Merlin Upgrade Experience

I recently had my (very late production) VSM-SEs upgraded to current status and thought I'd share my initial impressions on the change for anyone who might be interested.

Bobby tells me that pre-upgrade my VSMs were among the last SEs manufactured, and thus were quite close to the MM although not yet so badged.

My context for commenting on the VSMs includes both "in a vaccuum" impressions of their sound as well as comparison to other loudspeakers that I own and use regularly.

Until recently, I've owned 2 homes and thus the Merlins were the main speaker in town and my Verity Parsifal Encores served the same purpose at the beach. Additionally, I own a pair of Sonus Faber Cremonas which live in my living room. From time to time, I have been able to insert all 3 into my main system and they now all reside in a single, suburban residence (alas the baby arrived and beach house went!) more easily allowing for direct comparison.


My personal definition of the distinction between a music lover and a music loving audiophile is that the music lover wants all his records to sound good, while the audiophile wants his bad records to sound bad. By this definition, the VSM SE was a classic audiophile device, while the Creomna is more a music lovers device. Bad sounding records (and I own way too many) have tend to sound bad on the VSM SE and less so on the Cremonas. Conversely, the distinctions between any 2 records show up much more vividly on the VSM - for me, this is not a bad description of a phenomenon that many people like to call transparency.

IMHO, the likely cause of this difference is a measure of mid-bass warmtn and low bass wallop on the Cremona compared to some mid bass leanness and deep bass limitations on the VSM SE. The overall frequency response graphs of these speakers may not differ wildly, but there is significant difference in the octave to octave balance and resultant tonal signature:

The Cremonas have significantly more energy below the midband than do the VSM SEs. FWIW, the Verity - which in many respects combines the best of both worlds -- is voiced much closer to the Cremona. I suspect that most of the criticism of the VSM SE is due to people who either prefer a warmer voicing, need more ultimmate deep bass capability, or both. People with larger, less damped listening spaces probably highlight these issues in their environment.


Due to logistical issues on both sides, the process took longer than either Bobby or I would have liked. While his enthusiasm for his product may strike some as a "bit much", say this for the guy: He looks after his customers with unusual energy. He kept in regular touch with updates during the process and followed up multiple times after delivery. By any standard, in any business, this is a very high level of customer service.

I actually decided on this upgrade somewhat reluctanlty. Almost 2 years prior to pulling the trigger, I heard the then current VSM MX (MM?) at a local dealer. I was impressed by the warmer tonality and apparently unchanged mid band transparency, dynamics, imaging, and bass pitch definition. As far as I could tell at audition - the speakers biggest shortcoming had been ameliorated (though not eliminated) while its strengths had seamingly all been reatined.

However, an in-store demo is not dispositive, and I was still concerned that the speaker might lose some of its "magic". For as long as I can remember, much of my favorite mid band reproduction has come from speakers which (like the VSM SE) featured less than full energy below the mids (from earliest Quad through latest Lipinski). Hence my hemming and hawing. Ultimately, I went for it - though I remained a bit conflicted.


These observations must be qualified by the change in listening environment attendent to my move and the limited (2 weeks+) exposure to the new speakers. The listening room environmental effects are somewhat reduced by the continued
opportunity to compare the upgraded VSMs to the Verity and Cremonas.

In short - I couldn't have asked for very much more.

This upgrade is a VERY skillfull balancing act from Merlin. The most obvious difference is improved deep bass dynamics - which are immediately evident on tuned drums. Descending drum patterns on Peter Gabriel's Last Temptation no longer evidence rapidly diminishing power. Kick drum
and bass drum (Putttin' it Down, Out of The Cradle, Sinatra Live at The Sands, "E"'s Shine It All On) all showed greater impact up through significantly higher SPLs.

Meanwhile all else is right in the VSM universe. The mid-band is still SOTA for me;
voices on Sam Cook's Night Beat, Marti Jones' Unsophisticated Time, Joan Armitrading, etc. etc. were consistently as good as I've heard.
massed horns from the aforementioned Sinatra through Duke Ellington's Queens Suite and Intimacy of the Blues are still stunning.
Individual Horn timbre still amazes (The Hawk Flies High, etc.)

My take - this is the same speaker with obviously improved deep bass performance. My gut impression is that little adjustment was made in the warmth region (maybe tweaked up a smidge) but that the overall signature feels warmer by dint of increased energy below 60ish cycles. This is just a guess - no measurements taken.


