Gallo 3.5 vs Merlin VSM-MXe

I'm looking to upgrade to different speakers. At the moment I'm running Gallo Strada's with a T3 Sub. While I enjoy this system, I would like a little more coherence and weight. Some more musicality would be nice too. I've been given the opportunity to get a pair of used Merlin VSM-Mxe with super bam for a nice price, or a new pair of Gallo 3.5's for the same $.
Any ideas?
The Merlin's can be further upgraded for an increase in performance.
I own Merlin VSMs and have heard the Gallo extensively (tho never owned a pair). There is a local dealer who sells both, and I have heard an A-B.

To my ear, they share many of the same strengths, but....

The Merlins are really special - one person's take, YMMV. I'd choose them every time.

For your needs, the Gallo might be a better idea. Both speakers are -IMHO- highly coherent, but the Gallo has significantly more weight below 100hz. If you double up on amps to co-drive the Gallo woofer, I'm told (never heard it) that the difference in that region increases even more.

Good Luck.


PS The ultra wide dispersion of the Gallo tweeter does lend it a particular character that many people love. It is distinctive tho, so check it out.
Only heard the Gallo is show conditions so my opinion of it is not too worth. Have owned two iterations of the VSMs the past nine years and they are to my way of listening the finest two-way speakers in the world, at minimum, highly competive with any two-way speakers in the world. You mention coherence, well that is their bread and butter. You can go to and see what a few hindred people have to say about Merlin VSMs - they are that good, and if you don't crave, need, or want the very bottom octave that you can get with much larger speakers with 12" woofers, you can live happily with them for a long time and build the rest of your system around them - what many Melrin owners do.
I must admit Marty, when I said weight, I really meant more richness. The Gallo's tweeter can be so clean, that sometimes I feel it's a little crisp / lean? Could also be my room (lots of glass to which I will add Marigold window dots soon), and could be my cables? Speaker cables are Audience AU24e. I want clean, detailed and lively, but with some richness too.
IME, the Merlin is notably leaner than the Gallo. The Gallo tweeter is definitely distinctive sounding, tho I've never heard it go "crisp". It does have very wide dispersion, so lots of reflective surfaces might well produce that effect. I've never heard the Gallo in such a room, so I'm just speculating.

My evaluation also could be due (at least in part) to the environment in which I heard the Gallo (I've owned the Merlins for more than decade; 4 different rooms and dozens of anicllaries in the system). The local dealer's set-up is probably inclined to diminish treble power response as the room is pretty highly treated with absorbtive materials.

Everyone hears these things in a personal way, but I wouldn't call the Merlins "rich" or "weighty". They are crazy, spooky realistic sounding in the mids, but do have a tendency to go lean in many set-ups. IMHO, careful placement and system matching are unusually critical in coaxing a satisfying octave to octave balance from the VSM.

I would add that I think that there are folks out there who take that idea way, way too far. I've successfully used SET amps, PP tubes, SS, etc with my VSMs. The 2 real points are:

1)The speaker is IME unusually transparent to everything upstream, so careful system matching is unusually important to ensure that you've optimized to your taste.

2) Many people find them lean in the upper bass and I understand that comment. In the right set-up, I don't find this to be much of an issue. However, it does take some effort to optimize your set-up for this parameter.

I'd never discourage anyone from Merlin, but your specific issue seemed to point the other way.

Just one more opinion.

