Have you heard the latest Merlin VSM-MXe speakers?

Have you heard the latest Merlin VSM-MXe Speakers? — "Wow!!!" That's what I said after setting up these wonderful and beautiful speakers and listening for about one minute to a very familiar CD. I mean straight out of the box with only about 8 hours of playing time at the factory they simply overwhelmed me! Where have they been all my audiophile life? Why did I not find Bobby Palkovic's masterpiece before now?

How could he make this kind of music with two drivers in not so big, but absolutely drop-dead gorgeous piano black lacquered, cabinets, and an electronic box called a 'Super BAM'? I don't know! Wow!!! In my 50 years of putting systems together... including such speakers as double KLH-9 and Martin-Logan electrostatics... Fulton Premiers... the biggest of the Magneplaner speakers with the four bass panels... Wilson Watt Puppies with the Whow... and, on and on. Merlin VSM-MXe's are the BEST!

I've had them breaking in for 10 days now, and they have compelled me to listen to one favorite CD after another into the wee hours of the night. They are so musical! They have just the right texture... female vocals have that "slobber" factor... strings twang with all the nuances. They are coherent and transparent... and, oh so dynamic! The soundstage is deep and wide with the right height. And, when you close your eyes they simply disappear, leaving you with the people and the instruments performing right there in your living room. They make music!

Folks, don't ever listen to these speakers if you can't buy them... you will be sick until you can. Bobby, you did it!

I first purchased the Merlin TSM-MMe Monitors about one year ago after a respected dealer told me I should try them. I was totally satisfied with the sound, even though I was missing a little on the bottom end. They are the best monitor speakers I've ever had. But, I kept thinking, "If the TSM's are this good, how could the VSM's be so much better?" So, I just had to see... you know... the audiophile thing.

If you have never had Merlin speakers, the TSM's are a good place to start, and they will wet your appetite. But, just know that one day, as I was compelled to do, you will have to step up and get the big ones. They are complete! You will instantly hear what you have been missing in other speaker systems.

Now, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the music. It's all there!
What kind of music do you listen too? How are they with Rock, metal, industrial, prog rock, pop, and electronic? I too have been thinking about these speakers but because 80% of my listening is the genres I just listed I am very skeptical that even with the BAM in place that a two way can push enough air to give you what say a Vandersteen 5 can do. I am pretty sure the mids and highs are about as good as they can get but what about the bass. They can probably play clean to 110db but thats not all there is too it. I recently heard a 2 way Audio Physics system playing some 'Porcupine Tree' at a friend's house and it sounded constricted and thin and just did not sound right no matter what we tried. It was loud thou - gave me a headache. A speaker thats only good at a few genres of music at a decent volume don't cut it IMO.
Anyhow, don't mean to burst your bubble, like I said I am very intrigued by these, just a bit curious about whether they can do it all. I used to have a dealer nearby, now I have to travel quite a ways to hear them. Maybe someday.
Good listening
Just recieved mine in the mail and set them up yesterday. Just a few hours of listening so far but i am very impressed. I have not set up the BAM yet though. Should I expect that much more!? I'm a bit concerned about the BAM influencing the very nuetral uncolored sound that I have sought to achieve through my system. I fear it might constrict things as well. Of course I'll have to experiment. I have no tape loop in my pre so I'll have to run it between amp and pre. Any thoughts there? I'm glad your enjoying them as much as I am!

