There is an obvious price difference, but the CRM3.2f with enigma is in a different league frankly. I have owned both the latest VSM-M and the 3.2crm with enigma. The Kharma is much more vibrant with very large images, huge soundstage and tonal accuracy in a combination that amazed me and a number of other seasoned audiophiles. One of my friends previously lamented on my selling the CRMs as "the only pair of [my] speakers [he] actually liked" before my new ones arrive...
If they are in your price range, try to audition them, but expect to fall in love - especially with the Tenor. I am sure you will find a lot of comments on these archived.
Don't get me wrong, though. The Merlins are excellent too. I bought a pair so I can enjoy my system while I wait for my replacements to be delivered... and am enjoying them!
Well, I am sure you'll get a lot of comments, so I'll leave it at that for now.
Hope that helps...
I certainly can't offer the depth of experience Jacob has since he owned and listened extensively to both the Kharmas and Merlins but I would like to comment. At the home entertainment show in NYC I had the opportunity to hear the 3.2's with Lamm electronics and felt it was easily among the most musically involving systems at the show. Of course there is nothing like hearing a system in your own environment maximally tweeked to your taste. In other words, I'm sure the Kharmas can sound much better than they did.
I've owned the Merlins for almost 4 years and can say there is nothing I've heard in the interim that would make me want to own something else. They are tonally accurate and efficient,like the Kharmas and have electrostatic like speed and clarity. The point is that at this level of performance it may not be as clear cut as it seems on the surface. The Kharmas aesthetically are beautiful speakers and sonically may appeal more but I doubt they are better, just more preferable to some listeners. I'm certain I could live with them but my listening impressions sided with the Merlins because they have a liveness that IS more important to me. The Kharmas seemed a bit darker but none the less very clear and extremely involving, YMMV.
My comments are to offer a perspective that at this level of performance there is no substitute for personal audition, especially considering your room size and musical preferences. Musical involvement being the goal, I would expect each of these designs would offer what you are looking for, only you can decide which one does the better job of it.
I totally agrre with Jwaugh. The Merlins are very nice speakers and very difficult to beat at its price range, but the Kharmas are a very special thing matched with Tenor (I haven't heard them with Joule Electra).
I own a pair of Tenor 75wi that have been working well with the Merlins for more than one year, BUT, when a tried the Kharma CRM 3.2F in my room, I felt in love inmediately and inevitably: bigger and more coherent soundstage, deeper and tighter bass (I owned the Merlins without BAM), and overall the famous and unknown for me until that moment "timbral accuracy". The textures of all the instruments are unbelievable, specially the strings in classical music. Tenor plus Kharma represents the more involving musical experience I have experienced.
Merlins are great, with very good service, but Kharmas are, at least matched with Tenor, in another league IMO.
"I had the opportunity to hear the 3.2's with Lamm electronics and felt it was easily among the most musically involving systems at the show."
I really do believe most audiophiles have lost touch with what has to be considered the reference point for hifi sound: live music. I was at the NY show as well. The Kharma 3.2/Lamm room was a standout in my mind too-- as Worst Sound at Show. Highlighted edge definition, thinness, stridency... this system had it all. So your opinion of what sounds good is very different from mine. I don't know what your yardstick is, but mine is live music. That being the case, IMO the Merlin gets miles closer.
Rcr I would expect that without the BAM what you heard was quite a bit leaner presentation than what you would hear with it. If you have not heard this speaker with the BAM in full battery mode I am confident your listening impressions would be different with reference to texture, density, image depth, soundstaging and tonal balance not to mention bass which is in a different league taking into strong consideration the power rating and damping factor of the amp to be used. On the other hand, I didn't hear the Kharmas with the Tenor which seems to be a synergistic match of the highest order. Some day I hope to.
