As my review of them makes clear, the Thorens TEM 3200 monaural hybrids are true reference amplifiers and, in my necessarily limited experience, the best such devices I've yet heard. Knowing that the patent-pending DC-coupled counter-parallel Circlotron iteration of the monos had also found its way into Frank Blöhbaum's matching TEP 3800 preamp, I was naturally curious how it would do there. As it turns out, readers of Germany's Stereoplay magazine already know. The TEP 3800 displaced their current Lyra Connoisseur as their new in-house reference. One might suspect nationalistic pride -- after all, Swiss Thorens manufactures in Germany -- but my findings of the monos matched Stereoplay's far earlier writeup to such an extent that I suspect instead they once again called it smack on the nose.

Frank who was present during the first listening comparisons between the Lyra and TEP 3800 was pleased with the outcome as well, including the measurements. "One thing is wrong: from every input (except "fixed") to every output, the gain is the same. But the rest of the measurements are okay. I like very much the diagram with the distortion over output amplitude. This graph is really great: the harmonics are covered by the already very low noise value (less than -120dB referred to 1V) and rise very slowly at higher output levels, dominated by second and third harmonics. The remaining hum spectra is never higher than minus 100dB, not the best but quite good for a tube preamp."
At 15,000 euros, the remote-controlled fully differential 12-valve Thorens preamp -- top-class op amps convert each single-ended input to balanced -- is reference all the way. This reflects also in its choice of tubes: German postal service C3g pentodes for the input; Russian E95F pentodes for the second stage; and Russian frame grid 6E5P tetrodes for the outputs, all wired in triode. Connectivity includes 5 variable RCA ins, 1 fixed RCA in, 2 XLR ins, 1 tape out and 1 each RCA and XLR output. Output impedance without the use of an output transformer is a surprising sub 1 ohm and as in the monos, the two floating pairs of output circuits are precision-biased from a single point.

Visitors to the Munich show won't find a dedicated Thorens display because this year CEO Heinz Rohrer decided to allocate that budget to dealer/distributor meetings instead. However, loudspeaker firm Elac will apparently show with the Thorens monos and preamp; and Stereoplay's traditional 5-speaker comparison will use the TEP 3800 preamp. So there are two different possibilities of getting an impression of the new preamp in Munich. Both Heinz and Frank plan on being there for the latter half of Thursday and the first half of Friday. I'm definitely planning on meeting both men. Their collaboration has produced real advances to the audio arts. I'm certain that as time goes by, we shall be hearing a lot more about Thorens' electronics whenever "state of the art" is invoked...
Thorens website