Merlin TSM with Manley Mahi-Mahi?

Hi, Gang,

Got my TSM-mmi's paired with a Manley Shrimp pre-amp feeding a Bel Canto S300 ("class D") power amp. I listen to lots of pop and "classic" rock and roll, with some classical, jazz and movie soundtracks, moderate volumes, smallish room (16 x 12 x 8 ft).

What would you think of a move from the S300 to something like the Manley Mahi's? Good move? Expected improvements, if any?

Thanks in advance!
Other than for pop/rock and perhaps movies at higher volumes perhaps, probably a reasonable move for a smaller room, assuming it matches well with the Manley pre-amp and you are up for dealing with a tube power amp.

Tube amps appear to be popular with TSMs, so I would expect good results there in general.

Yes, in general, people seem to think that the TSM's particularly sing with tubes. Just trying to find out if anybody has specific experience with the Manley's.
Reb, from what I recall, at least on paper, the weak link with what you have currently may be the match of the Manley pre-amp to that particular BC amp, with 20K input impedance as I recall. It may sound fine as is but I would expect things would be more articulate and controlled with a Class D amp designed to work well with tube preamps. These typically have 60K input impedance unbalanced or higher. I'd expect a tube amp to provide similar benefit and mate well with the tube pre-amp.
Bobby likes Manley. EL84s are wonderful tubes - so I can't see why the Mahi Mahi would not be an excellent amp for driving the TSMs - it is certainly enough power, and switching to triode might also work nicely for small scale acoustic music. Oh, and the Shrimp will work alot better with the input impedance of a tube amp.
From manley website:

Mahi Input Impedance: 110 Kohm

That alone will make a difference in the sound for the better I would wager relative to the BC S300 (20 Kohm I believe, though stock Icepower is only 10K ohm as I recall), perhaps more so even than tubes versus SS or Class D technology in of itself.

BC ref series Icepower amps cost more but have 100Kohm unbalanced input impedance. I can vouch that this works extremely well with an ARC sp-16 tube pre-amp, which is why I believe BC ref series and others like Wyred do mods to stock Icepower for this, ie to work better with tube pre-amps.
BTW, I have strongly considered the Manley Stringray integrated as the next amp I would try in my second (A/V) system if I ever decide to invest more in that rig. I always use a sub on that rig which makes using a tube amp with my various inherently tube unfriendly speakers like the Dyns and OHMs a viable option, I think.

Thanks for all the posts.

I remember when I was first changing my amplification from an integrated amp to separates, I was fretting over the whole input/output impedance question. As it turns out, the Shrimp is somewhat unique in that it will "drive almost anything," because its output impedance is only 50 ohms! It is thus, in theory as I understand it, one of the only valve preamplifiers that constitutes a good match for the S300, which has an input impedance of 10k ohms.

In any case, I suspect that the combination of the mahi-mahi's with the Shrimp would be very sweet. I'm thinking about itÂ…

Yes I recall that vaguely, but the real impedance can still vary widely by frequency and cannot be known to that degree of detail for certain unless measured or speced out perhaps at different frequencies rather than just a single generalized number, though 50ohm output is a very good number for a tube pre-amp in general FWIW.

Nevertheless, jumping from 10K input impedance to 10X that with a different amp will still likely have a positive effect I would wager, though perhaps less so than if the pre-amp did not appear to be well towards the favorable end of things in general already.

You'll only know for sure when you listen and compare.

Though, a tube preamp with relatively low output impedance feeding an amp with 100K+ input impedance should safely put things well into the "green" zone without doubt at least on paper, in that both numbers that determine the ratio are both now well into the green zone as well.
Took the plunge and bought a pair of Mahi's here on A'gon at a very good price! Yay! I'll report back on the results. :-)
Good move Rebbi! You will enjoy the Merlin TSM's even more with quality tube electronics.
Guppy. Thanks! I've never owned a tube power amp before so I'm psyched about the change. I know that there are pricier tube amps than the Mahi's, but the reviews are strong and I know Bobby likes the Merlins with tubes, so we'll see!
You don't need pricier tube amps IMHO, the Mahis are an excellent match for your Merlins and your preamp - a well thought out system.
How do you like sound of the Merlin's with the d class amps;I would like to hear after you install the manley's.
I think the tubes are going to put you into audio nirvana.
What cables are you using from the amps to the speakers?
Since you like classic rock I'd like to hear what you think after Pink Floyd visits;enjoy!!!
I have been breaking in the latest version of the Manley Stingray II with a new pair of Merlin TSM-MXr speakers. The sound continues to amaze me and everyone who swings by for a listen. I also tried a few SS amps which also worked very well, but it's the Stingray that performs best. For me the biggest advantage has been in soundstage depth with the tubes. It really makes the speakers vanish.