I'm afraid that you have no idea what the Merlin VSMs sound like without the BAM. The BAM is part of the system and is in fact the speaker's management system. It would be like driving a Vette on 3 wheels and saying that its handling and acceleration are suspect. Resolution, depth, extension, purity, tonal balance and dynamics are all greatly improved when it is used. There is also the matter of which finish Merlin VSM you had because the clearcotes are quite superior in resolution again. IMHO, the Tenor is a better match with the 3.2 than the Merlin and the Joule is a better match with the Merlin than the 3.2. Comparing the 3.2s and Tenor to the Joule and Merlin VSM M or MX would prove quite interesting.
I recently heard the Kharma CR1's with Tenor's. Absolutely a phenomenal combo. One of the best soundstages I have ever heard and high's that were airy and open. The bottom end is also very tight and extended, with no bloat. In some ways I wish I had NOT heard them, now I want them, and the combo is muy pricey.
Have not heard the Merlin's, but I seriously doubt they could be in the same league, I have rarely heard a better sounding system. The CRM3.2's are supposed to be even better..WoW!
Rcr, if you used the VSM without the BAM then you never really heard the speaker. In my opinion, the BAM is a make or break unit with the speaker. I would not have owned my pair for several years without it. It makes that big a difference. You mentioned "deeper and tighter bass". That is exactly what the BAM addresses. It makes the speaker play lower, and just as importantly, enables the speaker to play more accurately throughout its range because of the filtering of sub bass. Because the woofer is not trying to play a 20hz signal it is able to be that much more accurate within the range it is being asked to play - bass, midrange, etc.
Kmmorgan, I have not heard the MX yet but from opinions I am reading it is a pretty dramatic step up from the "M". I'm not sure there are more than a few pairs in the field given how recent the change is. When you are talking about speakers of the quality of Kharma and Merlin you really have to listen for yourself. An investment like that is worth a trip.
Thanks Kevin for your input. I heard others say the same as you. On the other hand, Bob Harley said it was the best to his ears. My yardstick is live music too. I've played it enough and listened enough over the years and I'm sorry to inform you if you haven't already noted by now that live and recorded are 2 different experiences. One can only hope to capture the essence of the performance through an audio system and to get involved in the performance. In the here and now I'm just afraid to report I haven't heard it duplicated. btw, I did enjoy the Merlin room more than any other room at that show, NYC 2002, of course I may be prejudiced :)
Why do you say, "IMHO, the Tenor is a better match with the 3.2 than the Merlin and the Joule is a better match with the Merlin than the 3.2. Comparing the 3.2s and Tenor to the Joule and Merlin VSM M or MX would prove quite interesting."? Have you had a chance to listen to the Tenor's with your speakers? I have listened to all the combinations, and I think you would be in for a real surprise.
You build a fine speaker and I am not going to get into why I greatly prefer the Kharmas, because like you, I am in the industry and have a vested interest. I would suggest that your post certainly would keep any Tenor owner from considering owning your speaker.
The VSM M with the BAM is quite simply a speaker to build a system around. With the correct selection of upstream components, wire and power conditioning, will bring years of listening pleasure.
The Kharma's are fine speakers but do not convey the same emotional connection to the music (to my ear) that my VSM M set up does in my rig. It is a matter of taste, economy and ultimately an emotional connection to the music that matters the most. To me, the Merlin's deliver it it spades.
Factor in the almost unbeleivable customer support that Bobby@merlin delivers and they are truely the bargin speaker of the high end that will deliver years of listening pleasure!!
The MX is a very new introduction and was shown to the public for the first time at the CES in Vegas. Rich Brkich, one of my best friends only heard it about ten days before the show so there are none in the field. We have already sold out months of production and are in the process of stock piling the necessary parts. We begin limited production of the MX the first week of February.
Joneill: Your response truly surprises me. Most of us who have heard the Kharma's and the Merlin's would say the opposite. Not to take anything away from the Merlin's which are a nice value at their price point, the Kharma speakers are all about emotional connection and lifelike presentation.
Are you sure you heard the Kharma speakers in question?
