Merlin VSM-M and Bass

A bit of background:

Marantz SA-14 SACD player
Sonic Frontier Line 2SE preamp
Belles 150A Hotrod amp
Merlin VSM-M with BBAM

Setup and room:
diagonal placement
speakers about 5-6' apart and fairly close to the side walls in a 20'x20'x10' sloped ceiling room with a big opening into a 20'x12'x8' kitchen

I bought the Merlin's (VSM-SE) about 2 months ago and had Bobby upgrade them to the Millenium w/ BBAM. My question is how can I get more bass from them? These speakers are (were?) going to replace my Revel F30. The Revel's have the bass that I'm looking for, however, from maybe 100Hz on up, the Merlin's are much better. I just do not get the bottom end that the Revel's put out.

Integrate a sub? And if so, any suggestions?

Thank you,
That's a big room. I would take out the BAM and get a Rel sub. You'll never integrate a sub using the BAM. Of course, you can try it with and without BAM. My 2 cents!
Agree! REL subwoofer is a good music sub.
Hi David,
You must use the BAM to get get a proper integration of the sub to the VSM. The BAM offers a steep cut at 30 Hz which you will cross the sub into at 12 or 24 dB (your choice). The 12 dB peroctave slope will result in more overlap at the crossover point so the sound will be fuller in your large room. This may be preferable to you.
Without the BAM, there is no chance of summing the sub and VSM outputs correctly. Crossing the sub above 30 Hz will unweight the wonderful tonal balance of the VSM M so I do not recommend this either. Some experimentation will be necessary for you to dial this in but this is your easiest path and least expensive path.
In a purist sense, your wires (Beldon) and pre offer up a presentation that is somewhat stipped in the bass. This lack of fullness is more obvious because of the VSM's high degree of resolution. Going this route will cost more but will probably make you much more happy in the end. The speakers have a really big bass but you need the associated equipment to be tonally neutral enough to be able to perceive this.
Hope that I have helped.

Thank you for the incredible customer support. Just a note to fellow Audiogon members, Bobby and I had a long talk about the bass issue that I have in my room and he took the time to tell me more in detail the advice he has given above. Outstanding service.
i successfully used a passive x-over provided by TG audio to roll the VSMs off at @ 100hz (first order if memory serves) and let the subs i was using (entec LF20s) run full range (natural roll off @ 100hz).

when i had both TG audio and BFS revier MGDwulf over, both thought it was seamless. and it was good enough for me. this may work for you as well...but get a damn good x-over to roll off the mains (its a passive RCA input x-over similar to the ones available via, but using MUCH better parts)...
Thank you all for your responses. Just for closure sake, I am going to mentioned what happened this weekend. I had the Revel F30 hooked up to the equipment listed above and again, the bass was better (more "present")than I remembered for the Merlins (about 150 Hz and below - I have the Stereophile Test Disc #3). I then hooked up the Merlins almost in the same manner that I had before (biwired, same placement, etc.), however, this time I actually installed the cones instead of just the threaded spikes and had let the BBAM charge for a few days while listening to the Revels (although I only listened prior in full AC mode). No other changes that I can think of. I used a couple of CD/SACDs that I am familiar with that had some good bass and, long story short, there it was! It was as though I had the VSM's wired out of phase before and now wired correctly. I was originally looking at purchasing the REL Strata III (another ~$1000), but am not now as the bass can tunefully rattle the room when it is there on the disc. The music lover in me doesn't care why this happened (break-in, cone installation, incorrectly wired(?)) but is happy. The audiophile in me will try and figure out why. The BBAM was used all the time (prior and now) in the full AC mode to ensure that the batteries were not drained.

Count me as another Merlin happy camper.

