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My new rig: Torvin Mosfier II Amp + Torvin Euphonious Towers

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sandeepsasi

Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
47
Points
18
Location
Bangalore
Hello everyone,

After several years of planning and waiting, finally my system is up and running. This thread is a log of my journey so far, into the world of high-fidelity audio, how this forum helped me in this, and a review of my system.

Background
As I already mentioned during my introduction here, I am an IC design engineer working in Bangalore. My hi-fi audio journey started 20 years ago, in my home town Thrissur, when I started building audio amplifiers, as a hobbyist in electronics. Since then, I always had some DIY system to keep me company. Buying a more capable system had always been on top of my wish list. After getting a job, the realities of life struck harder than ever before. Due to various reasons, I had to keep postponing this plan. During this time, I changed cities multiple times, became a chip designer, got married and purchased an apartment in Bangalore. Finally, I decided to put my foot down, and chase my dream.

The Original Plan
First plan was to set-up a system in my man cave, a 11' x 11' room - a good example of a bad room, as far as acoustics is concerned. My choice of components were Rega Brio Amp and Quad S-2 speakers, a combo well received by one of Stereophile reviews. After factoring in quality interconnects and a power conditioner, I breached the limits of my budget. So, as source, I planned to use my phone's headphone output, until I can afford a CD player or a DAC. When all the furniture for the cave arrived, there was hardly any space left for speakers. Once again, I had to suspend the plan. I also made the mistake of giving away our old system for the gym in our apartment.

New Plan
I prefer stereo to 5.1, music to movies. Given the conditions in Bangalore, my wife and I started to enjoy spending more time watching movies at home than going outside. During my wife's summer vacation, I had to pre-pone our plan to purchase a TV, a solution more economical than her other ideas to spend her vacation. I narrowed down the choice to LG 55C8 and Sony 55X9000F. After going through various threads in this forum, I realized that an LCD is a better choice, given the lighting in our living room, the general usage pattern and quality of the content that we watch. Our decision was rewarded with stunning visuals, and the only drawback was poor audio. A 5.1 was not easy to set-up in my living room, due to limited space and aesthetic reasons. I had a plan for a secondary system to pair with our TV, after some time. Now that the main system I had in mind is no longer going to see the light of the day any time soon, I decided to set-up a system in the living room. My prospects started to look better once again.

The Search
The living room is bigger and acoustically better than my man cave, for a stereo. I no longer needed to limit the choice to small stand mount speakers. Like it happens to many FMs here who start from a clean slate, I was lost among several options - all analog v/s mixed, tube v/s solid state, Indian v/s foreign, and the list goes on. As I work in a product design company based in India, I had no doubts about the quality of engineering in India. One of the audio equipment manufacturers in India, is Torvin, based in Chennai. In the early 2000s Torvin had a shop in the electronics hub of Thrissur and I have know them since then. I decided to audition their latest equipment and approached them with an open mind. They have a website, http://www.torvin.com, though it is not up to date and does not cover everything they have. I contacted them based on the info on their website, explained them my requirements and they provided a list of available products.

Audition
A demo is possible only at Torvin's office in Chennai. I planned for a one-day round-trip and was at their office by afternoon. As you enter the building, you won't fail to notice the demo room in the ground floor where they have many of their products on display. The sales person guided me through their product line. As I was aware of the CD collection of Mr. John Thankachan, the man behind Torvin, from various threads on this forum, I did not carry any of my favorite CDs with me. As time was premium, I mainly focused on an album I knew well, Roja.

My critical listening experience has only been with less capable systems, and I have not invested a lot of time in training my ears either. As we played various songs in the album, I immediately realized that every song is revealing more details than I have heard before. The revelation was even more as we moved from their basic towers to the model I had in mind, Euphonious - a two-way tower speakers with 8" woofers. In the mean time, the two options they had for amplification, meeting my requirements, arrived. Until then, the speakers were paired to one of the basic models that they have in their catalog. My requirements were for a high-fidelity analog only integrated amplifier with no tone controls and at least 3 inputs. I stressed on the high-fidelity aspect because, as I have read in many threads on this forum, they also have a PAS line of products. One of the amps was Flatone II, which is not listed on their website as I write today, and the other was Mosfier II, a device capable of driving 8 Ohms at 60W/channel, which is there on their website. A comparison revealed Mosfier II to be of more liking to my taste - laid back and slightly on the warmer side. I finalized Mosfier II and Euphonious.

