Merlin TSM comparisons


I've been reading up lately on all kinds of monitors, and have been intrigued by Merlin's TSM. The latest iteration is the mmi, I believe.

If you've heard the TSM lately, especially in comparison to other, current monitor offerings out there, I'd love to hear your opinions. I know that there are other Merlin threads on Audiogon but I am especially interested in hearing from folks who have compared them to others, especially if you've lived with them.
I currently have the Merlin TSM-mme. I have had these since September 09, and prior to that I had the TSM.

Here is what I have owned in the past and/or compared to, Dynaudio Special 25, Magnepan 3.6, Linn Ninka, Magnepan 1.6, Quads, McIntosh XLS320's, Dynaudio Contour 1.4, Audio Physic Tempo, Audio Physic Spark, Ohm walsh 4's.

All of the above are excellent speakers and well made. However it is the Merlins that have stayed and I have no desire to sell or trade. They disappear in my room, the music has a resolution I could not get with the other brands. One might have sensational sound on violins but sound like a cardboard box on a bass drum and so forth.

Only you will be able to determine what sounds good to you and fits your aesthetics and budget. But I can enthusiastically recommend the Merlin monitors. Well worth their price!
Thanks for that, hififile! Interesting that you, too, had Ohms. I had the walsh 100s for about a year and ultimately moved on to monitors. The reviews on the TSMs are so universally ecstatic that I'm curious about them!
IMO, Merlins are not like other speakers. They don't do high SPL's, they don't have great bass, they don't have that precise, studio-monitor type sound like some Dynaudios or Totems. They "need" tube amplification, so part of that sound may be using tubes instead of SS.

I enjoyed my TSM-M's immensely during the 2-3 years I had them, when I had a tube power amp. But I always felt that they were missing certain qualities, & I sold them & bought Totem Mani-2's (& a SS amp).

But if you're into tubes, & can score a pair of used TSM's at a good price, I'd say go for it.....I don't regret the time I spent with my TSM's for a second.....just depends on what kind of sound you want.
From what I've read and from conversations with Bobby Palcovic, the mmi's are in a different league than the mme's: more room filling and more solid state friendly, for what that's worth.
I have to agree with Steveaudio. After the TSM I had Usher and Volent monitors and the latter are here to stay. The Merlins are good speakers...but equipment matching is very critical. Ultimately they were just not for me...but ears vary so use yours to be the judge.


Thanks for the input. I currently have a pair of the LSA1 Statements which I am liking very, very much. They are still breaking in but sound marvelous. But I keep running into rave comments on the TSM's and am curious about them.
I agree that the Merlin TSM's are great speakers and also that there are quite a few great speakers in that price range.

I owned the TSM-MM's at the same time that I owned a pair of the identically priced Devore 8's and spent a couple of weeks comparing them. I kept the Devore 8's, they were better in every way with my gear and in my space.
What's the equivalent of the Devore 8 now?
hi, the tsm mme is the only version that is camparable to the mmi. only one pair was mentioned above. they sound very different when compared to earlier versions.
best, b

The Devore 8's are no longer made, the closest model is the Super 8 which is a more expensive speaker.

And I wasn't implying that the Merlins aren't a great speaker, they are, or that you might not prefer them to the Devore's, just that within your budget you might find something else you like as well or better if you can spend some time listening to the options.
I owned the Merlin TSM-SE speaker but after a side-by-side comparison preferred the Silverline Audio SR17.5. But we are talking about speakers that were at two different price points when they were being made. At the Merlin price point, I know of no finer speaker.

Other differences aside, I have come to prefer what I hear through 1st order crossovers. Silverlines have first order; the Merlin second order. And that is simply the point I wanted to contribute to this thread. I have not heard the current TSM model so my post should be taken in that context.
r, thank you for your thoughts.
they are fair.
best, b
fritz carbon 7's

www fritzspeakers com
I've heard good things about that speaker. I even spoke with Fritz on the phone at one point. Good guy. And people with the Carbon 7 seem to love them. I know he uses a "series crossover" in that model. Can anybody explain what that means?
It's just a type of crossover, I'm sure Fritz can explain that better than I can. Lots of info if you search 'series crossover' on Google too.
Hi Rebbi.

You gotta tell us what aspect of the sound you think you are missing still or can do better with that attracts you towards the Merlins?

