(Tony, Winnipeg Canada):Background:Almost a year ago, I replaced a Sonic Frontier Line 1 pre, and two Power 1 amps (vertical biamp) in my main system, with a BP 26 and a 14 BSST, also from Creative Audio. I spent a fair amount of time tweaking those pieces with power cord changes, footers, cardas caps, and more recently swapping out almost all my IC’s to Bryston ones, replacing more expensive, but not as good sounding, cables. So main core of the system is basically Bryston. Other components include a VPI Scoutmaster to a very tweaked Slee Era Gold V phono section, digital side is done by a Musical Fidelity A3 CDP used as a transport to a Musical Fidelity Trivista DAC (where the Bryston cable also makes a great digital cable), and the tuner is a Parasound Halo T3, connected by XLR to the pre. Speakers are Martin Logan Aeons.(with Goertz M1.3cables)
Almost everything has been tweaked. Atlantis Reference stands (2), with clumping kitty litter in the tubes, Linn skeets under the top shelves and bottom of the stands, 3 inch maple block under the TT, footers include Tara Lab vanishing points, BDR’s, and Finite Element ceraballs, and more Linn skeets under the speakers. Power cords are a range from Moray James, into almost all things including the speakers. I am aware that power matters, and that power cords tend to improve things, but also that they react differently to individual components. Everything was originally plugged into a Panamax 5510, with power set to balanced on the 4 transformer based lines (regenerated ) which I used for the CDP, DAC, phono and TT motor.Panamax was further tweaked using BDR’s as footers into Linn skeets as cups, and Cardas caps over all RCA’s and also on the XLR connectors for the lamp attachment. (I know it seemed strange, to do to the Panamax, but there really was quite an improvement especially with the XLR caps).
When I had the Sonic Frontier gear hooked up, the indicator gauge on the front of the Panamax would indicate about a 6-7 amp draw. I was quite surprised that the switch to the Bryston components had the same gauge indicating only about a 2 amp draw. This especially as the14 BSST is capable of far more power. I know the gauge is not really a reliable indicator, given the need for short bursts of power as required by the music being played. In my situation though, I required a conditioner especially as I have so many pieces to plug in, the Panamax was an improvement over the wall (and over the Panamax 5500, and the Tice Solo I had used previously), and most importantly – Winnipeg tends to get some stunning lightening storms during the summer, so protection is essential.
So originally, the Bryston components slotted into the Panamax basically as a straight replacement to the Sonic Frontier stuff. Things sounded better than with the tubed stuff, with improvements in detail, and a new and wonderful bottom end grip on the speakers. Still, I had a couple of mystery shut offs of the amp – for which I eventually figured out that with some of the brown outs -the fuse switch /breaker on the back of the 14 BSST must be responding very quickly. Pre would stay on, but not the amp. Now this is actually a good thing in that I know it protects things, but I do leave my pre and amp on at all times (sounds much better). So this in turn lead me to reconsider the Panamax, even though I thought the amp plug in section on it was not current limiting, and only had some surge protection on it. One day I decided to do a little test. I had read that you do not recommend a conditioner be used on the Bryston amps, but really, it looked like I was getting less draw now, so a conditioner must be a good thing…Well, short end of things, I was surprised that the Bryston actually sounded much better straight into the wall, than into the Panamax, with the bloom being about the same, but a removal of a haze across everything that I had not realized before (remember, the Panamax was better with the Sonic Frontier than the wall) Much research later, and it was time to test a Torus.
Torus RM 20: Physical Impressions :
After carrying the Torus in, even though it is heavy, I found that it was not overly awkward to move as the weight is centrally balanced. In my case, fortunately slotting into a bottom shelf of the rack, beside the amp. I was happy to notice that the black of the case matches pretty closely to the Bryston black cases, and that the silver also matches the fronts of the Bryston components. No gauges, no bells and whistles, and maybe less things that could go wrong down the road. Ground attachment on the back is best describes as utilitarian, but than I am not using it. Power switch on front being fairly large, and with an orange like glow when on (and never off in my case). Casework is slotted top, sides and bottom for best ventilation I assumed. Tapping on the top casework was quite noisy with a loose rattle of thinner metal. Small reservations were about the orange glow (matches nothing, and would it be irritating at night listening), the ventilated bottom meant I was loath to try different footers than the stock rubber based ones (and still haven’t), and for the rattle, well maybe it wouldn’t be an issue. Time to plug in, in this case using the 15 amp adapter cord for the wall. (14 gauge for now).
Initial turn on, was that basically everything seemed to work, but there was nothing special going on. In fact the soundstage was way more sucked back than I was used to. Not to panic, as I did realize that things needed to run in, and there was the hint of this with the slotted casework. After 2 days of being on, the casework started to feel warm -sort of more than on a 4 BSST but less than on the 14 BSST. By day 5 the bloom started to improve. By day 7, things were definitely improving. With the heat – the top casework seemed to expand and tighten a bit (still not great, but better) ,and initially I found that until the bloom aspect started to improve, I was actually turning the volume up louder than I normally would to achieve the same aspect of soundstage I was looking for. This also improved with time (needing less volume, but more on this later) Overall, needing about 2 weeks of warm up / run in.
