July 7, 2010

Oh No! Not Another Power Struggle? Torus Power RM8A AVR.

Now if you think Big E reviewing another Torus Power product, and can bet your father's farm that the rest of the review is gonna be good, you're not totally right either! I can tell you straight away, that this is gonna be another bloody fantastic review! If you wanna pass reading this review, now is the time to stop, and wait for my next posting(which I promise is not going to be about Torus Power!). If you wanna know how and why this Torus Power is so fantastic, then read on.

As a very satisfied Torus Power user, my affinity for the product is no secret. To me, the Torus Power RM8A was one of the best sounding PLC product available in the market at the time of purchase. It's a little more than a year now, and Torus Power has come up with an AVR featured variant of it's PLC product line up. I could not contain my enthusiasm and asked James of AV Designs for a test drive.

The idea is simple, take the already very successful line of Torus Power isolating transformer based PLC product, add a new AVR board to regulate the in coming A/C voltage, and pass the treated juices to the transformer for total isolation from the rest of house power circuit, followed by a protection circuit, then send pure juices out of the box via 5, 13 amps UK style outputs. Torus Power will still not do the Nema5 spec, US style outputs for their international models though, just in case you're wondering.

The implementation, however is not as simple. The whole transformer has been re-designed with multiple input windings to accommodate the new micro processor controlled, relay driven AVR board. If your mind rang an alarm bell from the words "relay driven", I can understand. I've previously owned relay driven AVR products that goes "click, clock, tick" every time the multiple relays are engaged and dis-engaged to regulate the A/C voltage. In short, it was very noisy and intrusive to music appreciation activity of the audiophool kind. The Torus version is dead quiet in operation, so much as to you can hear a pin drop quiet! I don't know how they do it, but they did. What price do you expect to pay for such an exacting engineered product? Is RM$26k worth the consideration?

But you may ask, why do we need an AVR(Automated Voltage Regulator)? Good question. I can give you a few practical and one sonic reason to make a case for the AVR. As some may already know, our beloved national power company, TNB doesn't do a very good job of supply clean power and regulated voltage. Hence the need for a PLC product with an AVR feature.

Here's a few practical case where one needs the AVR feature,

1) Those with tube power amps. Because one needs to adjust the tube bias every now and then to compensate for optimum operating life span, the AVR feature keeps the in coming voltage constant, hence the need for bias adjustments is less due to reduced tube stress and tube life span is lenghtened. This is especially critical if one is in to NOS tube rolling, where tubes can cost a fortune, if you can find em'.

2) Those with hifi or AV equipment that has switching power supply inside. One of the weakness of the highly efficient switching power supply is poor tolerance to large voltage swings. The power supply tends to self terminate in the process! What equipment has switching power supplies? Most DVD and Blu-ray players, LCD/DLP projectors, plasma, LCD or LED screens, class D power and pre amps are using switching power supplies.

3) If one lives in an area where TNB power supply voltage swings are high. My place in Subang Jaya used to record between 221 and 269V for example. My many complains to TNB saw them making an effort to reduce their tolerance to a much tighter 228 and 264V lately.

There's however, only one sonic reason why one needs an AVR in their hifi system. That's better sound. Though TNB list power supply spec at 240V, for some reason, many hifi equipments tend to sound better with 230V supply. The sound benefits are usually reduced grain on the highs, harshness in the mids and more tune full bass. While 240V supply can sound more dynamic with some hifi systems, I think most audiophiles tend to favour refinement over un restrained dynamics.
Double Take! The Torus Power RM8A twins, the AVR model is below, the one with an indicator display window on the right. I just wished the display fonts are just some what bigger for improved read ability.

The Torus Power RM8A AVR is very, very heavy. You'll need 2 persons to haul this thing home. It's physically longer than my resident RM8A too. The front face plate is the same, except that indicator display window on the right, which is rather small. Again, everything on the back panel is the same, except for the right corner, where an RS232 port(for PC interface and tuning) and some trigger links are provided for custom installations. The indicator display tells you 3 useful information, like input and output voltage, plus current draw in amperes.

