I have had the Milleniums for 2 1/2 years now. As someone who has loved music for 40 years and has had several different speakers systems, I can only tell you that I have not had the urge to look elsewhere since purchasing these speakers.
With inferior electronics one might get sound that is far inferior to what these speakers are capable of. That being said, it should be no secret that the better the equipment used with these speakers the better they are. I think you should audition these--hopefully set up in a situation that mimics home use.
I use tubes--the Atma-sphere MA1 (12 tube), the AES DJH signature preamp, and RPM2 tt. I can only say that these are great sounding speakers. Give Bobby a call about these.
In addition, these are real room speakers--their size is a plus. But don't think that the physical size inhibits the kind of music these can make. It doesn't. My room is 13 x 18 x 75.
Please feel free to ask me any questions about these speakers.
Sorry, I cannot make that direct comparasion for you with that particular Proac speaker. I have owned two pair of Proac monitors and while I enjoyed each of them not to the same extent as I've enjoyed the Merlin VSM M speaker. I do have a comment on your interpertation of the review.
I think what Mr. Fremmer in his Stereophile review stated was that playing the VSM M too loudly upset what he described as "perfect tonal balance". How many speakers can make the claim of a perfect tonal balance? No where do I see any reference or description of the high frequency sounding bad. In my 19 X 15 room, they play plenty loudly with no compression or strain and with the perfect tonal balance he suggests.
The VSM M speakers are ultra-revealing transducers. They are very sensative of what is feed to them upstream. Consequently, upstream components and wire must all have their ducks in a row or you will know they don't and quite quickly.
The Merlins IMO are a speaker to build a system around. Careful system matching yields outstanding, long term musical enjoyment and satisfication for fatigue free listening of music.
Vox, after reading some of John Atkinson's comments regarding the Merlin's I thought something was definitely amiss. His comments about "boxy colorations" concerning recorded piano was really off the mark. As an afficiando of piano music I can say that this speaker gets as close to real as I have heard comparative to ANY system I have heard over the years. The fact that Atkinson is predjudiced towards British designs is well known if not acknowledged by him. I have little doubt that he would probably prefer the Proacs knowning his taste but I may be mistaken. Which is where I am going with my point. The several Proacs are very nice speakers, the Merlins are just the best most involving 2-ways I have heard to date. They do it all, including well defined to mid 30 hz articulate bass in a really nice compact package as Hoosier1 notes. Folks that say these speakers don't do bass are just not familiar enough with them set-up properly, I used to believe it myself until I discovered what it takes. Believe me, I have tried MANY differnt combos with the VSM. They will completely reveal what works and what doesn't. This is the reason it is imperative to talk with the designer and owner's familiar with the speaker so as not to make any missteps along the way.
After 4 years of ownership there is not another speaker that I have a yearning for. The VSM keep on rising to the occasion with favorable upgrades. I am convinced I haven't found their limits. I feel they are among the best choices for a small to medium room and with sufficient power will work well in a large room. The Proacs again, nice but not even in the same league IMHO.
PS The quality of high frequency response is subject to room reflections and wiring choices as much as anything else. This must be properly addressed with the Merlins as well as any well designed speaker system.
Tubegroover, what equipment are you running with your Merlins? Since you have achieved such a good synergy, I am curious to know the rest of your system. I have always been interested in the Merlins, and I have and love a pair of small Proacs (1SC monitors).
If you are concerned about sheer volume level Vox, get the VSM MX because any issue of dynamic compression or tonal shifts at high levels are gone (and that's not to say that there ever was a problem to begin with). Mr. Fremmer's point was that he felt that the speakers leaned out slightly at higher levels, which IMHO, they do not. He also mentioned that he had a heavily damped room which set the tonal balance to the light side to begin with.
why not try Dynaudio Contour S3.4 ?
I am currently using the following
Berning zh270 with cryoed hybrid wire at the inputs and power, cryoed matched ouptut tubes and various NOS input/drivers. ERS stealth cloth housing the impedance converters and wire. Sitting on a Cloud 10 platform by Ginko Audio.