Skooks is a grandfather. He can't help you. What system do you have now?
You are not beginning to hear what these speakers can do w/o the SBAM.
if you want to fill a large room and play all sorts of electronic music then consider getting a sub or two with the mxe. why give up the magic that the speaker has to offer for a few % of the music when you can augment this. and they can put out tons of bass and impact but it depends on your room size and ancillaries and how well they do this on their own. howards question is important and needs answering.
skooks may be older but he has had a number of champion systems and his comments are welcome because he speakes in a relative sense.
put you bam between the cdp and pre.
is your pre a tube unit.
if you read the two reviews of the vsm mme or mxe on the main page of www.merlinmusic.com it says clearly why not to use the bam between the pre and power.
and if you want to hear the speakers sound the most linear, most continuous, complete and without distortion, then put the bam in and leave it in. the speakers will sound over bright from distortion and lacking body without it.
read marty's bfs comments about this very point. same thing said in the review from italy from igor zamberlan and another from uwe kirbach in germany (to come).
be open minded. if you use the speakers the way they were designed to be used, they will sound much better and play way more music in an enjoyable manner.
[email protected]
Thanks for your response. I certianly am open-minded I just have not set up the BAM yet. I will though. I mostly us a TT. In this case, is it not better to set it up between my pre and amp? Pre is a tubed unit.
m, does the pre have a processing loop?
you want to hook the bam up so that it is buffered by the tube line output stage of the pre amp and then it will sound as it can. between the pre and power is after the tube line output stage so the bam is not buffered. the bam also has a capacitive input and used between a pre and power amp will sound leaner and less complete.
try calling the pre manufacturer and see if they will add a processing/tape loop for you.
just a thought.
also just to see what i mean, try cdp out to bam and bam to cd input and then compare to bam between pre and power. you will hear it both ways and sense what you are missing. this is a worthwhile experiment and says it all.
Skooks' bio on his webpage would suggest that he doesn't have the same taste in music(or has even heard any of the bands mentioned)as that of Arkio and that's what my comment was based upon. I kept the post short as it was late.
I'm sure Skooks protected his hearing while flying A-4's as I did when I worked on F-16's and he know's how to seperate the "cream from the crop".
a great speaker can play any kind of music, period. doesn't matter if it is classical, jazz, bluegrass, rock, electronic or heavy metal. the most natural will make any of the music types sound more natural too. now if you want a speaker to act as a tone control for different recording qualities, we do not do that as you know.
Yeah...I know. I just remembered that I was "Merlinized/Merlinified" 10 years ago. Long Live The Magic!
Skooks, is the Ars Sonum next?
he is getting some new audio reasearch gear as far as i know, i can't wait to hear what he thinks of it. had a chat with him about the fila but he had already gone in a different direction.
best, b
On VSM Amplification....

Since the thread has moved onto partnered amplification, I 'll share a recent experience. Disclosure: this tale winds a bit.

I regularly use 3 speakers: recently upgraded VSMs, Verity Parsifal Encores, and Sonus Faber Cremonas. Until recently, the SFs were powered by an ARC LS25 and VT 130SE in my living room. The P/E and VSMs share time upstairs in my music room (still a work in progress) mostly driven by a pair of Cary 805.

A recent decorating project moved the ARC electronics upstairs as part of a spouse mandated "clean-up" project. In my experience, he SFs are remarkeably forgiving of electronics and I left them hooked up to my Sonos zone player - a piss poor 50W integrated/networked digital source that is small enough to meet the new decor standards. Sure enough, it sounded surprisingly good, until the volume went up. Then, the forgiveness stopped.

Maybe there's a stylish cheapish, amp out there -with sufficient current and WAF to fix the problem. I decided to try some small, lacquer finished 125W SS mono amps called the TAD Hibachis - in home trial, $1300, not much to lose. And it worked like a charm - much better than I was looking for - but, as it turns out, maybe not quite small enough to meet the decor requirement.

Rather than return them straight away, I brought them upstairs where the Merlin (as usual) was hooked up. The Hibachis looked good next to the black lacquer VSMs, so I figured I'd give it a shot. (I understand the heresy of SS amplification with the VSMs, but this was mainly just for curiosity.) In short, the result was very educational.

IMHO, The Cary has the best bottom end of any SET amp that I've heard. But the little TADs completely (and I mean completely) transformed the bass response of the VSMs. Anyone who worries about insufficient bass from the Merlins shouls at least try a high output SS amp to establish a benchmark for the speakers' bass capabilities. I'm not recommending this combo - you definitely lose some mid-range "magic" - but you'll learn something important about the capabilities of the VSM.

Next, I'll try the TAD w/the Veity P/E and see what happens. In the meantime, it seems with one small "risk free" purchase, I've managed to screw up 3 systems. The SF still has no power amp. I need to find a better mate for my VSMs, and the Verity P/Es have 2 avbailable amps for part-time duty.

Key lesson here - the VSM keeps surprising me with its ability to reveal the character of everything in front of it. Almost a year after the upgrade, I'm still enjoying this speaker immensely.