I am off the opinion still that no mini monitor can do it all at a realistic scale. Add a good sub, then perhaps, and the choice of viable monitors goes way up depending on preference.
04-24-10: Rebbi
I think that the LSA1 Statement deserves a serious look by anybody looking at monitors in the under $3K range. Very, very musical, detailed yet non fatiguing, sweet top end from that ribbon tweeter, precise imaging, huge soundstage and remarkable bass extension. Mine are not nearly broken in yet, but I'm loving them! :-)
Posted by rebbi (A) on May 09, 2010 at 11:55:58
On the strength of everything I've read about the Merlin TSM mini-monitor, I ordered a pair last week. I've read extensively here from a number of Merlin threads, but was wondering if any of you have heard the latest iteration, the TSM-mmi? No local dealers in Texas, so mine are on order from Merlin, and I should have them in about 5 weeks. Can't wait!

What happened to the LSA1 Statement love affair?
Rebbi, if it's any consolation, Vegas was only giving you small odds of sticking with the long shot LSAs.

Vegas odds on you are running significantly higher regarding the Merlins! These seem to be a big hit with many!
I'm going to clarify why I sold my LSA1 Statements -- if only because people making equipment choices use these threads to help figure things out, and I don't want them to draw the false conclusion that I was unhappy with the Statements.

I really do love the LSA1 Statements, and continue to think that they're wonderful (for all the reasons I've already posted) and really quite a steal at the current street price. They sounded better at 50 hours than they had out of the box and no doubt would have sounded even better at 200 hours, as LSA suggests. I got a lot of pleasure from them -- to my ears, they're the best sounding speakers, for my tastes and listening room, that I've ever owned. And I'd have kept them long term, all things being equal. The experience also convinced me that my heart and brain prefer the "conventional" imaging and presentation of a forward firing speaker to the pseudo-omni presentation of speakers like my old Ohms, as striking as it can be.

Anyway,I'd read a lot about the Merlin TSM's as I was considering what monitor to buy, and was quite interested in them, but at their list price, they were out of my league. However, I lucked into a great deal on a pair, and decided to take a gamble on them. Will I like them more than the LSA's? Dunno! I may be looking back here for a used pair of LSA's in 6 months if it doesn't work out. ;-)

But I'm determined to give the Merlins all the time they need to break in, and if they're as stellar as the pro and amateur reviews suggest, I'm in for a treat.

By the way, it occurs to me that there's somewhat of a similarity between Merlin and Ohm. Both are made in the USA by small companies, and both reflect the vision of a single designer, refined repeatedly over an extended period of time.

In any case, my hope is to be done with the speaker merry-go-round for quite a while. It's making me crazy, and I'm embarrassed to be on a first name basis with the guys at the UPS store. ;-)

I have Dynaudio Contour 1.3 mkiis.

I'd be curious if anybody has compared these Merlin monitors to those?

Also I see these have used Morel drivers. I have a pair of OHM L bookshelf speakers that I have custom modded myself using some high quality 8" Morel woofers. That has worked out extremely well!

All the newer OHMs (inclusing my custom Ls) also use an internal bass equalization circuit called the "sub bass activator" which as I recall is somewhat similar in concept to Merlin's BAM.
What happened to the LSA1 Statement love affair?
Tvad (Threads | Answers)

It's called Speed Dating, Tvad.

Just kidding with you, Rebbi. Maybe you should ask Tvad how many speakers he has owned and also auditioned but not kept....
Maybe you should ask Tvad how many speakers he has owned and also auditioned but not kept....
Finsup (Answers)
That's fair.

1) Aerial Acoustics 7B - Bought them as my first foray into high end audio after reading Stereophile's Recommended Components list, and hearing them at a local dealership. Once I got them home, I hated them. I learned quickly to ignore Stereophile's Recommended Components list. They were sold within six months.

2) VonSchweikert VR4 Gen III HSE - Bought them on the recommendation of member "Lrsky". I loved them. Owned them for about three years until my employment situation got a little tight, and I sold the entire system to buy something less costly.

3) LSA Group LSA1 Standard - Auditioned them for a couple of weeks while I owned the VR4 Gen III HSE speakers. Liked them. Appreciated them for what they were, but ultimately favored the VR4 Gen III HSE.

4) Ohm Walsh 200 MK II with the latest Walsh drivers - Had a bad experience with Ohm. Long production delay, poor workmanship, and ultimately a blown Walsh driver within the first 30 minutes of playing them. I returned them for a refund.

5) Castle Howard S2 - Loved these speakers driven by a Leben CS600. Had some issues with these drivers as well, and returned them for a refund after personally replacing three bad drivers. It was a discontinued model, and the speakers although "new" were many years old. An unfortunate experience with a speaker I liked.

