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6 mos Torii Jr. review (Read 162 times)
Samsdad
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6 mos Torii Jr. review
11/11/17 at 15:59:15
 
I told Steve awhile back that I'd post a review of this amplifier, but wanted some miles under the belt before I did so in order to provide the best assessment that I could to him and to anyone else interested in this magical device.

I came across Decware back in 2016 after searching for a point-to-point tube amplifier that was: (a) reliable; (b) backed by some sort of warranty; (c) generally regarded as worth the money; (d) visually attractive; (e) made here in the USA; and (f) inexpensive enough that I could sleep at night. I had a bad experience with buying a cheap foreign-made amp via Amazon that didn't last a week, and didn't want to repeat that experience again.

Decware seemed to fit my requirements, but I wanted to dip my toe in the water before plunging in, so I bought a pre-owned Super Zen CKC (from another Decware forum member via his listing on eBay) to try out first before potentially moving up to a Torii-type amp.

At this point let me quickly go through my setup at the time: my source was a Marantz network audio player (NA6005) directly into the CKC. The CKC then output to a set of Klipsch Reference Series RB-81 Mk. IIs. Interconnects were and are no-name run of the mill. I had purchased the NA6005 and the speakers before I knew about Decware and their somewhat similar/respective offerings (such as the network audio/CD player model ZCD240 or model DM945 bookshelf speakers). My listening room set up is completely unoptimized as it is my living room and my wife wouldn't allow me to, for example, pull the speakers six feet out from the walls, etc. The CKC was placed under my TV in a cabinet and the speakers are on each side of it---roughly six feet apart, four inches off the wall (they do have front-firing ports), sitting on the floor and not toed-in. Perfect!

Despite the lack of listening room optimization, I loved my CKC instantly (as did my wife). I can't tell you how many times I would look over at the CKC and wonder why my eyes didn't see, for example, a miniature Sarah Vaughan sitting on one of the cabinet shelves, casually swinging her legs and smiling at me while singing "Summertime"---my ears swore she was right over there in that cabinet! Surely I was blind!

Yet, when turning up the volume to rock out, I felt that I needed more wattage to get the bass response and punch that I wanted when switching from Louis Armstrong/Sarah Vaughan-type artists to Metallica, etc.

So, after careful consideration of the various amps on the menu here at Decware, I decided to buy a Rachael. About 3 days before it was to go into production, I called and changed my order to a Torii Jr. instead. I was apprehensive that the Rachael would still be short of the necessary wattage, but I didn't want to sacrifice that beguiling SET sweetness that my CKC provided.

After a few months of waiting (thank goodness I had a CKC to help me bide the time), my Jr. arrived. After listening to it for a few minutes, I was relieved that the preternatural SET sweetness was still there---at least so much so that I didn't want to disconnect it and reconnect the CKC. I swear a miniature Frank Sinatra occasionally stands over there in that cabinet, crooning. He's winked at me out of the corner of my eye, truly! Yet I still didn't have the punch that I wanted from Lars Ulrich's drums unless I turned up the volume. Then I was pumping! To those of you who wonder if the Jr.'s 20 watts is enough to blast your room with volume and ballsy bass, I've been able to get peak SPLs approaching the 100s and bass strong enough to make me wonder if my neighbors in this rather tony neighborhood quietly question my life choices, or theirs.

But still, I wanted Lars to be able to punch me and not my neighbors too (at least sometimes), and I wanted to hear Jimmy Garrison walk his double bass while the Heavyweight Champion gave his Impressions at wife-approved SPLs. As it turns out, what I was looking for was a mid-bass booster (and a different rectifier).

I realized the mid-bass boost was partly what I needed after while reading about the topic in the Decware forums. It turns out that our golden ears don't pick up lower frequencies at the same decibel levels as they do midrange frequencies. Google "equal-loudness contour" and see for yourself. To sound as loud as was intended, for example, Mr. Garrison's double bass needs to be boosted if you want to be able to follow him at background-level listening volumes alongside Mr. Coltrane's saxophone. Otherwise, he starts to vanish. And that's not fair to him, to you, or to Messrs. Coltrane and Van Gelder---who apparently thought he'd be good to have around while recording in that now-legendary New Jersey studio. If they thought it'd be good to hear him, I figure it'd probably benefit me to hear him too. I just wanted to be able to do so in the background sometimes.