That is what you are saying because the Tennor sounds wonderful on the Merlins. I just prefer the Joules for very specific reasons, which I will not go into here. But think about my choices in cable and ancillaries and you can piece a bit of it together for yourself. You see, I have heard the combinations myself and I know that you would be in for a an even bigger surprize if you looked at it in an open minded manner. It is clear that we prefer different aspects of the presentation. And because these speakers sound very different as do the amps, it is impossible to say which is the better. Anyone who knows me well knows that I routinely recommended the Kharma, Rockport, Vertity, Quad, Sound Labs etc., products when calling my business. I have also recommended the the Kharma/Tenor combination to a few. Lets face it, whats good is good and I don't mind losing a sale to well designed products.
Ah come on Jtinn,
I can say exactly the same thing.
I had two individuals come into our suite at the CES who were big Kharma fans. In fact, both owned the 3.2s and were still in love with the size of their soundstage and other aspects of their Kharma sound. But both felt that the VSM MX had a more immediate character, sounded more live and less dynamically compressed. They have a totally different presentation. Do you like Burgundy or Bordeaux? I'll bet...Burgundy. ;-)
Burgundy? Bordeaux? Bobby you are far too charitable. Jtinn just likes seeing his customers pay Burgundy prices for the Ripple he stocks.
Mmmm, Ripple ;-)
"You build a fine speaker and I am not going to get into why I greatly prefer the Kharmas, because like you, I am in the industry and have a vested interest."
You just gave one Jtinn. Your passion in your preferences is well documented as are mine and others. It really comes down to musical involvement, not better or closer to real. As an example, I own the Berning amp which in many ways seems closer to neutral than the Joule amp with the Merlins yet the Joule has a more "realistic" presentation of the harmonics of instruments, timbre accuracy is another way of putting it. Which one is right? My answer is there is no right, just priorities and preferences so why all the fuss? Maybe the fact that a 10K speaker can be compared to one at 22K in a favorable context? On an absolute level it gets back to preference of how recorded music is presented and the involvement factor, nothing more or less. I think we are talking about 2 superb 2-way speakers that offer different priorities. I have never looked at the Merlin as somehow being compromised because of their price but of offering an extraordinary value in light of it. Why do you seemingly qualify many of your remarks with "at the price". It isn't the first time I've seen you do it. It seems to me some sort of validation or justification for the prices of the components you sell. No offense meant but it is irksome to me.
You had me fooled there...until I saw the wink.
You know, hc, it reveals a lot about your character that the only times (2) you have posted to this forum are to attack others. Your personal attacks are getting pretty tiresome.
Thanks to everyone who responded to the post. All of the views have pointed me to the possibility of system synergy.
Bobby, your were one of the parties to open the door concerning this. Thanks. However, it was only partially opened as were your comments. JTinn greatly prefers the Kharma's on either amp. Bobby and JTinn,would it be possible to post the technical viewpoints for your comments. I'm ok in acknowledging the potential bias.
"Different strokes for different folks I guess"! The Kharma 3.2 are fine speaker. I thought my message stated that. Trouble reading?? Emotional connection??? It's the VSM M for my money. Sorry if you don't agree with my opinion, but it is still my opinion.
Holton: Who are you to judge me or make statements about what I like "seeing". You do not know me. You are way out of line and since we have had no personal dealings you are talking out of your "hol".
Tubegroover: Anything at any price can be compared to anything else at any other price. It really does not reflect anything when some of these unrealistic comparisons take place. I could attempt to compare a Pinto with a Ferrari, but it does not put the Pinto in the same league just because someone attempts to compare them. I am highly exagerrating the scenario to make a point.
We can compare the Kharma being a 2 way design and the Merlin being a 2 way design, but that would be about where I feel the similarities end. The Kharma is incredibly well reviewed and widely considered to be one of the best speakers in the world, at any price. It is smart for people to attempt to put their products in the same category with products that receive the recognition like the Kharma's. It creates a hope that for quite a bit less money they can recieve the same or even a greater level of performance for much less money. There are quite a few cases when this can happen, but this is not one of them.
What if we attempted to compare the Phase Technology Teatro 7.5 VDT with the Merlin VSM-M? How would you feel about that comparison? There is roughly the same difference in price as the comparison between the Merlin's and the Kharma's.