What are your thoughts on the P/E's versus the Merlin's? Have you ever thought about doing a review? Do you use the Verity's bass port facing forward or aft?
see if you can find a used bel 1001a.
ss but i think no feedback and low damping.
have a friend that used otls and prefers this amp on his vsm mxs.
your mxes sound more fleshed out and richer than mxs so they sound wonderful with ss, imho. and...should be even better sounding with this amp.
let me know if you find one and how you like it.
Ah yes … the “50 years of putting systems together” should have been a big hint Skooks would not be able to help me with some of the music genres I mentioned . Sorry bout that. But maybe other VSM owners can chime in with their experiences with other musical styles. I currently own Von Schwiekert VR4jr with a W8 Sim Audio Amp, Supratek Preamp …. I am looking to move up the speaker food chain, have been for some year and a half but have been ending up upgrading other equipment as I do appreciate my VS alot. They have been adapting to my electronic upgrades very well. However sooner then later my Vons are going to home theatre duty and I wanted something in the 10-12K range that will give me the ability to appreciate all types of music with the same authority and even more refined – but I think because of my musical interests I really think I need to go to full range. I don’t think I want to have to add subs. I think at that price range you should be able to get a decent speaker that can do it all very well.

Bobby – I’m sure you have been asked many times, but is there any plans for a 3 or 4 way full range speaker in your line up in your company’s future – or would there likely be too many compromises? Just curious.

Good listening
So Bobby,
If I don't have a tape loop and I have multiple sources, whats the next step for the SBAM? Am I out of luck and should I sell the speakers right now!? The pre amp stays so there's no wiggle room there.

What are my choices? I certianly do not want to be switching from source to source just to hook things up to the SBAM as the Italian reviewer suggested.
m, we can upgrade the bam to a dual input version if need be but if you have more sources than 2, you are in the same position. again, call the pre distributor or manufacturer and see if they can add a tape/processor loop. if not then i am sorry to say that you will have to sell the speakers. the bam is a very important piece and if you have a pair of mmes or mxes, you are lost without it. what pre is it?

There is no problem operating with the SBAM between preamp & amp. I have been doing this for years & like you use a preamp to switch between TT & CDP. Just hook it up & enjoy.

no 3 or 4 ways planned.

"I don’t think I want to have to add subs. I think at that price range you should be able to get a decent speaker that can do it all very well."

i really can't offer an opinion on this forum about this because it would most certainly cross the line. if you want to call me at the factory i will tell you what i feel about this and what you may miss. 585 367 2390
d, you are are correct of course but imho, the sbam sounds better buffered by the tube line output stage of the pre.
m, using the bam between the pre and power to have multiple functions is still a whole lot better than not using the bam at all. sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
Arkio, do you have the Vandersteen 5A?
Dgarretson, you don't hear a difference running the BAM into a tube pre buffer compared with it running into an amp after the pre? Or are you saying it is good enough, so don't worry?

Reviews probably aren't my thing, because I tend to qualify my opinions to the point where I'm not sure they're really useful for evaluation purposes. I will offer descriptive accounts though, and to that end I compared the Merlins with the Verity a bit on a thread called "My Merlin upgrade experience". To recap and expand a bit on those comments:

IMHO The VSMs and P/Es are 2 wonderful speaker systems, each among the best performers I've ever heard - again, qualified by my preferences. (I'd call my Cremonas very, very good speakers). The Merlins are more revealing - for better and worse - of what's infront of them. Better, because that's the point of the game (at least in one respect). Worse, because so much of the stuff in front of them is revealed to be lacking-particularly recordings, and more paricularly rock recordings.

The P/Es are wonderful, musical, and pretty revealing in their own right, just not to the same degree as the VSM. The Cremonas are the least transparent, most forgiving of the three. They are both warm and alive with a bit of a bump in the presence range to offfset the bump in the upper bass. Even mediocre records tend to sound decent on the Cremona, and for this reason they are probably a very good choice for many people.

The Verity walks the middle ground - just a smidge warm of neutral. The VSMs have evolved from slightly lean (SE) to damn near dead neutral (MX) IMHO. To my ear, the MX with the current BAM, sounds an awful lot like old Quads seamlessly mated to a very good subwoofer with extention to +/- 30 hz.

Since I had the Merlins upgraded, they have pretty much replaced the P/Es in my main system. When I do switch over to the Verity, I enjoy what I hear. The sound is different and may show a new "take" on a recording that is surprising and pleasing. But the truth is, thus far, I usually flip back to the VSMs pretty quickly. I could certainly live happily with either, but I live more happily with both.