After this, I got the chance to meet Mr. John Thankachan himself, in his listening room, in an upper floor of the building. He was in the final stages of testing one of his speakers, before they were going to be shipped. They were tall 3 way towers and were paired to a Mcintosh amp. Although I felt they were too big for the room, they sounded awesome, with deep and accurate bass, even at low volumes. Only if I had a room big enough for them, and of course deeper pockets to afford them. I had done my homework about Mr. Thankachan, thanks to this forum. Though we were meeting each other for the first time, I already knew many inspiring facts about this man - a guru in his field, soft-spoken and down to earth gentleman. His passion for music and audio and his efforts to live his passion is something for anyone to look up to. Both of us hail from the same town, by the way.

As I have read on Stereophile, high-end audio is a field in decline. The general outlook of this generation towards hi-fi, small customer base, narrow profit margins, and competition from large international players, makes it hard for local manufacturers to stay in business. Several threads on this forum cover this topic, to various lengths and breadths. Even then, before billing, I could't help but ask for a discount and Mr. Thankachan was kind enough to give a small discount. The journey back to Bangalore was more exciting than the onward journey.

Shipping and Unboxing
Both the speakers and amp were shipped to Bangalore to Chennai by parcel service. This kept the shipping costs down. The only difficulty is the limited tracking available for these services. Because we live in the world of Amazon and Flipkart, it was surprising that there are services that still operate in the last millennium. The speakers arrived first. As you can see, anything that we bring home has to undergo a strict lab test first.

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Lab test passed! The packaging was good and both speakers arrived without a scratch. Hoping that wider tweeter placement will slightly widen the sound stage, this was how the speakers were placed initially. The pic also shows a complete view of my listening area.

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The amplifier was not in stock and they had to build a new one. During subsequent interactions with folks at Torvin, I also came to know that Mr. Thankachan not only designs the amp but only hand builds it by himself. After a few weeks, the amp also arrived. Once again, the amp and the interconnect had to pass the lab test!

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I was happy with the fit and finish of both the speakers and the amp. The speakers have a glossy laminate finish and the amp is finished in matt black.

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The amp is very heavy for a 60W/channel stereo amp. As I was informed later by the folks at Torvin, this build has been optimized for driving large 8" towers like Euphonious.

AV Rack, Power and Interconnect
I got a custom AV rack done, wide enough to house a 55" TV. Since our place suffers from dust attack, I made sure that the rack is of a closed design with glass doors, a poor choice for heat dissipation. I leave the door open for air circulation, during long playback sessions.

I also upgraded the switchboard components of the power outlet. I am using V-Guard DIGI 200 stabilizer for the TV and set-top box and V-Guard VGMW 200+ for the amp. VGMW series is V-Guard's line of mainline stabilizers. Though both these models are of the same capacity, VGMW 200+ has a metal cabinet for better heat dissipation, a larger transformer and is much heavier than DIGI 200. Only drawback is that, the former doesn't come with a plug head and I installed a Crabtree plug head for VGMW 200+.

I am using DAC interconnect and speaker cables, which I purchased from HiFiMART. I also upgraded the stock power cord that came with the amp with a Sound Foundations New Truline MK2 model, purchased from HiFiMART. I also purchased spike shoes for the towers, directly from Sound Foundations.

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Source
I opted out of the plan to use my phone as a source. I was looking for various options when I came across Allo Katana DAC based on ESS9038Q2M chip. Being in audio chip design business, I used to follow the development of this part very carefully. This chip is a highly capable device and rest of the audio IC manufacturers don't even have a competing part yet. However, a chip doesn't make a DAC, but how well the designer implements the chip is what does. Anyway, since Katana player is based on Raspberry Pi, this was a strong compelling reason to go in this direction.

I came to know from various threads on this forum that Allo has a manufacturing unit in Bangalore and their products can be picked-up directly from their unit, thereby reducing the shipping costs as well. After a couple of e-mail exchanges with the folks at Allo, they made a quote in INR that turned-out to be 100$ cheaper than the price on their website in dollars. The folks there are extremely helpful and their communication over e-mail was precise and concise. I opted for Allo Katana Player with Isolator, calibrated for better sound quality and picked-up the player from their manufacturing unit in the outskirts of Bangalore on Hosur road.

