I'd shoot for the Merlin MM's which can be found here for just under 5k used...sometimes.
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You don't mention what kind of music you like, and this info could be
critical to a definitive yes or no recommendation.
I heard Merlins, and based on my music preferences, a sub would've
been required. Since you have a Revel sub, the Merlins might work well
for you, but I'd strongly suggest listening to the Merlins first. On the
other hand, Merlins are fairly popular, and therefore you may be able to
buy a used pair, try them, and re-sell without taking much of a hit if you
find they don't quite work for you.
Also, if you do some further reading you will find that a majority of
Merlin owners use tube amplification (Berning, Joule Electra, etc), and
high end cabling (Cardas). With a purchase of Merlins, you might find
yourself embarking on an unintended upgrade path. That's not
necessarily a bad thing if the Merlin sound is what you're after, but you
would be wise to discover if the Merlin sound is to your liking
before taking the plunge.
Merlins can deliver clean bass down to 25hz if you set them up correctly. I know, I've measured it in my room. They might not have the mid-bass hump that many speakers do, but the notes they play will be tight and realistic, more so than most other speakers. They won't play an 18hz organ note, but that's about it.
Also, while I agree w/Tvad than many Merlin owners(me included) use tube amps, Cardas cabling, etc., there are also many who use ss amps(e.g. Belles 150, Audio Analogue).
If you go w/the used Merlins, one consideration is that those with the glossy colored cabinets (vs. studio black) offer you an upgrade path to MX. IMHO, you want that upgrade path if MX is currently out of your price range.
The best advice is to call Bobby at Merlin and talk with him about your sonic preferences, and your future plans w/other components, both short and long term. He is also now distributing an Italian tube integrated that is rumored to be an excellent cost effective option for those looking for high quality sound with Merlins. Cheers,
I can see some people needing more bass out of these.I have year old VSM-MM's with modded Counterpoint power and pre and just broke in the new Bam and alittle more bottom would be OK,HOWEVER,I am extremely happy and do get alot of bass,though I have not measured it,to my ears its just fine.They are keepers though YMMV as usual in this sport.Cheers,Bob
Thanks for all the information. I do plan to hear a pair of the Merlins first. There is a dealer although he is about an hour and a half from the house.
Music tends to range from jazz, to late 60's rock. Female voice and some new age stuff, such as Morcheba and the like. I seldom go for the hard rock or anything of the sort any longer. Lou Reed, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Yes, Genesis, Tori Amos, Patricia Barber and out to stuff like Cracker's Gentelman's Blues of late.
From what I am seeing here, the Merlins look like they need to be in the mix, so I will have to get out and get a listen. Again thanks for all the feedback.
Merlins ...are there any other choices ?
I owned the Revel M20s before my Merlin VSM-MMs.So,perhaps I can give you insight into what a huge improvement the Merlins will be over the Revels.In a nutshell ...cannot compare.The Merlins are in another league.
You will find the following...the Merlins are much less power dependent,much less position fussy(..and I found the M20s to be quite position friendly) and believe it or not ,easier to match component wise.Bass,which is a strong point of the M20s are bettered by the Merlins.Balance and natural tone of the Merlins are not even comparable....
I have a ss int amp matched with the Merlins.I use a Gryphon Callisto 2100( a Danish masterpiece ...)So,ss amps also an option with Merlin,especially the MM versions.Previously I used the Pathos Logos ,which matched the Merlins pretty well.
I use my Merlins for HT,also.Keep your sub for HT applications ,but for music,you wont need it.If not enough bass with music,search for the problem upstream.
The general trend with Merlins are...TSM owners sell to upgrade to VSMs,VSM-MMs sold for VSM-MXs and when VSMs are sold in favour of other brands,its usually for the + $20000 category...
Merlins are excellent speakers,not debateable .
PS:Looking for a great cd player...have a serious look at the Audio Aero Prima Mk II(new Sony based player).I sold my Mark Levinson 37 and 36s in favour of the Prima...
go to the dealer and listen for yourself and let that be the decision maker. then, if you want to, give me a call and i can make recommendations. the vsm mm is the one you want, the m is not as relaxed and the se is a 10 year old speaker that has been refined on many different levels.
bobby at merlin
Very few people, even on this site, seem to be aware of the Intuitive Design Summit loudspeakers. I don't sell them and have no vested interest in the company. In an attempt to get the word out on these, I have posted a very, very detailed review, right here on A'gon, for other A'gon-izers. The problem is that so many people are impressed by their own speakers, that it's hard to know--without listening for yourself--when something is truly special. Some speakers get raves, and to my ears they stink. Forums like this are a great starting point, but in the end your own ears will have to help you decide. So, I would strongly recommend at least listening to the Intuitive Design Summits, if at all possible. I think that sooner or later people will start to discover them, but so far the silence has been deafening.
