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Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3 (Read 3828 times)
Steve Deckert
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Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
11/16/15 at 19:02:44
 
Quote:
Hi Steve,

i wanted to let you know how much i am enjoying all the gear i have purchased from you in the last few months. It's tough to write a review of just one piece, even though i did not get them all at the same time. The whole system is just so much better than the individual parts, and i don't have any gear that is not Decware at the moment to compare.

i've been playing around in the high end audio world for awhile. i jumped into this crazy hobby back in the early 90s, and i remember being very curious about what Dennis Had was doing at Cary Audio. He was right down the road from me, so i saw his gear at one dealer in particular. Never had a chance to listen to it because it seemed no one had appropriate speakers to make a  2A3 amp or a 300B amp sound good. And that was the problem, i couldn't find speakers i could audition that were sensitive enough to make Dennis Had's stuff work. So, i went the more conventional route. i've owned Vandersteen and Meadowlark speakers, Cary, Audio Research, McCormack, Audio Electronic Supply, Zu, Transparent, Audioquest, Rotel, Adcom, VPI, and some PS Audio gear. When my son went off to college in 2010, i sold everything i had at the time, which was a Cary "slobber stack", 211AE monoblocks, SLP05 preamp, 306 CD player, Meadowlark speakers. That money went toward tuition and i took a break from the high end.

In the last two years, my younger son has discovered music. He began to lament the fact that he didn't have my old system around any more. He was stuck with earbuds. He also wanted to get some vinyl, and while i still had my turntable, we had nothing to hook it up to. So i decided it was time to reconstruct a good system.

That last system i had was wonderful, big, ballsy, realistic sound. But i didn't want to spend that kind of money again. i was convinced i didn't have to. i was also getting pretty tired of the the audiophile merry-go-round, never being satisfied enough, getting a little bit better sound and getting excited for a few months, but then getting restless again. Always looking for better speakers, better wire, better whatever, and never really getting anywhere i wanted to be. i decided now was the time to try high sensitivity speakers with low powered amps. That's what i had always found interesting, so now was the time to do it. i started looking for manufacturers that had the reputation for a great price to performance ratio. After i stumbled across the Decware website,  i must have spent a month reading through the Decware forums, gathering as much info as i could. It all struck me as exactly what i was looking for.

i ordered the Monoliths, then the ZCD240, then the ZP3, and finally the Torii Jr. This system is fast, clean, musical, with agile, tuneful bass. The Monoliths sounded so smooth and easy on the ear, with detail and air i hadn't heard in my most expensive system. When the CD player was added, i couldn't believe how good internet radio sounded, not even mentioning what it did with Cds. i must admit, i can't listen to some of my discs now. This player will tell you very soon if the CD is crap or not, and i've got some pretty harsh sounding ones. The next thing that arrived was the ZP3. This is easily the best phono stage i have ever had. i know there are probably better ones out there, but not for anywhere near what this one costs. i was stunned by what it did with my vinyl. Again, there are some records that are recorded/mastered so poorly that i can't listen to them any more. But a good record sounds remarkable.

For me the Torii Jr. has left me slack jawed from the first time i listened to it. Your description when you made your "discovery" while building it is what i am hearing. Clarity and transparency i haven't had, but with a musicality that makes me sit back in my listening chair in wonder. Everything sounds wonderful, but the one thing i keep coming back to is just how good internet radio sounds through this system. i have been listening to Radio Paradise for many years, and it never sounded this good. Some days i just want someone to play some good music for me and now with this system, i get my wish with unbelievable sound.

i have been playing around with different input tubes and some VR150s. i have found that in my small room, i rarely play music louder than 85db, so i don't really need much power with those Monoliths. With the VR150s in the Torii Jr. i hear greater clarity without the sound becoming etched or clinical in any way. Quite amazing!
With my older son back from college and my younger son deep into rap, jazz, and some 70s soul(!), the three of us often find ourselves up in the listening room, talking, debating, and just enjoying some great music. i will treasure that time with my boys for the rest of my life. Thank you for making that possible.

A side note. i had written you an email about my ZP3 having a channel imbalance. i tried everything to figure that one out. Changed tubes, interconnects, amps, put the old phono amp back in, played with different combinations of tubes. Couldn't figure it out. Then one day i took the 0a3 out of the ZP3 and put it in the Torii Jr. Played a cd, and there was the channel imbalance! Switched the 0a3 back, and everything was back to normal. So it must be the 0a3. Sent off an email to Sarah about the tube, she said i needed to call you. So, the night before i was going to call, i played around with everything one last time, just to be sure. Couldn't reproduce what i had before. i thought i was going a little crazy, i even had my son come in and listen. i sat there totally confused, put on a record, and about half way through, the image moved back to dead center. i swear. It has been fine ever since. i don't know what that was, maybe something had not settled in yet, but now everything sounds great.

Thanks again for such great gear. You have provided me and my boys something to share that is wonderful, and at times, even a bit life-changing!


David
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dvl
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #1 - 11/17/15 at 13:23:42
 
i didn't realize Steve would post that email i sent him, but i'm glad he did. i wanted to add some details for anyone considering this wonderful gear.

First, a few comments about the CD/Network player. My son lives on his iPhone, he cannot be without it and it holds all his music. With this player he can just easily hook it up to the USB on the front of the machine and listen to whatever he wants. He can stream Spotify through his phone and listen to that. He loves it. With Steve's output stage, it just sounds wonderful.

i listened to discs, stream my library from my hard drive, and listen to internet radio. As i mentioned in my email to Steve, i listen to Radio Paradise mostly. i also listen to Dylan radio. Both sound great, and you can easily tell differences in the sound quality of the songs played. Some discs that i own that sound too awful to play, i will stream from my library. i use J River and i can adjust it in ways that takes out some of the harshness and makes them a bit more listenable. It is also wonderful to play some of the "unofficial" live performances i've collected over the years. Some of those just sound spectacular. That Decware output stage is just amazing.

