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Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII (Read 30837 times)
RFZ_Quest
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Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
02/20/06 at 05:23:04
 
   
TORII MKII  preliminary evaluationInitial Impressions: The First 50 Hours


After a long six-month wait in anticipation, the audio Gods have delivered upon my highest expectations. The first amp placed on order last year was passed over due to other financial obligations therefore allowing the next customer in line to receive that amp. This delayed the reorder of my current serial number which had a long wait in the build process. Alas, my new successor to the amplification throne has taken residence as the driving force behind my audio bliss. As an owner of a well balanced system consisting of ONLY Decware components, aside from the TERES vinyl rig used as the source, I am well prepared to audition this amp for all its worth. Or could it be that this amp may just be the ultimate platform for exposing the SYSTEM for all its worth?

One way or another the truth will undeniably be placed within the limelight. Will this once and for all prove to be the Holy Grail at the end of the audio journey? Time will tell soon enough but in the short of initial exposure in comparison to my well-seasoned SV83M-DC monoblocks, it is embarrassingly clear as to what separates the boundaries for these design classifications.

My main interest for obtaining the new push pull design was NOT due to any lack of interest or even the slightest regard toward dissatisfaction with my existing monoblocks with the dual core implementation. After all, these amps were the flagship of Decware designs obtained several years ago. If any factor deeming cost versus value played a part in determining the overall scheme of things, keep in mind that the SV83M-DC versions cost the same back then as the TORII MKII cost today! With that being said, I think of every time that I prepare for building a high performance computer system to supercede the last state of the art system. Rapid development of technological advancement pathetically outdates previous state of the art standards within a relatively short period of time. This supercedes its predecessors once standing reign of power and domination into the inherent delegation of a mere afterthought.

I certainly would not go to that extreme for evaluating the rudimentary differences that prevail between these completely different reference standards. My point is that as with computers, components and the software used to drive them are increasingly becoming better within relative cost factors and by far, are much easier for the end user in terms of use, compatibility, and overall terms of satisfaction. In summation, this becomes a win- win situation for the consumer as the price versus value gap tightens its margin for which higher expectations of performance are obtained at a relatively lower cost factor with each cycle of advancement. In general, the end user obtains more for their money than the previous purchase, which by current standards, is rendered obsolete at least as in retrospect to computer components are concerned.

Do not misunderstand me as in no way would I disregard the integrity of the SV83 designs into the embodiment of obsolescence as they will always shine in the highest regard to their particular class. These amp designs hold a very comfortable position of musical authority as gauged by their own relevancy as opposed to any contender in their shadows.

No surprise that it would take the very same designer to improve upon his own masterful designs by which no other has resided in their passage of legendary engineering!

I expect no less of Decware for which they have consistently proven to be the time honored leaders in audio advancement. Although it seems positively impossible for these designs to warrant improvement in any way let alone be challenged by superceding designs, Steve continually finds the path that leads us to the fruition of our highest expectations in regards to audio enjoyment.

We asked for the seemingly impossible and he responded beyond our wildest imagination as to what is truly obtainable in the world of audio perfection.

On to the chase. This latest rendition is nothing short of impeccable! How his creative process has delivered us with such innovation is difficult to fathom until one has experienced the intricacies of his design contingencies in the form for which it is promised to deliver.

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« Last Edit: 10/14/06 at 14:47:57 by RFZ_Quest »  
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #1 - 02/20/06 at 05:30:47
 
I actually feel as though I have acquired a flawless diamond for the price of an imitation. I have never been so satisfied with such sheer contentment in regards to overall consumer satisfaction in my life! Seeing, feeling, hearing, experiencing this gem factors in very heavily without a shadow of doubt that this amplifier is far too superior to be placed in such a modest price category. Amplifiers sold at the "price no object" boutiques do not remotely attribute the characteristics of this leading edge design but easily cost three to five times as much! Talk about value margins. The best advice that I can give to any potential buyer is that this is the rarest of opportunities! If a man offers you an ounce of gold for the price of lead in proportion, would you not feel utterly satisfied in a pound per pound validation?

Initial impressions straight from the box.


Upon delivery, it was evident that the package was prepared for anything short of a nuclear blast. Although UPS managed to deliver the amp without a trace of mishandling, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have withstood the harshest of handling tactics. The tube set came packaged separately and delivered at the same time with its contents perfectly intact.