I hear the Merlins the way Marty does. I think they do provide a fairly unobstruected view of the source with little editorial, you would need to find that with the amp, etc.
I used to own a pair of Gallo Strada with T3 sub. I bought it without
listening to them first because of all the glowing reviews. I waited patiently
breaking them in for at least 500 hours, all I can say about these speakers
is LEAN, LEAN, LEAN, LEAN and THIN. I sold them and lost a fair
amount of $$$. BTW. I was using Gamut D200 MK3, Pass F5, Virtue
Audio sensation and Dynaco ST-70 and nothing can fixed it, it's just a
lean mean machine. Zero Texture.
The gallo tweeters are indeed leean/bright/crisp. Lots of glass in your room is no help either. Placement out in the room will help some. Obviously, window coverings as well. The size of the Strada is not going to give you the musical weight no matter what you throw at them. If you can tame your room some, the reference series will give you more of what you are looking for. Beyond that, tube CD/DAC and Pre amp would be my next move.
I don't think lean is a right word to describe a tweeter sound. I'm talking about the midrange. My room is fully carpeted, fabric furnitures and curtain all over the windows.
For what you are looking for, with the right amplification and setup, I think the Gallos will carry more weight and might be able to challenge the MErlins, but I would expect the two to always sound a good bit different in overall presentation, which might matter more depending on your tastes.
I love my Merlins (VSM MXE) - but my room is Wood/and Plaster, somehow very mellow, so the Merlin fits perfectly; I am a violinist and play an early Guarneri, which somehow has a similar balance of grit, warmth and clarity; so I feel right at home here.
g, getting the older bam and rc's upgraded to the master bam and master rc's will result in an increase of 20 to 30% more fullness and extention. this has been suggested many times by individuals that have had it done and those comments can be found on this site by doing a search for the master bam and master rc mods.
still trying to get martykl to modify his so he could experience this for himself.
good luck.
You should warn people that if they want to upgrade now, they should make decision 6 months ago :(
I can't wait to have my BAM/RC back :-)
that is why i left the bam and rc's with you thuan, so you could use them while the parts were coming from denmark. too many modifications were sold too quickly for duelund to be able to make the parts in the quantities needed. they are handmade in limited quatities for everyone. good things come to those who wait.
i hope to have them back next week.
best, b
I'm wondering what the difference is between the Gallos and Merlins VSM with RC and BAMM tweaks is in regards to low end extension?

Also cost?

There are no small monitors I have ever heard that can plunge the depths with enough authority to be mistaken for a larger well designed full range with music that demands this. Even the heralded Magico minis which do a good job of pushing the limits in regards to what a smaller monitor can do when price is no object. That is what the larger MErlins and larger designs with larger drivers in general are for.

I will say that with the BAMM in particular, that I would expect the MErlins to do extremely well in all regards for their specific class of speaker, however.

The Gallo's are harder to classify perhaps but I think of them as competing with other larger floorstanding designs in their price range in general, a different class than Merlin VSM, which are best classified as monitors I believe.
I agree that they are monitors (on a integreated, built in stand), with bass performance that transcends the class because of the BAM, while maintaining coherency not really possible with large multi-driver speakers (though some may claim to have found one of these speakers that do have the same type of coherence, I just never heard one). I think the VSMs strikes the right balance between all these needs, but one simply has to listen a decide for themselves if the "formula" works for them. If I read OP right, he is not looking for the deepest bass, but a more musical, saturated, denser mid-range - well the Merlin midrange is fantastic in that sense.
For coherence, which is a big factor in "musicality" for many, including me, I'd look to the MErlins or any other good monitor even over Gallo's.

There are other floorstanding designs in the same price range however that also exhibit top notch coherence along with low end extension, weight, control and authority, among other things that are worth consideration.
mapman, g has a very small room and it is common knowledge that weighted deep bass will do nothing but aggrivate room resonances. the vsm is not made for large rooms and should not be compared to larger floor standing speakers that can go down to dc. it is a highly finnessed thing that can do great magic from 30 up. surely if i wanted to go lower i would not use a 6.5 inch woofer to knock your livingroom into the street. i am after linearity and lack of distortion. still, they can be very impressive in this regard.
it is just my opinion but there is a lot more than coherence going on here. have you ever heard them. new ones sound very different.
"always use the right tool for the right job."

If they do 30hz up, then agree that should most likely suffice in a small room.

However, most very good small monitors I am familiar with do not go that low. For example, I use a pair of Dynaudio COntour 1.3mkii monitors in a 12X 12 room. I think these do things down below 50hz to some extent. VEry nice in that room! Until you compare to larger floorstanders that also fit well into that room and go a bit lower. Then you notice you are missing something with music that benefits from response in the lower octaves.