Bobby likes to talk in percentage improvement. I can't say that I think that way and I would be at a total loss to attach a number. I would say that this is the same speaker with so much of its near SOTA capability retained and its most obvious shortcoming significantly redressed. If you liked the SE, I'm almost certain you'll love the cuurrent version. If you were lukewarm, you might find yourself convinced. If you REALLY didn't get the appeall of the SE, I doubt this new version will be your cup of tea.

Though true headbangers still need not apply - I suspect that just about everyone else will really like this speaker. FOR THE MOMENT, it has displaced the Verity P/E as my first choice for serious listening to high quality source material. It's new and that may change over time, but for me-for now- it's about as strong an endorsement as I can provide.


A Note; The speaker still seams amp friendly in a big way. They work like champs with Cary 805s (expensive) and Pancor Dyna re-issues (dirt cheap). Haven't yet had rthe chance to try my 300Bs.

Another note: Bobby uses BAX global which has about as good a rep as any shipper I know. Unfortunately, it seems that BAX subbed out the "last mile" in this case to a local company which, from the appearance of the crates, uses chain saws to move boxes. Notwithstanding serious damage to the cartons, the speakers arrived unscathed. Score on for for Merlin's packing/crating protocol.
marty's speakers were indeed late vsm ses. since the cabinet material and port alignment were the same as current production, we could cryo the networks and with the lead free e mod, took his pair to the vsm mxe level. we also upgraded his bam to the super bam.
marty, i am thrilled that you like them. they will continue to sound better the longer they are played.
best regards,
bobby at merlin
Marty- never heard the SEs but my Merlins MMs showed a substantial improvement in bass extension when I went to the superbam. I suspect that that is a big part of the improvement. so far I have not heard the "e" series.
i would also like to ad that the vsm gen 1, 2, 3 and vsm se with bam were meant to be used with softer sounding se tube electronics. latter to current versions sound very different and are better suited to a wider range of electronics.
best regards,
bobby at merlin
the cremonias are indeed classic speakers for music lovers....very cool too.
I’m currently riding the upgrade wave…
I’ve gone from M’s to MX’s , to super BAM, and just recently MXE’s.
I only have about 30 hours on them (complete review to follow after 100+ hours).
This last upgrade to the lead free “E” is for me the most dramatic change yet. It’s like Bobby fed them steroids…bigger, wider, fuller, but at the same time sweeter, smoother and more refined with even more resolution. It seems the overall tonality has moved down slightly. This should end for good any description that the speakers can be harsh. And many will like the fact that the deepest bass has increased dramatically. I was using a REL sub on occasion. Not any more. It’s gone to the HT set up for good. These things can really rock now.

For all VSM owners: this is a must upgrade. I would not spend a penny on anything else before getting this done.

Non-owners: this speaker was a work of art…it’s now a masterpiece.
Man, I'm right behind you on the upgrade. What are you powering them with?
System now is:
Manley snappers
Cary SLP 98
Cary PH 302
Nottingham Space deck w/clearaudio Concerto cart.
Audio aero Prima CD
au24 all around

Ars Sonum Filarmonia integrated on order...can't wait!
I agree with all that Jamesv says above. I recently bought VSM-MXe to replace my VSM-MX. Why did I make the change? Well, it seems to me that every update to this classic speaker has been an improvement. I love the Merlins, so if there was an improvement to be had, why not? The new speaker looks the same (got it in the same piano black), in reality, this speaker has basically looked the same for the past 20 years; the upgrades tend to be "behind" the scenes. In this case, as far as I know, the basic change was from a leaded to lead free solder - which may not sound like much, till you think about the fact that the entire music signal must pass through all those connections. This is a mature, evolved speaker with years of testing and refinement to wring out the best musical performance, or one man's vision of it.

