The Orion is likely the finest phono stage ever created: the first phono preamp manufactured with the incomparable quality and attention to detail found in Constellation Audio's Altair II and Hercules...
The Orion is likely the finest phono stage ever created: the first phono preamp manufactured with the incomparable quality and attention to detail found in Constellation Audio's Altair II and Hercules Reference Series components.
- Inputs 3 XLR stereo, 3 RCA stereo
- Outputs 1 XLR stereo, 1 RCA stereo
- Gain, B & UB (Balanced & Unbalanced) 65 dB max
- Recording outputs 1 XLR stereo, 1 RCA stereo
- THD+N <0.004%, 10 Hz - 20 kHz
- Frequency response +/-0.10db 10Hz - 20kHz
- Output noise -100 dB re 2V output, 20 Hz to 20 kHz
- Load impedance, MC inputs 0Ω to 500Ω
- Load impedance, MM input 10KΩ to 100KΩ
- Load capacitance, MM input 100 to 400 pF, selectable
- Output impedance, B & UB < 50Ω
- EQ curve RIAA plus user-adjustable HF and LF EQ
- Weight 84 lbs / 38.2 kg
- Dimensions, phono preamp 17.5 x 5.53 x 14.8 in (whd)
44.5 x 14 x 37.6 cm (whd)
- Dimensions, power supply 17.5 x 2.82 x 14.5 in (whd)
44.5 x 7.2 x 36.8 cm (whd)
Like all Constellation Audio products, the Orion was conceived by our "dream team" of the world's best audio engineers and industrial designers. Its phono preamp section was created by John Curl, the world's most acclaimed phono preamp designer. Its line stage is based on the Line Stage Gain Module concept developed by veteran high-end designer Peter Madnick. Its chassis is the creation of Alex Rasmussen, perhaps the most prolific industrial designer in high-end audio. Each Orion is assembled by hand in our Newbury Park, California factory.
The core of the Orion is its dual-mono phono preamp section, which uses fully separate, isolated circuit boards for left and right channels. The entire component is laid out in a mirror-imaged design, with left-channel input and output jacks on one side of the rear panel and right-channel jacks on the other side. Each channel also has its own power supply.
Machined remote control The preamp circuits are similar in execution to the innovative Line Stage Gain Module used in the Altair II preamp. Each circuit is built from discrete field-effect transistors (FETs) hand-selected from our private stock. These are the lowest-noise FETs we have ever found. Like the FETs in the Line Stage Gain Module, they are no longer available – and in fact they are in even shorter supply. However, we have enough in stock to supply the anticipated demand for the Orion. Like the Line Stage Gain Module, the Orion's preamp uses an innovative servo circuit to track the balance for the XLR output, automatically correcting for slight positive-to-negative imbalances caused by imperfections in the vinyl playback hardware. Thus, the signal is as perfectly balanced as it can be.
The Orion is easily one of the most flexible and versatile phono preamps ever designed. It incorporates a unique record EQ circuit that performs flawless RIAA equalization, yet also allows user adjustability of the high- and low-frequency filters. This allows the Orion to deliver superb sound even with records that are not well-mastered, and also with old, pre-RIAA records.
The machined aluminum remote control allows adjustment of the EQ from the comfort of your listening chair. You can make changes on the fly from the exact position where you want to hear them; there's no need to get up, make a change, then sit back down to evaluate it. The remote also allows adjustment of load impedance for moving-coil cartridges, ensuring optimal performance no matter what cartridge(s) you choose. Load capacitance and impedance for moving-magnet cartridges can be adjusted through controls on the Orion.
To accommodate multiple turntables or tonearms, the Orion includes three inputs: two MC, one MM, both with XLR and RCA jacks. Each input can be separately preset for loading (on MC inputs), gain, stereo/mono and EQ curve. XLR and RCA outputs are provided.
The Orion's audio circuits are mounted on a "raft," a platform made from metal sheets and vibration-absorbing polymer. The raft is mounted on an elastomeric suspension that isolates the circuits from vibration, much as a raft floating on a lake is undisturbed by events onshore. This unprecedented degree of physical isolation is especially beneficial for phono preamp circuits, which because of their very high gain tend to be microphonic.
All circuits are housed in an enclosure machined from solid aluminum billet. The walls have a minimum thickness of 8.2mm, thick enough to block 50/60 hertz electromagnetic interference.