Bobby makes a valid product and has a wonderful reputation. I have met him a number of times and find him to be very personable and also very caring about his craft. I understand why people would be loyal to him and his products.
I do not think it is proper for any manufacturer to talk about anyone's product other than their own. As a dealer, some may feel the same way about my participation here, but it really is quite different. For the most part, there really is not a product that I could not carry if I really wanted it. It is about my personal taste and opinion and that is what my customers seem to be in agreement with.
I have a great deal of respect for you and enjoy your participation here on A'gon. I certainly have no intention to offend anyone.
Bobby: I like 100+ year old Armegnac and Calvados. Should we compare those items with Courvoisier? ;-)
Kevin: Trust your ears. Listen to as many speakers as you can, forget the technical spins.
I trust your ears Jonathan. Enough said.
Jtinn wrote: "Bobby makes a valid product and has a wonderful reputation. I have met him a number of times and find him to be very personable and also very caring about his craft. I understand why people would be loyal to him and his products."
Jtinn, you can rationalize the feedback you are receiving from seasoned Merlin owners however you wish. If you think I have owned my VSMs for the past 4 years just because I like Bobby then you clearly do not understand the product or why people like it. (But I'm sure your backhanded compliment is appreciated.)
If I find a speaker that does what I want better than the Merlins and they're in my price range, then I would sell them. But the fact of the matter is, I have not heard better - for my room and my tastes. Believe me, I have tried finding something better. All I end up getting is renewed appreciation for what I have.
I suspect there are numerous Kharma owners that feel the same way. And you know what? We're both right. For you to make statements about these things as though they are based in fact is a bit ridiculous.
Disclaimer: I am an audio dealer, and friends with jtinn.
Having been at Jonathan and his customers houses a few times I have heard the many different combinations of Kharma and Tenor. That combination is flat out world class and one of the best I have heard anywhere and at any price. It is a wondeful combination because it pairs the sound of a world class 75wpc OTL with an efficient large cabinet high resolution speaker. Bass with OTL transparency, harmonic magic, texture and warmth. Sometimes an OTL setup can sound a little thin but the bass and cabinet size of the Kharma make up for this quite well. You can't go wrong with this combination.
The Merlins are quite a good speaker too. I've always been very impressed with their sound at CES shows but as we have no local dealer I have had very limited exposure to them.
"It is about my personal taste and opinion and that is what my customers seem to be in agreement with."
I agree with you Jtinn and that is fine with me. I hope you'll accept the fact that during my all too brief listen to the Kharmas I found them delightful yet prefer the VSM's presentation. The Merlins have been well reviewed also. It is of little importance to me what others think of one over the other. What is most important is that folks find what suits their individual taste, needs and requirements. I am a very strong advocate against absolutism in the audio arena. Over the years I've experienced way too much hype and exaggeration and been a victim of it in my earlier years in the hobby. Let us express our opinions and preferences in the context of what we have heard and what is important to us in the presentation without black and white comments like "This is better than that" ...period!!
I can honestly say that while not perfect, the VSM is a reflection of the priorities of its designer. I just happen to agree with him in his choices not out of loyalty but of getting what he trys to convey, I just love the speakers. I also recognize the fact that others will not, no big deal. Having Bobby as a resource and also a friend is a great bonus. So far as anyone comparing a less expensive speaker to the Merlins if it suits their fancy frankly I just wouldn't care. If I were a manufacturer or dealer well...I probably would!
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Kharma and Tenor combination is world class. But there is also no doubt in my mind that the Merlin and Joule or Convergent combinations are also. Just because the VSM does not retail for a similar price does not make it inferior because if you turn the tables and look at the retail prices of Merlin and Kharma in Europe, the oposite is now true. Since most of my production goes to Europe, I feel confident that we are doing something right. But more important is the fact that I apply only a 3.7 time markup on my cost to retail. This is what keeps my prices down. And when you consider that almost 70% of the design is proprietery and totally hand made, it makes for a remarkable value. I will also compare my indivdual parts cost with any product on the planet...period. That in a nutshell is what I'm about.