It is very dependant on room acoustics, agreed. Those same floorstanders that shine in the 12X12 room I mentioned tend to be a bit bass heavy as you describe in the 12X12 sunroom with cathedral ceilings above it. But that can be tamed. It is sometimes easier to subtract what is there to start with than to add it later.
m, i asked if you have heard them?
not only would they suffice in a small room and potentially over power it but i have used them in much larger rooms at shows and many ask, "were is the sub or subs?" if you carefully set them up so that the boundary reinforcements embellish the bottom end, you would be surprized what you can get out of them. and this is with no 2nd or 3rd order harmonic distortion in the bass. mf in sterophile had them going down to 26 hz but i was the one who set them up. i use them in an 8000 cubic foot room at the factory and i am sure "you" would be very surprized at what they can do in this regard.
i like bass every bit as much as you do but there is a time and place for the lowest octaves.
best, b
"m, i asked if you have heard them?"

No, but I have heard a lot of top notch similar monitors and have a good feel for what is possible out of a speaker that size. I've also read a lot about the MErlins.

As I said, I have no doubt they can perform extremely well as do the others, especially in smaller rooms.

But the fact is there is only so much you can wean out of a small box with small drivers.

For some rooms, that may be enough though, granted.
the problem with the merlins is, that you need to spend,
close to $6000 in cables, let alone the amplification,
to mask the lean nature of the sound they produce,
withought cardas cables, they sound like a table top radio,
switched to proac D38, and I'm in heaven:

Juancgenao, you have very unique hearing if the Merlin sounds like a table top radio to you, with ANY cables (well, most any, I'm sure you could find something to screw up the sound of any amp/speaker). Do like the ProAcs though, owned two version over the years.
I think the 3.5s will give a richer presentation than the Strada's, and will represent a nice upgrade.

Now that I think about it, in hearing the descriptions here, both the Gallos have an "airy" (baffleless?) sound. I think they are lovely (esp. for the $), and I'm particularly keen on the 3.5, but if G is looking for more "heft" in sound, he might want to think about a box design. (I have not heard the v3.5s with the bass amp, though.)

Juan I agree that cables are important with the Merlin philosophy but I don't think table top radio is fair. Besides, with copper costing what it does high end cables can be a money maker! I purchased two new meter long Cardas GR 4 years ago which I sold after 2 years with swapping out systems. I recently changed up again only to find the same cable was up by 35%. Anyway, your point is well taken as bobby has looked at all the options to maxamize his speaker which of course includes cables. You wouldn't buy a ferrari and use regular gas would you?
paul, some people like and undertand how to work with linearity/high res and some do not. some want to hook up anything and have good sound and that is ok. but that should tell you something knowing how different components can sound. cables can show this to an even greater degree.
but do not forget that i stated that there is a cable out there that is about $3 a foot that sounds imho, stupid good for the money. $6000 for cables, no. only if you want champion class sound and are prepared to go that route with the rest of the system. the more that the speakers are capable of, the more careful you have to be.
and mapman, this is not a usual monitor. the woofer has an fs of 28 hz and has a 1 inch excursion. for 99% of moderate rooms this speaker is more than enough. one day you need to hear it and experience its "total" potential.
best, bobby
"one day you need to hear it and experience its "total" potential. "

I'll be happy to eat my words if I hear these someday and they redefine the limits of what a smaller monitor can do in terms of weight and impact with music that demands you be able to feel it as much as hear it for teh full experience.

Monitors may do well at plumbing the depths of the low end to a decent extent, but all good ones I am aware of tend to start to roll off at at higher frequencies than good true full ranges so the energy delivered in the lower octaves may still be quite good, but not the best, even in a small room and with a circuit like the BAMM providing a boost.

Typically, the only way to really know what is missing is to experience it first.

Also, I will say that for a lot of genres, like smaller ensemble jazz and classical, it is not a big issue. For most else, it can be and often is, I believe, at least with better recordings.

