As an industry, we install a lot of sensitive equipment in people’s homes; projectors, displays, processors, amplifiers, devices with hard drives and microprocessors, etc. All of these things play a vital role in either the entertainment, security, or operation of the home, and they’re all reliant on power to function correctly.
Of course, very few of us are licensed electricians, so that means we’re at the mercy of the electrical work already done, and then ultimately at the quality of the power being delivered to the home. For the most part, this is fine and we connect our gear to a surge protector — maybe even one that allows for remote power management — and hope for the best.
But the quality of power coming out of the outlet isn’t frozen in time; it is dynamic and changing, can surge and sag, and might be filled with noise. And it certainly comes under different demands at different times of the day when other motors or current-heavy items are in use, or if you are watching a movie with the volume knob up around reference level. When enough power isn’t there, amplifiers are robbed of dynamics and the sonics suffer; when there is too much, sensitive circuits can be damaged; when there’s a lot of noise on the line, it can rob the system of performance. Over time you’ll notice things like components locking up, needing reboots, or maybe even dying.
If my home’s power were a Facebook relationship, its status would be, “It’s Complicated.” I have a full solar array, a whole-home battery backup system, a separate critical loads panel, and a power inverter that switches between solar, battery, and street power. So, seriously, I have no idea the quality of power at any outlet in my home.
Which is why Torus Power’s AVR-2 Elite Toroidal Isolation Power Transformer made so much sense for me. I know that Torus, based in Toronto, has a well-earned reputation for delivering clean, high-current power to high-end systems. The company’s Series Mode surge suppression and Automatic Voltage Regulation would keep my gear safe-and-sound, and their toroidal isolation delivers ultra-clean, noise free power — along with near instantaneous high current to keep my system performing at its best.
Further, the company’s new AVR-2 Elite incorporates the addition of IP monitoring, allowing me to not only check in on my gear with the company’s new Torus Power Connect service and power cycle any outlets if needed, but also get reports on the quality of my power.
The unit arrives double-boxed and strapped to a pallet keeping it protected on its journey from Canada, but it weighs a lot. After cutting the straps free and opening the box, I discovered the unit alone weighs just under 100 pounds, and this is one of Torus’ smaller units! So definitely plan on a “Team Lift” when installing this bad boy.
Typically, stepping up in a manufacturer’s lineup means getting better performance or improved features, but Torus said that performance and protection is consistent throughout its AVR Elite line; what you get by stepping up is a larger transformer capable of powering more components, with greater amperage.
You know how you can just tell the quality of a component by its build? That’s totally this thing. From the thick, laser-engraved faceplate to the quality of the connectors on the back, this unit really just feels like it means business. In fact, Torus said the toroidal isolation transformer alone is nearly 80 pounds of the unit’s weight.
The front panel is pretty plain, with just a single heavy-duty power rocker switch, the white laser-engraved Torus Power logo, a small 4-line LCD display, and a push-button switch. As serious as the construction is on the rest of the unit, the quality of the LCD display is a bit meh, and the push-button honestly feels a bit flimsy. Fortunately, you likely won’t need to use either of these much after the initial install, but being one of the two touchpoints on the unit, the push-button could use a bit of design love.
Because of the unit’s weight and faceplate design, if you want to rackmount it, you’ll need to order it that way. As it was just sliding into my Salamander equipment rack, I requested the non-rackmount version.
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The biggest challenge of installing this beast is literally just manhandling it into the rack without damaging it, your rack, or yourself. Once positioned, you’ll only need to decide what to connect to its ten outlets.
The high-grade NEMA 5-20R outlets can accept 15- or 20-amp connectors and are divided into five zones labeled A through D, and then R for Router. There are two connections each for A, B, and C, three for D, and a single for R, making ten connections total. All the outlets in a zone are controlled together, and all zones can be individually controlled and programmed, with Zone R capable of auto-rebooting on the loss of Internet connection. (Zone R can also be configured as a regular, non-auto-rebooting outlet.)
From a quality standpoint, all ten outlets deliver identical specs, power, and performance, so there is no worry where you connect a specific component as all will deliver the full current output. The only thing to consider in where you make connections is that when the unit powers up, it sequences the outlets in a Zone A, then B, then C… manner, so if the order of components powering on is important, connect them accordingly. Also, if you power-cycle a zone, all outlets on that zone turn off/on.
There are two 12-volt trigger connections; one that can be used to turn the Torus unit itself on/off and another labeled “Fault” that will output 12 volts when the unit detects a relay or voltage fault. There is a USB 2.0 port that can be used to charge USB devices (and offer future external control), an RJ45 Ethernet connection, and a screw terminal for the included Wi-Fi antenna.