6) Silverline Sonata III - Bought these after extensive research and on the advice of an audiophile whose tastes I respect. The speakers were excellent once I found amplification that drove them to my satisfaction. Owned them for about two years until I decided they had a couple niggling sonic issues that I could not ameliorate with set-up, electronics, or cabling.

7) Audio Note AN-E SPe HE - Bought these when I made a decision to go to a higher sensitivity speaker that could be driven by low powered tube amplification. I heard them at several audio shows, and spent a good amount of time listening to them at RMAF 2009. They are my favorite speakers to date. I loved the VR4 Gen III HSE, but I love the Audio Note speakers more. They fit my room better from a sonic perspective. They "disappear", and they create a wide and large stereo image that goes wall-to-wall. My journey with them is still in progress as I zero in on my preferred amplification.

That's the 7 year journey.

I might be willing to wager Rebbi finds his true loves in less than 7 years, though I don't think that timeframe is uncommon!

For me my path was essentially OHM, Magnepan, B&W, Triangle, Dynaudio and back to OHM 30 years later.

My original OHM Ls and Walsh 2s stuck around for comparison the whole time while the others came and went. Well, the Dyns and Triangles have stayed as well mainly because I have room and use for them and each is quite nice.

When I upgraded my OHM Ls myself, I almost decided to punt on updated Walshes, but I decided to go for broke.

I've never missed the B&Ws. I would consider giving the Maggies another run with newer models if I needed new speakers again and I were able to set them up correctly just to hear what the rest of my upgrades since could do. But practically, the Maggies just are not a good fit in any of my listening rooms in my current home.

I would have liked to have heard your impressions of your OHMs when you had them if they would have worked out somehow.
That is too bad about the Castle speakers. I have read many good things about them, never heard them, and I was disappointed to see them discontinue production about three years ago. I see, though, the the line has been picked up by a Chinese company.

That could be both good and bad. Good in that production costs come down. Bad in that there is the potential for quality control issues but that might be a wash given your own experience with them. What the Chinese do with them only time will tell, but if they stay true to its sonic heritage, who knows?
Hi Mapman,
I had the Dynaudio Special 25's prior to Merlin TSM-mme's. The Dynaudio was excellent and had amazing bass for it's size. However, "in my room", the sealed Merlin gives a better presentation.

I could never get the Dyn to totally disappear and go invisible, the Merlin's do a great job in that regard.

Can you tell me more about your system. What kinds of electronics, cabling and stands are you using? Thanks!
"I could never get the Dyn to totally disappear and go invisible, the Merlin's do a great job in that regard."

I've accomplished that with the Dyn Contour 1.3mkii when able to optimize placement away from walls. They are rear ported. Not as much where currently located only a foot or so out in my wife's sunroom. The sealed enclosure should work well closer to walls I would expect.

I'm guessing the sealed enclosure is a big part of the Merlin's magic in some setups in comparison to other monitor designs that are ported in order to extend range.

I think I read some Merlins actually use Dynaudio drivers.
mapman, driver technology is important but not as important as how you use it. the woofer in the tsm is a morel and the tweeters are handmade to my spec by rennaissance audio and is an improoved version of the morel mdt28. it is the ren mst30.5. the disapearing act hififile speaks of has to do with the cabinet profile/dispersion, driver spacing, the very wide and super flat amplitude and its very continuous sound from top to bottom. it is imho, very expansive sounding.
best, b
Hi Rebbi,
The rest of the system is McIntosh C2300 tube preamp, MC402 amp, VPI scout with Ortofon Moving coil, all Supra cables, Dynaudio stand 4 filled with sand and lead shot, Sony SCD XA5400-ES SACD/CD player, Also have a McIntosh MVP861 player, Quadraspire rack, Shunyata Hydra power with Shunyata Power cables. That's it...

I am very happy with the Merlins. I have not desired another speaker since their purchase. (which is unusual for me).

Good Luck and trust your ears.
Bennett (hififile)
I owned a pair of Merlin TSM speakers and changed them out of my system for a pair of Silverline SR17.5s. The SR17 Supreme speakers which replaced the 17.5 in the product line are $6,000, so that is a different league from the Merlins. At a price point closer to the Merlins I would suggest that you audition a the Canton Reference 9.2 speakers.
I don't think price is a big factor. Once monitors leave the 2K range it's all fairly big leagues.

I don't think the Canton's compete at all with the Merlins. I also recently listened to a pair of Focal Diablo Utopia and had no doubt at all that the Merlins are better.

