I know quite a few people have gotten satisfaction out of the Berning/Merlin and Joule/Merlin pairings, for what it's worth.
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Krell makes some fine equipment but Krell and Merlins mix like a Jewish American Princess and a great kitchen...they just don't know what to do with each other. The Berning is the hands down amp for the Merlins or MANY other speakers as well. Joule, Belles, Sim Audio also will give you the therapy we all need after a hard day at the salt mines.
10s...the Merlins are in my bedroom for now. A great speaker but I feel after two years of tweeking,I had just maxed out what I could do with them in my room. I have had a deposit with Bobby for his subs for about two years and when I did not see his subs at CES this year, I knew it was time to move on to the next level. So far the MBLs seem to be a fairly large step up in my system. As a side note, the Bernings are holding their own against some strong SS amps in driving the MBLs.
While the Joule, Berning, CAT are all natural choices, there isn't one clear best for all. Read the archives, and you'll see many detailed descriptions of the relative merits of each of these combos.
I've got the Berning & love it, but if I had a bigger room and the $$$, I'd probably buy the Joule monos...Cheers,
"What amp should I look for if I like the power of the krell and the engaging sound of the pass?"
I also like the Pass very much, it is an extremely musical ss amp among the few ss amps I've heard that offers more than a bit of what tubes do well, sweet and open. Based on what you are asking for I would say the Berning fits the bill very nice. Low heat, dependable, long tube life, self-biasing, great bass, I mean this tube amp will hold its own against many ss amps out there in bass performance and exceeds virtually all I've heard in openness, this with a large variety of speakers.
The Joule is verrry nice but it is a more seductive sound and veers a bit away from neutral. I don't mean this in a negative way but I will say it doesn't have the liveness or present the dynamics shifts of music to the degree of the Berning but it may be more to your taste. It is very open sounding and separates instruments as well as anything I've ever heard. Massed vocals are magical with the Merlin/Joule combo. It will not sound like the Pass or Krell, the Berning would be closer in that regard. If your budget can swing it, I don't believe you will find a better match for your dollars than the zh-270 all things considered but listen to a Joule first, you may become smitten :^) On the other hand if you can't afford Joule just get a Berning and you'll be very happy, indeed!
IMHO Cat jl2 amp with Kondo or messenger or asthetix pre and Verity Sarastro speakers which as the recent reviewer said when you buy them you can stop looking for something else....fyi the cat has better bass then any krell and drives most speakers with authority and full bandwidth finesse!!!up to you as for the rest analog, digital etc...
good luck whatecer you decide to do and remember to enjoy!!