Bobby is out enjoying a much needed few days off since getting back from the show, so until he checks back here I'll chime in with what I know.
I heard the new version of the Milleniums a week before the show at the Merlin plant and worked for Merlin at the show. I also intimately know the VSM-M and what goes into the new version of the speakers.
First, some basic info so folks do not get confused about what is happening here model wise. The current VSM-M model will continue to be made and will not be discontinued for the forseeable future. The new version of the VSM-M will be called the VSM-MX (X for 10th anniversary of the model's introduction). I can't go into great detail as to what has been changed, but I can say this is a further evolution of the VSM-M. The crossover topology/design has not changed, but the parts have.
The result is a speaker system that has all the strengths of the VSM-M which are now there to a even greater degree. The speaker sounds more natural and dynamic, especially at the speakers limits (nuances at very low levels are more apparent and complex material at high SPLs is more coherrent).... in other words, greater resolution and dynamics without ANY of the often associated negative side effects. As well, if you thought the top end of the speaker was pretty remarkable with the VSM-M, the MX takes it up another notch. Things like brushwork have a shimmer and delicacy that is now incredibly real.
The VSM-MX will only be available with BAM and in premium clearcoat finish... target retail price is going to be $9,950.
Is this the speaker with two drivers and in need of stands?
Is this the speaker with two drivers and in need of stands?"
No, the VSM is the floor standing monitor speaker. The stand mounted (bookshelf) Merlin TSM model requires stands. To see the VSM-MXs we used at CES, just check Audiogon's CES show coverage (pictures) for Alexis Park room # 1652.
The Merlin room was displaying the new VSM M-X Anniversary addition speakers in a drop dead gorgeous clear coat British Racing Green. The new speakers are said to improve dynamics by 15 or 20%. (More details to come from Merlin in near future according to Bobby)
The sound was excellent after opening day tweaking. Driven by the Convergent Audio SL1 mk II and SL3 monos, Cardas cables, Audio Aero Cap I transport and Audio Note DAC the sound was linear, detailed, dynamic, open, transparent and very layered. In other words, signature Merlin sound. Vinyl was spinning on the VPI HR-X/ Cardas Heart and sounded outstanding.
My own personal liking is for the Joule Electra or Berning ZH270 OTL sound, but nonetheless, the CAT monos sounded very very good on the new Merlin speakers.
Bobby was his usual cordial, engaging self and was visiting with all and allowing anyone to spin their test CDs.
On my short list of best sounds of the show.
Ive had the opportunity to audition the Merlin Milleniums on both Joule and CAT electronics. Its a very different presentation, Ill grant you that. We just happen to disagree on preference.
People who use the Merlins with the Joule will tell you that they are thrilled with the ultra dynamic, super transparent sound of the system. The thing is, they havent really heard what the speakers can do in terms of dynamics and transparency until they hook them up with a JL2. The Joule is a sweetie pie amp dont get me wrong. It just tends to soften and prettify things a bit. The CATs strengths more closely match the Merlins strengths.
In my opinion, having heard both, you havent heard just how good a Merlin VSM can be till you hook it up with a CAT JL2.
Actually Philgrelle I have heard 2 Bernings with the Merlins and was stunned at the dynamic output with 2 of those amps. The bass was astounding, I'll say it again to emphasis the effect it had on me, astounding.
I expect that the Merlins like mucho power although they are efficient and work well with a minimum. I would like to hear the VSM's with a pair of Joule Right of Passage amps to get a real handle on how the amps in question might compare with the power being equal. I expect the outcome might be a bit different.
I apologize for the digression. However, I am curious which of the Audio Note DACs Bobby used at CES. Anyone know? Thanks.
Brooks-- the DAC they used was an Audio Note/Ken Stevens DAC 3 Signature. Its waaaaay beyond Audio Notes stock converters from any series. They are rare, they are expensive and they are like nothing else on earth. Put it this way-- I wish I had one.
Kevin, thanks for the details. Wow, if that is expensive compared to Audio Note's upper end stuff, then you just redefined the word for me. That must be in the "If you have to ask..." category. It would be quite a treat to hear one. It is a bit of delicious irony that Peter Q's rarified pieces are being "modded." I am interested to know if he participated ken's project, if he listened to the result at the CES, and finally what his comments were. This could turn out be the yet to be released DAC 6 in a joint venture form.
The modded DAC 3 sounded very very good, relaxed and extremely convincing. I am looking for one myself, or at least Kenny is looking for me.
I was extremely pleased with the sound at the show. The CAT electronics has a live sound that caught me off guard a number of times. More so that at any other show, dynamic interplay made the system sound like performers were in the room. Totally strain free at live SPLs with that life like POP around everything.
What about Srajan Ebaen's comments on Six Moons.com regarding extreme/rude volume levels from a Merlin room. Was that your room or somebody elses's?
Well, I guess it was our room but it certainly was not rude or extreme in any sense of the word. I had very friendly relations with other exhibitors around us and no one outside of the room or in the room made mention of this to anyone in our group. In a situation like this you can never win. You play it at 90 dB and those who like it at live levels walk out bored and you play it at 100 dB and those who like it at 80 dB walk. It is a show after all and this sort of thing is just part of the territory. You basically try to play your music at the recorded volume level. We were getting bombed by a subwoofer system somewhere in the building and I didn't run all over the place trying to find the culprit. You learn to just play things a little louder to drown out the others. If Srajan and his group were offended, they should have said something to us personally rather than writing that nonsense in his show report. I don't care how many years Srajan was in the business, he is being naive if he thinks that shows can be conducted in a fashion where everyone is happy.
I would like to thank him though, he dispelled the myth that Merlins can't play loud. The lack of dynamic compression was clearly evident. :-P
Bobby, ignore the criticism. As they say in the slang "spitballs at a battleship". I am curious to know whether you went with an audionote or a audio aero dac/player. I am trying to match the best dac that I can with your speakers and would love to know what you think is the best match at this time. thx, mike.
The presentation of the CAT and Joule are very different and because of the the DAC 3 sounded better in the system at the CES. In the past, I have always used the Capitole with the Joules and thought it hard to better. The DAC 3 may actually sound superior but it is not made any longer and the chip-set in it is impossible to find. I think the decision is pretty obvious. What electronics do you have?