Your amp counts in this question. The Theils are notoriously power hungry, followed by the Dynaudio then much less power is needed to drive the Merlins which are relatively tube friendly. What are you planning to use for power? Tube or SS and how many wpc as a start?
I haven't heard the Merlin's or Thiel's but as a Dyn C1 owner all I can say the C1's are a great speaker for the type of music you listen to. Very natural and smooth (some may say a little laid back). Also as Mechans stated the amp is also part of the equation. I had a Bryston B100SST rated at 180 w/ch into 4 ohms which I thought sounded pretty darn good. Then I demoed an Octave V70SE tube integrated (in my home) rated at 70 w/ch into 4 ohm. The Octave just destroyed the Bryston in every way. With the Octave I can roll tubes to change the sound without having to buy new electronics or cables :).
Another speaker you may want to consider would be the Sonus Faber Creamora Auditor M. But at the same MSRP the Dyn C1's sounded much better to ME.
I have had the Dynaudio C1's for the past two and a half years and really love them. Previously I had the Contour S3.4's and enjoyed them very much which was my impetus for upgrading - I wanted more of the same, which I feel I got in the C1's. I drove the S3.4's and the C1's with a Krell 400xi, which was an excellent value for the price. I felt it hands-down beat the McIntosh MA6900 driving these particular speakers and I demoed both amps side-by-side. It was no contest.
Recently, I upgraded to a setup similar to Xti16's with the Octave V70SE and the combo is everything he says it is - I couldn't be happier! If you're interested in Dynaudio, check out the "Dynaudio Owner's Thread" on avsforums.com for a ton of information on those speakers (just Bing/Google it). A few others there have the Octave/Dynaudio combo and love it.
OP, the speakers you mention are all great but system synergy (with amp and source) are key. I'm sure the McIntosh amp sounds great with others (I've seen them paired with B&W a lot). You probably just want an answer, but everyone's ears and taste is different. If possible, you should demo them all (ask the dealer to swap the amps, so you can try different ones) to really find out what sounds good to *you* and then you won't be disappointed!
Not very familiar w Dynaudio but all reports indicate that both Thiel and Dynaudio have a very different than Merlin. The Ref 3A monitors are very good but I've never heard the full range models.
I think Thiel is a poor choice for classical music.
I think Thiel is a good choice for Classical Music if and only if you mate them with components with no warts upstream. ..but isn't revealing what's recorded the reason one gets good speakers? Merlin is the poorest choice of the speakers mentioned. By the way, if Vandersteen is the sound you like, they have less expensive speakers/or used.
Wow, merlin is a poor speaker for female vocals? Not to be sarcastic but have you ever heard them or read these forums. Yes, I do own them. With appropriate mating of equipment, which is true for all speakers, they are nearly the best one can buy for vocals. Given, the lowest octaves for full symphonic works might be a little light but thats one uninformed comment you got there.
Stringreen may have heard the Merlins, but he does seem to hear them
differently than most. Perhaps personal taste or something, after all, I heard
most Thiels and Dynaudios and unhesitatingly preferred the Merlins - which is
why I bought them, must be the Dynaudio Esotar tweeter. That being said
these are all very fine speakers, but the Merlin will certainly be the easiest to
drive, especially if you want to use a tube amp, can't imagine too many tube
amps able to handle the Thiels (maybe something like a CAT JL2).
Rhmmmm & R0817
FWIW In July I took the 'plunge' and upgraded my cherry C1's to the C1 signature in mocha (I found a pair of black/chrome stands too). I never thought the C1's could be improved on but Dynaudio sure did. With MKII/Signature the bass is a little tighter and the mids are clearer. They also sound better at lower volumes. I also use a Rel B3 sub. The sub isn't necessary but for the few times that lowest octave is on the recording it sure is nice. It also adds to the mids and improves the sound stage. And yes I do listen without the sub on occasion.
R0817 I know the MKII's are beyond your budget and believe me the original C1's are a great sounding speaker. Honestly if you have a dealer where could hear them that would be your best bet because it is your ears and money regardless of which speaker you choose.
Pubul57...Putting Michelin tires on a Prius, does not make it a sports car.
Yeah, really good analogy - thanks for the insight. I'm happy that I am deaf
enough to think the Merlins are some of the best sounding speakers on the
planet - absent the deepest bass, where it can't compete with the Vandersteen
5As for example, though the Merlins are far more resolved and nuanced in the
midrange which is why I switched from Vandersteen; even if I lost some of that
bass performance, it was worth the tradeoff for my taste - it saves me a lot of
worry over the next speaker upgrade, or sports car.
