ve had opportunity to test and review their Dionysos preamplifier and Heros monoblocks. I was both intrigued and inspired not only with the topologies, building quality, but most importantly with the sound of the devices. Dionysos received Mono & Stereo prestige upper echelon award and it was rated among the best preamplifiers on the market. Actually its one of the best (tube) preamplifiers on the market. If any other company would produce such preamp the price would go rocket high. But Rumen Artarski choose really competitive and down to earth pricing. Dionysos is actually one of the few real bargains when it comes to the performance/price ratio. 

In designing their products Rumen take no prisoners. He always want to create something different, musical and stand out. His research involved the actual acquisition of wide array of most acclaimed products including legendary Audio Note Kondo products. He didn’t rest until the sound reach the level, that not only matched but succeed the highest plane. 

At my factory visit I’ve witnessed quite mind blowing things. Call me thrilled! Thrax Audio possess utterly impressive stock of most exotic parts. From esoteric Japanese chockes, output transformers, tubes (Western Electric etc.) and stunning number of prototypes that led to development of their final products. Many of the the products being developed along their research are still in the loop and waiting for further execution and will most probably being finalized into the end product. I do hope so! I’ve had a chance to listen to few and they all represent the different takes on the ultimate high-end audio reproduction from the different angles. More will be revealed in due time, but I can assure you that these are all special and really hope that many of them see the light of the day. 

One of the biggest advantages of Thrax Audio is the slow and profoundly in depth pace of the development. They really do their homework and are researching deeply into the subject matter. Rumen showed me different schematics, documentation and measuring equipment being used during the researching. I’ve been around the world at even many of the big brands fails short compared to the completeness and complexity of the Thrax Audio operations. They can produce everything from ground up in house. as their premises embraced design labs, research facility, their own CNC machinery, bead blasting machine, anodizing chamber, laser engraving etc. In that way they can project and explore all the smallest nuances of the development phases completely independently. That makes them very unique and this is a company to watch! Their direction is firm and bold…

Lurking closer into the way Thrax Audio team work reveals a profound take on the technologies. Rumen mindset is a complex endeavor of constant contemplation, refinement and pushing the boundaries way over the standard norms. I’m always thrilled and highly respectful to the high end audio designers and companies  paying the respect to the historical technical findings and the industry heritage. To many high-end companies these days claims their uniqueness and ego maniacally declares their superiority and ground braking solution, skipping the decades if not hundreds of years of building up of the industry as it is today.  For such thinking people must use horse blinders as the Vienna lipizzaner horses does. This kind of thinking goes hand in hand with the analogy of the people who see themselves being materialized into this world without actual father and mother. As they would just come to the existence without any roots and history. Interesting phenomena… This is utter nonsense and a clear indication of bullshit marketing.

Answering emails, phone calls, private messages falls into my daily routine and more and more people are doing their homework dead seriously when it comes to their beloved hobby. Audiophiles and music lover started to research into the companies and their dealings. If they’re reaching for something that cost as much as a car, small apartment of complete student funds, they want to feel safe with their investment. To lay it down realistically.  Its not all about the funds. People want to known the actual technical solutions and implementations of audio technology. The same thing they demand to know when they’re purchasing the expensive analog timepieces or the cars. 

Along that, many of contemporary buyers are used to the dealings from other luxury industries and their demands are not easy to be met. High-end audio became luxury industry like it or not. As such it the business operation and the way customers are treated is of no second plan. Still, each high-end audio company will follow their own distinctive vision and in both short and long terms results will follow. What I can assure you is the sophistication and high expectations of current consumers. I work a lot with Asia and have many friends and followers there. Market in Asia changed a lot past few years and most of the older high-end audio brands didn’t (or don’t want to) figure that out. Many of the buyers felt offended by the dealings of the certain companies they bought (highly expensive) products from. A lot of them will never in life purchase again the upper class priced products only because of the way the companies treated them and of directions of their behavior took. I won’t lay down the names, but I trust my readers can decode in my writing intelligible nature. I trust in human perception of common sense and see the broad present audience as highly intelligent.

This all brings me to the product under my scope. This time its Thrax Audio Orpheus phono preamplifier. You could say I’m the analog fan and vinyl enthusiast for more then three decades now. My quest for vinyl satisfying experience led me through numerous quests and explorations. This accounts for wide array of the differently priced devices. From entry level, mid prices, upper high-end and exotic ones. I will be honest and share my findings directly as usually. As a fact, there are not many great sounding and performing phono preamplifiers. Getting right the audio signal form smallest scale mV output of the cartridge is a complex art of itself. For quite many of audio designers and manufactures this complex electric mechanics seems too easy. Designing a great sounding phono preamplifier is no simple task The reality is shockingly solbering state of the affairs. Most phono preamps just don’t cut it. As a rule most phono line stages brings the noise down. In one strike they kitten themselves with the galore of the technical data. The real problem is much more deep. While doing this they kill the music! Intricate nature of subtle, highly sensitive signal coming from the phono cartridge is uber prone to anything in the signal path. Every element or the execution of circuit will affect the sound outcome profoundly. Everything and anything is crucial with such miniature scale transfer of the energy. 