I previously wrote a review on in August 2005, since what was true then remains so I will not repeat what I said then, but the speaker has indeed been improved. I find the new speaker is even more cohesive. By that I mean the integratation between drivers is even more seemless, like a single driver or electrostatic. But even more important, it is cohesive from bass to treble. There is no apparent emphasis on any particular part of the spectrum, it does not empahsize this at the expense of that. The speaker is spectrally neutral, neutral in the best sense of the word. It does not impose itself on the music. What do I mean? Is the speaker bassy or bass light? Does the speaker have a deep sound stage/ or flat? Is localization of instruments precise, or blurred? Are she speakers warm or cold? Does the speaker get timbre just right? or do altos sound like tenors? etc. The answer to all those contracdictory questions is yes. But the key is that these characteristic don't belong to the speaker. They belong to the recording, to the source equipment. This is what I mean when I say these speakers do not impose themselves. They open themselves to the recording and sources - they reveal. Every recording sounds different through these speakers, that is there gift. They let the music come through as recorded, with little sonic signature apparent from recording to recording, and so they will live up to whatever you put before them. A great recording, great source equipment, great amp and pre - well through the Merlins, very few speakers will sound better. The new Merlins are even better at this magical skill of letting what comes before it speak for itself.

The "new" speakers do everything a little better, but the one trait that seems most noticible is the ability of the speakers to disappear and release the notes. They are more effortless than before, and the bass, which is always found to be very good and satisfying is better yet - more natural, present, faster, more palpable. In short a great American, classic speaker has upped the bar yet again. Don't let the fact that there are just two little drivers fool you - that is part of their brilliance, with the BAM -these are in the upper echelon.

Many professional reviewers, when they really like something, will tell you they bought the review piece. Well, I'm not a professional reviewer, but I do love listening to music, and I bought these not once, but twice - well sort of. I've stopped looking, these speakers do it for me, and if you are a music lover, you owe to yourself to audition these speakers. If you own an earlier version, you should consider the upgrade. You already own a great speaker, MXe simply takes it even further.
I agree with everything Pubul57 said above especially the part about being neutral. To me the speakers have no personality of their own. You just get what was recorded with no emphasis on any particular frequency. Continuous from top to bottom like a one-way.
I cannot stress enought how tonally accurate the new "e" versions are to me. Just absolutely amazing and worth every penny for the upgrade. In fact I would have paid multiple times the upgrade cost based on what I'm hearing now.
i haven't sent my VSM-MX's back for the full lead-free upgrade. but i did just recently switch to the lead free power cord for the super BAM, and i changed my BAM battery cells to 230's.

what the hell?! . . . hard to believe that there was that much room for improvement. the whole spectrum is more continuous now from top to bottom. the stage seems to have more depth and resolution, and the bass is more authoritative. really, the speakers just seem bigger and fuller now, all the while maintaining their tonal neutrality.

had a huge party at my house over the weekend, and jaws literally dropped! also, the custom supports bobby made to prevent the speakers from tipping off the rear spike are worth their weight in gold, especially with a house full of guests.

Great review. I too have gone for the lead free power cord for the super BAM, battery change and new jumpers.

The change is not subtle, (and sometimes I think I miss more of the subtle changes). I would definitely agree with Nmanuel on the improvements. More continuous and the sound stage has more depth. Wider at the back of the stage, less V shaped if you will. The music is much more decoupled from the speakers. Occasionally I could get a sense of the music coming from the speakers. Now you can't even tell that they're on!

To all the people, (mostly over at AA), who squawk about how if the change is so good then they must have been crap before, that's obviously not the case. The speakers are great without this little upgrade but now they're even better.

Highly recommended.
Well, I've now gotten to 100 hours - they are better than I thought. While they were a bit better than the MX at first, I kept listening to/for audio ideas (bass, staging, clarity, blah, blah). I got to tell you, what I love about these speakers really has nothing to do with those things, though it does do those things superbly well, it is the fact that I no longer care about listening for those things. The musical message is so articulate, the meaning of the words or musical phrases are so direct and meaningful, eaily understood that I simply connect to the musicians and what they are doing and trying to say or communicate. Forget the audio traits, these speakers are not about bombast, these speakers bring the music into your home, and that, as they say is priceless. Thank you Bobby. Among other things, I never realized how great the CAT JL2 amp is. To say the least, the upgrade was well worth it to me. Thank you Bobby. How are you going to top these?
Are you going to flip-flop between the CAT and Ars or just stick with one?
I will be using both. ARS small scale, simply miked music, CAT for larger scale, more complex music. I also have difficulty with the CAT in the summer, my room get 5-7 degrees warmer. Having both will also help extend the time between retubing the CAT's 22 tubes.
hi paul,
top those? lol!
it is my opinion that they are now at the pinnacle of their performance. i know i have said it before but i really doubt that they can be improved on.certainly not in the near future anyway.
the cat jl2, i have an incredible respect for and it may be the very best sounding higher powered transformer coupled amp i have yet heard (on merlin speakers). i used one at the ces a few years ago and both rich and i were incredibly impressed with it. i have said it before and i will say it again, ken stevens is a great designer.
bobby at merlin
How did the Ars sound on large sale complex music(something I don't listen to)?
you are pulling the string off topic.
your question? a non issue at a responsible volume level.
The ARS is very good with all types of music, you (I) could certainly live with just it, but it is not 100 Watts of Class A triode. On the other hand, the CAT is not a simple, low powered amp, and in someways the ARS would have an advantage. The CAT is a world class amp with almost any speaker, the ARS is a world class amp with Merlins, but I wouldn't try to run a pair of Theils with them.
I recently had the same upgrade as Bhoage (new batteries, jumpers, lead free power cable for the SBAM). I agree with everything that Bryan said, and for me, the improvement was well worth the small amount of money spent.