That's really the only limitations I hear with very good monitors compared to larger designs typically, even in a smaller room where I have experimented with both.
Mapman, I think that is a pretty good take overall. I will say that within its limitations, though suprisingly minor given its "small" size, the Merlins do what they do so well, that I don't ever really think about what they don't do that a larger, more complex multi-driver box might do better, and few of them can match the Merlin in those areas it excels - but like anything else, it might not be the speaker for everyone. As Daniel Webster said of Dartmouth, "it is small, but there are those that love it.":)
I would add also that for smaller rooms, monitors and other designs that more closely approximate a point source tend to perform best overall in general.

Also, I believe monitors + sub(s) is a very practical and modular solution when needed/desired.
We've been waiting for a subwoofer for the VSM sans BAM - not sure it would be better overall, but one would expect deeper, more dynamic bass, but perhaps at a cost sonically in other ways.
Mapman wrote.."....However, most very good small monitors I am familiar with do not go that low. For example, I use a pair of Dynaudio COntour 1.3mkii monitors in a 12X 12 room. I think these do things down below 50hz to some extent. VEry nice in that room! Until you compare to larger floorstanders that also fit well into that room and go a bit lower. Then you notice you are missing something with music that benefits from response in the lower octaves...."

Mapman, I recently went from a pair of Contour 1.3mkii's (which I had for 10 years) to VSM-MMi. Didn't realize what I was missing, especially with regards to the increased bass extension and I don't even have the master BAM/RC's. That from a speaker which height/width/depth wise is virtually identical to the 1.3 mkii on stands.
i said earlier that you have to hear it properly set up to experience what it can do. without doing this, all comments are speculation. it is not meant for huge rooms. it is designed for more intimate settings where the lowest octave would overpower the room or bigger speakers/room treatments would dominate the appearance. in these intimate settings large wave launch systems would have too much stratification of the output and sound too complicated losing the appeal to most.
use the right tool for the right job.
thank you miker.
I was a bit suprised myself when I went from Vandersteen 3A Signatures with two 2wq subwoofers to the VSMs and first listened to the VSMs expecting a drop off in bass satisfaction - I simply could not believe what I was hearing from these "small" speakers with one 7" woofer - it did not seem possible. Is it the deepest bass possible - most certainly not, but I never felt short changed - though I do mostly listen to acoustic jazz where the demands for real low bass power is probably not the most challenging. Now that was my impression 9 years ago, and things have only gotten better, incrementally with the "e" version and then the Master BAM. Too me, the VSM is a very sane speaker for the types of rooms most of us use them in - at 13x18x9 - just about perfect to my ears.
Bobby, is there any advantage to going much beyond 60watts with the VSMs? How much power is really needed to get the most out of them. They always seemed to sound exceptional with the VSNs at 100 watts? Any reason to go beyond that?
imho no.
you should be able to produce about 105 db with 60 watts and a little left in reserve would be good for dynamic peaks. 106 is as loud as a symphony can play but in 3000 cubic feet that is extremely loud even if you have the room damped for reflections relative to the sitting position.
60 or 70 watts is all that is needed for most listening. the vsn 100's are 100 watts a side and great for shows. but remember how loudly i played it with the fila in nyc?
and that was about 2800 cubic feet with a 30 watt amp.
i feel most people are 110% happy with 30 watts.
best, b
I feel that way, given that I'm driving them with RM10 35watts EL84s, and 60 watts Class A, triode, Atma OTLs and never feel underpowered, but was wondering if I was missing "something" - glad to know I'm not, seems just as powerful as when I used the CAT 100 watts, and Music Reference RM9 SE 162 watts. My feeling mid wattage versions of basic circuits sound better than their more powerful iterations IF the the wattage is sufficient. Makes it alot easier to find a nice amp to drive the VSMs.
p, more powerful amps have more output devices and a lower output impedance. as a result you have higher damping and usually feedback.
lower wattage amps tend to sound more room filling and more relaxed. this is part of what you are hearing.
this is a great match for the imp corrected and relatively efficient vsm.
"it is designed for more intimate settings where the lowest octave would overpower the room or bigger speakers/room treatments would dominate the appearance. in these intimate settings large wave launch systems would have too much stratification of the output and sound too complicated losing the appeal to most."