I believe those Focals are pretty pricey! I have yet to hear the Silverline's but I've heard good stuff about them.

what model tsm, r?
thanks, b
Rebbi: I posted my reply because you asked for alternatives to the TSM, and I gave you one. That Robbob and BobbyPaldovich feel that they are policemen for this thread is out of line. The Canton Reference 9.2 speakers are indeed viable alternatives to the TSM and just because Robbob doesn't like them doesn't mean that you shouldn't listen to them and trust your own ears, not mine, not Robbob's nor Palkovich's.

And Bobby, I do not answer to you sir. If Rebbi wants to know to which ones I have listened, then he can ask me and I will be happy to reply. But this is not your thread and you are not the policeman of all Merlin threads regardless of whether you are the manufacturer or not.
r, i asked a simple question and was polite. your response is anything but polite. it is you that are way out of line and being rude. i am not policing anything, how could i. there are moderators here for that and they have removed posts if they think a line is crossed. none was. i just wanted to know what version you owned to see how current they were. i learn from people's comments and i like to learn. not everyone has to own my product or like it. that would be impossible. we all listen to and for different things. audio doesn't have to be a contact sport which is what people like you turn it in to. remember one thing, i am also part of this community and you nor anyone else will drive me from it.
have a nice long weekend.
reynolds853, i asked you what version of tsm you owned and i found out in another string, it was the tsm se. this is a 13 year old version and has been improved on by the m, mm, mme and mmi. if you would have mentioned this i would not have had to ask and got into this nonsense with you. owning a ford means you could own anything from a model t to a gt40. not all fords are the same, nor are all of the tsms.
have a good weekend.
(1) In no thread have I ever questioned the veracity of another member’s advice as Robbob did with me.
(2) In no thread have I ever asked another member to qualify his advice as you did with me. I did not mention which version because in my opinion the Canton Reference 9.2 is a viable option for any TSM model. I owned the SE, but have heard the MMi and consider the Reference 9.2 a viable alternative, although in my earlier post to which you alluded I said that at its price point I know of no finer speaker than your TSM. I stand by that too.
(3) You stated that had I specified which TSM model you would not have “had” to ask me. Why did you have to ask me anything at all if not to jump in and challenge my suggestion to Rebbi? What business is it of yours what suggestion I gave him? Your claim that the motive for your question was simply your edification is contradicted by your Ford models comments. My impression of your original question was correct – that you were indeed seeking to challenge my recommendation to Rebbi and that I find objectionable as my opinions in this community are just a valid as yours.
(4) At no time did I suggest that you leave this community. From what I have read of your posts you help a lot of people and are a true asset to this community, but requiring me to qualify my suggestions as though you are the final arbiter of all things Merlin is not a status I am willing to cede to you.
(5) Perhaps the most appropriate way for us to end this nonsensical exchange is just to ignore each other.
And I hope you have a good weekend too.
What's pertinent to this thread is the model TSM that Rebbi purchased, which he hasn't mentioned. Any discussion/debate about TSM models is wasted bandwidth until he specifies what he bought.
r, i made the post asking what version you had before robbob's opinion was even posted. that was his opinion and not mine. i did not even know he had made the post.
i asked you politely to mention the version. that was because i had forgotten that you had mentioned it earlier in this string. it was over 5 weeks ago. but look at the thanks i gave you for being fair. does this really sound like i have an alterior motive in this?
i did not jump in as you say to challenge anything. it is incorrect for me to give opinions on any brand but my own in a forum like this. and at any rate, i have not heard the canton and i do not talk about what i do not know. so how could i challenge your opinions on any level. i think you got upset because to you, it looked like robbob and i were in this together which is an incorrect assumption. and later that i was questioning your opinion on the canton which is also an incorrect assumption.
we are all entitled to an opinion and i would not question yours. but please do not make assumptions about my opinions or my character.
imho you are over reacting and taking things out of context. all you needed to say was that i mentioned the version earlier in this very string. and knowing now that you had, why be so secretive 5 weeks later?
and yes have a nice weekend.

and tvad, it is best to talk things out because this was a misunderstanding and we can learn from these.
I have no idea what all the heat is about.

A fellow I don't know mentioned tha Canton's as an option and I gave a counter opinion that they are not in the same league.

I have ONLY heard the MME versions. I have the newer versions (XMr) on order. I found the Canton's punchy and bright in my session with them. I thought the MME's were better and they were mated to inferior electronics.

That's what I heard and others may hear differently. By all means go audition BOTH and post your impressions.

We're talking about speakers here, folks. There's no need for anyone to get their panties in a bunch!

I was out sailing yesterday and I came upon a slower moving vessel. My boat is a 35 foot sailboat and the boat next to us was a bit smaller. My friend asked, "Is that a better boat that this?"
I replied, "What's the difference? We're out yachting on a Friday and kids are starving nearby."