So, after looking at the issue, I settled on buying a separate subwoofer (an SVS SB-1000) and hooking it up at its speaker-level inputs. That is to say, there are now two sets of equal-length 14-gauge speaker wire coming from the back of the Jr. from each left- and right-speaker outputs (it's tight!): one to each Klipsch, and one to each input on the back of the SVS. The SVS is turned to the LFE setting and near the end of the volume level. At lower-level listening, I can follow the bass and there is a body to the music that wasn't there before. This is part of what I was missing (by the way, Decware apparently addresses this issue with the ZROCK, which I didn't know about when I bought the SVS). The other part was punch.

I couldn't help but feel that the 5u4 absorbs some of the punch that a plucked double bass, as well as a rock drum kit, puts out at its initial sounding, even with the solid-state amplifier that resides inside the SVS. After trying all of the acceptable 5u4 substitutes, I found what I was looking for in the 5ar4/GZ34. It also sounds faster than the 5u4, which allows me to hear complex symphonic passages more clearly.

With this setup, I truly feel that I have reached a level of fidelity that is unbeatable short of being in the studio at the time of the recording. When I listen to Lars Ulrich's drums, they beat me in the chest and I hear every tactile difference in each part of his kit. When I listen to a track from Pink Floyd, I hear a depth of field that is otherworldly. When Mr. Plant beckons me to follow him at the end of "Kashmir," my feet are already wet from walking with him along that yellow desert stream. And when Jack Teagarden tells me about the sad situation down at the "St. James Infirmary" I can hear that it was recorded a long time ago---in black and white---on equipment that doesn't come close to the fidelity of today's abilities. This is what I want.

I'm not looking for an amp that will be forgiving and mask a recording to make it sound better than it is. No, I'm looking for one that replicates the signal exactly. I want to listen to the mono, crackly warmth of an early Ella Fitzgerald or similar-era recording (which often sound to me like they were recorded inside a cardboard box with a cutout for air on a microphone made from a sponge wrapped in cellophane), while wondering if Lady Ella would have sounded any sweeter had she recorded at Electric Lady instead. This amp provides the ability to wonder about such things because it allows me to hear such small acoustical differences that I feel that I can tell where a piece was recorded: whether it was at Mr. Phillips' Sun, at Van Gelder's, or whether it was over at Hendrix's place. Speaking of spaces, this amp has a soundstage depth that is uncanny, and only increases when changing the voltage regulators from the 0A3s to the Bs, Cs, and Ds. However, the punch and bass start to lessen when making this change. I'm still experimenting with these.

This amp is my daily driver, and I drive it nearly every day, all day long. It has never given me an issue in terms of reliability. It does, however, tend to keep me glued to the couch, which may become an issue later on.

TL;DR version: this amp has such resolution, punch, and soundstage depth that I honestly am done looking for anything more. I'm hearing things in recordings that I never knew were there. I'm rocking out like a kid when I need to, and I'm disappearing into the jazz club and sitting in symphony hall when I want. It's like being at one of the the summer concerts down the street here at Red Rocks Amphitheatre; it's like traveling back in time and having dinner at Birdland; it's like having fancy reservations inside the Berliner Philharmonie. Bravo Steve and the rest of the folks at Decware. Bravo.
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« Last Edit: 11/11/17 at 16:44:07 by Samsdad »  
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SonicSeeker
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Posts: 315
Re: 6 mos Torii Jr. review
Reply #1 - 11/11/17 at 19:06:35
 
Great for you Samsdad.
I too am happy with the Torii Jr.
Sounds like we are in close proximity, I live up in the Mountains just west of Vail.
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Torii Jr
ZROCK
Manley Chinook
Sonist Concerto4
VPI Signature Classic Rosewood

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Samsdad
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Posts: 9
Re: 6 mos Torii Jr. review
Reply #2 - 11/11/17 at 19:55:10
 
Was in Littleton just off of 285 and Simms and close enough to Red Rocks to ride my bike to it. Now enjoying life in Castle Rock. Anywhere in the Vail vicinity is lovely! Colorado is great! Don't tell anyone!!!