Supratek Syrah with various NOS tubes pree-amp is sitting on a Cloud 10 platform, power supply on Still points.
JVC 1050 CD player as transport (on Cloud 10) to a Bel Canto DAC-1.1 with Kimber Illuminite D-60 digital cable.
Oracle Mk IV tt Benz Micro wood body low output cartridge with SME 345 arm on Cloud 10.
Speaker cable is Audience AU 24, interconnects Luminous Synchestra Signature, power cable to the amp is the cryoed Blue Marble cable (uses the same wire as in the amp) I am using various other power cables including TG Audio, Supra, Harmonic Tech, JPS digital to the Bel-Canto.
I recently installed Stillpoints under the Merlins with excellent results. Much of the excess high frequency energy brought on by my lively room and my wife's reluctance to add more room treatments was improved. Resolution top to bottom improved along with immediacy and bass definition and depth. Lost was dynamic impact which is greater with Bobby's z feet. A tradeoff I am more than willing to live with. The Stillpoints over Bobby's z feet I feel to be room and system dependent. I was quite surprised with this development as the Z feet are just superb coupling the speaker to the floor. This is part of the Merlin magic, this kind of attention and subsequent refinement of these type of details.
In addition I have made 2 each 16" X 60" and 2 each 12" X 48" tube traps of Jon Reisch's design which has been a great addition in controlling the bass.
Another recent tweak that was quite eye opening was the SST silver conductive paste recently introduced by Walker Audio which may be applied to the male ends of power cords, ic's, speaker cables and tube pins. I noted the biggest results (more alive and greater immediacy) on the power cords and tube pins. It is supremely more effective than many of the other contact cleaners and conductive enhancers I have tried. A great bang for the buck tweak.
Other cables I have tried with the Merlins include, Analysis Plus Oval 9, Audio Research Litz, Miller Sound (copper and another alloy unspecified), MIT 770 Reference Series 2 tube, Harmonic Technology Pro-9, Concept Stage 3 silver and most recently Blue Marble cryoed hybrid cables which was the first silver hybrid I have heard with the VSM's that I could possibly live with but felt they needed a bit more break in to come to a final determination, very smooth on top without any edge. There is one more silver speaker I want to try that isnt out yet, the Stereovox Studio. Copper is a safer bet and Bobby recommends the Cardas Golden Reference.
The amp you choose will reveal more the character of the amp, not the speakers which are seemingly neutral in conveying the presentation of the components in front of them as Jim notes above. No product is totally neutral but tonally I feel the Merlins are very close to that ideal in the true sense of the word. They do have an immediacy, liveness (not lively as a characteristic) and total lack of any perceivable compression and can play quite loud, louder than I care to listen in my 16 X 20/9 X 12 L shaped room with 10' ceilings. I hope you get a chance to hear these speakers Sarah, they really are quite special to these ears. How many products can retain your enthusiasm after 4 years unless they are special? Bobby P. is just the greatest, thanks Bobby, we love you man.
Thanks for the detailed response to my inquiry about your system! Sounds incredible, you should post it in the virtual systems with pics. How much power does the Berning put out? I do plan on hearing the Merlins next time I travel to a city with a store that carries them.
I've heard VSM Merlin at friend's in a Air tight then Transcendent' OTL configuration. It was really impressive in a hifi way, but I could not live with this kind of too revealing speakers. I felt flesh and blood was missing. A LOT of transparency and airness, wonderful delicacy. But you know, my friend actually sold them to buy french pro speakers's GKF. He even tought to get proac instead (but not enough efficiency). I had proac resp.2 and now 2.5 and am very happy with them. Not impressive as Merlin but simply musical in all way. I can forget hifi with proac 2.5, not sure I could with Merlin.
I have had 2.5s for 6 yrs and know exactly what you mean. I think ProAc hit musical gold with this speaker - it is so satisfying that it cured my 'audiophile nevosa' for replacing speakers. I still occasionally search out and listen to others (I'm have been searching for a more SET friendly speaker for 2 yrs but haven't found anything to replace my ProAcs) but keep coming home to the 2.5s.