I did not want to complicate the set-up any further by using a powered USB hub, connected to the Pi, to mount an external hard drive containing my music collection. So, I purchased a 128GB USB 2.0 SanDisk pen-drive to store just my favorite tracks. Since this will only use one out of the 4 USB receptacles of the Pi, and it took a while for my digital music collection to grow to the current size, this solution gives me enough room for future expansion. The Pi can easily power pen-drives. Currently, I am running the player using two switched power supplies. Over time, I plan to upgrade to linear power supplies for the analog section.

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As playback/media management S/W, I am using Volumio, which supports Katana out-of-the-box. Setting up the player was a seamless process, and well documented in Volumio's and Katana's manuals.

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Other than the splash screen you see above, GUI is disabled by default, and all you get is the Linux command-line. Everything is controlled over network from a browser. Volumio provides all essentials and supports all lossy and lossless formats including WAV, FLAC and SACD rips like DSF and DFF. The only problem I face is that, the URL to connect to Volumio is not accessible from my Android phone. I had to find the IP address of the Raspberry Pi after connecting to Volumio from my PC, and then use this IP address directly to connect from my phone browser, a workaround well documented in the Volumio forum.

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Though Volumio is designed to wok off the RAM with minimal uSD card access, what I read from Volumio forum is that most of the people who have sworn by this feature have ended up with a bricked system during power failures and had to re-flash the OS and set-up once again, something I want to avoid. After considering several DIY solutions and weighing in total cost, time required to build a solution and operating expenses, I decided to go for a UPS, suitable for small PCs. A bit of research led me to APC BX600C-IN model. I purchased it directly from the APC website and also got an additional year of Warranty for the battery, for free, making the total Warranty period 3 years.

Listening Experience
Among all the stuff I have unloaded in this thread, this could be the section that matters the most to many audio gurus here. Before describing my experience here, I would like to bailout in advance by saying that I am just a novice listener. Also, given that I have already purchased this system, however hard I try, I may not be able to avoid a bias. So, you can take my observations with a pinch of salt.

Of the three inputs the amp has, one is dedicated to the DAC and another has been brought out using a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable which can be connected either to the TV's or a phone's headphone output. I only used the Katana player as the source, for this review. My listening area is also our living room and this gives me limited options for speaker placement. Throw-in a sofa and a teapoy, the available space will shrink even more. I placed the speakers about 6 feet away from each other and about one foot away from the rear wall, all that I can afford in this setting and quite inadequate for rear-ported towers of this size. While there is a pillar behind and a glass window to the left of the speaker in the corner (left speaker), there is no side wall as such for the right speaker. I am aware of the effect of this asymmetry on stereo imaging and I toed-in the speakers as much as possible to minimize the side-effects of asymmetry. I also made sure that the faces of both speakers extend beyond the AV rack. No room treatment has been done yet and the speakers rest over tiled flooring. While tweaking the placement, I only listened for a brief amount of time after each tweak. I observed that the speakers sounded best when the tweeters are closer to each other, in contrast to what I assumed during the initial set-up. This is probably due to less reflections off the glass door on the side of the left speaker. I also left the grills on because that is how I'll be listening to them most of the time.

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After setting up the system, I tried to reproduce the magic I experienced during the demo by playing the tracks in Roja which were ripped from Pyramid's release of the album on CD. At half the volume setting on the amp and three-fourth the level on Volumio, the sound was already too loud by my preference. I did not observe any muddiness in base. My wife was also listening along with me and she was not impressed. She said that the sound was not that great, for a system of this size and cost. Then I switched to the song Enna Solla from Thangamagan, and she began to notice the detail of the presentation. Extended version of Aluma Doluma from Vedalam demonstrated how deep the system can go in bass and my wife was instantly hooked. She also took over the listening session and for rest of the day, most of the tracks we played were her favorites. Finally, before shutting down, I played Senthoora Poove form the movie 16 Vayathinile. Most of the songs my wife like are from the 90s and beyond, and given the relatively poor recording of this song, my wife went away before the song ended. However, next day I observed the "Illayaraja Effect", as I would like to call it; my wife was humming the song in the morning.

Another thing that I noticed is about our pup. During long and loud musical sessions in our old system, he was the first to get up and leave. I used to suspect that it was probably due to the cheap tweeters, dog's ears are more sensitive than ours. But with this system, he continued to stay with us for the entire session and none of us experienced any listening fatigue. As a bonus, this system is pet friendly too.