I hear you and understand completely.

Good monitors or other similar floorstanders that also tend to feature a high degree of driver coherency in close quarters by design, like the OHM Walsh speakers with CLS drivers I am fond of, are the best choice generally for close quarters. Some might be a bit too much in the bass for small rooms perhaps, but there are often ways usually to tame that via placement, treatments, etc. as needed, I suspect. You definitely do not want too big a speaker in a small room just because, that is for certain.
g has a room that is 12 by 12 so moving the speakers to find a null point or using bass traps are probably out of the question. since small rooms have an abundance of bass reinforcement modes, having a large footprint speaker will also limit him greatly. using the right tool for the right job will get him much farther down the road to musical enjoyment. all this talk about 5% of the bandwidth that is not even there in all of the music or recordings is imho, fruitless. his situation is what it is. now perhaps if he was in a larger room and he personally wanted the lowest octave... he was talking about midrange fullness imo.
With regards to the original topic, I've owned Merlin VSM-MXe (bought used) and currently own Gallo 3.1 (bought new).

Which do I prefer? It's hard to say, they have different strengths and weaknesses, but in my experience they are both truly excellent speakers.


* Most coherent and "clear" sounding speakers I've ever heard probably
* Incredibly transparent
* Reference quality tonality for music with mid to smaller ensembles
* Great imaging and staging

* With the disclaimer that in my personal system, my room, my preferences, IMHO ,etc. and everything, they were ultimately a bit on the lean side for me, in the lower mids and upper bass. I used a Cary Sixpac EL34 amp.
* Macrodynamically challenged with bigger music, ie. orchestral and big rock compared to speakers with more and bigger drivers

Gallo 3.1

* Excellent Macro and micro dynamics (beats Merlin in Scale)
* Staging and imaging at least as good as the Merlins (for me)
* Very holographic and airy presentation

* Not quite as clear and crisp as the Merlins in the mids and highs.

Ultimately these are two speakers in similar camps - they are both ultra high resolution speakers capable of sounding very very good. Both are created by very talented designers. If you want a bit more meat in the lower midrange and the bass, go for the Gallo. If you want more clarity and open-ness in the mids, go for the Merlin. No losers here IMHO
"No losers here IMHO" - and mine too.

How big was the room you used these in?

BP's argument as I understand it is that the VSMs are optimal for a smaller 12X12 room like the OPs.

My experience based on other highly regarded smaller monitors I have heard including my own in similar size rooms tells me that may not be the case if the goal is meat on the bones in addition to all the other good stuff I know good smaller monitors can deliver. Small monitors are an excellent fit for smaller rooms in most regards but not necessarily optimal from a "meat on the bones" perspective.
mapman just wants to grind this out some more.
first of all the mx is notceably leaner than the mxe that the op was asking about and profoundly leaner than the same speaker with a master bam and master rc. to be truly indicative of the potential you have to hear or discuss a current design. however, i really do thank you for your input gaotwuss as you see that there is more to sound than the bottom octave. and if you want more get a sub... that is why i am working on one. you see, i like bass too. :-)
m, i also never said the the vsm was designed for 12 by 12 foot rooms, you did. it thrives in rooms of around 2500 to 3300 cubic feet.
there is a lot of personal taste involved here and we know yours m. why not let it alone. you have not heard them so why comment.
best, b
goatwuss, my appology. i saw mx as the header and when i re read your post in full i saw that you had mxe's.
sorry about that but you can see why it happened.
best, b
"you have not heard them so why comment."

BP, as the vendor, you are undeniably biased on this subject, so why comment?

I won't stop commenting.

Will you?

