Make in India!:
I am sure most of you have heard about this initiative to spur the Indian economy, introduced by our Prime Minister in September 2014. This is the first thing that came to my mind when I talked to Siva Kumar of Acoustic Portrait/Corrson while discussing equipment for review. In this niche hobby of ours, dominated by foreign made brands, it was refreshing to find a bonafide Indian company that was involved in producing predominantly two channel home audio equipment. Siva was quick to point out that though all his products are made in India, they are done so with many imported components as it is very difficult to find quality electronic components in India.
Acoustic Portrait and Corrson were established in 2002 after Siva returned from Australia where he was inspired by local brands offering high quality audio equipment. His wife Jeya Siva Kumar is the owner of Corrson. Siva was involved with electronics since childhood by virtue of belonging to a family of electronic manufacturers – who manufactured tube radios in the 60’s, Invertors (UPS Systems) in the 70’s and 80’s, Television sets in the 80’s and Electronic Ballasts and Voltage Stabilizers in the 90’s. The company works with a few select partners for PCB design/assembly, CAD, Chassis Fabrication, Carpentry etc., and they have a couple of in-house engineers who do the final product integration and measurement. Jeya runs the day to-day operations at AP/Corrson, whereas Siva concentrates on the product design and also as a customer liaison. Siva’s personal interest in audio revolves around the conundrum which many of us face – that live performances are a lot more engaging than reproduced music. This interest consequently led Siva to interact closely with musicians, forming deep friendships with them and also recording their live performances. This certainly bodes well for any audio company and their clients, when the main designer/owner is deeply involved in the recording process, listening to real instruments/artists in live performance settings.
Whole system vs. Single component?
During a phone call with Siva, while deciding on equipment for the upcoming review, he suggested a total system rather than the single component approach. I was apprehensive at first, since I prefer reviewing one component at a time in my system, to be able to better differentiate the sound quality of that component surrounded by familiar equipment – however there was some merit to the system approach as I would be able to gain the advantage of proper synergy between the components. So I decided to review the AP/Corrson system consisting of the Thiyaga Hybrid Integrated amplifier driving the Corrson MS-610 loudspeakers connected with Thallam cables. My only request to Siva was to allow me adequate time to listen so as to be able to discern fine nuances of the system as a whole to which he generously agreed.
Thiyaga and the MS-610:
The Thiyaga Hybrid Integrated amplifier consists of a preamplifier section designed around a pair of 6n2p vacuum tubes driving a solid state power amplifier section that puts out 180 watts at 8ohms with a THD specification of 0.02% at 1KHz. The amplifier is quite attractive to look at with a wooden face plate sporting a cut out on the chassis and front face for the tubes. Personally, I like this exposed tubes design not only for the enticingly warm aesthetics of glowing tubes but also for ease of tube rolling or replacement. It sports a rotary volume knob on the front face along with a push button power on/off switch. Around back are four high-quality speaker binding posts along with 5 pairs of single ended inputs. The amplifier weighs a substantial 18kgs and is almost square in shape with a 17.3″ x 17.5″ width and depth and 5.5″ in height. A basic remote control is provided that controls the volume knob as well as switching between the inputs, with input switching confined to the remote, without any physical buttons on the chassis. The front plate has a window with blue LEDs that glow to indicate the activated input.
The MS-610 loudspeakers have 3 drivers each in a mid, tweeter, mid configuration with the tweeter offset to a side. The mid bass drivers are 6.5″ glass fibre units while the 1″ tweeter is a textile dome unit sourced from famed Danish driver manufacturer Scanspeak. The 40″ tall rear ported cabinet is quite svelte at just 9″ wide and 10″ deep and requires the use of metal outrigger type metal stands for stability. These integrated stands use 4 spiked feet which can be used to level the speakers or to tilt them slightly as required. The frequency response is rated at 36Hz to 20KHz +/- 3db with a relatively high sensitivity of 89 dB and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms, the crossover point being 2KHz with a 18db slope. The rear of each speaker has 2 pairs of binding posts to facilitate bi-wiring or bi-amping and each speaker weighs 24kg. This weight can be explained by the fact that each wall of the cabinet is made with 3-5 layers of MDF, Plywood and Bitumen in different combinations, and varies in thickness from 1.25 – 2.5 inches. Additional reinforcements are provided throughout the cabinet and along the inside edges from maximum strength. The Walnut real wood veneer finish is quite nice in appearance and applied on all sides except the rear. The finish is quite good, except at the cutouts for the drivers where some flaws can be noticed. Speaker grilles are provided to protect the drivers and labels are attached to both faces with logo and specs. Siva suggested that although the speaker grille cloth is of high quality, the speaker works best sans grilles.
