Model No:  Zen TORII Mk II

First Impressions: June 2009 

Alright, I realize that I haven't had this amp for long, and that it may be a bit atypical in that it's almost a prototype that has been reconfigured to current production status.

And I know that with Decware products, revealing reproducers, break-in is a REAL process and can take surprising turns.

But. . .and a big but. . . the sound of this amp demands that I comment on it right now. . . and later! 

And my comments will be very favorable.

First off, the very first notes that flow through this amp will let a seasoned Decware user know, definitively, that this amp is a DECWARE AMP, and all that entails in superior sound and big bad bang for buck.  It's right there, it's the big brother of the Select, it's the twin of the Integrated that grew up in a different family, it's one of Steve's amps, it has his signature sound and exhibits his perennial attention to detail and his unique thinking and techniques.

And as much as it has that house sound that none of the company's fans would like to be without, it has its own personality.  It has an easy breathing power within its core, ready to be put to use just like that.  It has a precision that is remarkable and attention-grabbing.  And yet it can delicately cradle the gentlest most sensitive hint of sound or texture and place it protectively just where it should be.

If you read the design notes to this amp you see a brilliance of thinking and a care of implementation that appears remarkable to be behind an amplifier anywhere near this price point.  And on top of that a cohesive vision of what an amplifier such as this could and SHOULD do.  When you see and heft it you can only marvel at the quality of construction and parts. When you spend an hour with it you realize this is one of those special components that lived up to the designer's intentions and can take on your present and future needs.

It's hard to describe the sound.  I've run my RL2s with four amps now over the years (three Decware amps, one, my old Proton, temporarily while the Monoblocks were being updated) and this is the amp that controls them with authority and finesse, this is the one to keep connected, the speakers breathe, sing, and if you want them to, shout out a firm amen chorus. In comparison to the other amps it has the magic they do too.  I think Steve summed up the difference quite succinctly in the designer's notes:

"It boils down to the slightly romantic interpretation known to Single ended amps vs. the more realistic (live) and honest presentation of this new amp."

Yes, there's a bit of misty bloom that lives in the single-ended amps that this amp simply doesn't allow. And that may well be the deciding factor for someone, but as one who lived with the bloom for so long this is REALITY, this is the heartbeat and foundation, this is the amp that brings out everything in my system that I want to hear.

The icing on the cake for me is the treble cut adjustment pots, a little known secret available for Decware amps. . . I think I'll start another thread about those. Their inclusion on this and my Integrated has allowed me to tailor the sound to recordings and made silk purses out of pigs' ears. For anyone with a large collection of recordings and who doesn't only listen to the really good ones, this is a great feature, almost indispensable to me now.

So I say to anyone who is, to quote the title of this thread, "Considering Torii Mark II", "Consider hard, save up, take the chance, I sincerely doubt you'll ever send it back for a refund." Kudos to Steve, this certainly IS a reference amp.

- Lon




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