I will never understand why people on these forums have to insult one product to favor another. As stated above its a matter of taste. Does it make you feel better to insult anothers system? Maybe more worthwhile? There's a couch out there for that. Can we just keep to why specific systems work. Stay positive. This is all about fun and enjoyment.
One thing about all three, even though they all do sound quite different is that they all tend to be unforgiving of source and electronics, they all do thrive on the very best gear to feed them, another very fine speaker that you may also want to consider is the Harbeth HL5, which a very appealing to many and has the added advantage of not being quite as picky with associated gear - wonderful on speakers on acoustic instruments and voice - just another option to consider along with the 3 you mention and likely to work well in your size room.
The Thiels hit harder form top to bottom with better leading edge impact. The bass has a lot more punch than the Dynaudios (never heard a Merlin). Snare drums seem to have more snap on the Thiels. At the end of the day the C1 and 2.4 will not be that different as they are both pretty flat and well made. Your room and setup will matter more.
The thiel will need a warm front end to sound there best. There highs are not harsh but they do shelve up about 2 db after about 8khz in most rooms.
The Dynaudio's have a sweeter treble but as a whole I like the Thiels better. I bought a pair of Thiel 2.4 and I no longer think about my system... and I post a lot less too... I just enjoy the music these days. They were a good but cheaper than my pervious speakers too. I think the only Dynaudio I would trade up to would be the C4.
OP, you say you loved the VS 5As, were you able to hear the 3A Signatures as
well? I get the sense that most listeners gravitate to either Thiel or
Vandersteen, but generally not both, as the sound signatures are quite
different. The VS 3As would certainly be in your price range and I understand
that some of the drivers from the 5 have trickled down to the 3As.
Thanks a lot for your suggestion.
I just bought a pair of Harbeth C7 ES-3 in Cherry finish. What a beauty! Now I'm searching a pair of stands and pre/power amp for them (please see my other threads).
Lovely speakers. How much in your budget for an pre/power amp? Harbeth owners seem to like the LFD integrated.
Are you going to upgrade to the Carbon's@$7-9k for original purchaser's?
What's a LFD integrated amp? How about a tube amp?
Budget depends on what I'll get: for integrated $2K; for pre/power, $4K; new or used will be considered.
A google search will get a few reviews on the British LFD, Telling reviewed the
MKIII version I think, he claimed it was the best integrated he has heard, but
that is one person's view, but you will also find many fans in the Harbeth Forum
that like it too, they also tend to be fans of SS gear for matching with Harbeth,
of course I heard them with the MAC 2275 tube integrated and they sounded
superb. You should probably start a thread specifically on amplification for
Harbeth, I think there are quite a few users on Audiogon.
P.S. There is an LFD MKIII up for sale right now - $2,000.
Let us know how you like the new Harbeth 7es3 compared to the Thiel or Dynaudio.
Call a dealer who sells LaHave Melas and ask for a good deal.
I have them after listening to/owning lots of speakers, including Dyn C1s. Just plain awesome tonality without fatigue. I sound like a shill now from my posts but I'm not. I just bought a pair from a private audiogoner and I LOVE these things. Search in the forums and you'll see my posts. I think they may have the tonality and overall enjoyment of $37K TAD monitors, and I'd have to think hard about trading them even-steven for TADs. My Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors that I really liked are in the closet now because of the Lahaves.
And my Harbeth SHL5s are sold also because the Lahaves are so much better, with much more reach into the music. You will be neither bored or assaulted by the Mela monitors, and they don't need expensive stands either.
Like I said, I sound like a shill, but I've never even contacted a dealer for them or Lahave themselves and I have no connection with the audio industry.
Yet another +vote for Thiel. Been chasing my tail ever since I sold my cs2 2. Think I'll try and locate some cs2.7 and get off this "audiophool carousel".
You will enjoy the CS 2.7- carmenc. Happy Listening!
I am sorry to inform you about this. There is no cure for audiophool disease. At some time it may go into remission for variable periods but always recurs. Research looking for cures has been disappointing. Angry spouses have occasionally caused temporary regression, however .......etc etc.
another +vote for Thiel
thiel was a little hard to play well like warmer and big current amp .
dyna 's tweeter a little on the hard side for my own reference ,and also the bass was not bad in terms of a bookshelf but can't compare to thiel floorstand nomatter how you adjust .