Odyssey mono extreams. They have caused me to sell off all my Jadis amps that I've had for 12 years and really love.
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What's your budget? You may consider getting a second 270 somewhere and monoblocking them, very easy to do, or, if you can afford it, the new Berning monoblocks are available. I had multiple 270's, and the new monoblocks are just in a different league. I still have my MX's too, I should hook up the Bernings to them to see what they'll do.
One other thing--how old are the tubes in your Audio Aero? I just had mine replaced after 3 years (I leave it on standby most of the time), and wow, what a difference. Of course, I also added an Elrod cord to the AA, but regardless of what caused it, there was an immediate increase in bass.
IMHO, I'd first bring your VSMs and BAM to current spec (if they are not laready there). The difference in bass impact is pretty dramatic - mostly, I assume, to changes in the BAM. The KT-88 powered Prima Luna 7 monos, the TAD Hibachi SS monos, the Odyssey monos (mine were not extreme), and the the ICE powered Bel Cantos all sound different from each other, but all provided real kick at 60 hz and down.
The Atma-Sphere MA-1 monoblocks are a great match with the Merlin speakers. I listened to Sbank's system many times when he had the Bernings and then after he switched to the Atma-Sphere. The Bernings were a nice match and are excellent amplifiers. The Atma-Sphere amps were simply better: more resolving, more complete rendering of harmonic overtones, greater bass impact and control, better soundstaging. (Note: I use Atma-Sphere MA-2 monoblocks and so clearly like what Ralph's amps do in making music.)
Thanks for the replies.
I have never really considered a sub... and to be honest I have no idea where to start - I guess I need to do some more research.
I have considered a 2nd Berning, but they don't appear for sale all that often and I'm not sure it is the right solution for me.
My Merlins/BAM are up to current spec... but still lack a little bottom end 'slam'.
I changed the tubes on the Capitole about 2 years ago - so I will change them first, as it is the most cost effective option at the moment.
My budget is circa $15k but could find more for the right amps.
Hi Monty: My system is similar to yours. Joule LAP 150 MkII, AA Prima CDP, and Merlin VSM-MXe but I use a very old Muse subwoofer with it. My amps are Joule VZN-160 and I have been very happy with them for the last 8 years. They are probably the last item in my system I would switch out. Bobby himself uses the VZN-100 at the CES and has done so for a few years.
It could very well be your room and speaker placement thats sucking the dynamic life out of your Merlins.Its not the Berning amp.
Before you start selling and spending, start with differant speaker placement.
Sometimes patience and alittle work pays off large.
If that does not do it for you.
Tvads suggestion is agood one.
The subs today have come along, long way. Borrow one or two and see for your yourself.
Or take Rushtons advice regarding the Atma-Sphere monos.
They are everything he says they are.
The Atma-Spheres could very well be a better match for your Merlins. Try them out and see.
Good luck and good listening.
I'd recommend adding another ZH270 then strapping the channels making them into monoblocks. The combo is killer, I did it with my old Soundlabs and it was the best amp combo I have heard to date. This might make more sense than switching to old school tube amp technology. The Atmasphere will run much hotter, have much less bass drive, are way more high maintenance and less efficient than (2) Berning ZH 270's. with channels strapped.
You stated with respect to Atma-Sphere,
Atmasphere will run much hotter, have much less bass drive, are way more high maintenance.
I have been running 4 MA2-MK III's for almost 2 years now, and I have lost 3 power tubes during this time. This is the lowest tube loss I have ever had when running Audio Research, Air Tight, and Bat, and this is with 4 monoblocks or 80 power tubes in total. I have not heard the Berning, so I can not comment as to how its bass compares to Atma-Sphere's, but I have never heard better bass. I agree that Atma-spere's do produce heat, but my air condition easily keeps this in Check and does not appear to noticeably run more than it normally would when amps are not powered up. Sonically, I can not imagine amps sounding better, more accurate or musical.
Hi Dgclark0007, I agree Atmasphere amps sound good, no question about it. Berning amps are mega reliable, stable and low maintenance designs. Tubes last a very long time due to the grid drive. It would take much longer than 3 years before requiring a drive tube replacement for a ZH270. Bass from the Bernings are world class, they are not outclassed by much. If comparing apples to apples the new Berning Quadrature designs would be a better direct comparison to the MA2 MKIII as the Atmasphere amps cost nearly 7 times what a single 270 did when new. Resale value on used Berning products is also very high. Ultimately, I feel as long as you are happy with your gear and your system thats all that really matters. Cheers, Chris
Heat from the amps is not a problem... however, reliability and the need to 'just use' an amp is essential - that is one reason why I didn't consider the Joule mono's.
It would seem most of you believe the Berning has damn good bass and the latest spec Merlins should cause a problem, so it leads me to think it might be my room.
I really do like the idea of the Atmashere amps, but there is point in investing if my room is the problem.
Mentioned earlier was the Pass XA30.5; I had it for a while and it is indeed a very good match with the Merlins - it is one SS amp that certainly works well with them and the bass performance is superb (I'm use to the bass performance of the CAT JL2). Like Tvad, said, don't let the 30 watts fool you; it must be a very conservative rating and as far as reliability and ease of use goes, well I doubt it gets better.
If you have the choice, the first thing you should do is look at the room. It may be fine, but odds are that it is not. Having said that, is it a dedicated room and what is its construction and dimensions. Buying gear is always sexier than fixing rooms, but the only way to know how any of it really sounds is to fix the room first.
If you can't fix the room, the amp is an awesome one and if you like it, waiting for a used one would be reasonable. If you want simplicity without the worry of tubes, then you will be looking at solid state.