Next day, I was able to get the system all for myself, and that is when I started some serious listening. When we played Kadhal Rojave from Roja the previous day, SPB's voice was as brilliant as usual, but what really caught my attention was the beauty of Sujatha Mohan's voice. I played a couple of malayalam songs sung by Sujatha Mohan. Though the tracks were 320kbps mp3s, I enjoyed the music anyway. Moving on, I played various tacks by the King of Pop. The beats in the song 'Who is She' revealed once again, how deep the base can go without sounding muddy, in spite of the limited breathing room the speakers have. Smooth Criminal makes you want to dance. I got a better sense of sound staging when I played the album Live in Prague by Hans Zimmer, a live recording. My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion took me out on a mesmerizing voyage. Overall, the system sounds tonally rich and balanced to my amateur ears, has good rhythm and sound staging and the detail of the presentation is excellent.

System Summary
  • Integrated Amplifier - Torvin Mosfier II capable of driving 60W/channel into 8 Ohms, having 3 analog inputs
  • FS Speakers - Torvin Euphonious two-way rear-ported towers with 8" woofers and 1" tweeters, having a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms
  • Source - Allo Katana Player with isolator, calibrated for sound quality running Volumio. Pi version is Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
  • Stabilizer - V-Guard stabilizers VGMW 200+ for the amp and DIGI 200 for TV, set-top box and the DAC. APC BX600C-IN UPS is the back-up power source for the Pi
  • Interconnect and Termination - DAC ARX01A 2RCA to 2RCA interconnect, DAC SPK14 AWG OFC Dual Speaker Cables and DAC Gold Banana Plugs for termination. Stock power cable of the amp was upgraded to Sound Foundations New Truline MK2 Power Cable
  • Misc -SoundFoundations Contoured Spike Feet are used to place the towers on tiled floor
Conclusion
As you can see, my rig is far from ideal and with my limited knowledge, I was able to identify scope for improvement in several areas. Can my system reproduce every nitty-gritty nuance of a well recorded track or even disappear when I play music? Well, I doubt that. Can my system transpose us to a different place and time, from our otherwise black and white lives, and make us disappear into a world of music? Well, it's doing that, and doing that welll. As Tyrion has said, once we learn to wear our flaws like an armor, nothing else matters.

I also would like to thank Mr. John Thankachan and his team for creating this marvelous system and wish them good luck in all their future endeavors. I also would like to express my gratitude towards hifivision.com and its several FMs, with whom though I have never interacted in person, but whose valuable advise has helped me a lot in the decision making process, during my audio journey. As I conclude this review, I can hear my system play Billie Jean in the background and I think its time for a moonwalk...
 
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niftianmadhur

Member
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Dec 8, 2017
Messages
122
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Bangalore
A very interesting read and honest review. The speakers are looking really very nice. Congratulations.

Edit:
BTW where do u stay in Bangalore? Would love to listen to ur system.
 
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sandeepsasi

Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
47
Points
18
Location
Bangalore
A very interesting read and honest review. The speakers are looking really very nice. Congratulations.
This is my first attempt reviewing an audio set-up. Thank you.

Great review! Congrats on your purchase. Looks beautiful (so does your doggy :) )
Thank you. Before rest of us at home could taste some music, he literally tasted the amp, speakers and the interconnect.

Since you are using an.integrated amp, disable the volume control option in Volumio for the highest fidelity for your chain
Thanks for pointing this out. I'll make a note of this. For casual listening, I still prefer the volume control on Volumio interface, just because of convenience. I would also like to add to your point on fidelity. Chips like ESS9038K2M have a 32-bit data path, 64-bit volume control and a 32-bit DAC. 24-bit audio samples are zero-padded on the LSb side, before they are processed by the digital pipeline. So, we will really need to attenuate by 1/2^8 (1/256 or -48dB) before we start losing LSbs of the original samples, which is the cause of loss in fidelity. At CD quality, i.e., 16-bits per sample, these numbers are 1/2^16 = 1/65536 (or -96dB). Of course, this statement is valid only if the DAC is truly of 32-bit resolution and the LSbs are not mere marketing bits, as a few audiophiles like to call them.

Congrats on your setup !

I love that chair you have !!!!
Thank you.

BTW where do u stay in Bangalore? Would love to listen to ur system.
I will send you a PM. You are welcome.

