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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, Audirvana in integer/direct mode, April Music Eximus DP1, Esoteric/APL Hifi UX1/NWO-M w. Audiophilleo 2, Bakoon BPS-02 battery supply for USB
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright LS-100 with Psvane 6SN7, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X
: First Watt SIT1, ModWright KWA-100 SE, Bakoon AMP-11R, ModWright KWA-100SE, AURALiC Merak [on review], Acoustic Imagery Atsah [on review]
Speakers: Aries Cerat Gladius, Boenicke Aud
io B10, Voxativ Ampeggio, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200 [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event,
KingRex uCraft USB cable with Bakoon battery supply
Artesania Esoteric double-wide 3-tier with TT glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood furniture for amps
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF2 on amps, GigaWatt PC3SE EVO on front-end components
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail: €4.800 + regional VAT, €300 extra for optional remote control

Velissarios Georgiadis at HighEnd Munich 2009

TruLife Audio of Athens shares with both Serbia's Trafomatic Audio and Germany's Octave Audio an established transformer business from which grew an eventual valve electronics venture. In fact both TruLife's and Octave's transformer endeavors go back to the fathers of the current owners. Such a generational foothold embodies significant man-year experience. TruLife thus dates back to 1957 and the launch of Elmet which still specializes in iron for "cutting-edge technology of mission-critical medical, military, naval, industrial and telecommunications applications".

1800-volt rails for the interstage-transformer 833-based 140kg Reference monos outputting 150 watts in class A single-ended triode mode with a 6C45 driving a 300B driving the 833 - and all quiet enough for ultra-efficiency Cessaro hornspeakers.

Then come differences. Octave only does push/pull pentode amps. Trafomatic builds amps of any persuasion particularly since they specialize in custom commissions of late. TruLife does single-ended no-feedback direct-heated triode amps exclusively. What's more, the Greeks categorically reject signal-path capacitors to favor ultra-wide bandwidth interstage transformers of the 2MHz ±0.1dB sort. And, they've been equally uncompromising about staying clear of the entry level. Their ideas of doing things are costly.

That said, Velissarios Georgiadis doesn't live in a vacuum just because he loves tubes. He is keenly aware of how pricing quickly becomes exclusionary to disassociate the music-loving designer from the very fellow enthusiasts he's trying to serve. Talks of reviewing a linestage of his go two years back. But rather than doing the €32.000 massive three-box Essence with dual-mono outboard power supplies and 2 x 6C45 triodes with twin EZ80 rectifiers, Velissarios had in mind something more affordable.

That proved tricky. How to knock off drachmas without violating TLA standards? Go with circuit boards, not point to point. That would save on labor. Forget his usual overkill chassis. Get sneaky in general. But don't touch the sound. Cough. That proved easier said than done. And add remote control. Cough again.


What became the eventual answer is today's Athena finished in an automotive lacquer of the client's choice. The €300 remote control is optional. With built-in phono this model becomes the Hermes. When I learnt that the Athena is based on 2 x 6H30, I nearly balked. In a number of previous implementations I'd not particularly liked that Russian tube. I found it on the metallic dry and slightly glassy side of things which has me prefer ModWright's more affordable 6SN7 preamp over their 6H30 flagship. Velissarios was tickled a purplish pink however. "The fact that you are familiar with this specific tube makes me happy. I believe it will be better if the Athena is reviewed by someone who doesn’t like this tube rather than a person who belongs to the 6H30 fan club already."

Specs are a flat bandwidth from 8Hz-180kHz, input impedance of 100KΩ, what for a tube preamp is very low output impedance of 48Ω, S/N ratio of 94dB, gain of 12dB, power consumption of 60 watts, dimensions of 42 x 37 x 15cm WxDxH and ship weight of 25kg.


Velissarios who plays lead guitar (he cherishes a 1959 Telecaster), sings lead vocals in a band and of late also makes two guitar amp models—he'd just gotten an order from David Gilmour's technician— explained a bit more on the phone. "It's because most makers use the 6H30 like an ECC88. That's not fair to the tube. It's really very linear. As you know very well from the shows, I don't like that saccharine syrupy tube sound. You shouldn't hear 'tube' at all. The 6H30 simply needs to be treated as its very own valve, not a basic plug-in for something else. That makes all the difference. Still, it took me from that Athens show where we last met two years ago and where I already had a prototype to now until this circuit really became a fully matured TruLife Audio product*."

Emphasis brand Aura model guitar amp with 3 x 12AX7, 2 x 5881, 1 x 5U4G. "Aura is the most transparent guitar amp I've ever heard - and I never advertise my work or brag about it. But about this amp I'm particularly proud and very very happy."

* Son Aristomenis Georgiadis runs TLA Emporium which imports Cessaro hornspeakers; Acoustic Solid turntables; Pierre Gabriel cables; Progressive Audio digital, cables and speakers; Lumley turntables, GFK loudspeakers; My Sonic Lab cartridges; and Graham Slee phono stages. Not only is audiophilia in the family, there's intimate familiarity with quality ancillaries outside of valve amplification to provide proper working context.

Packaged deliberately simple and more compact than the usually giant TLA offerings in gleaming chrome, the Athena offers 5 inputs (one of them transformer-coupled XLR), a fixed rec-out and one each RCA and transformer-coupled XLR variable output. And because I hate black hifi, I asked for anything but Ford. Let's take a closer look at what shipper EΛTA delivered from Athens.