Merlins are funny animals. I've had VSM SE's for 5+ years. They can be incredibly convincing - A prominent L.A. area high end dealer came to my home to set up a new 'table and was astonished by the VSM SE's driven by Cary 300B SET's. Subject to ultimate volume limitations, the dynamics from this set up are absolutely startling and vocal reproduction is about as good as it gets.
However, whether using the low power Carys, medium power Cary 845 SETs, medium powered SS Krells, or high power Odyssey SS amps, (yes, I admit that over the years my amp collection has gotten a bit out of hand!) the Merlins always sound a bit thin through the mid bass. Though reasonably neutral, the tonal balance is just a bit lean and the bass alignment highly damped (especially for a ported design).
My guess is that a sub probably isn't the answer - the issue (I'd hesitate to call it a problem) is higher up the frequency ladder. In short, the Merlin SE's are terrific if your taste doesn't demand a warmer tonal balance. Hope these observations help.
as i said earlier, the ses are a 10 year old design and have been improved on in many ways. used with the correct tube gear, wires and source equipment they can still provide some superb sound, that is for sure.
but the m and especially the mm and mx all sound fuller and more relaxed, more even and less bright too.
the biggest issue in the se is the mdf cabinet and the port tuning which were both revised in the millennium.
glad you are still enjoying them and the carys should be s superb match.
bobby at merlin
I can only compare MM's as to how they sounded in my room with whatever speakers I have owned. Compared to Montana EPS--MM;s killed the EPS from the mid on up. However from the mid down it wasn't close at all. Much like the Wilson Sophia--vs MM's--Not close at all. Listen to L.Reed's "Walk On The Wilde Side" on both speakers. No sub needed. It is strange for me in that before I bought these MM's I was unaware of them being bass-shy. Since then I have heard casual mention of this from many more trusted ears;so it ain't just me; my room or my electronics.
the perceived quantity of bass and extension has to do with the tonal balance of your gear, your wires and positioning of the vsm speakers relative to you seating position. if i was at your home and had a chance to work with the speakers and you, perhaps i could have made the problem go away or decrease it enough for you to be happy.
there is no doubt that the montana has more midbass bloom and so does your Wilsons. but that does not make the vsm wrong. the vsm is a totally different design that you must listen to at the right distance, with the correct toe angle so that the tonal blance is right. i design my products with the power response of the speaker and not nearfield testing. i have little or no control over what people use with the speaker or how they set it up.
sorry you didn't like yours george.
too bad i didn't live closer to you because i certainly would have come over and tried to help you.
Personally, I think mid/upper bass response can be tailored greatly by both the gear, room, and the treatments therein.
For example, simply substituting JPS Superconductor (interconnect and/or speaker cable) will produce that kind of bloom and richness, and take the edge off the sound, if it's required. Not only with the Merlins, but with most loudspeaker products.
I've heard Merlins in various instances, and in all cases, I was most impressed. In my opinion, the effectiveness of the design, and skill of implementation of it by the folks at Merlin have been proven by its disparate owners. I've heard a fair share of criticism of the speaker, but it can also be viewed as a testament to the success in dispersing the product. At this point, the owness falls on the individual to mate the speaker with the appropriate gear and site the speaker correctly - in an appropriate room. Is it a PERFECT speaker? No, of course not. Such a beast does not exist, and there never was, and never may be. But, the Merlins sure are as satisfying a loudspeaker as any produced. I can see no reason why a pair of Merlins would not constitute a lifetime purchase, and that's a truely rare thing in high end audio these days.
trelja's point is well taken. the spectral balance/tonal balance is a function of the equipment, set up and room.
the vsm has been manufactured since 1994 and there are many versions. to date, there are thousands of pairs of these out in the field and as i said before, i have little or no control over how people use them or set them up. this speaker is a completely different design than most things on the market and because of that, their set up should not follow a preconceived path but the suggested one. it would also be wise to call me at the plant if you are having an issue to discuss the set up. if we give the speaker a chance to show what it can do, the problems may go away. this is simply not done by many people. i go through this every day.
Isnt this a great hobby? During the time that I have owned the Merlin VSMs, I have also owned a pair of Revel F30s, a pair of Gershman Avant Garde RX-20s and Paradigm Studio 60 v2 (also took out on loan Dynaudio Contour 3.0). All of them (except the Dynaudios) showed the mid-bass hump via my RS digital dB meter. For me, they definitely sounded heavier then the Merlin but untrue, and after a short period of time, annoying. The Merlins (I have the VSM-MX) measure, from 200 Hz down via the Stereophile Test CD #3, relatively flat (+/- 2 dB) except for a 5 dB suckout at the 63 Hz signal, right down to the 31.5 Hz signal. That suckout is a room problem.