For my install, I connected my power-hungry, critical system components to the Torus, including my Marantz pre-pro, two Marantz multichannel amplifiers, two subwoofers, a projector, an OLED display, a Kaleidescape Strato, and two Definitive Technology powered towers.
If your rack is anything like mine, you likely have a lot more than just 10 connections, and probably have an assortment of wall-warts and power supplies making up the host of things that seem to accompany a house-wide entertainment system. While adding multiple AVR-2’s — or stepping up to a larger model — would be ideal, that might not be realistic in the budget. Torus commented, “Smaller devices can certainly be connected to a power strip that is connected to the Torus Power unit. We would recommend using a power strip that does not have filtering or surge.” So, you can still protect all — or many — of these devices.
It’s also worth noting that the power connection on the back of the unit is 20-amp, so if you have a 15-amp wall plug, you’ll need a 20-amp to 15-amp plug adapter, something Torus provided with my review unit.
Once all connections are made, you flip the rocker switch on the front panel and the unit starts clicking to life as it powers up the power zones. Pressing the front panel button cycles you through five different displays, showing the time/date, power status, the unit’s IP and MAC address, system status, and a display of the active zones.
At this point, you could just call it a day and know that the system is protected and getting clean power. But you’ll want to continue and configure the system to utilize Torus Power Connect for remote access and data gathering.
Interestingly, the unit requires both hardwired and Wi-Fi connections to fully function. The hardwired connection is used for local access and initial configuration (and setting up the Wi-Fi credentials), while the Wi-Fi is required for Torus Power Connect.
When you log into the unit locally, you’re given some basic information (current voltage in/out, and current output), the ability to power cycle zones, and access to a variety of configuration options. You can set the unit to email someone if it goes into fault, adjust the power-on delay between zones at startup, configure the auto-reboot of Zone R, adjust dimming of the front-panel display, and configure the network settings, including Wi-Fi credentials (2.4G only).
Another cool option is creating an automatic reboot schedule of up to six events per day for each zone. So, if you want to reboot one component daily, or automatically kill power to multiple components overnight, it’s a simple setup. The unit stores this schedule info locally, so the schedule will continue to operate even if network connection is lost — very cool.
Torus Power Connect is where you really get access to the nitty-gritty and nuts-and-bolts of your system’s power. The unit includes one year of the service but requires a paid subscription after ($79/year, $149/2 years, $199/3 years), which is kind of a bummer. For the price of this unit, I’d expect the service to be included.
When you log into the Power Connect (https://www.toruspowerconnect.com/) portal, you have access to all the info and settings from the local connection, plus insight into some really useful historical data and charts.
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The system’s internal flash memory can store up to 10,000 events, and you can recall historical data (Input Voltage, Output Voltage, Output Current, Output Power, Output THD %, Tap Number, and Fault level) and charts (Voltage, THD, Power, Current, Tap) across 1-minute windows reaching far back in time, giving you great insight into what is happening and how the system is performing.
This system also auto-generates and emails a really helpful monthly “Power Quality Report” that displays a variety of events, such as average input/output voltage, low/high input/output voltage, high current and power draw, and low and high THD %.
Torus says that adding integration with third-party automation systems is on the development horizon, and expects to add this feature some time in 2022.
Unfortunately, my first unit arrived with some corrupted code in the firmware causing it to randomly power cycle itself. After some troubleshooting, Torus decided to replace this with a new unit. One bonus of the troubleshooting was getting a glimpse inside the unit and being able to really appreciate the quality care, construction, and parts used internally.
After several months of flawless operation, the new unit stopped communicating, either locally or via Wi-Fi. Even though it appeared on my network, showed up in Fing, had status activity on my switch, and responded to pings from a CMD prompt, it was unreachable, and it hadn’t “phoned home” with power reports for over two weeks.
After a few reboots didn’t resolve the issue, Torus instructed me to leave it unplugged for an hour, then perform a factory reboot, which finally allowed me to log into the machine and reset the Wi-Fi settings and resolved the issue. Torus identified this as an issue with the initial networking software/hardware installed.
What I learned from this – and shared with Torus — is there are some improvements that could be made to the current Power Connect system. For one, you should be able to define some parameters under which the system emails you. Currently it only does so under a fault condition, but not if it loses network connection, the unit resets or loses power, gets out of a power or voltage range, or exceeds a defined THD limit. Also, a dealer should be able to remotely check on the unit’s firmware and be able to push new firmware updates to it. (Firmware updates currently have to be initiated at the unit by pressing and holding the front panel button when prompted.) Finally, it’s disappointing the unit can only be updated via Wi-Fi, not via its USB slot.