Charles and I are excellent audio friends, have shared many a drink together and at one time joked about doing a Kharma and Merlin ad together but thought that the world was not ready for this type statement. And as we see here, our feelings were correct. We have great admiration for each others work. I am sure that if he read this string he would find it quite amusing.
Jtinn, if it makes you feel better to think that I am comparing my product to more expensive things in the hope that some of it rubs off, you couldn't be more wrong. I am not the one who is doing this. It has been done time and time again in the press and private discussion. And Mr. Morgan, forgive me but I will not do as you ask. Both designs have a very different presentation and try to convey a different perspective of what is live to its designer.
This thread has gotten very interesting. A thought occured to me however,when was the last time that Bobby or JTinn listened to live unamplified music?
I say this because having just heard a live unamplified piece,I realized that unfortunately the Kharma/Tenor combo I heard was still a joke.
So, when taken in context of the 'Absolute Sound' neither should perhaps be spouting the magnificence of their product.
Having said that the Kharma/Tenor combo is a fabulous sounding combo;but do they really deserve to be put on that high a plateau by anyone?
Something to think about, just IMHO.
First of all, it would be just as bad form to extoll the magnificence of my product as it would be to knock someone elses. And to be sure, I have done neither.
You have a very good point about live and unamplified music but you can't get me here because I have a piano at home, go to countless shows and concerts and frequent homes and clubs where music is played. It is a very large part of my life and the reason for what I do.
You have in fact added another complication to the dicussion because we do not know what aspect of sound makes it more live for you. We all have buttons that can be pushed and that is what this is all about.
Daveyf, if you look on the Merlin site it gives info about Bobby and his partner, Bill Hooper, that you may find interesting. Bobby and Bill are former professional musicians.
Daveyf do you think your system is a joke too? Because with a statement like that it makes one wonder your point. I know that Jtinn listens to a lot of live music but maybe not the kind you do. Just IMHO. :)
Panorama, I actually do think my system is a joke when it comes to comparing it to live unamplified.
It doesn't make any difference what kind of live unamplified music one listens to, the differences between live and reproduced are enormous.
My point is that I personally have never heard any system that even remotely sounds like the 'Absolute sound' and therefore, I wander why so many people defend their systems/ product so vociferously. Unless of course their ulterior motive is to sell more product.(Nothing really wrong in that)
BTW Bobby, I am NOT saying that you have been slinging mud here, because I do not think you have. But surely you must be somewhat disappointed in your product as a musician( as must all speaker designers I would think).
Kharma loudspeakers are fatiguing for my ears.
"Kharma loudspeakers are fatiguing for my ears."
Me too, Audio999, me too.
Jtinn would have your believe "the Kharma speakers are all about emotional connection and lifelike presentation." I believe they're all about false and fatiguing detail. I don't think it is any coincidence that Jtinn likes that kind of sound considering the second, third and fourth letters of his moniker.
Too bad this thread has degraded to the last post. Now its fatiguing to my eyes. Kharma fatiguing, riighhtt. That is like saying a Rockport TT is fatiguing. LOL!
I will respond to your great question when I get into my office. I am running a little behind.
HC, Everyone is entitled to an opinion but there is no reason to turn this into a personal thing.
hc, I wonder if you have the balls to say to his face what you are saying hiding behind a keyboard. You've really crossed over the line in your lame attempt at being funny. You can say what you will but you sure don't add any credibility to your position with remarks like that.
What was the original post? I have not heard either
speaker so I really can't comment. But they both must
have qualities people enjoy. Please stay on the subject
for us currently speaker shopping. Thanks
Ok, here I go.
I think that you really enjoy music and your system but you feel that live unamplified music is quite superior. You then asked me if I was disappointed with my work/product as a musician.