Siva and Jeya showed up one weekend with all the components. After we muscled them into my listening room, Siva helped set up the speakers. Siva indicated that the speakers are designated as left and right based on the tweeter offset. So the left speaker is the one where the tweeter is offset to the right and vice versa for the right speaker. I guessed the intent was to get the tweeter closer to the listener’s ears. My room is relatively small at 14′ x 12′, with my listening position 8′ away. Initially, the speakers were set up at the same position occupied by my reference speakers, the front of the cabinet at 44″ from the wall behind the speakers and at 20″ from the side wall resting on the floor. However, at this position I felt that there was a pronounced high-frequency suck-out which Siva had apparently noticed as well. He suggested some platforms to raise the speaker up and also tilted the speaker upward by adjusting the front spikes. After placement of some marble and wood slabs under the speakers the high frequency opened up a bit, but it was not until I placed short 6″ stands under each speaker that I was able to get an optimum response from the tweeters. So unless one is sitting on a relatively low seating surface such that one’s ears are at tweeter level, it will be required to tilt and raise the speakers a bit. Furthermore, I moved the speakers forward till they were at nearly 4′ from the rear wall. Another operational quirk that I noticed is that every time the amplifier was switched on, there was a slight thump in the speakers. Siva assured me that this was intentional and this was his explanation: “There will be a slight thump in both speakers when the relay switches on the B+ power to the preamp. This was designed to protect speakers from excessive DC due the tubes. We have avoided using a relay in the signal path”.
I started off with Wolfert Brederode Trio’s Black Ice – ECM (24/96, FLAC). The track Olive Tree – exhibited a beautiful sense of rhythm, with Brederode’s piano sounding tonally lush and warm. The speakers spread out the instruments on this track well beyond their physical location with especially good soundstage depth. The numerous cymbal scrapes and brushes were airy and shimmered and sparkled ephemerally as they decayed. I moved onto to some fusion music from saxophonist Charles Lloyds on the live recording of Sangam – ECM (16/44.1, FLAC). The track Guman has Zakir Hussain singing and his voice sounded incredibly lifelike. Although he is not known for his vocal prowess, this performance along with his tantalizing tabla rendition was completely mesmerizing. The MS-601 speakers created a pleasant middle of the hall illusion at my listening position with the soundstage depicted slightly behind the front plane of the speakers.
So far I had been listening to music with sparse/soft arrangements of instruments, so next I wanted to hear how a busy rock performance would sound. Dave Matthews Band’s bootlegged The Lillywhite Sessions – (16/44.1, FLAC) is easily one of my favorite albums. On the track Big Eyed Fish the MS-610’s were able to sort out the ensemble of five musicians without any congestion, each instrument occupying is own space, clearly differentiated with Dave Mathews vocals firmly centered in the stage. The imaging was excellent and the presentation was very energetic. Next up was Herbie Hancock’s Gershwin’s World – Verve (2.8MHz, DSD). The track It Ain’t Necessarily So, which to me is quite reminiscent of the Pink Panther movie theme music, displayed superlative instrument separation, each one well defined within the acoustic envelope thrown by the speakers. Indeed the imaging capability of the Corrson speakers was very good. Another point to note was that the MS-610’s were quite revealing of the recordings, with well recorded music of any genre a treat to listen to while inferior recordings suffered.
Listening to Bosonossa and other Ballads – Gowi (16/44.1, FLAC), the track Sunia has Tomasz Stanko wielding the trumpet. This performance was remarkable as Stanko expertly weaved a tantalizing melody on the trumpet, the raw brassiness of the instrument was laid bare by the system without any edginess or distortion. The Scanspeak tweeters are quite smooth, articulate and adequately extended, and I experienced no auditory distress in terms of listening fatigue regardless of the length of the listening session.