Before the Merlins came I tried running a pair of Def Tech 7004 towers with the Stingray. Since they each have a powered sub, I guessed that they were an easy load. The Stingray did it's magic with those Best Buy speakers! My friends and I joked that it made them sound like Snells.


I don't really have anything to compare the Bel Canto S300 to, at least not with the Merlin's. I've owned a few amps over the years. I used to have a Unison Unico hybrid, with a tube pre section and SS power section; 80 watts/channel. Sweet amp, but the Ohm Walsh 100's I had at the time needed more power to sing, or at least benefitted from it. That's why I sold the Unico. I got a great deal on the S300 here on Audiogon, and paired it with a Manley Shrimp preamp. The reason I made that choice was that the S300 has a very low input impedance, and the Shrimp was the only tube preamp I could find that would drive the S300.

Speaking of Floyd, I listened to Dark Side Of The Moon on vinyl on the Merlins with the S300 and the Shrimp a while ago. It was FRIGHTENING; the "phasey" parts were all over the room; beyond the walls, behind my head... man!

I think you are approaching the end of your journey at this point and are not far from your audio nirvana.

If you are not there after this amp change, the next thing I would suggest is considering adding a powered sub, if needed.

That should pretty much cover all the possible bases I will wager.
I would "upgrade" to the VSMs before I would ever add a sub to the TSMs unless it was purely dictated by finances and or aesthetics - from a sound perspective there would be no comparison to the coherence of the VSM versus TSM/Sub. Now maybe, but only maybe, if Bobby designs a sub specifically to for the TSM, but I would not hold my breath for that to happen any time soon (I'm also not at all sure that would be better than to just move up to the VSMs anyway). I also think the Shrimp/Mahi-Mahi combo would be very well suited for the VSMs if you choose to go that way down the road, perhaps even more so as they are a bit more sensitive (I think).
Adding a sub is a natural and cost effective step for most monitor owners that want to go to a more full range sound.

I know that there are some that are anti sub as well.

And there are those that do not care about the lowest octaves of sound as well.

Different strokes.

I've gone all three ways at various times and have found each to have its distinct advantages with little downside if done well.
I'm not anti-sub, used Vandersteen with 3A Sigs and (2) 2wq subs for many years (that worked very well indeed), but what the Merlin does exceptionally well is resolution and coherence, if that is what you value, I would take the VSM route over the sub-route, unless (perhaps) I was interested in the deepest-bass electronic music or HT rolling thunder. Given the need for a very high quality sub to blend with the exceptional TSMs, I would also think it would make more financial sense to sell the TSMs and trade up to a pair of VSMs - but, enjoying the Mahi-Mahis for a while comes before that for at least a while:) To my ears the VSMs (now with the Master BAM) has wonderful bass quality and depth, that provide coherence not possible with more drivers and disparate cabinets -IMHO I think the Merlin design philosophy is about nimble, articulate bass the blends perfectly with the midrange and highs - a challenge for most [any?] subwoofer[s] with this speaker. It is that very magical coherence that explains Merlin's decision to use two-drivers with a BAM for bass augementation, rather than a 3rd (or 4th)- large driver to provide dynamic bass into the low 30s with the VSMs, along with point source imaging, and electrostatic coherence - that is not going to happen with Subwoofers and the TSMs.

But anyway, this is about the Mahi-Mahi, and in my view a solid yes with the TSMs, and VSMs as well.
Well, guys, I received my new, Manley Mahi-Mahi's yesterday! I haven't yet had the opportunity to hook them up, and, due to my work schedule, probably won't get to do so for a couple of days. But I will report back when I have the system up and running again.
Mahi-Mahi + TSM = wow!
Two great high end brands that apparently have great synergy so a great result is no surprise. Enjoy!!
Bobby, one of our very best designers, and a fellow tube freak, has designed yet another speaker that sounds good with tubes--refreshingly expected, not surprising.
Keep up the good work Bobby!

Rebbi I thought you might be ending up in Audio Nirvana;what tubes are in those manleys?
"Rebbi I thought you might be ending up in Audio Nirvana"

Well, let's wait until the initial euphoria wears off and see about that....

good chance though.....

Thanks for the good wishes. Here's the tube complement taken from the Manley web site:

Input Tube: 1 x 12AT7EH large plate Eletcro-Harmonix Russian

Driver Tube: 1 x 6414 JAN NOS GE or Raytheon branded

Output Tubes: 8 x EL84 Ships with Russian NOS EL84M (aka 6Pi14Pi-EB) We are out of Ei 6BQ5.
Lets get that photo, i want to see how your amps and speakers look like. Sorry for being a pain in the butt.

I will get some photos up this weekend on my system page, I promise. I haven't had much time to do this lately, but my other reason for hesitating is that my room set up is really sub optimal at this point. I'm sort of a slave to my oddly shaped listening room right now, and it doesn't look that great. But, because I know you're curious, I will post something! :-)