The ZP3 is a remarkable little phono stage. A week or so ago, i took out an original copy of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and sat there flabbergasted at what i was hearing. It made me think i had to learn how to listen to music in a different way, so much more information coming at me but not in a clinical way at all. So much music! The stark, fundamental difference between digital and analog is even more stark now. Once both my sons heard what this piece can do, they started buying vinyl, even though when they move out, the stereo stays with me! They want to hear music like the ZP3 gives it to them. My older son brought over a friend one night and they played around with the system a bit. His friend wanted to hear an lp, so he dug through my modest collection, past all the stuff i would normally use to show off, and pulled out Bobby McFerrin, Simple Pleasures from 1988. i didn't even remember that i had that album. They both just sat there dumbstruck and what they heard.

i'm not sure i can add much more to what i said about the Torii Jr. and the Monoliths. If you get the Monoliths, you gotta break them in. They sounded awful right out of the box, but then every speaker i've owned has been that way. i played music through them for 10 days straight. Give them some time and they will come around.

The last system i owned was expensive and it was wonderful. It wouldn't be fair to try to compare that system to the Decware gear i have now. For one thing, my auditory memory isn't that good, i sold it off in 2010. And i think the two are different approaches to reproducing music. But i will say this. i haven't heard this combination of speed, transparency, and musicality in my listening room.

If you are considering Decware, take the plunge. You can always return it. i'm betting you won't.

A big thank you to all those who post on this forum. You helped me get here, and i love where i am!!

David

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will
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #2 - 11/17/15 at 14:22:24
 
Exciting David! Sounds like you made great choices for your system!
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PSA P5/modified Brickwall/Shunyata Defender/more; MacMini/Audirvana>Jitterbug/Regen> modified Gustard x20pro DAC; DIY + Pi Audio PCs; DIY ICs + USB; Decware-Jupiter CSP3, Torii MKIV, HR1-all modified; DIY Speaker Cables; feet-Madscientist, Archie's, isocups, DIY
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Palomino
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #3 - 11/17/15 at 18:38:05
 
Great write up.  Thanks.  Glad you like your new gear!
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i7 Mac Mini with LPSU/SSD running Audirvana 2, Uptone Audio Regen on LPSU, Chord QuteHD with LPSU, DIY Belden ICs, Torii MKIII, SE34I.32, PS Audio P5 Power Supply, PS Audio Power Cords, Vintage Western Electric 16g Speaker wires, DIY Speakers
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Steve Deckert
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If the 1st watt
sucks why continue?

Posts: 3105
Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #4 - 11/19/15 at 02:22:39
 
Quote:
Once both my sons heard what this piece can do, they started buying vinyl, even though when they move out, the stereo stays with me!


Yes, Thanks for posting too!  I had to chuckle on this one.

Steve
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #5 - 11/19/15 at 12:57:55
 
Dear David,

Thanks for the detailed review.  Good to hear that you are enjoying your setup...  I am not sure if you have heard about it but Tidal is a CD-quality music streaming site.  It does not have as much broad a collection as Spotify as of yet, but it is getting there.  So if you or your kids are into streaming, that might be another option with better quality sound.

In my bedroom setup with the TABOO, soon to be replaced by an SE84UFO, I stream music at times via my iPhone and air it to an Apple TV.  Sequentially, even with a budget DAC like Cambridge Audio's DacMagic 100, I can hear the difference between TIDAL and Spotify...

So it might be worth giving it a shot if you have not already...

Best,

Alper
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stone_of_tone
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #6 - 11/19/15 at 17:56:12
 
Congrats dvl/David.

If I did not have the ZMA....the Jr. is a no brainer to purchase. I loved my pentodes in triode for many years....(SE84CS). Now, I'm addicted to the Power and Dynamic's I can only get from Steve's UL with no negative feedback and topology!
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dvl
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #7 - 11/19/15 at 18:27:11
 
Thanks for the advice, Alper. One son has "gamed" Spotify, the other is heavily into Apple Music. We have had debates about listening to Tidal, i always lose that one even though the quality is better. Believe it or not, they both would rather listen to LPs at this point!

David
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #8 - 11/20/15 at 08:20:19
 
The whole LP thing is great; yet extremely costly, man...  I recently bought a Rega turntable but whenever I would like to buy some LP's, they cost a fortune (unless I dig in some hipster vinyl joints in Brooklyn)!  But your kids must have big ears and love the ritual!  :)

Cheers,

Alper
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dvl
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #9 - 11/20/15 at 13:40:10
 
They have really surprised me. One son actually haunts used record stores. We have several around here. The other one saves his allowance and then spends it on Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean LPs. Just last night, the younger one came downstairs after listening for about an hour and said to me that getting that system was the best thing i've done. As his father i'm not quite sure how to take that, but there you go.
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Hekowee
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Re: Review - Monoliths, Torii Jr, ZCD240, ZP3
Reply #10 - 11/20/15 at 19:12:13
 
Ditto the Tidal recommendation from Alper. They stream only Lossless, and have a very impressive collection. They go pretty deep in all of the areas that I search. Another cool feature is the "similar artists" that you get with the search results, often uncovering unknown (to me anyway) artists in the genre.
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Zen Torii Jr
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Zen Monolith 947
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Yamaha Tuner
Technics SL-1200 Mark II turntable
Centrance Hifi-M8/iPhone streaming Tidal lossless 1,411 kbps
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