I connected the Torus Power RM8A AVR exactly the same as per my usual arrangement with the RM8A. Everything else in my system remains the same thru out the review period.
The AVR version has a deeper body length, which makes racking it almost impossible.

The rear panel is exactly the same, except the top right corner offering RS232 port connection and trigger links for custom install uses. The RS232 allows PC connection, so that any future software updates and tech support can be up loaded from the Torus Power www.

The indicator display tells you the input/output voltage, and system current draw. The output voltage is factory set for 240V, but in my 3 weeks time spent with Torus Power RM8A AVR, the output voltage seems to track between 238-242V. This is beacuse AVRs are re-actionary by function, compared to power regeneration devices competing in the PLC market today.

The indicator also tells you it's IP address for connecting to PC.

The sound of my system when powered by the Torus Power RM8A AVR, sounded very similar to when powered by the RM8A, though not surprisingly so. The tonal quality maintained that full flavoured, golden blend coffee kau, kau(espresso like, in fact) taste. Rich, dark and velvety would best describe it's sonic character. When analysed in detail, the high frequencies seems a tad smoother, and tidier too. The high hats shimmer and fade in to air still, but without that slight feathering edges(this is hard to tell except by A/B/A comparisons). The mids offers the same warmness and body density, except the sibilants of some recordings becomes less irritatingly so. For some funny reason, it's still there(and any sibilant can't be good!) but the AVR version makes it that much more acceptable, just because the sibilants are less prickly to these ears. Bass quality is just a tad tighter still but again, that's something only a back to back A/B/A test will reveal.

Now, here's where the major improvements of the AVR version lies. The staging and imaging factor. The RM8A AVR just opens up the sound stage further, further still beyond room boundaries than previously experienced. The stage depth layering becomes that much more distinct. Hall atmosphere and acoustics on "live" recording is highly convincing. With the AVR each musical instrument and performer has their individual time and space, with elbow room to spare. Imaging took on rock solid stability that my non AVR RM8A just doesn't do. With the AVR version, one can sit slightly off center and still be rewarded with a solid center image. In other words, you can move about quite a bit before the center imaging starts to lose focus and collapse eventually. In short, the spatial dimensionality and imaging palpability factor of the sound stage is first rate.

All the above sound description is based on what the AVR model builds up from the un regulated model of Torus Power RM8A. For a more complete or a re-fresher take on the Torus Power RM8A, please go to my original posting of Power Struggle?, dated 14 March 2009.

In summary, the Torus Power RM8A AVR builds on the strengths of the already impressive sounding RM8A. Then it improves upon a few key areas that if a direct comparison had not taken place, I would not have known could be better. The quantum of improvement is not exceeding big, but if the little things matter, they would add to the further enjoyment of an already great hifi set up. I would say the AVR model brings further refinement to a well proven concept. The Torus Power RM8A is no longer the best sounding PLC in the market today(it's now decidedly 2nd best sounding. He!He!), that "best sounding" position has just been filled by the Torus Power RM8A AVR. I know some one has already parted with his Torus Power RM8A to make way for the new in coming Torus Power RM8A AVR. Congrats to tha man!

Would I put my money where my mouth is and do an up grade? Is it worth while to spend RM$8k more for what is, perhaps a sonic improvement of the last mile?

Good questions, as they have been troubling me since the Torus Power RM8A AVR left my audio sanctuary. Let's see what happens.

Quay Sera, Sera, what ever will be, will be.
The future's for all to see.
Quay Sera, Sera, what will be, will be..........

Note: For some in explicable reason, Big E went all poetic and now, musically philosophical after each encounter with a Torus Power product! Now, is that another one of those things that make ya go hmm...................?

Torus Power is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan, tel: 03-21712828


Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Big E,

I heard the Torus Power AVR 16A is even better! :-)