Hi David

I noticed quite an improvement in bass energy by doing something so seemingly simple as the 6th toe mod. Instead of the z foot front and center the two feet are mounted left and right with the rear center. This rather than four feet. The bass improvement was just amazing for such a minor change.
David informed me that he was just using the threaded point without the jam nut and the rest of the cone assembly. The lack of bass is understandable when you consider that the increased sheering potential virtually destroyed the dynamic coupling of the speaker to the floor. A properly designed speaker foot is rigid to pass built up energy from the speaker cabinet into the earth. With the point just screwed into the fastener on the bottom of the speaker, the energy could not pass through the spike as a drain. The build up of energy within the cabinet heightened the cabinet resonance and cancelled some of the bass energy. Just using the point with a jam nut is not enough because the resonant frequency of this combination is very high and you will hear this in the speaker's reproduction. The entire cone assembly must be used to damp the foot. This results in a single digit resonant frequency which is too low to hear. The result is a much fuller and relaxed presentation which David noted. Using the battery ops in the BAM will also provide the listener with a more relaxed and full presentation than the AC mode. This speaker's degree of resolution will show up seemingly insignificant issues and make them extremely audible. So, some of the procedures taken for granted with other speakers need to be paid attention to here. The more you do this, the better the end result.
One last thing, Tubegroover mentioned a sixth toe mod. This was done to David's speakers but for those of you that have not done it, the difference in bass quantity and impact is remarkable.
I got the 6th toe mod and my bass is absolutely great. But on only 3 spikes the speakers tend to want to tip over. I have had two different heart attacks as my 5 year old inadvertently brushed the side of the speaker hard enough to actually knock the speaker down onto it's side. Fortunately the speaker has landed solidly on it's side on the carpet both times and has sustained zero damage. Will I loose a lot by going to a more stable 4 Z foot setup? BTW, time can stand still as you watch your VSM slowly fall sideways as my 5 year old looks on with horror.
Hi Tom,
The speakers will sound very full and natural even with the four feet used. The bass will not be quite as extended or as punchy but it will still sound wonderful and keep you happy knowing that your little one and the speakers will be more safe. By the way, are you on concrete or wooden flooring?
can I ask how much the upgrade cost you?
were there options along with the upgrade?
I'm considering buying an SE set and upgrading it myself

Just be happy you had a carpeted floor for the speaker to land on becuase this will abosorb a large amount of the impact/shock. I have seen a speaker fall hard on a plain concrete floor... the shock of the impact snapped the voice coil assembly off the back of a cast frame woofer. I could've cried.

My flooring is wood with pretty decent carpeting/padding. I just feel lucky it didn't go the other way and nail my VAC amp or gouge the finish by hitting something on the way down. When it fell it just landed perfectly on the side. I'm going to try 4 feet just for safety's sake.

I have my Merlin's on four feet. I, too have pretty decent carpeting/underpad AND a five year old boy. I found that when I gently held his head in my hands, bent over with my face about 6" away from his and softly said that these speakers are worth more than my car, he understood. Unfortunately, he mentions this to guests.


Give Bobby a call at Merlin ( He is more than helpful.


Just looking at my old thread and thought that I should make a posting of what has occured over the year.

I still have the same speakers. They are just too damn good to let go. I did have an "affair" for a short while with the likes of Gershman Avant Garde RX-20's (sorry Bobby!) and also tried the Merlin's with a REL Storm III while still having the SF Line 2 SE preamp.

They are now set up with two of the Z feet on the front left and right and the third is center back. My preamp is now a Joule Electra LA 100 Mk III, and the rest is the same EXCEPT I have changed where the speakers are situated in my room about 6 months ago.

The biggest improvement? The replacement of the preamp. OK, Ok Bobby you were right. A more fuller, relaxing, overall a more musical sound to me. Once I replaced the preamp, I sold the REL that I had for about 2 months. It simply was not required anymore. Next the three toe installation about 2 weeks ago. I had it via 4 feet, but decided to live life in the fast lane (now also have a 19 month old walking around) and, again, as Bobby says, just a more "there" bass. With Stereophile Test CD #3 and my RS digital SPL meter where my head usually is when listening, I get a full output response to 31.5 Hz. There is some output at 25Hz (about 7 dB lower than 31.5) and really none at 20 Hz.

As stated over and over again, match these speakers up to great (not necessarily very expensive) equipment, and these speakers shine.


that is great news david.
have fun.