One of the nice things about living only 3 hours from Hemlock NY is that I can go down and visit Bobby. It is a wonderful drive and the scenery around Hemlock is stunning! While I didn’t get to see Debbie on this visit, I did speak to Bill and Bobby quite a bit. Anyway, I brought my SBAM that I bought with my VSM-MX 2 years ago to mainly get the batteries changed (change your batteries at least every 2 years guys). While there, Bobby discussed passionately the merits of his lead free speaker system. He now uses a 3 metal solder (tin, silver, and copper I believe) instead of a 4 metal solder (tin, silver, copper, and lead). To demonstrate the difference with just the SBAMs, we inserted 2 SBAMs in his system (mine and his newest lead free one). With both using RCA connections and just the batteries (mine now with the new fully charged ones) and Bobby quickly switching the RCA connections to hear his and my SBAM in the system, there was a noticeable difference. The new lead-free SBAM sounded fuller, more musical. I then proceeded to mention to Bobby that he was a f*cking jerk (that’s just the kind of relationship I have with him) because it did indeed sound better and now I had a decision to make whether to get the full lead free speaker system. He did mention that (a) he didn’t know it was going to sound this much better – he was just getting his speaker system RoHS compliant and (b) this could be done with my speaker system (replacement of the SBAM and scrape out the solder in the speakers and replace with the 3 metal version) to achieve very close the VSM-MXe speaker system.
Yeah, I'm in the same boat David. I think I'm going to be driving my MX's down to Bobby's to get the full treatment in the fall, (make a nice drive of it and enjoy the fall colours). If the few little changes I mentioned above made an appreciable improvement, I'm sure the complete job will be very impressive. Oh well, it's only money :-)

Unbelievable Low-Cost Upgrade for Merlin VSM-MXs! I recently had an itch to do something to my system - perfectly happy with it's sound, but we all know the drill - gotta be something better to try! I decide to look for a tube amp to rotate in and remembered some discussion a while back on a new EL34 based integrated imported by Bobby at Merlin Music. I called and was very dismayed to learn of a long wait time (5-6 months), but decided to get on the list anyway - will be a nice Christmas present hopefully!

I knew of the lead free initiatives (as I work in a non-audio electronics industry we all are going through the process of revising products to "get the lead out") - we do it for no other reason than EU legislative mandate. So I was surprised and skeptical to learn of significant audio improvements of the lead free solder in the new "e" series Merlin speakers. Fortunately, there is a relatively low cost "test upgrade" that I was willing to try. Merlin offers a few minor upgrades - lead free power cord for the BAM, lead free jumpers and higher capacity (230 MaH) batteries.

Now this upgrade defies reason & all logic, but works! The results are very noticeable - this is not a minor upgrade. I did the upgrade in two steps; first the pc & jumpers - this provided more texture in the bass region and an overall smoothing of the sound across all frequencies - a more relaxed, musical presentation. Soundstage may have broadened in height a bit as well. The second step (battery upgrade) added more weight at the bottom. I didn't know I needed these improvements until after the upgrade.

If you are on the fence about the upgrade - just buy it! For less than $200, it's a winner! Merlin also offers an lead free upgrade to the speaker itself - based on the improvements heard with the above, I may just have to send them back for rework (if I can live without them for a few weeks).

System currently consists of McIntosh C200 or C220 preamp, MC-501 monoblocks, VSM-MX's w/Super BAM.
I just received and installed the new 230mah batteries and the lead free jumpers. Amazing! The batteries added bass weight and fullness. The speakers sound bigger, much bigger. The lead free jumpers added clarity and airy-ness, yet also made the presentation softer. Kind of hard to explain. I like it. I like it a lot! Looks like I may have to spring for the complete lead free upgrade in the not too distant future. Good job Bobby P!
Below is what I wrote to Bobby regarding my jumpers/PC/batteries mod experience.


