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Below the cover a stock photo shows potted Orfeo ultra low-noise gain modules hidden further beneath ribbed heatsinks in final production; the line filter tucked beneath a yellow plastic cover (my shots had it removed); a power supply with potted toroidal transformer; a relay-switched dual-differential output stage; and a motorized Alps pot.

"At the very start the Taurus preamp was simply an enhanced version of the original Taurus. It added remote control and more inputs. Otherwise customer feedback on the Taurus as preamp had been good.

"During the evaluation stage however we found the sonics of the original optimized for headphones not as completely satisfying in preamp use. In the Taurus we had deliberately cut some treble because headphones are more direct. Their treble won't attenuate traveling long distance as it does with loudspeakers a few meters removed and facing a large room.

"That contour was perfectly legit for headfi but not as preamplifier. Now we lost too much treble and soundstage dimensionality to have the overall sound grow a little dull. Moreover Taurus gain was too high for a linestage. We thus redesigned the entire circuit. It's still based on the original architecture but adjusted specific parameters. The input buffer now has even lower noise, the gain is lower, there is less distortion with superior treble and the Orfeo module runs on a different bias current. In toto Taurus Pre is better qualified as a preamplifier but no longer the perfect candidate for HPA due to its much reduced drive.

"In our opinion a superior headphone amp must drive the two biggest current monsters—HE6 and K1000—but the Taurus Pre cannot. If you forget about those two however, the Taurus Pre remains an excellent choice even if, perhaps, it sounds a little brighter than the standard Taurus. Since we cannot achieve perfection for all applications in a single still affordable circuit, both Taurus and Taurus Pre remain in our catalogue for different customers." - 王轩骞 Xuanqian Wang

Back to guts and glory, the balanced output stage sports many socketed opamps piggybacked by small heatsinks.

The power filter combines an isolation transformer and Schaffner module with some extra capacitors.

The motorized blue Alps is a 10KΩ stereo rather than quad version.

A small bug discovered after first units got dispatched was quickly addressed. "We recently discovered a firmware bug which resulted in unexpected power on/off triggered by other remotes. The rationale for our original software had been to let the device be controlled also by some universal remotes with standard RC5 code. Soon we discovered how many brands don't follow standard code. We had to use stricter code matching to avoid errors. This has been fixed and we also improved the sensitivity. The bug which led to clicking noise when switching inputs or during mute/unmute has been addressed too. Since we cannot apply this firmware update remotely, we wanted to inform you of the situation in case you encountered it [I did - Ed]. All retail units will be updated by our local distributors. Since we only shipped a very limited number of units before we updated the firmware, it will have affected just a few." - 王轩骞 Xuanqian Wang

Contours and controls. Following their compact and attractively modern signature cosmetics, the Taurus Pre sports a semispherically bulging volume control inside a small recess of the front panel; a front-mounted mains switch; a ¾-length horizontal groove which divides the fascia into upper and lower halves, runs right through the twin 6.3mm headfi ports, contains the central IR eye and ends in the red power LED at its far right; a mode button above it to switch between line and headphone outputs dubbed intuitively PRE and HPA; and an input selector below which sequentially shuttles through one XLR and three RCA sources named SE1 thru 3.

The unit sits on three footers, the top cover sports pre-fitted damper sheets to elicit a dull 'tock' when tapped and all rear-panel socketry is properly chassis-mounted to invite the usual audiophile abuse. The latter word was my cue to get busy.