Test parameters were fairly simple. Set up Panamax 5510 on top of the Torus RM 20 (not using the footers on the Panamax, but cork pads for casework protection of the Torus) , and swap out some power cords. Well at least that was the initial plan. First test was taking the amp off the Torus and going straight to the wall. While the wall may have been better than the Panamax before, now I was finding that the soundstage was about 30-40 % bigger with the Torus. Concepts like a sweet spot were thrown out, as the bloom differences were so different. I have a fairly well set up room / listening position normally, but before, head shifts were an aspect to being in the sweet spot. Sound was ok at off angles, but there was a difference. Now the bloom was so much more, that small shifts in the listening chair was moot. Amp in the Torus was a winner -but what about the other components ? Especially as I was originally attracted to the Panamax for the improvements it did to my TT at the time.
So next test was on the vinyl side. Here I decided I did not want to test out the differences in the phono section itself, as I know the Slee is quite unhappy being unplugged, taking a long time to come back up to full bloom.Instead I thought I would simply play some Keith Jarrett, Koln Concert as a test of pitch and speed control for the TT motor. Started with the Panamax set to balanced power, as I normally use it. (originally with the tubed stuff, I had found that balanced had more harmonic content, while the isolated power option on the Panamax emphasized the leading edges of the notes) On balanced power, I thought the Panamax had a brighter more forward presentation, with a soundstage bloom about the same size as the Torus. It was also an easy option to switch to the isolated transformer option of the Panamax, by clicking one button -which showed the soundstage to be not as forward (as balanced) and actually having a bit better back detail. This was a bit different than I had found with the tubed stuff -and may be due to the change to the Bryston equipment. However -the end result showed the Torus to have a bigger soundstage than the Panamax on isolated (same as on balanced), tonality was better than Panamax balanced, and with the Torus, the background details seemed more present coming from a blacker sense of depth. I could detect no difference in speed control between the two units. Next test was going to be on the digital side, but this turned into really a no test. Tried to put both CDP and DAC into the Panamax, and for some reason the DAC refused to lock onto the signal, or hold it. Sort of getting a static charge tripping the DAC which was gone and lock on a non -issue as soon as I plugged things into the Torus. I took this as a sign of a good grounding scheme on the Torus. From what I could hear at the time, the Torus had more presence, inner detail and attack than the Panamax. Further listening since then, would also include much more bloom, to the point where things are very closely matched to the vinyl side, which I thought could never happen. (but than is that a question of system improvements ?) Next I thought I would do a quick swap of power cord on the tuner, going from the filtered circuit I normally use on the Panamax , to the Torus. I mean it is a tuner. How much difference could there be ?..Turns out a lot more. Same song starts, listen, shut tuner off, switch to Torus, turn tuner on, and same song continues. Instantly notice about a 20 % improvement in bloom, and much more detail to the notes. Things seeming dull on the Panamax. In this case -gains on the tuner seem more akin to an upgrade in equipment. Seemed pointless to test out the pre at this time, and since I liked what had happened so far, I just assumed things were all to the good. However, I have had further observations on this, by using the headphone section of the BP 26 (using Grado RS 2’s) Some aspects may be because of improvements on the digital side made with the Torus, however using the headphones I am noticing even more bass impact than I have ever had, and a further separation of depth to the soundfield.
Overall, the Torus RM 20 is quite the winner. Improvements to all things plugged into it over the Panamax. Turns out that the orange power light really is not irritating at night. There is still a small aspect to the soundstage being a bit more pulled back than I had with the Panamax but than I also realize that what I am actually getting is a very large improvement in depth to the soundstage. Details come out that I never noticed before, again from a blacker background.
A small price to pay for these improvements are that especially on the vinyl side -things have become much more revealing of the quality and condition of the LP’s. Some compression of the soundstage to a digital recording compared to a tubed recording. Differences in phase very evident . Bloom aspects abound on any format -however there is a small observation. As I indicated before -I leave the equipment powered on, but when not in use, I turn the pre right down. I am now noticing that when I first turn things back up for music – the sense of bloom improves over the first 5-10 minutes, and than stabilizes. I suspect it is a case of the transformer in the Torus charging up.
Afterwards there seems to be the bloom with more ease to the sound. At this point, you can turn the volume down , and still maintain a bit more bass impact and detail at a quieter volume setting than I ever had pre Torus, or leave the volume and enjoy a very nice sonic treat. I do find every piece of music seems to have it;s own sweet spot of how much power it needs to open up, but with the Torus everything just sounds better.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know it is a bit long, but than I also know that there has been very little said about the Torus units so far. Hopefully you will find it useful.