Overall, without isolating any specific element, my modified MX sounds even more musical and linear (i.e. continuous in your parlance). Upon receipt of the new jumpers/powercord/battery, I behaved well by resisting the temptation of immediately listening to my system as I wanted the batteries to be fully charged; further, during the ensuing days, I would let my system play, with only cursory listening sessions, in order to let the new components settle-in as much as possible. Of course, my hectic work schedule certainly helped me emphasize the "cursory" part of it.

In the past two weeks, mostly weekends, I logged in approximately 10 hours of listening time. I pulled out the usual, personal favorite CDs and a few other I had not listened in a while, to seriously test my "new" system. While I am not certain that I can adequately ascribe my favorable impression of the modified MX to concrete factors, I did identify a few listening elements that I particularly enjoyed.

Again, my initial impression was speakers' linear expression, a sound that was smooth and "uninterrupted." To my ears, the top-end, or the higher frequency was not hot or shrilled, but blended in with the rest of the spectrum. As an example, the trumpet and female vocals were so very pleasing, smooth, and yet still palpable and lively. The bass -- yes I mean bass -- has ever asserted itself. While the bass is not the 15-inch-woofer-pounding-your-chest kind of impact, it is so much more tuneful. The upper bass frequencies are more musical and delineated. The string bass comes across so clearly and with a full body.

Let's move on to sound stage and imaging. To me, and a few friends of mine, VSM's ability to provide a good sound stage and imaging was always there. And yet, the subject components made further improvement to this facet of my VSM. When I speak of sound stage, I think of it in two halves, the front-half and the back-half. I'll first comment on the back-half. To my ears, the back-half of the sound stage has widened. How do I mean? Well, think of the letter "V" for a moment -- the apex, or bottom, of the letter as the back-half and the top as the front-half. In short, the "V" is now more of a "U" in the overall presentation. As you can see, the back-half of the sound stage has expanded in that when the musical content is there, the placement of various instruments are no longer confined to the center of the speakers, but are now more behind and even beyond the speakers set-up width. The front-half of the sound stage is as wide as before, but the presentation seems more off-the-speakers in that the sound does not appear to be emanating from the drivers, unless it's called for by the music.

Last, but not least, is the overall imaging height. I've always thought the height of the musical imaging, more specifically vocal, could be -- not necessarily should be -- higher. Now, I feel as though the imaging of vocals has been lifted by another 8 to 12 inches, which is a pleasant surprise.

Well, Bobby, I want to thank you for recommending the subject modification. In summary, I believe my modified MX, or an MXe wanna-be, now has a more musical, tuneful, and impactful presentation. Bravo.

Toward the end of my listening session with jumpers/pc/batteries mod, I inserted a pair of pure gold interconnects from KCI. While the jury is still out, thus far, these interconnects have added additional bass and smoothness to the VSM.

In short, I may have to spring for the full MX-e mod, as well.

I was very impressed with Martin Dewulf's recent review in Bound for Sound. He captures the reasons why I (and many other Merlin owners) find the Merlin VSM-Mxe to be one of the all-time great speakers that has and will continue stand the test of time. This is no "flavor of the month" speaker. If you are a Merlin owner, the review will make you feel good. If you are not it gives you plenty of reasons to audition this speaker against anything out there.
I've been enjoying Merlin VSM's since 1997 and have had them upgraded throughout the years.They have never ceased to amaze me with through each new upgrade.I received the new MMe's 2 weeks ago and am blown away by the improvement over the MM's.The first thing I noticed was the "see through" quality with layers of veiling totally lifted.Nothing ever gets lost in the mix.In fact there is so much more musical information you can actually enjoy the Merlins at lower listening levels.You don't have to crank it to hear all the extra detail. Instruments were more harmonically complete which boosted the believability factor bigtime.Also dynamic resolution is greatly improved.Both micro and macro dynamics are better resolved with greater nuance which is very important to me when listening to classical music,especially piano.I find the MMe's soundstage is more expansive and better able to fill my room with a highly transparent focused 3 dimensional soundstage than ever before.These speakers have made it possible to enjoy many older recordings in a way that I have never experienced.In short, these speakers are a stunning achievement that I will enjoy for years to come.Asscociated equipment:Audio Aero Prima SE dac/preamp,OCM800 amp,Jps superconductor 2 cables, Audio Research CDT-1 Transport Theta DataII transport
I must say that over the past two years with my Merlin TSM-MXs I have really enjoyed the Merlin magic these speakers convey. A delightful listening experience.

