This review first appeared in September 2017 on By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of Dawid Grzyb or Thöress - Ed.

Reviewer: Dawid Grzyb
Digital transport: Asus UX305LA
DAC: Lampizator Golden Gate
 FirstWatt F7
Interconnects: Forza AudioWorks Noir, Audiomica Laboratory Erys Excellence
Speaker cables: Forza AudioWorks Noir Concept, Audiomica Laboratory Celes Excellence
Power supply: Gigawatt PF-2 + Gigawatt LC-2 MK2 + Forza AudioWorks Noir Concept/Audiomica Laboratory Ness Excellence
Rack: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Rack
Music: NativeDSD
Retail price of review component: €7'600

Germany's Thöress are one of those small audio boutiques known mainly to enthusiast insiders. The owner isn't into recognition at all. Driven by passion, he just does his thing. Happy customers handle all the rest. For already two decades or so, word on Thöress has spread in just that fashion. But there's a major catch. This works only for unique products. To establish whether the Thöress F2A11 integrated amp fits this description is the goal of today's assignment. A quick glimpse at the Thöress portfolio would surely make any SET amplifier enthusiast grin. There are eight products: two preamplifiers (one of which is actually a phonostage), two monaural power amplifiers, two loudspeaker models and a pair of integrated amps of which one, the F2A11, is our focus today. The specifics of this catalogue leave no room for guesswork: by no accident one spots large paper membranes, high efficiency ratings, NOS tubes and '70s or earlier retro aesthetics. All that is the Thöress way. And these days, to make such products for a living is quite rare. It undoubtedly involves a lot of passion. One certainly doesn't choose to do it to become a millionaire.

This one paragraph indicates quite clearly that owner Reinhard Thöress must be as much into music as he's a heavyweight audio enthusiast. There's no other way if it's not about trends or fads. But there's more. I strongly believe that behind each unique, small and successful audio operation is both a story to be told and one person at the steering wheel. To know (of) this individual is to understand why he does what he does. So I had the pleasure to talk with Reinhard for about two hours via phone. And quite the story it was. Since early childhood, Reinhard Thöress was interested in all music, from classical to avantgarde, from church organ to jazz, rock, blues, metal, fusion, funk, soul, disco, pop, world music and more. It never seemed right to him that one particular style should be viewed as more important or valuable than any other. Now 50+, his belief remains unchanged. Accordingly, a truly world-class music system should be as universal as possible and play back all kinds of musical programmes in equally appealing and convincing ways. Sure, usually such statements are just marketing jabber; but not always. Reinhard's F2A11 integrated is a very peculiar and unusual performer. In my opinion then, what he said made perfect and logical sense once my audition with high-efficiency speakers was over. My moment of enlightenment and perfect awareness happened along the way and its scale would make DaVinci blush. But more on that later.

First, Reinhard Thöress still has vivid childhood memories when he was fortunate to call various then current and rather large tube radios his own. The centre of his attention at the time was a Philips Jupiter 715. Back then, a device loaded with an 800Ω oval full-range paper cone driver powered by a famous EL86 valve with transformer-less (OTL) output stage invented by Philips was considered an outstanding piece of audio equipment to have. Reinhard became aware of what it really was only decades later. The Germans then had the habit of describing such large tube radios as Musiktruhe, i.e. actual pieces of furniture rather than strictly technical devices. Interestingly, their term includes 'music' but not 'radio'. Our engineer explained that to him it actually was a bit of a Schatztruhe or treasure chest. Filled with virtual gold and precious jewels in the shape of musical tunes, it craved his attention on a daily basis. Reinhard remembers well how he exploited that 715 already as a teenager while transistorized gear became more and more prevalent. He picked up piano lessons and that instrument became his favourite. I was told that he still plays it with limitless passion almost every day. Back then he also began to regularly attend live concerts of all sorts. Within his area, Reinhard became acquainted with numerous large and small concert halls, opera houses, churches, jazz clubs and more. He cherry-picked his preferred haunts and some, as he put it, offered him the highest degree of listening joy.

But music wasn't Reinhard's only love. To a certain extent he also became interested in musical instruments, science, mathematics, astronomy, technology, technical acoustics and electronics in particular. By the age of 20, arts and design began to attract his interest and that's probably what's particular about him. Reinhard says that these three equally developed hobbies would eventually shape the brand he created. He couldn't limit himself to merely one field of endeavour. He strongly believes that such an attitude would narrow his horizon and mind. His mission is to move freely between the disciplines of music, technology and design because he always felt committed to explore the junction where these three disciplines intersect. Reinhard graduated in mathematics, with physics the subsidiary subject. Yet he never worked as a professional mathematician, just as a university tutor. He received his degree at the RWTH University of Aachen, a city which became both his home town and the residence of today's Thöress laboratory. The company itself was established some two decades ago and is located in the city centre, with its famous cathedral in walking distance. Aachen houses 250.000 people and is located about 50 miles from Köln and Düsseldorf, close to the border where the German, Belgian and Dutch territories meet.

Much in accordance with his multilateral attitude, Reinhard doesn't specialize solely in electronics. The Thöress story includes loudspeakers, a fact which seems to be frequently overlooked perhaps because the German amps steal the spotlight with their radical, non-mainstream and possibly even consternating looks? In any case, our designer strongly believes that amplifiers and speakers are firmly interlinked and must be treated simultaneously to attain to the very top of musical reproduction. Truth told, Reinhard's speakers have gained some credit and reputation over the years which he noted with a certain degree of pride. He's happy that this part of his work is being more and more recognized. As a journalist familiar with the feeling, I understand. In the context of the above, a picture of a jack of all trades but master of none emerges. Actually, not. As Reinhard explained, his specialization is at the very spot where sonically influential things happen: purity and consistency of design, carefully selected components and the topology itself. He has a very clear vision of how a 'musical' system should sound and all of his actions are strictly subordinated to and ruled by it. As far as design schools go, he strongly believes in the supremacy of single-ended circuitry over balanced affairs, push-pull in particular. He studiously avoids the latter and not a single item in his portfolio is balanced or even fitted with convenience XLR.