The cost of my little Manley amp could feed an African village for a year. We need to keep some perspective and not get into silly tiffs over speakers!

Cheers....I'm off to go sailing again,


Thanks for your follow-up, and like you I think it is good to clear the air, so thanks for following through on that. I wasn't intending to be secretive about the fact that I had once owned the SE or had heard the MMi at a friend's house. In the price neighborhood of the TSM I consider the Reference 9.2 worth adding to his audition list. I meant that as a general statement regardless of the TSM model. I will certainly take you at face value that you were not trying to lay the foundation to shoot down my recommendation as had Robbob.

To me your question was more blunt than polite. Something I have learned is that when I am asking probing questions, it helps to let others know beforehand what is my intention. That is something you may want to consider, and for my part next time if necessary I'll try harder to ask before reacting. But you are absolutely right and very astute to suppose that your (in my opinion) blunt question right on the heals of Robbob's shooting down my suggestion did make me want to push back, and that's what I did.

Again, I appreciate that you followed up on this with me and as far as I am concerned the air between us is clear.



Finally got my TSM-mmi's from Merlin on Monday of this week. I've had a hideous work schedule this week so they're not yet connected to my system, but I did manage to get them fully unpacked and on the Osiris stands I bought here.

Hope to finally get them wired up and playing tomorrow. So far I can say that the fit and finish is beautiful!

For those of you with TSM's, how far out from the rear wall to you have them positioned? I'm asking because according the formula supplied in the setup instructions, with an 8 foot ceiling, the front panel of my TSM's should be something like 5 feet from the wall behind them, which I cannot pull off in my room.
Maybe should have discussed set-up constraints with Bobby P. before buying them...
Dude...I'm soooo jealous!

My Ruby Red TSM-MXr's should be coming soon. We'll compare notes.

rebbi, not to worry. maintain a 9.5 foot listening distance from the speakers if you can and put the speakers closer to the wall behind them.
the cardas golden rule which you refer to is a guidline for the best possible positioning which happens only a few times out of a 100. the most important thing is to sit the distance i told you away from them to utilize the power response which they are designed with.
you will be fine.
let me know.
best, b
06-26-10: Rebbi

Finally got my TSM-mmi's from Merlin on Monday of this week.
It's been over two months without any comment about the TSM-MMi speakers...what's the scoop?
Yes, I'd like to hear as well.

This afternoon I was talking with a guy at the local shop here that has a new pair of TSM speakers. He said they take several months to break-in, but they are coming along nicely. Hopefully, yours are too?
Hi, Everybody,

I am enjoying my new TSM-mmi's. I haven't been posting here much lately due to having to deal with some health crises in my extended family, as well as being extremely busy at work.

My pair of TSM's got some extra break-in time at the factory; a whole weekend on the break-in system. Nevertheless, the Cardas jumpers and external RC networks that the speakers come with had no time on them when I got them, so those are still breaking in -- I've only got maybe an additional 20 or so hours on the speakers since setting them up.

Additionally, in consultation with Bobby P., who takes wonderful care of his customers and is extremely generous with his time and expertise, I've become more convinced than ever that I need to get a carpet on my hardwood floors to tame some of my room reflections in order to really get the most out of the TSMs or ANY speaker, for that matter.

With those caveats, I'll say that so far, the TSM's are very fine. They are extremely revealing speakers. Voices sound palpable and alive. Bass is surprisingly satisfying and tuneful for such a small bass/mid driver. And they throw a huge, enveloping, 3D soundstage with the right material.

I still have a lot of fiddling to do: the carpet, deciding whether I like them more with or without the RC networks, etc. But I am definitely enjoying them so far.

Oh, and the build quality is beyond superb... "loving," I'd call it.

I'll post more when I'm more convinced that I've got them optimally set up.

Best Regards...
The TSM's are great speakers. I've had the mme's for a couple of years and remain completely satisfied. They are senstitive to setup, but the effort to dial them in is well worth it. Enjoy!
I have compared them to many different brands including, Trinagle, Reynaud, ProAc, Spendor, Harbeth and others and I prefer my Merlin TSM-MXE's. They are really incredible monitors and I would recommend them to anyone. They are extremely well judged and do everything so well including bass which so many monitors have problems with and tonal accuracy where they are right on the money. If a speaker is not tonally accurate I don't feel there is any reason to own it and it is not high end. I have never heard another speaker get the tonal accuracy and transparency so correct and maintain the proper weight and impact of instruments and voices. In other words what good is super transparency if the speakers are thin sounding?