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…