Congratulations. Thanks for detailed review.
Video about TORVIN - Audio Systems

Thank you. Though I've seen this video before, now I find it more interesting. It shows the internals of Mosfier II and how it's being built. We can get glimpses of Euphonious among the speaker collection shown in the video. The speaker being assembled at first, in the video, is their Project 1 model. Something I've added to my wish list and very good motivation to work hard on a Monday morning.

Congrats on your setup. Lovely one.
Thank you.
 

Kannan

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Jan 13, 2008
Messages
1,606
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Location
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Thanks for pointing this out. I'll make a note of this. For casual listening, I still prefer the volume control on Volumio interface, just because of convenience. I would also like to add to your point on fidelity. Chips like ESS9038K2M have a 32-bit data path, 64-bit volume control and a 32-bit DAC. 24-bit audio samples are zero-padded on the LSb side, before they are processed by the digital pipeline. So, we will really need to attenuate by 1/2^8 (1/256 or -48dB) before we start losing LSbs of the original samples, which is the cause of loss in fidelity. At CD quality, i.e., 16-bits per sample, these numbers are 1/2^16 = 1/65536 (or -96dB). Of course, this statement is valid only if the DAC is truly of 32-bit resolution and the LSbs are not mere marketing bits, as a few audiophiles like to call them.
To use the volumio as the system volume control, bypass the pre-stage in your integrated if there is a direct input.
If not, gain match the setup. Set your volumio at around 85 to 90 percent volume to leave a bit of headroom. Next adjust the volume on the pre till speakers start to distort, At this point, pull back the volume on the integrated a few notch. Don't touch the integrated volume control any further and use the digital volume control as primary
 

sunilkm

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Congrats and nice detailed review.
Enjoy your new system.
 
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sandeepsasi

Member
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Dec 14, 2018
Messages
47
Points
18
Location
Bangalore
To use the volumio as the system volume control, bypass the pre-stage in your integrated if there is a direct input.
If not, gain match the setup. Set your volumio at around 85 to 90 percent volume to leave a bit of headroom. Next adjust the volume on the pre till speakers start to distort, At this point, pull back the volume on the integrated a few notch. Don't touch the integrated volume control any further and use the digital volume control as primary
Thanks a lot for this input. I'll will do this.

Congrats and nice detailed review.
Enjoy your new system.
Thanks you.
 

Nikhil

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Congratulations on the new setup!
And its really nice to see your audio journey so far.
Excellent enjoyable write up that shared the experience so well.

Just remember that sometimes it takes a few days for a system to settle in.
Also cables and components can take a few weeks to burn in as well.
This varies from component to component so be patient and get to know your setup.

Happy listening!



.
 

sandeepsasi

Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
47
Points
18
Location
Bangalore
Congratulations on the new setup!
And its really nice to see your audio journey so far.
Excellent enjoyable write up that shared the experience so well.

Just remember that sometimes it takes a few days for a system to settle in.
Also cables and components can take a few weeks to burn in as well.
This varies from component to component so be patient and get to know your setup.

Happy listening!



.
Thanks Nikhil. I had roughly 20 hours of listening behind me when I started this review. Though I detailed only the first two days of my experience, I had to sum up the rest as a conclusion due to the character count limit of 20k/post and I did not want to spill the review across two posts. I hope the system gets better after the full breaking-in period.
 

preth30

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Please share the price you paid for the amplifier and speaker if thats ok with you
 

eloorarun

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Congratulations for your acquisition, torvins Euphonious is one of their time tested designs. One of my all-time favourite,Have a great time with the system ,,
 

Kannan_madhu

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Very nice setup , speakers look nice i wish could come for a listen . You can use an app called fing to find out volumios ip , fing shows all ip address of all device connected to the same network
 

jigarpatel

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Nice Setup, you can configure your WiFi router to assign specific IP address for volumio machine MAC address.
 

sandeepsasi

Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
47
Points
18
Location
Bangalore
Very nice setup , speakers look nice i wish could come for a listen . You can use an app called fing to find out volumios ip , fing shows all ip address of all device connected to the same network
Thanks. You are welcome anytime. Thanks for the information about fing. Volumio can give us the IP, if we can connect to it using the URL. I could get it done using my laptop.

Nice Setup, you can configure your WiFi router to assign specific IP address for volumio machine MAC address.
Thank you. Will try it out. It is just that a few of my folks are more comfortable with URLs other than IPs. Once the IP is bookmarked, it will not make much difference.
 
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