PS - Bobby, at some point I'll rationalize all my stuff (i.e shed some gear) and then figure out the best mate for my VSMs. I'll be sure to check out BEL.

I tried my modded BBAM in the tape loop of my previous preamp (BAT VK5i) and noted little difference as compared to BBAM placed between tube pre and tube amp. My system is balanced end-to-end, but as my current tube pre (Atma-Sphere MP-1) offers only RCA on the tape loop, I can't really use the BBAM there. But more simply I'm saying that the BBAM sounds damned fine between tube pre and tube amp. Bobby of course is a perfectionist. He is the culprit who called attention to issues that led me down the mad trail of modifying my BAT VK75SE until it perfectly complemented the VSMs.
Thanks for the encouragement both from Dgarreston and Bobby. I know I have to do what I have to do but man when I bought these things I was assured that the pre amp connection would be fine. Now folks are saying other things. I really don't want a dual op BAM, to many cables and I worry about the integrity of a phono cable connection through the BAM. I only have a cdp and a TT.
That said, I;ll try the BAM with the pre amp connection keeping the longest cable from BAM to pre. We'll see but I'll tell ya flat out I'm not impressed by the possibility of owning such great speakers and not getting the most out of them.
My pre is a full function Doshi. He told me today he could put an external loop on the back of the pre for me. We'll see, it will mean I'll have a jumper there if other speakers ever fom into the picture.
as i said m, try the bam between the cdp and the pre and then in between the pre and power to compare the buffered and unbuffered sound. this will give you the idea immediately. i know what i prefer but that does not mean you will. if you prefer it buffered then have your pre modified with a processing loop.
the benefits of a bam type filter proprietery to any speaker would almost be as obvious as it is to the vsm. it is much more than just an equalizer and phase correction device. the amount of im distortion and 2nd and 3rd order harmonic distortion removed makes it a must.
secondly, you really have to judge if the speakers are providing you with what you want in sound. if they are conveying what you need then you will get the pre modified to get the most out of them. they may also convey more than you expected with the bam between the pre and power.
you have to be the judge.
but, if the speakers are used the way they were designed to be used you will get more out of them. this i know for sure.
one of the most famous reviewers in europe is using a dual input bam for cds and phono with great results.
the benefits of the bam far outweigh any potential negative aspect.
good luck,
You have got a fantastic pre-amp (I've heard DougDeacon's) and from what I understand, Nick is very customer oriented. I'm sure he could hook you up with a loop that would work very well, but first I would try listening to it with the BAM btwn amp and pre. It might surprise you.
Bobby, swampwalker good to hear and thanks for the encouragment. I'm willing to work with this whole thing so I have a cable question. Bobby, I can predict what you'll say but chime in anyway, I use a 1.5m stealth indra between pre and amp. Should I use the same brand between amp an bam or what?

Isn't that hte preamp that you can't buy unless you're a friend or a friend's friend of the designer? Aquring the Ars has stopped me from worrying about such issues as component matching.
always the same cable in and out. use of different cables will result in a character clash and a reduction in fidelity.
that said, you may want to experiment with cables to an degree at a later date to see if your new system is as good sounding as it can be. call me at 585 367 2390 for a discussion about this, i will not do it here. the speakers work, sound and were designed to do certain things. it would be good for you to hear this 1st hand.
what model do you have? describe them?
best, b
TAbl10s- I don't know about availability and have not inquired for 2 reasons. 1. I am pretty happy with my VAC Ren pre, which has a tape loop for the BAM for my Merlins; and 2, I am a friend of a friend ;~). They sure don't come up often used (there is a Doshi amp on right now, not mine).
m, have you compared the sound of the bam between the pre and power and between the cdp and pre?
i am interested in your findings.
happy weekend!
best, b
Since this is sort of a "Review of the Merlins" thread, I thought I'd add my two cents. This is offered as nothing other than the musings of one satisfied customer. I have no connection to the manufacturer, other that a few phone conversations and emails. That said, I would be less than honest if I said that my experience with the excellent customer service offered by Bobby P. has not influenced my opinions.

I have been a consumer of high-end audio equipment for over twenty-five years. I’ve had about seven amplifiers and as many speakers during that time, to give you some insight into my experience level. I have had periods of relative stability in my system, so I do not consider myself a raging gear-head. I’ve listened to a lot of stuff in stores, but I know that this is not the best way to audition gear.

