It’s not intentional, but I’m afraid I am making a habit of keeping the Thrax Audio people from their dinner during major shows.
I first heard the brand near the end of a day at AXPONA 2016 in Chicago. Doors were closing and locks were clicking, but I was determined to get in one more room. I heard the unmistakable tone of Chet Baker’s trumpet wafting from a corner in the lobby and ducked in before the hosts could power down for the evening. I was glad I did, as the Thrax system there turned out to be one of my favorites of the event.
It was much the same at this year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I was making a late run through a string of rooms on the ground floor of the Marriott Denver Tech Center’s atrium side, which is rather awkwardly separated from most of the action in the tower. I hit a few exhibits, and was walking back down the hallway a good 20 minutes after closing. Just as in Chicago, I heard alluring music spilling out from a still-open door. I looked at the sign: Thrax–EnKlein–Audio Den Ltd. I grinned and walked in.
The worst these guys could do is brush me off, I thought. (That’s happened more than a few times trying this strategy with other exhibitors). Instead, I got a warm welcome and a request for my favourite tracks. We were off and running.
I looked at the system, which at once seemed familiar and different. I recognized the Thrax Lyra speakers – a pair of stand-mounted, two-way monitors that had produced the detailed, but smooth, sound at AXPONA. The Lyras were here, but now they were connected to some very formidable subwoofers.
I remembered thinking in Chicago that the only thing the Lyras lacked in absolute terms was the ability to plumb the depths. Problem solved? Or, would these hulking bass units mess up the Lyras’ magic?
I needn’t have had doubts. After a few demo selections, it was clear that Thrax had been very careful with its development work. The Lyras ($19,600 USD/pair), mated with Thrax’s Basus subs ($40,600 USD/pair), were transformed into impressive, wide-frequency transducers. The sound retained the Lyra’s pinpoint imaging, wide soundstage and stunning liquidity, but now had additional heft and depth.
The Basus units, each featuring a single large woofer, have been designed by Thrax to be fast and clean, to match the Lyras. The subs each have a 1,000-watt internal Class A/B amplifier, and the sealed enclosures are made of metal. The driver size, non-resonant cabinet and 1K-amp are intentional choices made to reduce noise to a miniscule amount, while still moving enough air to create appropriate sound-pressure levels.
One of my test tracks, Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” was a song you normally encounter many times during an audio show. That was the case at RMAF, and I indeed heard it on a number of fine systems. But of all of those, the performance on the Thrax combo was the best. Just as I’d admired how the Lyras portrayed the tone of Chet Baker’s trumpet in Chicago, they were making Paul Desmond’s alto sax sound sumptuous, nimble and joyful. Brubeck’s piano also had an immediacy that was especially noteworthy. Beneath all that, though, was now a deep, rock-solid foundation, courtesy of the Basus. The rhythm section’s low notes not only were being produced at concert levels, but the band’s tempo on this track was spot-on.
Other equipment in the rig included the Thrax Dionysos preamp ($19,600 USD); the Thrax Enyo Modular Audiophile System, which includes a 50-watt, fully balanced tube amp to drive the Lyras ($11,600 USD); and the Thrax Maximus DAC ($30,800 USD). The music server was the Antipodes DX ($7,500 USD).
Holding everything was a Symposium Acoustics Osiris rack ($6,499 USD) and Symposium Ultra Pro amp stands ($2,500 USD). Speaker cable and interconnects were by Silversmith Audio, while EnKlein provided its David, TRex and Taurus power cords and David digital connection.
Thrax’s new Basus subwoofer takes what already was a very engaging speaker, the Lyra, to another level. It does triple the price, but the result is a transducer that is competitive with anything else on the market. Buyers also have the option of starting with the Lyra and adding the Basus later as budget permits. That’s not a bad way to ease yourself into truly reference reproduction.