I think that most musicians like to hear a centered presentation that allows them to hear if their instrument is in tune. It must be uniform, resolved and accurate in timbre and lack dynamic compression. I think that most music enthusiasts like a focused, wide and deep soundstage. They want the presentation to be transparent and tonally rich, extended and dynamic as hell. IMHO and what I strive for in my designs is a sense of accuracy that is a balance between the two and not loaded to either extreme. The two offer a substantial difference in perspective and image density and while I enjoy both extremes I like to hear a presentation that does as much right as possible. IMHO, having one or two incredible characteristics at the expense of others does not offer a balanced product or presentation.
I spoke to a man yesterday that rebuilds and restores saxaphones. He has a Tenor amp and two expensive and famous pairs of speakers. After the work is completed on an instrument, a recording is made and played back through his system. He felt that one of his pairs of speakers was tonally challanged and that the other compressed perspective through the mid band altering the character and dynamics of the sound. This is a perfect example of a musician having trouble with his equipment because his recording does not sound as good as the sax sounds live.
I think that are a number of designs and system combinations that can present a more live and believable presentation. I think that Daveyf may ultimately never find one that thrills him in the same manner but he can find one that gets him perhaps, a lot closer.
Am I happy with my work? Absolutely! I've been working on the VSM project for ten years.
Bobby brings up some intresting points in his reply. As a former musician (drummer) as well as an audiophile, I've looked to build a system with components that do more "right" than "wrong" in my search for the absolute sound. It is this fine line that the VSM M speaker walks so well IMO.
This balance between what a musician "hears" and what an audiophile "craves" for is the designer product we know as the VSM speaker. It has been and continues to be an evolution and refinement of design by Bobby. 10+ years of development that has evolved argueably into one of the finest speakers in our hobby.
The VSM has gotten me a lot closer to this thrill than many other speakers. That's why I get a bit peeved when I hear a dealer say "Most of us who have heard the Kharma's and the Merlin's would say the opposite". What BS! Opinions are opinions. We all got'em. They ain't the facts, they are just opinions formulated on multiple factors; our experiences, preferences, compromises, likes and dislikes.
I trust my ears and my experience both as a former musician and a 35+ year audiophile to make my own judjements as to what brings me closer to the absolute sound. I don't need a panel of self-appointed expert(s) to reach that or any other conclusion.
Panorama,I wouldn't sell my Kharma C1.0 if i like it.
As i said that they are fatiguing for MY EARS,not yours or others. If you like them,i'm happy for you.
I haven't heard the Rockport TT.
The price tag for $73,500 and A+ review could be 99.99% great sound,but not 100%.
I never get upset when someone didn't like their components which were coincidently I own or love. I respect their taste.
No hard felling please !!
I cannot comment on the Kharma as i do not own them, but I can comment on the merlin vsm m and bobby so I will. He is a musician and I have had the opportunity to have many interactions with equipment and musicians like Bobby. (Ihave worked in professional music studios and also a few retail hifi stores.) The merlins are not perfect-what is outside of my wife-but they are close for the money. They are accurate and fair, and I only wish that some of the other speaker companies I have dealt with have guy like Bobby in charge.
There are many good products out there-the kharmas are one to be sure-but there are not many guys like Bobby out there;, honest, intelligent and dedicated to the music. We would all be more fortunate if we could have more of him, not less.
I thought we were comparing the Kharma 3.2 focal or diamond which in my opinion is levels above Ceramique 1.0. Do you think the 3.2 is on par with the 1.0? Your statement says Kharma's are fatiguing. You cannot say by hearing one model they all are the same. Think about it.
Bobby, that's a very interesting response.A while back I heard a very well respected horn manufacturer's speaker that was playing a demo of a drum set. At first listen, I was struck by how amazingly like a real drum set they sounded..Then the manufacturer played various other pieces; to everyone's dismay the speakers just totally fell apart and in fact their sound was enough to drive myself and several others out of the room.
While I am not a musician by profession, I do play several instruments and have the opportunity to play live and then listen to the reproduced. One thing that I am fairly certain you will agree with is that when one hears a live instrument it is instantly recognizable as such. The reproduced sound seems to me to be also just as recognizable;and IMHO they are light years apart. The example of the sax player is interesting, maybe it is impossible to reproduce a sax so that one knows immediately that one is hearing a 'live'sax and at the same time have any chance of reproducing say a violin or piano so that again the same would hold true.