Additionally, in my experience, equipment matching IS important here. I had initially used a Sonic Frontier Line 2 SE (a very well reviewed tube-based preamp) with my old VSM-M. It sounded lean to the point where I bought a REL Storm III subwoofer. After finally going with the numerous suggestions of the Joule LA 100 MK III preamp, I sold the subwoofer as the speakers sounded much more fleshed out. It really was not a bass issue.
For a good discussion on this, have a look at an old thread of mine about Merlin's and bass.
Just want to clarify my earlier comments re : VSM SE
First, I really, really like the SE - I've used it for almost six years.
Second, the tonal balance/bass character which I characterized as "lean but highly damped" strikes me as a reasonable trade (though I understand that some listeners would disagree if they prioritize a warmer balance). By way of comparison, I 've also used Verity Parsifal Encores over roughly the same time period in a second home. The Verity's provide greater bass extension and mid-bass warmth, but offer less pitch definition through the lower octaves. Both are wonderful speakers which combine overall high quality performance with well integrated (though differently balanced) bass response. I 'm sure many people (like me) could happily live with either trade-off.
N.B. - The Verity's were roughly twice the cost of the Merlins.
Third, I've never heard the more recent Merlin designs in my system. My comments apply ONLY to the older VSM SE.
Good luck with the hunt!
Hi George Again!
To further expand on the mid bass hump that David Berry speaks of, I too am of that impression with the Montana's. Now this is not to say some might not prefer this, especially when listening to classic rock music. I have a buddy that has a pair of Montana ESP's and he too listens primarily to rock. I always notice the cabinet resonance in the mid bass when I listen to his speakers. Fortunately this doesn't bother him. His impression of my Milleniums is pretty muched summed up by you and your buddies, apparently less bass (lean?) that is until I finally got the cabling right and added several pair of tube traps in my quite uncooperative room. He isn't saying they lack bass these days although he still prefers his Montanas in the bass. Of course from the mids up there is no comparison as we both agree. When I added a second Berning (a temporary situation unfortunately) what became readily apparent was how much air these speakers are capable of moving. What is always interesting is the wide range of amplification that can be used but in my experience there is no substitute for plenty of power when the music calls for it, particularly large scale. I really enjoy listening to music through his system providing it is rock which is what it is balanced for.
Speakers are indeed a matter of tradeoffs. In a large room there may be other options besides the Merlins that are in their performance peer group, unfortunately, as noted, they will cost considerably more. I look forward to owning the MX in the future but find it difficult to believe that the top end of this speaker can be improved upon too much beyond what I am hearing at present, famous last words!
P.S. We both agree that the Merlins can and DO rock. One of his favorite cuts from Alan Parson always blows him away. The sense of space and dynamics not to mention the clearly defined bass line puts him in the groove.
I have a one of the later model SEs which I've been informed uses the MM cabinetry (not sure about the port tuning, also lacks the new MM wiring harness). I have absolutely no bass defiency that isn't the fault of my room. I know Bobby has said Merlins are forgiving of placement, but my experience has been exactly the oppposite. Moving my speakers a couple of inches yields significant changes (by ear and by decibel meter). But then again, my room is a very interesting arrangement.
If you like warmth, simply mate the Merlins with warm associated equipment (most of Bobby's recommended gear are warm and/or lush). If you like very warm, then perhpas the Merlins aren't for you.
Here's how much I like Merlins: I won't be selling this pair ever. When I finally get a dedicated listening room, I will purchase another VSM pair and use my current pair elsewhere.
any late pair of ses that are made with the pan fiber enclosure also have the new port alignment in them. your pair could be upgraded to the mm easily. call the factory for the free sixth toe mod kit so that you can use the speakers with 2 toes on the front and one in the rear. this will be more stable for you and sound a lot better too.
what i meant about them being easy to place is that they are very uniform on and off axis so they present no complications in set up. and when something shows this amount of change with a slight change of position, it is very easy to know whether you are more correct or not.
The SEs have the Cardas posts and I've purchased your Z-feets already (there are six holes at the bottom of each speaker to mount the feet in various configurations). Is this the six-toe mod you are referring to? I'm also using your cryo'ed RC networks, so I think the man thing I have left to do is to upgrade my wiring harness.
ok you already have the sixth toe mod.
cryoed rcs and z feet. use two feet on the front and one on the center rear if you haven't done so already.
but there is more to do to upgrade them to mms than just the wiring harnessES. plus there are bam super mods too.
give me a call when you have a chance.
need to change wiring to be a millennium. wiring, cryo crossover parts, change values in q circuit and change torque settings to be an mm. the super bam mod is also very big in what it offers. you get a new external supply (power light, iec power cord), a new internal supply (new capacitors and voltage regulators) and a new battery pack. imho, a 40 to 50% difference in sound for the better.