While I am an amateur musician and have good ears, it took me a few years to realize that there’s a difference between impressive hifi and quality music reproduction. There’s only one criterion for me now: Can I relax into the music? If the answer is no, then I’m not interested in the tested component.

For about two years now, I’ve been in the market for new speakers. I’ve been living with excellent two-way monitors by a now-defunct manufacturer called Shamrock Eires. They have been very satisfying. It amazes me that I spent under $1,500 for these (used – new they were $3,000), and to my ears they sound more natural than a couple of $10K speakers I’ve heard. I’ve auditioned about 8 different pair in my home over the past year including Proacs, Harbeths, Zu’s, Spendors, Acoustic Zen, and each time I went back to my two-way monitors. Whether it was room match or equipment synergy, none of the other speakers allowed me to relax into the music.

That is, until the Merlins came home with me. They were an upgraded pair of Milleniums that were on consignment at my local audio exchange. All of a sudden, I started hearing an inner-soul of the music that had eluded me. Hall ambience became a part of the experience like never before. At the same time, everything about my Shamrocks that I love was still there, but with more refinement. I was still tapping my toes, but there was a slight artificial “liveliness” with the Shamrocks that settled down with the Merlins.

I loved them so much that I wanted to optimize them according to everything that I had read online, including the change to no-lead solder and the upgrade of the super-BAM and power cord. Bobby talked me through the whole shipping process and took his time with me as though I were purchasing his speakers new. The cost was quite reasonable. I can honestly say that this was the best customer service that I’ve ever experienced in the high-end audio industry.

Everything is back home with me now and still breaking in, but right now it’s all sounding even better than before. Choral music is simply glorious. I’ve never heard this kind of hall ambience other than in a live music hall or cathedral. Solo bowed double-bass appropriately rumbled my chest. Acoustic jazz has the PRaT that I can’t live without.

The next step for me is to "downsize" to the ARS-Sonum Filarmonia integrated, which I have on order. I'm totally trusting Bobby (and the user reviews) on this one.

The Merlins have clearly stood my personal test and the test of time. Not too many components I could say that about.

System: Naim CDS-3; Rebuilt Lenco L75 tt, Shelter 5000 cart., Origin Live Rega 250 tonearm, Lamm LP2 phono pre, Thor TA-1000 line stage, Art Audio Jota mono-blocks.
A friend is using my Ars in his bedroom system(it won't work with his Vandy Quatro's)and loves it. I should note that he's not using the "Lead-free" version of the GR PC(or even the regular GR), but he likes the sound nontheless.
I thought that I might resurrect this thread rather than starting a new one because of Shooks comment regarding starting off with the TSM’s. I too am considering Merlins. Unfortunately I have no way of auditioning them without traveling a pretty good distance. However, based on everything that I’ve read here on Audiogon, it appears that the Merlin speakers may be better suited to my current tube components than my present speakers. I also would like to start with the TSM’s to get a better idea of the Merlin sound. I have found that extensive home auditioning is the ONLY way to tell if a component is to your liking. Assuming that it is, my long range plan would be to purchase the VSM’s, and use the TSM’s for surrounds. My present system (for music) consists of a Conrad Johnson CT6 pre, two Music Reference RM10’s run in mono block, and an Audio Aero Capitol CDP. My present speakers are Totem Mani’s up front and Totem Model One’s for surrounds. I also use a Velodyne DD12 sub. Although the Mani’s will be a pretty tuff act to follow, the more I listen to the Mani’s the more I feel I’m not getting the dynamics that I might get from the Merlin’s. So Shooks (if you’re still there) or Bobby, or anyone else, your comments would be most appreciated.

