I have one on order. Bobby P. states that it would take 10k in amp/preamp to beat it. Claims that it would embarrass my Plinius SA100 MkIII / Joule LA100 MkIII combo. Price is going up soon and the wait is long but hey.....
i've owned the filarmonia-merlin VSM-MX combo for about 6 months now. also, i just received the amp back from bobby following an upgrade he suggested. the amp before was relaxed, neutral, tonally complete, and pristine in clarity. a perfect sonic match for the merlins IMHO. while i'm early in the upgrade burn-in, the amp now seems more continous through its lower mid and bass response. the bass pitch seems more sharply defined, with a more audible and natural bass note decay, IMHO. overall, the filarmonia has exceeded my expectations. you can trust bobby on this one.
i have no reference for comparison though, as i didn't do an AB comparison with either the cary or berning.
In terms of price, and in some ways in absolute terms, you cannot beat the Ars Sonum with the Merlins. I switch between my Joule/CAT and the Ars Sonum and enjoy both immensely. If you can get yourself to only spend $4000, you won't regret it. If you are thinking of going Joule, you have enough money to get the Ars for the summer months, if you know what I mean.
Again, I am agreeing with Pubul57. Immediately prior to my ARS, I had the Joule Electra LA 150 / VZN 100 in musicwood. The ARS is a simple 'plug and play' integrated amp compared to the Joules. I've had the ARS for over a year and have not regreted the decision once. The sound, in my opinion, is darn near on par with my previous setup and it costs much less with no hassles whatsoever.
Yes,an AyreV5x with a newly modded Counterpoint pre.I didnt know what was meant by layers of music until then.I preferred it to a ZH270 at the time,though my friend Art liked the Berning better.Thinking the Cat/Joule and Ars Sonum offerings must be very special to say the least.Hopefully sooner than later,nice to have friends,Bob
I think one of the reasons there are so many happy Merlin customers is that not only is the speaker a highly refined design improved and perfected over time, but as a Merlin owner, you know there is nobody in the busines more willing to discuss his product and how to make it work with the appropriate amplification to bring out the best in it. While Bobby will make specific recommendations, he will also explain it a bit more abstractly in terms of the type of amplification and designs that will work, and you can find other amps that will work well with that grounding. If you own Merlins and don't ask Bobby for advice on the electronics you are doing yourself a disservice, he has never lead me down the wrong path.
Bobby, I want to thank you for being an important part of bringing Lucinda, Allison, Patricia, Bach, Beethoven, Shostokovich, Art, Lee, and Gerry into my living room. I know it is an important part of my life to have this access to music, and your speakers enhance the experience. The musicians I love are artists, and so are you (and Ricardo). There is business and there is passion and you are fortunate to have found both. Have a good year-end "break": and a great 2008.