You are right, I truly love music and I am hoping that one day my system will be a little more towards what I perceive as sounding more like a real live 'unamplified'
Perhaps one of my problems is that I have a very high expectation of what I would like to hear from a true 'high-end' system.
I have heard many Kharma's (more than you thougt) from 1999 and the last one i heard was last month at 2004 CES
I heard the 3.2 with focal at least 4 times in a different set up and room. (Haven't heard the Diamond,though)
I had talked and listened with Charles in San Fransisco 2003 when he had the 3.2 in his room.
If soft dome and 3.5" mid made my ears hot,what do you want me to expect from focal and 7" mid ?
Infact,the 3.5" mids were doing better job than 7" to me in the 500Hz-up area.
Top of the line and higher price is not always better !!
Many or most people prefer the Tennor Hybrid over the OTL,but not all.
Think about it !!
Top of the line and higher price is not always better !!
I never said that. I said the 3.2 is levels above the 1.0. musically.
audio999....I have thought about it. We agree to disagree. It is okay to not like what you hear. I don't want your ears to get hot listening to Kharma's as you say.
I really like what I hear as my system gets me closer to the music. The Tenor/Kharma is a wonderful match. Closer to the music for me.
That is what it is all about, right? :^)
Daveyf I can really relate to what you are saying there are many music enthusiasts that feel as you do. I remember well when I heard my first "hi end" system beyond what I felt was the pinnacle of reproduced sound at the time. I was swept away not because it sounded like live but it preserved much of what I hear in live music. Since that time I have come to realize that although the reproduction of music has improved, it still doesn't sound live regardless of the components used. There are many music enthusiasts that recognize this and don't even bother with hi-end systems feeling spending the money on such gear isn't worth it. All you can do is find the gear that gives you enjoyment and try to stay away from the "live" comparison. Having said that I guess what I like about the Merlins is that in many of the aspects I find important in reproduced they excel, dynamics, tonality, space between instruments and immediacy, things that remind me more of live. The imaging, soundstaging aspect which they also excel at are decidely less important to me in a real sense but a characteristic of reproduced sound that we have come to expect from our audio systems. Again it comes down to choices and priorities. Thanks Bobby for your very lucid explanation, well said!
I hope that you believe me when I say that I really admire your speaker choice. I also hope that everyone sees that there is no right and wrong here but that personal preference is most important. After all, you are the one who has to pay for and live with the choice in the end.
I think the point about the horn player's speaker is a good one but think that this was probably another example of where the product was so loaded to one side of the medium that it sounded really dynamic, present and live on drums but lacked the relaxed and ambient qualities to make it enjoyable on recorded music. This and the opposite of course are evident throughout the music industry.
You have made a valid point about the sound of real instruments and one thing that we have not talked about is how the instrument interacts with the room. These reflections or reinforcements are also picked up by the sensitive ear and most recordings of instruments are close miked or sparsely miked in a room or studio. I know from personal experience that it takes an extremely gifted recording engineer to bring out these natural qualities. I think David Chesky is an example of one that is driven to resolving this type of information and his last CD shows this in spades. Dave plays on the CD and recorded the piece knowing what it sounded like in the recording venue. He listened to his disk at least a half a dozen times in our suite at the CES at felt that our system was the most life like at the show. Sorry for the small plug but it goes along with our conversation. He also mentioned that there were a lot of other excellent rooms that were doing other things incredibly well.
I think that a really interesting thing for you and others to watch would be the people coming and going from our suite at an audio show. The reactions are really quite amazing. Some get it immediately and fall in love hard. Others think it nice and some just don't like it...period. The reaction to the more immediate perspective is what I comment on here. I used to think that there was no accounting for taste ;-P but now realise that we all like to sit in different locations in the concert hall. So, pick your spot and go for it.