Other than a few impressive auditions at hifi shows, I don't have any long term experience with Merlins, and I have no experience with the VR3. However, you can have all your various version questions answered at the Merlin site, which includes a history of the evolution of the VSM since it was introduced. If you're shopping used, that page is worth book-marking for handy referrence.
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Don't know the VRs at all, but have owned VSMs for app 10yrs. Originally they were late manufacture SE, subsequently upgraded to "near current" status (incl. super BAM) app. 2 years ago. The biggest change is a (slight, but definitely noticeable) increase in energy below 100 or 150 hz. Overall balance is a bit warmer and fuller. IMHO, the new version will sound better than the SE to most folks - in all but the smallest rooms. I don't have enough experience with the intermediate iterations of the VSM to offer any opinion on those.
Atmasphere, did not say it, and I have used my Merlins MXes with QSV4s and they are very fine amps indeed, but the Atma-sphere M-60s are the best I have heard with the Merlins, at least for my taste. Since you use the word refined, I have no doubt that is what you think you are getting when you make the move to Merlin. They are among these most well sorted speakers on the market, continuous refinement of a basic design. You will be surprised at the quality of bass from what is essentially a two-way mini-monitor on a very substantial sand filled stand. MM or MX? Could you tell the difference? I don't know - they are both excellent speakers.
Hi,really appreciate all your info, but a more direct question, I'm use to the full body sound of my VR3 it goes down to 25Hrz,. will I' be missing the almost full range sound?
or the difference wont' be too dramatic in that regard;
concerned about bass response more than anything, the rest, I'know the merlins will out perform theVR3 hands down:
cant' compare budget speakers with a reference sound quality:
That is a very difficult question to answer. A lot of perceived bass is really above 50Hz, and some impressive bass is often exgerated bass with an artificial bass bump. Now some people like that and associate it with powerful bass. On acoustic instruments, I mostly listen to jazz, I find the bass very natural and balanced with the mids and highs on the Merlins. I'm not sure there is much music with 25Hz, but maybe on some synthesizer and organ music. I don't know the VR3 well enough to say whether the Merlins will give you the type of bass the VR3s give you, I can only say that with most music I listen to I never feel like I'm wanting for more bass, but I might feel differently if I listened to orchestral music in large halls that have alot of low bass giving ambient cues of the halls size and scale. But you know, Juan, "full body" is a difficult thing to talk about between folks with different musical tastes, rooms, and preferred volume levels. I just think the Merlins are very, very balanced across the spectrum and can play plenty loud and be room filling in fairly large spaces, but they are not large, multidriver speakers that may excel in some filling in large spaces with loud music.
VSM with BBAM gives satisfying extension and wallop to mid 30hz range, and if you need more, integrates well with a sub set up with a benignly low crossover point around 30hz. This is a unique & effective combo: fast, seamless midrange and bass from 2200hz to 30hz from a single 6.5" driver, underpinned by a fast sub. Be aware that the sub needs to be driven by preamp line-level outputs, as speaker-level connections from amp to sub will not work properly with the BBAM's LF filter.
I'll pipe in here. I had the Merlin VSM-M for 6 years. I used them with Melos, Karan and a high powered class D mono amps. They never did it for me. I did have a balanced battery BAM. I used a tube preamp in all cases except with the Karan integrated. I do not think they are full bodied. My opinion is they are leaner sounding, but do put out good bass. I had ProAc speakers before the Merlins and went back to ProAc speakers after the Merlins.
Stereo, FWIW Merlins are designed for tube gear. The result is that some of the characteristics of transistors will cause a lean sound in the speaker simply because the speaker design does not anticipate that the amplifier used will double power as the impedance is halved. for more info see:
Indeed the Merlins are intended for tubes. So much so that at one point Bobby had a "tube" version and and "ss" version of the speaker. To me, the Merlins are unforgiving in the sense that they will let you hear your amp and it doesn't candy-coat (maybe to strong a word), put a great tube amp in front of the Merlin and you will get balanced sound. SS has always been a bit problematic for some listeners. Besides the impedance issues with SS versus tubes, the Merlin speakers do not need very much dampening from an amplifier, again, ideally suited for tube amplifiers that most users will us with the Merlins. Love ProAcs too. But that's why there are different products on the market. For me the Merlin is the speaker of choice for two-way speakers and the coherency of that, with enough bass to feel like you are getting a three-way level of bass for most music.
stereo, imho the vsm mme/sbam is much more room filling and dynamic than the m version. imo, they sound very good with solid state and better with a good quality tube amp.
these speakers like amplifiers with less damping and feedback because they are filtered from playing out of band energy below 28 hz. this keeps the woofer in linear drive much more of the time and at a louder levels. the m was more of a single ended tube speaker because that was my reference at the time, the synergy was right.
now i use different amplifiers in r+d so the speakers exhibit a fuller tonal picture. i do understand your lean comment.
I started with the VSM-MM and a solid state amp. I upgraded to the e version (lead free) and the super BAM. After these upgrades I went to the tubed Filarmonia int amp. Each of these upgrades resulted in a noticeably fuller and more relaxed presentation. The bass became more pronounced and better balanced. In the beginning I thought the speakers were a little lean and sterile but now I am very happy with them. The speakers are very detailed and are sensitive to any changes in the chain. I have not heard the VR3. Try to start at highest point in the Merlin chain with the super Bam and e version.