The Decware Zen Torii is simply amazingJuly 27, 2011
After hundreds of hours of initial listening, the Decware Zen Torii continues to improve, as designer Steve Deckert said it would. While the full review will be in issue 40, suffice to say that this is one of the most musically engaging amplifiers I’ve had the pleasure to experience. If you’ve ever spent time with a great SET and thought “If this only had 2-3 times the power, I could live with it,” your ship has arrived. After owning a number of the world’s finest SET amplifiers, I can easily support Deckert’s claim that the Zen Torii is certainly the equal of any SET I’ve owned.
The best news is that the Zen Torii has 25 watts per channel. Utilizing a pair of EL34 power tubes per channel as well as tube rectification and voltage regulation, it offers a sound that is fast, detailed and dynamic, with bass and treble controls that let you fine tune the amplifier to your speakers. These are not tone controls in the classic sense, altering the frequency response of the amplifier. The bass control controls the impedance match with your speakers, so it doesn’t increase or decrease the amount of bass as it does change the tonal character of the bass from soft to taut – so there is no right or wrong setting, but it does allow you to tailor the sound exactly to your liking. Per the instruction manual, the treble control allows a gentle roll off of the high frequencies and is not in the actual signal path.
Digging further in the well written and illustrated owners manual reveals that this amplifier is a tube rollers’ delight, with a number of options available. So far, we’ve stuck with the stock tubes, but when the rainy winter season hits the Pacific Northwest again, it will be time for some experimenting. I’ve been stockpiling a few different types of EL34′s, some variations on the 5U4 rectifiers and even a couple of different voltage regulators. If for no other reason, the blue glow of a pair of OB3′s looks like fun.
But all techie goodies aside, this amplifier sounds wonderful. Pricing for the standard Zen Torii is $2,975 and the model reviewed here features a $500 V-Cap upgrade and a 21 position stepped attenuator, which will also allow you to maximize the output of your preamplifier to get maximum dynamic range.
These are 25 of the best watts you will find anywhere, at any price. If a 25wpc tube amplifier is your idea of nirvana, I suggest calling Mr. Deckert now and getting in line, there is usually a waiting list for one of his amplifiers – but your patience will be rewarded!
(photo courtesy of Decware)