The VSM can sound lean but with careful matching this can be ELIMINATED, but maybe not enough for some tastes. I have owned the VSM-M for 10 years and do not note any leanness at any frequency but it hasn't always been the case. I tend to believe that any 2-way speaker that is ultra resolving will exhibit this tendency without careful system matching, especially one with the aspirations of the VSM. I'd bet the same issues could be the case with the Magico Mini's as well. I can't compare with the Gallos which I haven't listened to. I listen to a fair amount of large scale orchestral music without the feeling that anything is missing or out of balance, just one man's perspective with plenty of experience, trials and experimentation with this design. There are absolutely no issues with bass in this set-up although some might want more. My priorities are natural resolution and control not quantity, ymmv. I really feel that the continuous comments concerning leanness with reference to highly resolving speakers in general is often an issue with other aspects of set-up and ancillaries. Of course some want a different presentation, warmer, fuller etc. and this can also be taken into consideration when attempting to read into listening impressions. You can't have it all in a 2-way but you get quite a bit with the Merlins, coherence, tonality and resolution being their strong suits.

My room size is 16X18X10 into an L shaped area 12X8X10. The speakers are on the 16' wall out 30" from the back wall and approximately 5' from either side wall.
System matching is key, but in my not so humble opinion, the latest version of the VSM, actually beginning with the lead free MXe, is the antithesis of "lean." My experience is that it sounds best with tubes in the amp chain (I prefer tubed preamp and solid state power amp), but I agree with Tubegroover that ANY speaker this resolving can sound a bit strident when interfaced with lesser-quality gear (including CABLES). I'm picky like most audiophiles and I went through several amps before settling on my current setup (tubed Bel Canto preamp with Belles 150A Reference amp). Tried Ayre AX-7, YBA Passion Integre, Coda Continuum Ultra, and other solid state integrated amps, but having tubes in the pre section brought out the magic that these speakers can conjure. The BAT 300X-SE with its tubed preamp section was my favorite (and used previously with Tyler Acoustics speakers) but did not have a tape loop, and I have multiple sources so opted for the Bel Canto SEP2 and Belles amp. Love the combination of nuance and power that this combo provides, conveyed via Audience AU24E interconnects and AU24 speaker cables. No desire to upgrade further except when that aforementioned subwoofer hits the market :)
I've heard the Magico mini in a smaller dealer showroom off good tube amplification. They are lovely sounding speakers, but again not as full and muscular, weighty, meat on the bones, whatever as other good larger designs I have heard. That is the only criticism I would have with them and I suspect that is why Magico makes larger models also.

Personal taste is always a big factor.

I've not heard the most recent Gallos, but have heard the prior version. I liked them at first but preferred Quad ESLs overall in that setup when I then heard them based on overall clarity and detail top to bottom, though the Quads are generally not considered the nth degree in dynamics either. The better monitors I have heard (magico, Totem, Dynaudio) compare favorably with the Quads in my assessment.

All things considered, I would lean towards any good monitor most likely over the Gallos based on my limited exposure, but I'll stick to my comments noting that smaller monitors are not likely to be the nth degree in macrodynamics, weight, meat on the bones etc., though likely still very fulfilling in that regard.

MErlin vsm may well be the cream of the crop and not even the most expensive. Most people who own them seem to hang on to them, always a good sign. BP is obviously quite passionate about his products and has seemingly spent years refining the design rather than changing directions, a very good omen. Don't know for sure. Haven't heard the buggers. Would like to someday.

Mapman, VSMs might not be everyone's cup of tea, but well worth tasting if only to know. But alas there are other tasty offerings also worth listening to - that is the fun of it. Though, I have owned MX then MXe for 9 years and I've not heard a speaker I would prefer to own in my mid-size listening room, and I stopped looking. NOS EL84s? that is another story. Cheers.
I FOund this chart I thought useful while looking for information on exactly what kinds of sounds we might want to hear that fall into the lowest audible octave.

Audible Frequency Spectrum

It helps to understand what one might be missing if a speaker is challenged below 40hz and whether or not it matters.

I'm sure there is other similar info out there as well that might help add additional insight.

In addition to the sounds listed that fall into the lowest audible octave, I would add that many electronically generated sounds from synthesizers and other modern electronic music sources commonly used in much modern pop music deliver output that can fall in this range. I find a lot of better quality modern pop recordings and remixes from teh last 10 years or so in particular sound best FWIW when the lowest octave is fully present.