Next onto some female vocals from Adele’s super hit 25 – Columbia (16/44.1, FLAC). On the track Hello the system clearly revealed the nuances and emotions in her powerful voice as she scaled higher notes. This melancholic track was a compelling listen and clearly demonstrated the system’s strength on voices. Okay – time to shake things up a bit – literally. I cued up Recondite’s Limber/Undulate – Acid Test (16/44.1, FLAC) and the synth bass on this techno album was deep, extended and tactile creating a club like atmosphere in my listening room. When I pumped up the volume to an insane level, the Thiyaga responded by flogging the MS-610’s which in turn moved massive amounts of air without flinching as I hit 98 db levels. This system knows how to have fun and can easily be the life of any party.
As I mentioned earlier, since this review is the test of a complete system other than the source, I decided to compare a similarly priced system that I had on hand -consisting of two Nuprime Audio STA-9amplifiers bridged for mono-block operation driving ATC SCM 11 v1 speakers with Signal Cable Silver Resolution speaker cables. I used the volume control in my Chord Hugo TT DAC to drive the STA-9’s directly via Signal Cable Silver Resolution interconnects. This system, excluding the DAC cost approximately ₹ 275,000 when available, so it was right in the ballpark of the Acoustic Portrait/Corrson system pricing, though it was significantly different, both in size and design. Right away I could tell that the ATC/Nuprime had a more forward sound signature to the relatively laid back A.P system. The treble of the ATC system was more extended and sounded slightly more refined while the midrange exhibited more body and sounded lusher. It wasn’t as if the midrange of the A.P system was lean but the ATC system had a more lit up quality to it. Transients in the music sounded clearer through the ATC system, but on large scale shifts the A.P system prevailed. On low bass the A.P system was undisputedly better, with deeper extension and greater impact undoubtedly to its larger cabinet and additional driver. The A.P system could reproduce space better, sounding dimensionally more expansive than the ATC system but the ATC system carved sharper images in the soundstage. All in all this is excellent showing by the A.P/Corrson system against more established competition.
The Acoustic Portrait/Corrson system aptly demonstrated its musicality at a relatively modest price range. I was very impressed with its capability to throw a wide and deep soundstage, easily amongst the best I have heard in my room. Its ability to pound out great bass and hit high sound pressure levels was also astounding. Its few shortcomings are well balanced against its strengths and I could hear these only in a direct comparison. In an absolute sense it sounded wonderful.
- Sources: Windows 7 based Music PC running J River Media Center v22, SOTM Tx-USBhub.
- DAC: Chord Hugo TT.
- Amplification: Nuprime STA9.
- Speakers: ATC SCM 11 v1.
- Cabling/Conditioning: Signal Cable Silver Resolution speaker and interconnects. Shunyata and audio art power cables, Sine S-30A power conditioner.
- Rack/Stands: SoundFoundations, Sound Organisation
- Acoustic Treatment: GIK, Vicoustics panels.
- Listening room dimensions: 4.3m x 3.7m x 2.6m’ (lxwxh).
Acoustic Portrait/Corrson, India
Website: www.acousticportrait.com , www.corrson.com
Thiyaga Hybrid Integrated Amplifier, MS-610 Loudspeakers, Thallam Audio Cables
Distributor: Acoustic Portrait
E-mail: [email protected]
Price: Thiyaga – ₹ 119,990, MS-610 – ₹ 159,990 per pair, Thallam speaker cables – ₹ 16,000 per pair, Thallam – interconnects – ₹ 9,900 1m pair.
Warranty: 1 year on Loudspeakers and Amplifier.
We would like to thank and appreciate Sridhar for taking the time to review our products. It is very encouraging for us to hear a positive response from some like Sridhar who has tremendous experience with hi-end audio equipment. The review is for the overall system that includes Corrson Speakers and Acoustic Portrait amplifier & cables. However, the products can be bought individually and they will work well with equipment from other audio brands; the speakers are quite easy to drive and the AP amplifier has a lot of headroom to drive even the most difficult of speakers. As it will be apparent from the review Corrson/AP products are designed to suit various types of music and have a good balance of various parameters required for a good acoustic reproduction. At this moment, we also would like to thank several members of the AP Family who have been using AP products for well over 15 years and continue to encourage us.