Two weeks ago, I upgraded to the TSM-MXe.

Very first impression…
Midrange clarity and texture were excellent, an immediately noticeable difference. No strain for my ARS Sonum Filarmonia amp which effortlessly presented the music. The greater clarity here seemed to offer better contrast to the background. Like a lower noise floor. I guess I'm fortunate in that I have a basement (all to myself) that is dead quiet so I can really hear these improvements in sound quality. The highs were very good but at first sounded a little less clear on the top. I called Bobby and he advised that the new no-lead jumpers needs a little time to settle in.

By the end of the 2nd week …
The mid-range clarity was excellent. Highs were clear and overall presentation top to bottom was smoother and more balanced. Lower mids and base developed a clearer fuller tone with rich texture. I can best describe this by the reproduction of the tones of a stand-up base, which sounded fantastic. Piano (my favorite), sounded clear with excellent decay.

As I mentioned, these MXes are mated with my beautiful ARS Sonum Filarmonia. Although my Filarmonia has the ability to drive the TSMs quite loud even in my large room which is 17 x 26 x 8, I do use a sub for tonal balance due to room size. The combo is superb.

Let me just say this is a no-brainer upgrade which improved the performance of this already excellent speaker beyond my expectations. Thanks Bobby for the fast turnaround in less than a week!
This is a copy of an email I recently sent to Bobby in regard to my Merlin VSM-MM.
Hi Bobby,
Yeah, I recieved the lead free jumpers, the 230amp batteries and lead free power cord for Superbam, but I incurred a back injury shortly after recieving items so wasn't able to give a lot of listening impressions. After more listening impressions I can now report that what I hear is really quite amazing for what seemed like minor changes to me.
First of all, another level of transparency, background details I previously strained to hear are now simply there, just part of the mix, not spotlighted like I've sometimes heard with other system upgrades, wow!
The second improvement is more profound, the bass is so much more articulate, and I can now much better hear the tonal characteristics of drums and bass string instruments. This improvement has also lowered the frequency balance of my system, instead of being slightly balanced towards the upper mids, my system now seems more perfectly balanced, slightly lower in frequency. I also find myself now focusing more on lower frequency information, I think I may have shaded my focus towards upper frequencies previously, as the lower frequencies were simply not as articulate and tuneful as the mids and highs, I'm sure this plays a role in my perspective of tonal balance as well. Simply put, these upgrades are awesome, what I previously thought was 'just right' seems to have been an illusion. I will defintely go with the entire lead free upgrade when I can find the time to visit NY.
Thanks again Bobby, Scott
Scott...a well written note.

Bobby, you could obviously design any kind of speaker that you want, and in the early days you did design very different speakers. You made the decision to master the execution of a two-drive, "full-range" speaker with one x-over, using the BAM to(?) avoid a third driver with an additional x-over. Is your decision not to design a multi-driver three-way based on inherent problems of complexity (a design principal), or the difficulty of mastering and perfecting two very different approaches to making a full-range speaker? The VSM-MXe is the result of evolution and perfecting over time, so I guess I'm looking for some insight into your approach to speaker design and what you have chosen to bring to market.
originally my goal was bandwidth, so i made bigger multidriver systems with a larger wave lauch. these were better suited to larger rooms. now i strive to make the speakers be as coherent as possible, like a one way in effect. with vastly superior continuity and completeness. multidriver systems have their own inherent flaws with diffraction, stratification of output, complication/just more to make sound like one. to me the less complicated system can and does disapear more so and sound like it is energizing the air to a greater degree. smaller rooms are what most of us live in so i spend my time working on products better suited to this end.
musical center is where is am now. of course if you want to use merlin speakers in bigger rooms and need more bandwidth, use a sub.
I can't imagine adding a sub to the VSM-MXe and not feeling like I've ruined someting that did not need fixing. Like Scott says, the new lead-free stuff with the improved battery for the BAM makes bass that is totaly satisfying for me in terms of depth ( I listen to jazz primarily)and more articulate and communicative than ever, not that it was a slouch before.
while it is true that the mxe is way more room filling than earlier versions, some who have very large spaces to fill would still not be happy. it is more of a tonality issue than the extention. i would run a sub second order at 30 to 35 hz in such a room. why give up the speaker's ability to sound as it can from 35 on up. subs are great if used correctly and in the right room.
you obviously don't need one.
I wonder how MXe's would sound with the Wilson Benesh Infrasonic Tone Generators?
I thought I'd just add my upgrade experience to the mix.