I find your comments very interesting because the Merlin VSM M is very musical and does not sound analytical unless provoked into doing so. By the sounds of the system, I think I know who owned them and they were VSM SEs which did sound lighter or leaner than the later Ms. I sent this man the mod kit to turn them into Ms but can not vouch for how well he did it. Do you know what wires, digital and the analogue set ups were?
May I just add something to your impressions. I also believe that an ultra resolving speaker can sound "hi-fi" if all issues with set-up and ancilliaries are not properly dealt with. Sometimes people purchase such a product and don't pay enough attention to these details to the extent they should. This includes room treatments as well. The VSM is a very sophisticated and refined design that requires such attention to the utmost as do all speakers that aspire to such a degree of accuracy and resolution.
To me real 'hi-fi is settling for A music system that sounds very pleasing and very reproduced, it ALWAYS misses the illusion. On the other hand I can see where some folks wouldn't want the degree of liveness and immediacy presented by the VSM.
Happy Tunes with what ever brings them on.
Bobby and Tubegroover, VSM were very musical and impressive (don't think you know the guy "Christophe Debon" in France ?), and the rest of gear was high level (transport : Audiomeca mephisto then Accustic arts, conv. : Adda, amp.: Air tight then Transcendant's OTL, can't remember wires but in the same ballpark). That said, in the long run it appears to hifi for me. it's difficult to explain but I've heard very few of systems that reach a high level of transparency without being fleshless. A real transparency gives a lot of flesh, but it's a very hard way to reach it (neutralityland).
I wouldnt dispute for a minute what you heard in that system, I hear what you're saying but I still believe something(s) in the set-up was not matching. I am quite familiar with the Transcendent OTL amp with the VSM and owned that combo for a while. The problem doesnt lay there, maybe the wiring, a system synergy problem not identified?
The issue about the sound not being fleshed out is what is baffling to me in your description. This is precisely the balancing act that these speakers do so well, extreme resolution near perfect tonal balance with a fully fleshed out presentation providing all is set-up correctly. I know there are some people that perceive the immediacy to a certain forwardness of the presentation which is certainly a taste issue in that some like a further back perspective but what you are describing still seems a system issue more than a characteristic of the VSM, at least the ones Im listening to.
Tube (or Groover ?),
You are probably right. The Merlin have more potential than proac but their qualities need to pay MUCH attention to synergy with rest of system... to reach the goal.
It is as I thought, I do know Christophe Debon and he did have the VSM SE which did have the lighter tonal balance than the VSM M. So, we are all right. You did indeed hear a lighter sound than what the VSM M and some of the mods can generate. As I said, I did send him the mod kit for the M series but later stopped doing that because it seemed that no one could get the work done correctly. I had a number of these consumer modified speakers come back to plant and they were all far from right. We stopped offering the kit as a result.
I really think that you would enjoy the Millennium version of the speaker to a much greater degree knowing what we know now. And the VSM M with the Magic Mod or the VSM MX to an even greater degree because the improvements deal with the areas of sound that you seem most sensitive to.
It is a small world isn't it?
Bobby, can you tell us more about the "magic Mod?"
The Magic Mod goes into studio black VSM Ms and the VSM MX is the new top of the line in the clear-cote finish. Many parts in the BAM, speakers and RCs have been changed with a more sohistcated version but there are obvious and significant improvements in the sound.
Well I too heard the VSM SE's at Christophe's, and loved them when paired with the Air Tight. The Transcendent did shift their tonal balance towards the leaner presentation you mention, always refined but also lacking flesh for me.
I blame that on the association with this amplifier and not on the speakers themselves, which really shook my world with the Air Tight and led me into buying them ultimately!
Whether you'll like them in the end is another matter, but what you heard with the Transcendent doesn't reflect, IMHO and in Christophe's system, what they are capable of. Also, Christophe moved from a great front end to a much more analytical one that I personnally didn't like (I told him so) and just added to that problem.
Say hi to Chris for me! Let's grab a coffee soon.
Salut JB, old chap'
Ok let's grab a coffee when you want and make some listening sessions at you house then mine, whith DEBON évidemment. Tu peux me joindre par mail.
See you soon.