Amp recommendations for Merlin VSM / TSM

I welcome all Merlin owner's feedback on the amps used with their VSM/TSM's. Do you prefer RCA or balanced, tube or solid state. Thanks for any thoughts.
I am not a Merlin owner, I just enjoy hearing them at shows, etc.. I have heard them with the CAT JL2 which was great sound and a few Joule Electra OTL amps, some like Atma-sphere as well. So to my ears, tubes rule and OTL's are even better for Merlins, as far as RCA or balanced I think that depends on what is being used in front of it. I have never heard BAT amps on them which I imagine would sound good and obviously be better balanced. ~Tim
Merlin could be paired with many different amps at the shows but seems to always be paired with Joule-Electra. You can't beat the quality, service and sheer musical enjoyment of the Joule-Electra product line, IMHO.
i have used rogue 120s in triode and berning 270 (with vsm-ms). these are very different sounding amps. i am hooked on the otl sound (my personal tastes) i think what your are going to find is that the merlins will take on the amps characteristics. as for balanced i am using the batbam and it is single ended. i am sure you could order one that is balanced. so i cannot help you there.

these speakers are very neutral and i really enjoy mine.


I used my Merlin VSMs with: Pass Aleph 3, BelCanto SETi40, 47 Labs Gaincard, Luxman M2000, NAD 916(?), Counterpoint SA-100 (and completely rebuilt as NP100), a Revox B 250S integrated, and I originally heard them with Atmasphere OTL amps. I had my spekears upgraded to "M" version recently and have used them with my rebuilt Counterpoint NP100. The speakers really do pass the information their presented with, so in that sense the amp and associated equipment matter a great deal. I thought the speakers sounded good with most of the amps, but the speakers showed the limitations of the cheaper amps (mainly the NAD). The old Merlin VSMs benefitted a bit from a fuller sounding tube amp, but I don't think that will be a crucial with the fuller bodied "M" version. In the end it will all depend on your tastes. Out of all the amps I heard, I tended to prefer the tube designs...most especially my rebuilt Counterpoint and the Atmasphere OTLs (very very nice, from what I recall). The Pass Aleph 3 and the 47 Labs Gaincard were also amazingly detailed amps, but I didn't think they had the "soul" of the tube designs (just my preference...they were a fine technical match with the Merlins). Of all the above mentioned amps, the BelCanto SETi40 was the only one that didn't strike me as a good match. I seemed like a very nice amp, but it sure sounded strange to me...not realistic at all. In the end, I think the most important thing is the sound you or solid state. The Merlins don't need much power (and may suffer from too much), so stick with tubes amps rated at 17w-150w and SS amps from 25w-150w...more than that might be overkill. I highly suggest deciding on tube or SS, choosing a price range (new or used), and then talking to Bobby at Merlin. He can tell you which amps he feels are the best or SS. Good luck.
P.S. I wouldn't worry too much about the balanced outs if you find a single-ended amp that you enjoy. I am using single ended outs and ins with an RCA BAMM. My amp & pre are balanced, so I may upgrade my BAMM someday (the balanced versions are much pricier).
Hi Yag, I am a Merlin VSM-M + BAM owner. I currently use Joule Electra 160 monoblocks. The other amps I have tried with Merlins were B&K Rererence 4420. The B&K 's have now been used in a home theater setup. The comparison was like night and day. The Joule Electra are a tweeker delight. If you want a new or different sound than change the drive tubes, mess with the bias or even change the level of feedback. I have not found any limits yet on what can be done or how it sounds. I agree ; the Merlins take on the sound of the amps. As for balanced or unbalance RCA connections I use both. For long runs greater than 2 meters I used balanced connectors. For digital I would definitely used balanced to reduce the common noise. For analog I do prefer the RCA connection with the Merlin- Joule combination. Just saw a pair of Joule 160 monoblocks up for sale on Audiogon at market value or better. I have had the pleasure of dealing with Jud Barber and Bobby from Merlin. While they seem so opposite in person to what I expected they are both really gifted, and prove once again that opposites do attract. Hope this helps
I seem to agree with everyones advice so far. I use the BAMM, without the Rc networks. Mine is an analog based system, so I prefer the tube and single ended approach, SET if you will. But with a twist.