As much as I merely wanted to plug and play this amp and set things in motion, I had to marvel in the aesthetics of this awe-inspiring work of art. I doubt that there has been build quality of this caliber offered in commercial products for at least forty years. Usually, to acquire something of this design standard, one must pay an absolute premium. The visual aspects alone secure the promise of a very well designed layout. This amp deserves an honored place among the finest of audio amplifiers at any price!

Although I would have preferred to see the addition of a powder coated transformer cover to isolate that section from the tube layout which by the way, would have raised the production cost to a much higher level, the layout still presents itself in an unobtrusive manner which screams pure integrity. However, if that option came available, it would be worth the extra cost.

This is no plain Jane amplifier. A great deal of thought went into its design in regards to what the end user would actually take interest as to available connections and controls for the ultimate marriage to ones system needs. This is an integrated design with its own gain control thus eliminating the need for a quality preamp. For my SV83M-DC monoblocks, I drove them with the Decware ZTPRE for which I no longer have a need with the TORII MKII. Evaluate this even further and you realize that this eliminates the need for that extra set of audio cables to make their mark on the audio signal. This presents the amplifier as that much more of an economical value as per cost savings alone. What really makes this special, factors in that of signal integrity, as there is limited outside chance of signal degradation due to additional components and cables in the path to present additional signature alterations. This all further reinforces the Decware motto that "LESS IS MORE" which definitely has taken premise here.

What comes standard on this amp to provide a user-friendly interface for their system is all that one could ask for. At the front of the tube layout, you will find the gain control centered at the most accessible position. Directly behind it lies the switch to control either of two available source paths making it very easy to toggle between my Zen triode phono stage while listening to vinyl and alternatively to my SACD source with its custom tube output stage. To the rear of the amp and completely accessible from the top are the remaining controls in line with the massive high quality binding posts from WBT. From the center outward, you find discretely positioned independent controls for each of the two channels. Starting with the detachable power receptacle designed for premium power cords which is highly recommended, the independent power switches are next in line for easy accessibility. Next, come the input RCA connections that allocate the use of dual source provisions. Alongside the inputs are the nicely designed tone controls for fine-tuning treble output to your situation. Further down the line you find the switches for choosing either 8 ohm or 4-ohm configuration to match your speakers. This can be ordered as an option to have 8 or 16 ohm compatibility as well. Finally, as most properly placed, you have your WBT binding posts that are also top mounted with plenty of clearance for which one can use any type of cable of their choice. Bring on those massive heavy gauge cables for audiophiles that choose to use those duty rated for welding applications! These connections are up to the task if the challenge presents the need to do so.

The tube complement which ships with this amplifier includes everything you need to produce premium grade sound quality. Included are a matched quad set of EL34C’s with the "flying C" insignia to handle the output. The driver tubes are Svetlana 6n1p types that allow this amp to sound very natural and smooth. For rectification, a set of 5U4G’s is included. Tube voltage regulation is provided by Westinghouse OA3’s. As you can imagine, this amplifier will provide you with a substantial secondary heat source to keep you warm during the winter months. Air conditioning will become a welcome factor while operating this during warmer weather but then again, what tube amplifier does not apply to this characteristic? For me, this is an acceptable trade off which I will cheerfully pardon for all the listening enjoyment that will flow effortlessly from that generated heat. It is really not all that intolerable unless you sit three feet from the amplifier in which case I would question the reason for this to begin with.

As with any component, one must understand and accept the fact that all good things come to those that wait and patience is a virtue when it comes to the "break-in" period. Any past audio experience clearly dictates that this is a very necessary and expected process for which the true nature of a components worth cannot be accurately gauged until achieved.

With this in mind, I was fully prepared to ignore the initial sound emanating from this amplifier and to forgive any initial bad elements that may arise through the stress of time induced evolution to reach the projected goal. I have found that it takes approximately the first fifty hours or so for any component to show patterns of stability for which improvements generally arise in stages. One hundred hours will show a marked improvement over the initial fifty and so on. I am satisfied and ready to make an honest evaluation of a components worth once it has reached a minimum of two hundred plus hours. This seems to be the magic number for which the unit has gained the highest potential in my past experience with any other possible refinement being that of astute subtleties.
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #2 - 02/20/06 at 05:44:41
 
The system in question for this evaluation consists of the most crucial elements, nothing less, nothing more.