About little more than a month ago I loaded my Merlin's, (VSM-MX's into the car), and my wife and I drove them down to Bobby's place about 3 hrs away, give or take another 45 minutes to get across the border.

Bobby was great and took the time to show my wife and I around the place. It was really fun to see his whole operation and get a chance to look at the speakers in various states of construction. All in all it was a very pleasurable experience to be able to take the speakers there myself and get a better understanding/appreciation of what goes into manufacturing these great speakers. I would highly recommend this to anyone within driving distance.

Anyway, I've had the had the speakers back in my system for about a month now so I think I have a good handle on the changes.

First I would say that I noticed improved midrange clarity. There were vocal passages where they were clearer and easier to disern the words. I picked up on this improvement right away.

Next, the bass and lower mids have improved as well. The speakers now sound fuller/bigger than before. It's not an overpowering thing but there just seems to be a little more weight to the proceedings making everything seem a little bigger. My wife who doesn't really bother with this stuff but commented on it as well out of the blue, (no prompting from me on if she noticed any change or difference).

The other major aspect I've noticed is that the sound seems even more detached from the physical speakers. There was a substantial improvement for me with the battery, jumper and power cord lead free upgrade but with the upgrade to the speakers, now the last sense that the sound is actually coming out of the speakers themselves seems to have been removed. The music is just hanging there in space. I don't know if this is improved transparency or what but I can hear into the soundstage better as well. It really helps you to focus on the music and forget about the equipment, (the ultimate goal in my mind).

Overall, I'm extremely happy with the improvements that both upgrades have made and they have taken a great speaker and made them even better. If one were to do both upgrades at the same time I think they'd be astounded at how much better these already great speakers can get and I would highly recommend any of you contemplating it to go for it.

Thanks Bobby for continuing to evolve these speakers and helping us to get the most out of our investment.

Bryan, what are you using under your speaker spikes?
Just some little wooden disks my wife found for me at a craft store. Definitely not "audiophile approved", but they also didn't cost me hundreds :-) , (more like 5 bucks). You have to be careful though or you'll crack them.

They didn't really do anything other than minimize the spikes piercing into the hardwood floor but they at least minimized it somewhat. To be honest, the spikes don't leave that big a mark in the floor anyway. I kept the spikes off until I had the placement where I wanted, put the spikes on and stuck those things under. They eventually work their way through but not as much as if they weren't there.

Hope this helps
what have you given up in the sound department, if anything? i have tried pennies and the little brass cups under the points and always thought it sounded more even with just the z feet into the floor.
your method would seem like it would cause little degredation but also not rid the floor of damage.
i have tried 1/28, one inch long soft metal stud bolts with hex drive heads to good effect at the plant. they can be adjusted/leveled but not locked 100% into place. so you still get a tiny amount of thread sheering but if you extended the thread to force lock them, they work well. i have some to try. i use four for stability in the work place.
best, b
BP, I'll call you on this, I'm afraid of taken the thread off subject.
To be honest, there's no degredation in sound I can determine between spiked straight in or having the wooden disks there. It does minimize the impact on the floors but the spikes do sink partially in. A bit of a comprimise I suppose.

What I'm really curious about is if anyone has tried something like the Finite Element Cera bases or Cerapuck's in place of the spikes? Not cheap but that would solve the wood floor dillema once and for all and might actually sound even better?