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Fortunately, there is a total silver lining here. Torus has worked with its network hardware and software supplier and will be giving that side of the AVR-2 a complete upfit. This new kit will be installed in new units going forward and the company will make in-field upgrades available to dealers and customers free of charge beginning in Q2. You can’t ask for better follow-up than that!
Okay…getting all that out of the way, let’s talk about this unit’s core competency: delivering clean, dynamic power to an audio/video system. And in this regard, it performed exceptionally.
The system’s toroidal isolation transformer design and construction eliminates any physical connections between incoming and outgoing power, thus eliminating transients and noise on the line. This produces a lower noise floor that was immediately and clearly apparent in the lack of any hiss and just silence coming from my speakers.
While a system might not need a lot of constant power, large, multichannel amplifiers and big subwoofers can demand massive amounts of power and current during certain dynamic scenes or peaks. And these dynamic peaks can easily exceed what the existing wiring and receptacles can deliver, meaning when the amp reaches for this extra current, it isn’t there, and the performance suffers.
However, the Torus has a reservoir of dynamic power, and can deliver up to 400A peaks when the system demands it. With no sag or clamping, this instantaneous, high-current power delivery increases the system’s dynamics and resolution, especially crucial when you start talking about truly high-performance, reference-level playback systems.
To ensure the transformer doesn’t have any detrimental effects on the 60 Hz fundamental signal being delivered by the electrical company, Torus employs its exclusive Narrow Bandwidth Technology to filter out high-frequency noise in the electrical signal, beginning at 2 kHz, with the degree of filtration increasing as the frequency rises.
The biggest performance improvements will definitely be found in these large, dynamic power-hungry devices like amplifiers, but Torus says the overall lowering of the noise floor improves system performance across the board. What I noticed was that bass from my subwoofers — both large models with serious drivers and amplifiers — had more depth, and tighter, more controlled sound. Audio also just had a more dynamic and focused sound, imaging was better, and localization was improved.
Another way the AVR-2 ensures consistent performance is with its Automatic Voltage Regulation. The system constantly analyzes the voltage and has ten different taps to step voltage up or down to compensate for changes, and when voltage changes more than 4V, the unit will automatically change taps to keep the output voltage stable.
While the unit itself is completely silent in operation, the tap changing is not. Usually it would trigger a tap-change under high-demand instances, say when switching from my OLED to my projector, or if there was a scene in a movie that was especially loud and dynamic — say the opening of Gravity in Atmos, which has a brief crescendo of full channel level activity on all channels followed by total silence — it would click the taps up for the big action, and then click them back down a moment later. With the system in the room with me, I was almost always aware of the clicking of the relays changing, and it was a bit distracting. (There’s nothing like a bunch of clicks from your system to challenge your suspension of disbelief!) Because of this, the AVR-2 would ideally be located out of the listening room.
And since Torus units are built to surpass IEEE endurance standards requiring products to withstand lighting strikes of 6000 volts, 3000 amps with 1000 repeats, you can rest assured connected gear will be protected and operating its best for years to come.
At its price, the AVR-2 Elite likely won’t work for every install. But when you are selling and installing truly high-performance, high-resolution equipment — especially high-current intensive items like amplifiers and subwoofers, or sensitive gear like processors and projectors — it is a way to ensure your clients are getting every bit of detail and potential they are expecting. And the Power Connect reporting will allow you to identify small issues before they become big problems.
Kudos: Fantastic build quality; solid, stable, audiophile performance; insight to power quality
Concerns: Issues with Torus Power Connect; Power Connect subscription; relay switching noise
- Toroidal Isolation provides ultimate clean power performance, up to 20A output current
- Voltage regulated to 120V (+/- 4V)
- Remote power management and reporting via Torus Power Connect; one-year service included with unit; paid subscription following first year
- New circuit boards designed for high-resolution audio performance
- Series mode surge suppression protects against lightning, surges, spikes, etc.
- Five independent IP addressable power zones, including “R” for automatic reboot on loss of Internet connection
- Schedule up to six events per zone per day for automatic reboot of outlet zones
- Connections: 10 high-grade NEMA 5-20R 20-amp power connections, 12-volt power on/off trigger, 12-volt fault trigger, USB 2.0 charging port, RJ45 Ethernet port, terminal for Wi-Fi antenna; 20-amp detachable power cord
Dimensions: 17 x 8 x 19-inches (WxHxD); 99 pounds
John Sciacca is a principal with Custom Theater and Audio, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In his free time, he blogs prolifically about the CE industry and is publisher for cineluxe.com.