BTW I also heard that the thinner high altitude air here in Colorado increases speaker fidelity and speed by 10000% as the woofers have less air to constantly push against! Wink I feel sorry for all the lowlanders in Peoria, Illinois for example, who have all that smoggy, thick, heavy air to deal with without any way to compensate. I'm only at 6400 ft; your speakers must sound great at 8000 ft+!!! Wait, do you actually hear any sound that high up?
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SonicSeeker
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Posts: 315
Re: 6 mos Torii Jr. review
Reply #3 - 11/11/17 at 20:55:23
 
Smiley

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Torii Jr
ZROCK
Manley Chinook
Sonist Concerto4
VPI Signature Classic Rosewood

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Lon
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Posts: 13032
Re: 6 mos Torii Jr. review
Reply #4 - 11/11/17 at 22:21:32
 
Sounds as if you are really connected to the amp, which I can understand as I'm really connected to my Torii (Mk III) as well. Congrats on finding the great synergy and deep enjoyment!

Samsdad wrote on 11/11/17 at 15:59:15:
I'm not looking for an amp that will be forgiving and mask a recording to make it sound better than it is. No, I'm looking for one that replicates the signal exactly. I want to listen to the mono, crackly warmth of an early Ella Fitzgerald or similar-era recording (which often sound to me like they were recorded inside a cardboard box with a cutout for air on a microphone made from a sponge wrapped in cellophane), while wondering if Lady Ella would have sounded any sweeter had she recorded at Electric Lady instead. This amp provides the ability to wonder about such things because it allows me to hear such small acoustical differences that I feel that I can tell where a piece was recorded: whether it was at Mr. Phillips' Sun, at Van Gelder's, or whether it was over at Hendrix's place.


I actually find those earlier recordings to sound better than that in my system, but I know what you mean. I still laugh remembering a comment one guitarist friend of mine made listening to some early Ellington material remastered from 78s on cd played back in my system of ten years or so ago: "It's so cool of those early record producers to so thoughtfully provide someone frying up bacon for breakfast for the musicians as the takes were being recorded." Thinking of the groove noise as frying bacon. . . never occurred to me and made me laugh.
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« Last Edit: 11/11/17 at 22:22:04 by Lon »  

HR-1,ZP3,ZTPRE,Torii MkIII,ZBIT,ZROCK2,Taboo MkIV;PS Audio:Soloist SE,DMP+DSD,P10,PowerBases,AC-12 pcs,Mapleshade:Dbl Helix+,SamsonV2+V3;CambrAudi CXU;Rega RP3,TTPSU,Groovetracer upgrades,Exact2;VooDoo Cremona +Amati,Iso-Pods;MD90-T SE tuner,Oppo PM-1,Audeze LCD-2
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Samsdad
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Posts: 9
Re: 6 mos Torii Jr. review
Reply #5 - 11/11/17 at 22:29:37
 
It's from reading accounts from people like you, Lon, and SonicSeeker that made me decide to enter the Decware world. My thanks to you both.
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Lon
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Re: 6 mos Torii Jr. review
Reply #6 - 11/12/17 at 00:07:57
 
Well, for my part you're welcome, and now you're deeply addicted and that's a good thing.
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HR-1,ZP3,ZTPRE,Torii MkIII,ZBIT,ZROCK2,Taboo MkIV;PS Audio:Soloist SE,DMP+DSD,P10,PowerBases,AC-12 pcs,Mapleshade:Dbl Helix+,SamsonV2+V3;CambrAudi CXU;Rega RP3,TTPSU,Groovetracer upgrades,Exact2;VooDoo Cremona +Amati,Iso-Pods;MD90-T SE tuner,Oppo PM-1,Audeze LCD-2
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