Starting with the star of this show is of course the TORII MKII itself driving a set of well seasoned 2000 hours+ Radial RL-2 designs of which I tailored to my own personal liking. Although these speakers are not far from stock configuration, I chose to experiment with these to extract any possible refinement. These as most know are two-way designs engineered to complement low powered amps with very respectable efficiency ratings. I am a believer in the elimination of all unnecessary signal paths with application of the purest materials possible throughout the remaining signal chain. This did not reflect upon the speakers so much in themselves, as any refinement possible was minimal. These modifications merely attributed a change of signature but still within the realm of the original character. The only avenue of upgrade worthiness lye directly within the speakers crossover network which is already simplified to perform a relatively simple task. Originally, these incorporated an interchangeable resistor path for which the high frequencies could be tailored to a particular listening environment. Through a great deal of experimentation, I determined that the best results were that of total resistor elimination. All that is left is merely the capacitor for the high frequency ribbon element. The radial drivers operate at full range without external contamination within its signal path. All that was left open for experimentation lay within the capacitor itself. What I settled on were high quality Jensen foil in oil speaker caps with solid silver leads. The remaining connections were finished off with high purity solid silver hook up wire with all connections permanently soldered in place. Other than that, I modded the structural housings with some additional sound deadening to the interior along with careful application of Black Hole 5 in the critical areas. I built my own custom speaker cables kept minimal at eight-foot lengths. These were constructed of high purity silver with multiple gauge configuration in conjunction with a core base of cotton, designed for minimal interaction and shielded for maximum protection from EMI/RFI interference. I felt that the mounting position of the ribbon bracket rendered itself as obtrusive to the wave dispersions emanating from the radial drivers. This could not be totally eliminated without completely redesigning the method for attachment. However, it became clear to me that if the brackets were simply reversed with the ribbon driver housings simply flipped 180 degrees, the entire assembly could be relocated to the rear of the wave dispersions, thus greatly reducing the interactions incurred toward the frontal patterns. Yes this created a bit of time alignment delay but since the radial is upward firing to disperse 360 degrees, I concluded that this would not be detrimental to the overall perception. In fact, I found the presentation to be more laid back with a better sense of detail. I have spent a great deal of time listening to these speakers, evaluating and tweaking to the point that I feel to be optimum.
Now that the speakers and cables have been identified, all that’s left is the source itself with the necessary interconnects. As stated, my primary source is that of a Teres turntable mounted upon a vibration controlled structure which I built utilizing oak for the structure filled with sand for deadening and interlocked with hollow aluminum tubing also filled with sand for maximum deadening. The platform is constructed of one-inch thick African Padouk hardwood sealed to the base with a heavy isolation bead of automotive window putty. To further isolate the turntable from external vibration, carbon fiber cones and pedestals have been placed to support it to the platform. The DC drive motor is external with a very low contact area to the platter itself. The motor is powered discretely by battery power with preventive measures taken to reduce external vibration to a minimum. The tonearm is an Origin Live Silver Series with a Dynavector DV-20X moving coil cartridge. Signals are processed through a Decware triode phono stage and fed through high quality silver interconnects directly to the TORI MKII itself. The alternative source is the Decware modified 685 SACD player with dedicated tube output stage using high quality G.E. capacitors. Again, this fed through silver interconnects directly into the other set of inputs on the amplifier. Simple, direct and as free from external contamination as possible. Further into my evaluation, I will bring the WO32 subwoofer into the loop but for now this will be left out of the system so that only the main speakers are heard.

System status online, warmed-up, and optimally ready for a test drive…………………………………………..

I have waited a long time for this moment to arrive and I momentarily hesitate as I reflect upon my expectations. This was similar to my feeling upon hearing my vinyl rig for the first time. I just know it has to be good but will my expectations be justified or will disappointment interject to rear its ugly head? There is no turning back now so this uncharted path must be approached with a positive outlook. Knowing as to the integrity of Decware products and theorem, I know that this is going to be a wild but controlled ride so here it goes!

Three..Two..One..we have ignition; main engines at full throttle we have achieved lift off…..Houston, there are no problems reported here….main engines throttled back as we break through the sound barrier on to our destination of audio enchantment.

Well anyway, back here on the planets surface I have witnessed a new found discovery that has extended way above and beyond any reasonable expectations that I may have conjured about this amplifiers capabilities. No, wait, could this be? I was completely assuming that surely a stone fresh amplifier must sound harsh for at least the initial break in period…but this is not so here….surely the solder slingers must have put this amp through an extensive break in period prior to its journey into my possession? O.K. so it seems to sound utterly superb for something that should not sound this good right out of the box! I am sitting in amazement, anticipating the luxurious sound which is imparting my senses to surely begin a descent into that roller coaster ride of inevitable character change as internal forces work through each hour of operation. It has been my experience to hear multiple changes take place within the first twenty hours of break in so I am fully expecting this occurrence.

