Check out the Audio Asylum and search in the speaker section (www.audioasylum.com) ... tons of opinions on the Merlins there. I will say that nearly all are positive, especially in regard to the VSM model.
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I own the Merlin VSM-Ms (upgraded from the SE version last year) and I love them. All speakers and tastes are different, but I would highly recommend considering them if they're in your price range. They are basically floorstanding monitors with bass down to 35-40hz. They're probably not the ideal speaker for huge rooms, extrememly loud listening, or bass freaks, but anyone interested in an extrememly musical, detailed, and transparent speaker should check them out. I've read that they don't perform as well with multi-hundred watt SS amps, but that was the old version... I *think* the different "T" and "S" harnesses in the "M" version take care of that issue. Bobby at Merlin is very helpful if you have any questions about amplifier compatability.
Each speaker weighs about 90lbs and they were designed with the intention of making them as independent of their environment as possible. They really are pretty flexible as far as placement goes, but the soundstage improves greatly when they are placed according to Merlin's or Cardas' recommendations. When all is well, the speakers vanish and the music sounds like it's coming from the wall...5 feet behind the speakers, and the stage is as wide as my room (maybe 10 feet??). I loved the Merlin VSM-SEs, but I do think the "M" design is an improvement. The old design had enough bass for my taste, but the "M" design improves the bass and adds more body to the mids. It's a fuller, richer, more palpable sound and I doubt there are many people who would prefer the "SE" version to the "M" version.
Chazz my friend,
You've done enough puttering around with traditional hi-fi, not to mention spending $$...time to be a real man, evolve, and jump into SETs, and single driver paper cone speakers/horns. OK, maybe just a bit more $$.
i think the further you move from the 'what product out there is going to suit my needs' mentality, and towards creating/building your own, the better.
98+ dB + directly heated triode, that's where the bliss lies.
Hi-fi nuts are afraid of going that route because that would signal the end of their equipment addiction! Cheers from Stockhom,
I love my Merlin VSM-Ms run with a 300B SET amp (I listen to classical music at moderate levels). I don't use a BAM but rather run them full range with a Janis 12" sub (50w SS). I abandoned the single driver relatively high efficiency approach (with the same sub) for the very nicely balanced and integrated sound of the Merlins. I do miss the magical sound that came from cello recordings with the single driver but I also love the sound that I get from the Merlins which is more consistent accross all instruments (especially like piano). Merlins are definately worth considering.
VSM's are great sounding speakers...which is the main reason lots of people use em in tade shows for demo's!...that and they're compact!
However, if you're into loud/hard rock, percussion, regae or home theater(especially), you should DEFINITELY cross em over with a home theater pre/pro for those purposes at 80hz, and let a good ACTIVE POWERED subwoofer handle bellow that! You'll then haver a superb, hard hitting, powerfull full range sounding speaker that will sound marvelous with those mediums! When you need ultimate clarity, refinement, etc, for other music, you can then run em full range on their own!
...the high sensitivity speakers forum on audioasylum.com, there are plenty of ways to get bass and high sensitivity, high enough so that a few watts are all that's needed, pi speakers being a good example. well, you might have to add a tweeter to that 15 inch driver. and you'll need a larger space.
i have not heard these but am quite curious about them.
i have heard the merlins, refined sounding speakers, as far as they go, but lack the macro- and micro-dynamics of live music. for this you need high-sensitivity. cheers
you better have a damn good home theatre pre to not hear the circuitry via the merlins. and i don't just mean when the x-over is active...
fwiw, i use merlin vsm's w/ entecs, using a passive x-over at 100hz. its seamless and dynamic as hell. the entecs are fast enough for the merlins...but i doubt anything else is (rel is not).
Like everything else, what you listen to, how you listen and what virtues are important in the reproduction of music are paramount in making a decision as to whether the Merlins are the right choice for long term enjoyment.
I've owned them for 2 years now. I echo everything Phild says. They are not headbangers but refined, fast, revealing and naturally balanced speakers. They are very room friendly but prefer small to medium sized rooms. If going in a large room, a sub should be considered. After attending the NYC audio show in May, I didn't hear a system that would encourage me to supplant them. Part of the reason is that it has taken me a while to get the refinement and enjoyment they give through systematic trial and error. The only component still around since I've owned the speakers is my trusty JVC 1050 Zn used as a CD transport.
They really are as good as the press says but like everything else in this hobby, won't make everyone happy. What does make an audiophile happy? A new toy for a short time and then what, another new toy? Whoa nelly, time to settle in and listen to some music. What is the point of components if not to serve the music? The Merlins do serve the music very well and I dig them for just that reason.
Virtually everyone that has listened to them in my home, casual listener to audiophile has commented on the "clarity" and "sounds real" aspect of the system. No, they dont do micro dynamics quite as well as the best stats but certainly as well as any dynamic speaker Ive listened to only to improve with what is upstream. If you consider them you may have to re-evaluate the rest of your system. While they work well with a wide variety of components, to realize their true capability will require patience and commitment. Im not sure that Ive found the limits of this design and that is one reason they are so amazing.
The mids are full, rich and there. The highs are as extended and clear as the recording and upstream components will permit. Soundstaging and imaging, which is not at the top of my priorities is, again as good as the recording and upstream components. On some recordings the speakers and walls will disappear. Off axis listening is a joy. The stage doesn't collapse away from the sweet spot as do many speakers. These speakers sound great in the next room. The bass is taunt, fast and natural if not having the bass energy of larger systems. The BAM in battery mode is enough for me most of the time except for those headbanger moments that are becoming more infrequent as I mature :^)
PS Stay tuned, the long awaited subwoofer to match with the VSM is just around the corner. I understand that Bobby is currently designing it.
O.K., tacs, I had a smart answer. Here's, hopefully, a smart question. What dealer in Houston, Texas has a high-sensitivty speaker to audition? I'm ready. All I've ever heard were Klipschorns and VOT Altecs so I'm guessing I don't know what you're talking about. But speaking of that, am I hearing you recommend a speaker for high sensitivity bass that you've never heard, the "pi"? And how big a space is one supposed to have to get this bass? It always seems to be a problem with horns. Hey, I'm a planar man myself (know you hate to hear that!) so I don't really know from Merlins except by the excellent reputation and a couple of informative and tempting phone calls with Bobby, the Merlin wizard. And if you mean live music, as in rock concerts, I'll skip the bad PA if you don't mind. Give me a horn-loaded speaker that captures the sweetness of the strings, the rich mid-range of the brass, and the thunder of the bass drum and I'll meet you there. But it all has to be for 6K and under. Any suggestions?