Orion gets its power from a separate, triple-transformer supply that sits under the main chassis. There are separate transformers for the left and right channels, and a third transformer for the control circuits. The power supply is itself shielded by a machined aluminum chassis, to further isolate the sensitive preamp circuits from any electromagnetic emissions created by the power supply.
There is simply no other phono stage that compares to the Orion. None can match its circuit design, its flexibility, its convenience, its build quality or–most important–its sheer musicality.
Adjustable record EQ curve
Of course, the Orion offers a precise reproduction of the industry-standard RIAA record EQ curve. However, it also allows manual adjustment of the EQ curve directly from the remote control. Not only can it accommodate pre-RIAA records mastered to different EQ curves, it allows the listener to compensate for mastering idiosyncrasies. Now every record can sound its best, even if its mastering wasn't the best.
Multiple-shielded for ultra-low noise
Because phono preamp signals are typically 200 to 2,000 times lower in level than line-level audio signals, they are especially susceptible to interference and noise. This is why the Orion's circuits are so extensively shielded, using a combination of machined aluminum enclosures around preamp circuits, a heavy sheet metal "raft" that supports the circuit boards, another heavy sheet metal shell around all of the circuits, and a thick machined aluminum outer chassis.
Adjustable load impedance and capacitance
The Orion can extract the best possible performance from any phono cartridge because its load impedance is adjustable for both moving-coil and moving-magnet cartridges, and load capacitance is adjustable for moving-magnet cartridges. For moving-coil cartridges, the load impedance can be adjusted in 1-ohm increments from the remote control, making it especially easy to experiment with different settings.
Discrete preamp circuit with low-noise FETs
We build the Orion's phono preamp circuit using hand-matched, ultra-low-noise FETs, to deliver performance and musicality unavailable from any other brand. Servo circuits maintain an essentially perfect balance between the positive and negative halves of the audio signal.
Fully balanced dual mono design
The Orion employs the best possible circuit design for a phono preamp. Left and right channels are fully isolated from each other through metal shields and separate power supply feeds. The positive and negative halves of the signal are amplified by mirror-imaged, separate circuits, a design that doubles the slew rate and thus achieves superior frequency response.
Machined aluminum remote control
Today's serious vinyl enthusiasts like to experiment with cartridge loading, EQ curves, and different cartridges and tonearms. The Orion's elegant machined aluminum remote lets them do this from their listening chair, without having to get up, flip DIP switches, disassemble the unit, etc. It's a level of convenience almost unheard of in phono preamps.
Separate triple-output power supply
With Orion, not only is the power supply isolated in a completely separate chassis to prevent interference, but dedicated internal supplies are provided for the left and right channels. Each channel gets its own audiophile-grade R-core transformer. A separate transformer and regulated supply is provided for the control circuits. Custom-extruded PCOCC cables, each one tipped with high-current Hypertronics connectors designed for aerospace applications, carry the separate power feeds to the main chassis.
Convenient LCD front touchscreen
The easy-to-read LCD touchscreen on Orion's front panel makes it easy to select inputs and adjust the many parameters available for each input. With its large, high-contrast fonts, the display can easily be read from across a room.
Floating circuit board assembly
Because preamp circuits are especially susceptible to microphonics (signal pollution caused by exterior vibrations), we mount all of Orion's audio circuits on a "raft" made from two layers of stainless steel sheet separated by a vibration-absorbing polymer. The raft is mounted on an elastomeric suspension that "floats" it inside the chassis, so vibrations coming from the ground or the air won't affect the operation of the preamp circuits. Custom-made, ultra-flexible wiring also helps prevent exterior vibration from reaching the audio circuitry.
Chassis machined from solid aluminum
Mere sheet metal cannot block the intense 50/60 Hertz interference created by household circuits and appliances, which is why we machine the Orion's aluminum chassis to a minimum thickness of 8.2mm. The sheer mass of the chassis also helps damp vibration – even if it does make Orion one of the heaviest phono preamps ever created, at 82 pounds.
Constellation Audio was founded on the premise that one cannot create something extraordinary through slavish adherence to established methods. When tradition is the best path, we embrace it. When new technology is necessary to achieve the performance we want, we invent it. When we find a radical circuit topology that delivers a substantial advance in sound quality, we use it.