This never happened! I have had this amp in use for one week now operating at fifty percent for five hours non-stop each night with a cool down period until the following day. On the sixth night, I left it on constant loop play with my SACD at low volume all during the night and throughout the next day equating to more than 24 plus hours non stop with the last ten hours set at reasonably strong volume levels. All that I can say about this observation is that I have yet to hear any fluctuation in sound quality! If what I am hearing IS in any way considered to be marginal in respect to this amplifiers hidden capability, awaiting its projected bloom from cocoon to flight status, than I will truly be mesmerized by its promise!
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #3 - 02/20/06 at 05:49:39
 
I have been listening to many of my favorite LP’s as well as select digital recordings in the SACD format which always sounded fantastic with the SV83M triodes. This is the same system with only the change of amplification and the elimination of the preamp and one set of interconnects from the audio chain.

There is no contest here. The TORII MKII picks up where the smaller triode amps fade out, taking us to the conclusion of the musical event. This is not something that has to be heard several times with careful scrutiny for which to base a determination.

The closest analogy that I can use to describe the difference between these amp designs is like that of a person with gradual vision loss. The changes are minute as they occur throughout time. However, it becomes obvious that the person is missing the finer detail of ones surroundings. If the person had always been lacking full visual acuity and suddenly corrected this into dramatic focus, it would be readily apparent as to how much detail had gone unnoticed.

That describes the difference between what I am hearing now as opposed to my previous configuration.

I will go into depth as to what is most discernable in this evaluation as I continue through the break in period.

Currently I have a set of quad matched JJ KT88 output tubes on order. It will be interesting to compare the unique signatures between these and the EL34C’s in service now.

Paul.
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Sam in USA
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #4 - 02/20/06 at 05:54:33
 
So, in what areas do you think TORII betters the SV-83s?
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Lon
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #5 - 02/20/06 at 11:52:40
 
Congratulations Paul!  What a fun read. . . enjoy your bliss and keep us posted of further impressions.
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teepeeworks
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #6 - 02/21/06 at 06:46:44
 
Paul,

Are you the guy who wrote the Monoblocks with Radial review?:

http://www.decware.com/paper40.htm


Keep it up and let us know how things progress.  :)

Oh, and please refrain from telling us how your Teres/ZP 1.5 absolutely slaughters your DEC685. I don't need to read such things.  :)

Take care,

Corey
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eparson
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #7 - 02/21/06 at 18:41:48
 
Interesting that you didn't have to go through a break in period with your MKII.  Mine was almost unlistenable out of the box, after about 2 weeks things started to improve. Now, I have over 300 hours on it and the sound is nothing short of amazing....
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #8 - 02/22/06 at 01:40:59
 
Lon,

Thank you. I knew that you might find interest in this review, as you have been a long time owner of the radials driven by EL34 amplifiers. You can relate to what I am experiencing and it is clear that you have a very broad background in music evaluation.

I am pleased that you have found this to be informative and my goal therefore is to carry on with this adventurous journey throughout the most critical stages. This in an attempt to provide those that are interested with a broadened insight as to the scope of another fellow Decware end user.

Yes, you can be sure that there will be more to follow on this evaluation, as this was only the beginning stage. As time progresses, wading through the amplifiers break in period, I will be carefully forming accurate mental dissertations without the clinical approach. My intention is to reflect most honestly, the fine attributes which set this amplifiers character apart from that which I have been so accustomed over the past few years.

Keep in touch and check back in about ten days as I am sure to have displayed further insight upon my experience. If it does take longer, please have patience as this will eventually be posted.

Paul.
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #9 - 02/22/06 at 04:02:23
 
Corey,

Yes, you caught me! That article reflects quite some time ago, descriptive as to how I perceived things back then. As you recall, I had not requisitioned any form of acoustical treatments at that stage of the game but I was hard at work investigating the possibilities through the informative articles, sharing Steve’s insight as well as my own study of the subject. Many changes have taken place since that era and I still take this all in stride.

My only source available at that time was that of an $1800.00 Arcam CD player with the highly touted “ring DAC” developed by DCS. When I sold that unit on Audiogon, the new owner contacted me and raved on with absolute praise as to the sound quality this particular unit had. I would agree that this was one of the most forgiving digital sources that I had ever heard. That is until present day! I was deep into the process of examining d.i.y. sources for which to build the ultimate transport system reclocked with the finest aftermarket devices available and coupled with the most refined tube DAC that could be mated with such in the most complementary of degree. In parts only form, the realization of this build would have surpassed the $5000.00 mark and with no guarantee of success or satisfaction.