I have problems with bass,some bass freequencys are just not coming out......some cancellations .. tried different amps and Cd players whats 6th toe mod ... i am using VSM mme, AA Prestige, Fila with Cardas cables
what bass are you trying to get out of them?
what is the set up like in the room?
distance apart and how far are you from the speakers?
proximity to walls?
51 inches from the wall behind them, from front baffle ...6 feet apart tweeter to tweeter ...34 inches from the side wall to center of front a room of 20feet long *12feet wide *9 feet heigh
is the room carpeted?
I heard TSMs and VSMs in numerous systems. Imho VSMs sound is not as coherent as VSMs. I usually hear some midebass hump in VSMs removing deep bass from the audition

TSMs are imho one of the most revealing compact speakers I have heard. Congrats Bobby. My last audition of these compact monitor was with the big Ars Sonum (amazong sound)

If you have room acousic problems you should check your room frequency response trying to have the most accuracy levels. It is the only way, or at least the fastest way!!
p you hear midbass hump in which the tsm of vsm? in the second sentence you mention the vsm twice.
Oh, excuse me...:-(

"Imho VSMs sound is not as coherent as TSMs. I usually hear some midebass hump in VSMs removing deep bass from the audition..."

The only thing I can say about this fact is that I always have heard VSMs with BAMM activated and I am starting to think if there is some relation between this not linear bass response and the Bamm function.

For example I spent some weeks with a compact monitor Raidho speakers last month and they bring really big scale (for his size) adding some kind of hump but imho better resolved than VSMs.
TSMs midbass response is honest, particulary linear and it give them this transparent and revealing sound I like a lot. At this time they are one of my reference compact speakers in the market, really nice stuff
p, it sounds to me like the set ups you have heard the vsms in, have had some sort of bass reinforcement in the upper bass. if anything, the vsm is more linear than the tsm, has higher resolution and much less distortion. because the speaker can go lower it can combine with room nodes the create a false sense of mid bass boost. it you do not like equalizers? :)
Maybe there is a relation between Bam and bass hump...
Could you explain shortly about frequency response differences between these two options?
Thanks for your inputs
"Maybe there is a relation between Bam and bass hump"

Pojuojuo, it is interesting that you hear a mid-bass hump or boost, must be a room node as Bobby notes. I have never had a mid-bass issue with the VSM-M which I have used for 12 years now, but it took a while in the early days to get the low bass right including dialing in placement, room treatments, isolation devices and matching the right components. I might have welcomed a mid-bass hump in those early years, cause the balance wasn't right but I perservered recognizing the other aspects of their presentation with the encouragement that yes, the speakers do bass.

Until you REALLY get things right, dialed in, it might seem that the speaker doesn't do bass but still.... I never had the hump issue you are experiencing. This is one of their virtues, especially for a 2-way, no humps, no gimmicks. The low bass articulation, control and pitch accuracy of instruments is just unbelievable when it is right. I'm not too sure I have heard well recorded solo piano sound more natural, coherent and resolving top to bottom on any system regardless of what John Atkinson said in his comments in the Stereophile review. ;^).
p, the bam causes no mid bass hump because its boost plateau is actually centered at 35 hz. the vsm response is actually + or - 2.25 db. the tsm is + or - 2.75 and because the qts of the morel woofer, its response is actually boosted by over 1 db in the range up to 180 hz. it is also playing below resonance of 52 so the im distortion is higher and impedance variations considerable because the driver in not kept in linear drive like the scan/bam. i am sure what you are hearing is a room mode. if the vsm's were set up by the 1/4's rule that would probably disappear.
My VSMs (originally SE, subsequently updated) have seen almost 15 years of use in 6 or 7 different rooms. As some have noted, it may take a bit of work to get satisfying bass balance in any give room. OTOH, the one thing that I've never had to deal with in all these years with my VSMs is a mid-bass bump.

Ok, thanks for your inputs. I was worried about some relation between midbass hump and bam.

I will advice mi friend to take some room meditions...

I insist, Merlins are one of the best out there... Thanks Bobby
p, you must also make sure the speakers are level because if they are tilted back they can be made to sound overly full in the mid bass.
I heard the Merlin speakers....It sounds a lot like the totem speakers