The true expertise and art reveal itself when all; low noise floor, transparency and musicality goes hand in hand. Here the vast phono preamplifiers offerings are narrowed down to very a very few real contenders when it comes to state of the art musical reproduction.

As with other Thrax Audio products the Orpheus is no happy accident. Its a labour of Rumens love and striving for the perfection in conveying music as it is. He is also an avid  analog fan and it shows in grand way. Going beyond mediocre and trying to find the solutions that will lay down the path for the unrestrained musical reproduction is his clear musical sentinel role.

Orpheus explore the analog universe of vinyl in its own complex, unique and highly involving way. This phono preamplifier stand out a lot among the highly acclaimed products offering from across the ocean and from the land of the rising sun. 

Again, with Orpheus Rumen pushed things to go beyond typical technological solutions and the result surpasses the typical “tubey” sound being as a rule connected with the valve based phono equipment. When things done right, tubes are only the carriers of the sound and do not act as an colorful saturating devices. They can be as transparent as solid state devices when implemented right. This is not easy achievable, yet its possible. Thrax Audio again showed and laydown the path of the future where the technology by itself is not a matter of pinpointing anything. The Thrax Audio quest is quintessential. True refinement of actual/factual high performance outcome. Real expertise is shown when the implementation of the solid state and tube technologies become subordinate to the one and only master. The music! It is about the execution of pure musical flow, spatiality and rendition on the upper plane. 

I’m not talking about sweet intoxication of the Van Gogh or Akira Kurosawa artistic palette. I’m referring to the true via medium, that can transparently convey the music close to the source and with the technical solutions that are possible to explore with the materials, technology and know how of today. 

And this is where Thrax Audio Orpheus phono preamplifier shines with the torch of the natural light. Nor saturated melahonic light. Nor modern led overly exposed lighting. What happens with the Thrax Orpheus is a palpable rendition of the ear catching sublime reconstruction of the anchor points. This complexity of focus points drives phono reproduction into the 21st century and evoke large emotional burst expected with the esoteric high-end audio equipment. 

More to come…....

THE THRAX ORPHEUS PHONO STAGE MIGHT BE EXPENSIVE, BUT CHRIS BRYANT DISCOVERS THAT IT SETS A NEW BENCHMARK FOR VINYL REPLAY
Chris Bryant
REVIEW SUMMARY: At the price point I anticipated exceptional performance, but ultimately was almost overwhelmed by the Orpheus’ prodigious sonic capabilities. There is nothing wholly revolutionary about this amplifier, as it employs existing, accessible technologies. Yet through careful research the designers have crafted and assembled something quite exceptional. Its stunning sound quality encouraged me to abandon digital replay entirely while it remained in my possession. The best vinyl reproduction requires quite extreme esoteric design and exotic components, a path the Orpheus follows faithfully to achieve the amazingly high score
of 225. The best phono stage I have so far encountered has to be at or very near the top of my very short list of truly great products, and may be highly recommended. 
EXTENDED REVIEW: The THRAX ORPHEUS phono stage is a comprehensive, mains powered, standalone unit with both balanced and unbalanced input and output facilities. Like the Thrax Dionysos pre-amplifier (HIFICRITIC Vol6 No3) the casework is beautiful bead-blasted silky-finished aluminium with a stylish, deeply sculpted thick front panel. The side, back, top and bottom panels are also substantial. Five buttons in the depressed centre cover on/off, mute, phase, and input selection, confirmed by associated LEDs.

 The recessed back panel has two pairs of single ended RCA/phono sockets and one pair of XLR balanced connectors. I found the print here almost illegible unless the lighting and view angle is just so. Each input pair has three switches to select MM/MC, high or low gain, and choice of grounding option. Other switches select between the XLR and RCA outputs, and ground lift. The RCA inputs are wired in balanced differential mode unless the grounded option is chosen. Beneficially, both ground and live input connections are switched to avoid any external ground noise from an unused input. if more than one is in use. The usual IEC mains input is fitted, switched and filtered.

 What makes this product cost so much?

 Admittedly it’s very well made with a beautifully finished case, but the components inside are what really count. First, it’s designed to cater for both MC and MM cartridges, and the extra MC gain is provided by a top-of-the-line Lundahl transformer with an amorphous cobalt core. This is easily switched into circuit, and input impedance adjusts automatically to the cartridge used.