Regards, Mark
Mark, I think you will find those Music References to work very well for you. I've been through RM10s, RM9s and finally the RM9 Special Edition. They all sounds excellent with the VSMs. You could do worse:). Another option is to keep the Ars Sonum in your sights for a "low" cost integrated solution that works marvelous with the Merlins.
Thanks for your comments Pabul57. I’ve followed some of your other posts and I know you’re quite a fan of Music Reference. I’ve even thought about trying the RM9 SE’s, but I think I’ll keep my sites set on speakers for now.
I think you are on the right path; you will find very few former Merlin VSM owners. I have had many auditions at my home and I would say they have always garnered praise. Amazing for a smallish two-way. But its what you get when you combine a great designer obsessed with improving a basic idea over time. I won't say they are for everyone, but they sure do please me.
Mark, For your long-range plan consider a third TSM for center channel. I'm using this in a HT system. FYI, Vel DD integrates well with VSM, provided you have down-reved V2.1 or below on the sub. AFAIK, newer DD sw precludes setting the crossover below 40hz.
Thanks Dgarretson. I don't use the center channel but I'm glad to hear the Velodyne works well with Merlin. I have an older model so crossing over below 40 Hz is not a problem.

And Skooks please pardon the misspelling of your name in my previous post. I don't mean to hijack your thread but you had such a good response I was hoping to hear back from some of the same people.
Do you all prefer the BAM in tape-loop over BAM between pre-and power amplifier?

I used to have the Merlin Generation III or SE with the last BAM before the super-BAM. In the beginning I used the BAM in the tape-loop of my Hovland HP-100. Under a listening session with a friend of mine we switched to between Hovland HP-100 and Graaf GM20.

The sound between pre and power was somehow “clearer”, leaner, with a deeper and more defined soundstage. More articulated in a way (as I remember it) tighter? BUT, it wasn’t as smooth, warm and full as with the BAM in tape-loop. My guess is that the better place will depend on taste, choice of music and set-up. But that’s just my opinion.

These days I’m using a pair of MXe with super-BAM RCA/XLR. I have not tried this BAM in tape-loop because I did prefer between Hovland and Graaf with the last speakers/BAM. Is the super-BAM different in this regard?
Has anybody heard the Merlins with Wavac electronic?
Wavac has some monoblocks with 805 tubes, rated 55W, (MD-805)?

Bobby will almost always recommend that you use the tape loop as first choice. 2nd best alternative is between your source and preamp. BAM or SuperBAM between amp and preamp is not recommended and only a last resort.
In addition to sounding worse, it will open up the risk that DC leakage from your amp(e.g. if you blow tube or a transistor board in your amp) could send a surge that would damage the BAM. The first two options are safer and better sounding. Cheers,
I didnt know that....thanks
Spencer, The BAM is capacitor-coupled at input and will not be damaged by a DC pulse from an upstream component. Is it really possible that an amp could propagate DC leakage backwards through its input? I've never heard of an upstream component being damaged in this manner.
Well, in my last setup (speakser and bam) i did prefer the BAM between pre and power.
Not to begin with, but as the setup evolved. Not in every way, but in sum.

But as already said, I have not tested yet with new speakers and bam. I will, but I have just got an other GM20 (mono) in the setup and need some more time before introducing other changes.

Between source and pre is not an option for me because I mostly play vinyl and use the phonostage included in the pre-amplifier.
Fosse, your experience mirrors mine with an Atma-Sphere MP-1 preamp. However, as the tape loop on this preamp is RCA only, and the LS output to amp is balanced differential XLR, it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.
i have read through this a few times now and i think fosse and daveg have a handle on what makes them happy. their specific preference is imho because of what they have in their system. since we are all different in how things affect us, it is possible that we can differ in our opinions. when a sub is used it tends to make less difference where the bam is used because of the added fullness. but in a sub-less system the additional fullness and relaxed nature of the buffered sound makes most happier.
now, if you do not have a tape loop and use multiple sources, use of the bam between the pre and power amp will still benefit the sound much more so than not using it.
try it both ways to see how you like it best.
my very best regards,
Bobby, I am a huge fan of your speakers, my friend Dr. George has a pair of VSMs + BAM and he is very happy.

I would like to point out that not all tape loops are optimal, for example the Audible Illusions Modulus 3 preamp uses a 50 cent op-amp as a tape loop buffer. I do not recommend wiring a BAM through THAT loop, it would degrade the system's sound. The AI's tube outputs sound much better.

On the other had some Jeff Rowland preamps and a few upscale tube preamps use output transformers, which reduce noise and provide a very symmetrical balanced signal. Technically, connecting the BAM to an output transformer should sound cleaner, due to galvanic isolation from preamp / source RF noise and better output signal simetry, specially when using the balanced BAM.
These are exceptions...in general your advice to use the tape loop is a solid starting point.
Best wishes