It was then I made the transition into the high-end world of exotic turntable designs. I discovered the Teres line and that was all it took. Chris Brady from the Teres development staff is very much like Steve is with Decware. The products they have developed are on par with what is going on at this end of the spectrum. The components developed by these two companies were meant to be united for the perfect balance of musical harmony. I believe that Steve’s phono stage design simply became the icing on the cake for these world class designs.

I definitely would not bring ill bearing upon such a comparison as to the SACD tube DAC design derived from Steve’s engineering talent versus the Teres alternative. However, I am quite partial to the magic of a well-executed vinyl playback system and for me there are truly only two serious formats available today. That being the introduction of DSD engineered SACD digital and the fine offerings produced today by those that specialize in premium analog masters offered on the vinyl technology available in the present time. Once you have experienced 45- rpm master recordings cut with the finest of lathes using only proprietary analog mastering equipment from labels such as APO Records, you will know what the fuss is all about. Listen to a “direct–to-disc” mastering session and you have delved into pure audio nirvana!

I have sent Steve a sample variety of what I consider to be some of the very best recordings available today and of which will be a very big part of my upcoming review for these two sources in side by side evaluations with the new TORII amp. Two of these vinyl offerings will be from APO records (Analogue Productions) one of which is 45-rpm and the other in a microphone- to- lathe; Direct to Disc master recording. These will be the reference grade for the vinyl source. On the SACD side of the fence, only the best premium recordings will be analyzed to show the extreme of what this unit can convey. How about authentic cannon fire shot in multiple succession and captured in real time from “1812 overture” mastered in pure DSD! This you have to experience. The wide dynamic range present on this disc is like nothing I’ve heard in the past for this title and it ranks high upon the list of reference discs. I have many discs in this format, which definitely give vinyl a run for all its promise. That being in terms of dynamic range and accuracy. However, even with the best of the digital format, I like so many others (I detect a pattern here), am consistently drawn to the superbly natural sound that only quality vinyl seems to provide. In other words, digital has always seemed more clinical in presentation to me while the vinyl counterpart just imparts a sense of relaxing vibrancy.

I will attempt to cover this in detail with the continuation of my review. Until then, I have a great deal of listening to do.

Take care.

Paul
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #10 - 02/22/06 at 04:17:17
 
Sam in USA,

I do not mean to cut you short on your question but since this will be a major part of the upcoming review format, I ask that you read my observations when I present them which will be soon enough. If I do not provide the specifics to your question in general at that time, then please feel free to ask about any particular aspect.

Thank you.

Paul
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #11 - 02/22/06 at 04:32:33
 
eparson,

I fully understand the bizarre nature of my findings! As I said, I was fully anticipating what you yourself experienced. Why that I was spared this agonizing dilemma is beyond my belief. I can only imagine now as to what the future holds in store especially once I introduce the high end JJ KT88’s into the picture!

For now I will take my good fortune and run with it.

BTW: give us some updated detail about your current impressions. What music sources are you examining and what makes them special to you with the TORII MKII driving your system?

Paul
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #12 - 03/02/06 at 23:42:27
 
Just recieved a matched quad set of JJ KT88's and will be installing them shortly. Further evaluation will soon take place with these installed in comparison to the EL34's. The new amp now has over 100 hours burn in time on it and sounding very good.

100 hours plus "phase-two" evaluation coming soon.......................
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Zygi
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #13 - 03/03/06 at 01:43:11
 
Paul,

  I couldn't even listen to mine for the first 100-200 hrs. I think your going to be in for a big suprise....

  Hows the A10's


   Keep us posted.

     BobZ
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RFZ_Quest
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Re: Preliminary evaluation: TORII MKII
Reply #14 - 03/04/06 at 01:53:04
 

Hello Bob!

I know that this seems unusual in any regard for me to find this or any amp to sound this good with limited hours. This as I stated, has caught me completely off guard. I completely expected as such for this to sound rough for quite a while and as stated, did not find any unpleasantness even for a fresh component. I was so surprised by this that I even had to ask Devon if there was a chance that this amp may have had an extended break-in period at the shop prior to shipping. She said that to the best of her knowledge, it had zero run time with the exception of testing and quality assurance. So there you have it. It's a mystery but I'm not complaining!



More to come…….


Paul.


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