 Input stage amplification uses a NOS Siemens D3A low noise pentode wired in triode configuration. This is followed by a passive RIAA filter executed using special coils wound by Sowter using Cardas high purity wire, and Jupiter Beeswax impregnated paper capacitors. A low noise Russian triode then drives a top quality Hashimoto output transformer. To obtain accurate RIAA equalisation, very precise inductor values are required, alongside low hysteresis cores. Few manufacturers use such a configuration because producing a consistent product is very expensive.  The power supply also uses costly parts, starting with an air-gapped C-core transformer. This helps avoid core saturation caused by DC on the mains, and symmetric windings are arranged to cancel any stray electromagnetic fields. Valve rectification is employed, but instead of the normal electrolytic smoothing capacitors, a massive (17H) Lundahl choke works alongside a much smaller, high quality, long life, paper-in-oil capacitors. This configuration is claimed to block rectifier switching noise most effectively. The solid state regulators use FET shunt designs made using discrete components. Most of the active circuitry uses PCBs with various component technologies from surface-mount to hand-wired chassis-mounted capacitors. Build quality resembles precision instrumentation.

Lab report

The standard level 1kHz distortion measures -64dB on MM and -50dB on the MC input, which is satisfactory for the technology used. These figures increase to -42/-34dB at 20Hz and -46/-37dB at 20kHz MM/MC respectively, which are a little higher than we would like. Intermodulation at -30dB for both inputs is also quite high, but the primary 1kHz artefact of the 19/20kHz tone pair is not accompanied by a spread of harmonics, which is a good sign.

 Channel separation is a constant 42dB from 20Hz-20kHz on MC; on MM it is a very respectable 72dB at 20Hz reducing to a still reasonable 56dB at 20kHz. Sensitivity is sensibly set at 5mV for MM and 0.5mV for MC. The signal-to-noise ratio is a very good -80dBA for MM and a still good -72dBA for MC. Driven from a 20ohms source impedance, the frequency response is flat through the midrange but falls slowly below 200Hz to -1dB at 100Hz and -3.5dB at 20Hz. Although the treble is quite flat all the way to 20kHz, I would like to have seen a flatter response in the lower octaves, and the sound may consequently be a little dry.

Sound Quality

 The Orpheus was left to warm up for 24 hours before I lowered the stylus onto Bruch’s Violin Concerto No1. I was immediately amazed. This 1968 disc is nothing special, but I was transfixed by the power and realism produced – it had so much more body, more focus and precision than anything I’d previously heard from this recording. Violins really did sound more ‘live’, and far closer to having someone playing in the room. This was a stunning revelation of tonal colour and vibrancy, in comparison with the ‘digital greyness’ of so many modern hi-fi products.

 On piano it sounds rich and full, flowing well with great perspectives, balance, and staging. The midrange is very lively and dynamic, tonally very pure, and reproduces stringed instruments with a more of a sense of ‘being there’ than I’ve experienced from any consumer replay medium previously. The treble is also excellent: devoid of grain, with great detail, precise focus and an airy realism I’ve rarely heard from a hi-fi system before. Image stability is also exceptional with finely etched focus within the expansive sound stage. It’s very analytical and transparent, had really good width and depth, creating an interesting illusion of live performance.

 Choral music also works so well that the Orpheus creates a great sense of the space around the performers, as well as reproducing the purity and beauty of voices. The timing ability is also excellent, so excellent in fact that when I went back to the fairly decent digital set up I had been happily listening to previously, I thought it must be broken because it sounded so painfully bland.

 The Orpheus has excellent bass: solid and forceful with fine tactility and resolution. It’s able to separate out complex multiple strands while translating awkward pitch changes admirably. It may not quite have the low end bang and very low bass extension of some of the best solid state competition, but that is about all there is on the downside.

 Irrespective of the music played, it had the ability to extract fresh sounds and bring my attention to new phrasing and a fresh sense of rhythm pulled from well known pieces. It is also great on rock and pop material, often managing to reveal fresh information from 50 year old pop grooves. It is simply a revelation.

 A top quality mains cable is mandatory for a product of this quality, and I did find I could easily organise the sound by changing this lead. Therefore, despite its clever transformer and power supply, it’s still not quite immune from the vagaries of the mains supply. Finally, the feet: the attached hard plastic feet proved quite good, but I found further improvements in structure, focus and staging using three Synergistic Research MIGs on an Isoblue rack.