imho, a low q speaker needs to be coupled to the floor to rid the enclosure of stored energy. the better you couple it, the more energy is passed to the floor. the z foot assembly also has a very low resonant freq. in the single digits. the speaker definitely needs to be leveled to get the image solid so they diappear and sound expansive. and once you level you need to lock the threads so you do not get sheering of the threads. low q speakers like to be decoupled.
You mean high q speakers like to be decoupled? The VSMs are low q?
oops, yes, imho low q or higher damped speakers like to be coupled as a rule and higher q or lower damped speakers like to be decoupled as a rule. the vsms are low q.
best, b
Just had my VSM-MX speakers upgraded to the new lead-free spec. I have listened for only two days, but can easily recognize considerable improvement in several key areas.
The bass has much more impact, weight, and definition. They throw a even larger soundstage. The speaker is more dynamic. Vocalists are more immediate (i.e., more "in-the-room"). The VSM-MX sounded large before the mods, but now they sound even larger. My hat's of to Bobby Palkovic for pushing the envelope yet again. If you are thinking, like I was, that lead-free solder could not possibly yield a significant improvement, think again.
i originally posted in june 2007 on my experience with upgrading to the lead free power cord for my BAM and to the 230 BAM battery cells. with this thread's encouragement and bobby's recommendation, i decided to send my VSM-MX's back for the full lead free upgrade.

i've had them back up and running for only about a week now, but the difference is immediate and fairly astounding. right out of the box, the speakers sound clearly more authoritative, with MUCH more bass impact. the sound stage is taller, wider, and deeper. the center of the stage comes up now more to the musical center of the speakers. the merlin imaging remains impeccable, as you would expect. i would agree with several of the above posts--the music is even MORE decoupled from the physical speaker than before. the overall effect is mesmerizing.

the speakers now completely and more satisfyingly energize the volume of my living room, which is a fairly large room with vaulted ceilings.

this upgrade is a no-brainer!

BRAVO bobby!
This is a review of the Merlin Music VSM MXE loudspeaker. I have been a fan of Merlin Music's speakers for a long time. I have known Bobby Palkovic the designer for over 20 yrs and worked for him for 10 This is a review of the Merlin Music VSM MXE loudspeaker. I have been a fan of Merlin Music's speakers for a long time. I have known Bobby Palkovic the designer for over 20 yrs and worked for him for 10 yrs. He is one of the few true gentleman in audio today.

This past summer i had my VSM MX's upgraded to the new MXE version( all lead free) along with a new Super BAM( also lead free). I loved my MX's. They were smooth sounding, offered very very good sound staging(depth,height and width). The resolution, detail and layering of music was simply tremendous.The mids were natural sounding. The highs were sweet and airy without any of that metallic sound that so many speakers have. The bottom end was extended sounding with very good definition and weight.The Mx's are a very well balanced sounding speaker.They are coherent, life like and complete sounding.That is why the speaker is a recommended component in stereophile( class A (RL).They simply play music!

What i got after my upgrade to the MXE version and Super BAM is nothing short of amazing.The MXE is now much more smoother sounding( Liquid sounding).There is a total lack of grunge or harshness. The sound stage now takes on a more life like presentation. voices are oh so natural with none of that chestyness or hollow sound that one hears from most speakers. The highs are even more refined. delicate with even a more airy sound. None of that bright brittle metallic sound here. You know the kind that makes your ears bleed!! The bottom end is much more weighted sounding with much better resolution and definition.The new Super BAM plays a important part in this also.On full Ac the new BAM sounds much better than the old did on batteries. When you switch to full batteries you will notice how things smooth out even more.

The MXE's are much more continuous,coherent, and life-like sounding. As a result the MXE's are a more complete speaker and because of this it sounds more expansive in its portrayal of music. A speaker that is all most beyond belief in its ability to play music in a seamless, natural nature. No phony sounding mids, bloated over exagerated bottom end and artificial sounding highs. It may be the best speaker in the world as some have suggested. I leave that to the ones that already have them.

Thanks Bobby!!

Here is a list of my gear:

Merlin Music VSM MXE speakers
Music Reference RM9SE Power Amp
Joule Electra La-150MK2 line stage
Audio Aero Capitole Classic SE CDP
Equi-tech balanced power units(2)
Cardas Golden Reference interconnects, power cords and speaker cables
JPS AC+ power cords

room size 19x13x12.

If anyone would like to hear them in my system just contact bobby. I live in the DC metro area( northern va). Reston, Great Falls, Sterling area.
Could you post some pics?
I just bought a pair of MXe's on the 'Gon, and I'm very excited to hear them! I've never heard a pair of merlins...
Goatwuss, what is you pre and amp?
Supratek Syrah, with either a CJ 200 WPC sonographe SS amp, or a response audio modified Jolida 302B (50WPC el34)
In theory, your EL34 amp should work well with the Merlins; these speakers almost always sound best with tubes, and. It will be interesting to hear your comments regarding the CJ versus the Jolida. Enjoy.