I really enjoy the Blue Circle/Merlin combo. I am using what essentailly is a BC 2.1 with results I am very happy with. I love the musical, life like size and presence that BC amps have with Merlin speakers. These are hybrid (tube driver, Bipolar outputs) amps, that can also be tuned by the driver tube selection. If you want to go balanced - check out Blue Cirlce's new Ag series; or like myself, check out the older BC6 or BC 2 amps. Use a dynamic pre to drive them like a Emotive Audio, First Sound, CAT or Audible Illusions, and they really come "alive". Spooky.
I guess I have beaten tubegroover and a few other to the punch here (maybe) by mentioning the David Berning 270. I was using a Mesa Baron, which is a good amp, but no comparison to the Berning (which is, arguably, an OTL, although there is much debate about that). Many practical advantages over the Joules--size, heat, etc. Replace the tubes with NOS and the sould improves dramatically. Several long threads on the Berning went on here about 2-3 months ago, comparing it to other OTL's--Atma-sphere, Tenor, etc. Do a search, or go over to the Asylum, there's a little discussion of the Berning there now in the General forum. You also don't need a preamp with the Berning; it has a built in volume control, two inputs, et.
Since I have a single-ended battery bam, never had a chance to compare to balanced.
Dear Yag, I just remembered when I visited the old schoolhouse were Merlin speakers are built, the amps that were being used were "Puchini" . You will have to ask Bobby the exact type. These amps sounded fabulous with the Merlin's as well. I think it may have been an integrated type. Good Listening, Happy Dad's Day to All
I believe Audio Analogue is the company that makes the "Puccini" integrated amplifier. I seem to recall others stating the the Pathos Twin Towers integrated tube amplifier also works very well with these speakers.

I use a Joule-Electra LA-100 mk. 3 preamplifier and Joule-Electra Stargate monoblocks with my Merlin VSM-SE bBAM speakers. When I spoke with Marianne Barber about the Stargates, she said that the sound of the Stargates were very close (actually, too close, in her opinion) to that of their much more expensive OTL designs, lacking primarily as much high frequency air as the OTLs. These amps are "only" 30 wpc SET, but sound very powerful (my prior amp was an Audio Research VT-100 mk. 2, which could player louder than the Stargates, but which didn't sound as controlled and powerful as the Stargates at reasonable listening levels).

When combined with a Meridian 508.24 CD player, I feel this is truly a music lover's system at a moderate price (especially used).

Merlin seems to match their VSM-M ("S" harness) with Sim Audio solid state electronics at shows. I would talk directly with Bobby at Merlin; he obviously knows his speakers very well.
anyone here try the Cary 805c with the merlins???
If I had my druthers I would own both a Berning zh270 and a pair of Joule Grand Marquis or maybe Atma-sphere M60's and stop fretting over the right choice :) Own the Berning and love it for many reasons which have been well documented on Agon over the past few months, it is a great choice with the VSM and it will never leave my possession. With the Merlins you have other excellent options as well. They are an easy load and work with a wide variety of amps and as noted by others above will reveal the intrinsic character of the components leading the parade.

Whatever blows your sails is the right choice. Some will prefer ss some tubes, my biases are well known. A great high efficiency speaker with a great OTL is the best seat in the house IMHO. Ask Bobby for the insider's choice. He hasn't heard them all and has his own preferences but will certainly guide you in the right direction.
Call Bobby at Merlin. He'll take care of you. Component matching is key with speakers as revealing as Merlins.

FYI - I also use a Berning ZH-270.
Hi All,

Just a quick note on Mshans post:
"Merlin seems to match their VSM-M ("S" harness) with Sim Audio solid state electronics at shows."

All those VSM-Ms used by SimAudio at these events have all been "T" wire harness VSM-Ms. I should know as I set them up at these events for SimAudio during the past few years.

Happy listening,
Rich Brkich