Conclusions

 At the price point I anticipated exceptional performance, but ultimately was almost overwhelmed by the Orpheus’ prodigious sonic capabilities. There is nothing wholly revolutionary about this amplifier, as it employs existing, accessible technologies. Yet through careful research the designers have crafted and assembled something quite exceptional. Its stunning sound quality encouraged me to abandon digital replay entirely while it remained in my possession. The best vinyl reproduction requires quite extreme esoteric design and exotic components, a path the Orpheus follows faithfully to achieve the amazingly high score

of 225. The best phono stage I have so far encountered has to be at or very near the top of my very short list of truly great products, and may be highly recommended. 
.......Chris Bryant

Review System
Bully Sound BSC100 and D’Agostino Momentum power amps; Audio Research REF5 SE and Townshend Allegri control units; Linn LP12/ Radikal/Keel, Naim ARO, Ortofon Anna, Rondo Blue, Koetsu Urushi Vermilion vinyl sources; Wilson Audio Sophia

3, Supravox 215-2000 EXC speakers; van den Hul D501S phono interconnect and Transparent XLmm2 cables. 
Thrax Orpheus Phono Preamplifier From Bulgaria Looks to be a Sonic Winner
Michael Fremer - May 2013

Thrax has yet to make major inroads in the American market but that will surely change as its products become better known. At least that's my assessment based upon what I saw and heard in Munich.

The products look beautiful and the engineering is impressive based upon my conversations with the owner/designer Rumen Todorov Atarski. A nasty rumor floated around last year claiming that Thrax designs and builds Ypsilon's products. I don't know who started such a rumor but they should cut it out!

In fact Mr. Atarski and Ypsilon's Demetris Backlavas are friends but they are also competitors manufacturing very different products, though the Orpheus, like the Ypslion VPS-100 phono preamplifier features zero feedback passive LCR phono equalization.

The Orpheus's input stage is a low noise D3A German Post triode tube that produces gain and the output impedance to drive the LCR RIAA equalization that uses high precision custom made Sowter coils wound with Cardas wire and Jupiter BeeWax impregnated paper capacitors.

The next stage uses another low noise tube, this one a Russian triode similar to a WE417 loaded by a Hashimoto transformer to produce necessary level and isolation from the next stages.

But enough circuit description in a show report. The rest will have to wait for a review. If anything is a "Ypsilon competitor (or killer)" this might be it. The power supply is equally impressive. The Orpheus has two RCA and one balanced XLR input, with ground planes switched between inputs to avoid ground loops and induced ground noises.

The Thrax line includes a remote controlled preamplifier, a directly heated triode power amplifier, a Class A Hybrid tube/fet amplifier and a DAC that incorporates a DSP controlled discrete resistor ladder DAC built for Thrax by MSB.

In its brochure (a close second place to Sperling for sumptuous photography) Thrax pays homage to Shisido San's Wavac and Kondo San's Audio Note Japan designs. The International aspect of Thrax's componentry is among its many attractions.

........Michael Fremer - May 2013

Jason's Adventures Continue on Day 2 at MHES 2016
Jason Victor Serinus 

Ah yes. Through the audio jungle I thrashed, through sound both thrilling and threadbare, until, having totally exhausted the alliteration resources of my thoroughly thumbed thesaurus, I alighted upon the thoroughfare of Thrax. Once there, I threw all literary pretence aside, and thrillingly cried, "Thanks be to Thrax!"

And with this borderline hysterical paragraph behind me, I solemnly pledge to never again abandon critical impartiality in order to indulge in the mad plunge into holographic hyperbole!

Over it I may be. But what I'm not over is how good this room, assembled by HiFi Imports, sounded. Perhaps in part due to canny speaker positioning, the Thrax Lira 77lb. loudspeakers threw an astoundingly large soundstage that was far larger than any two-way stand mount of this size has any right to create. The presentation had lots of atmosphere, with a beautiful midrange. Equally important, the system could perfectly spotlight instrumental solos in a most musical manner. (Note: When I first encountered these speakers in Newport Beach last June, they were not broken in. The set-up sounded considerably better this time around.)

First up, on LP, were the very space music "Intro" and "Numb" tracks from Sam Brookes' Kairos. Everything sounded just as it should, which means perfectly musical and all-enveloping. I had never heard the music before, but it sounded so fine that it felt like just what the artist hoped we would hear.

Then came "St. James Infirmary," with cymbals and horns sounding drop-dead gorgeous. And I wasn't the only one who marveled. Two dealers who had chosen to sit RMAF out this time around were seated behind me, enjoying the music just as much as I did.

Playing while I was present, in addition to the loudspeakers: Thrax Dionysos linestage preamplifier, Thrax Orpheus phono preamplifier with LCR RIAA equaliser, Thrax Teres Hybrid power amplifier, Dohmann Helix 1 turntable with new Schroder CB tonearm.

Leaving with regret: yours truly, Jason Victor Serinus