What is your price range? In the same area as a 270, or higher? And, what would you be looking for sonically?
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Music Reference RM9 works well (I have the at setup with your speakers)
The Pass XA30.5 worked very, very well for SS.
CAT JL2 (which I also own) is about as good as it gets wiht the Merlins and just about anything else.
I think you would also do well with an Amp from VAC or Manley.
And of course a Joule ot Atmasphere OTL.
I would agree with Oneprof that your prerequisites sound exactly like what the Berning does best.
I've never heard the big CAT amp but, for the price, I would expect it to do very well. I have had the M60 atma amps and heard the MA1's and VTL 450's (latest version is very nice) but for the price, weight, heat, and sonics the Berning is very hard to beat.
The bass on the Berning would rival most on the list above.
Enjoy the chase, I switch between the 110lb Wyetech Topaz and 10lb Berning, each has its own attributes.
There is a thread somewhere by SBank who made the move from Berning to Atmasphere. I think that thread pretty well covers the pluses and minuses of the Berning versus some of the obvious candidates (CAT, Joule, and Atmasphere)for working well with the Merlins. On ergonomics alone (not meant in any way to diminish its sonic achievements) the Berning is the easiest way to own a tube amp with minimal fuss and bother. I do think that you will find a move to one of the three amps mentioned and sonic step forward. Of course I know nothing of the new mega-buck Berning, that too may be a consideration.
Thanks for all the replies. Oneprof and Nkj - I do like my Berning, but have been toying with the idea of a change; you know how it is always looking for something 'better'!
If I could build upon the Berning signature sound with a little more 'richness' without it becoming warm, then I think I would have my ideal amp.
Monoblocking a 270 sounds like a great idea, but you rarely see 270's for sale.
I will search for the thread by SBank and have look to see what he found from Atmasphere amps.
Just a couple things to check, if your attenuator clicks when you turn it, make sure your attenuator is set to about 4pm when using a pre-amp, the manual says 12 or 1 but that's for the unit that does not click when you turn it.
Also, carefully look at your input tubes, be careful of too many Telefunkens or Siemens, they can be on the lean side, look at cableing as well, silver is not where you want to be with this set up, nor unshielded IC's
The ZH-270 is DC coupled, so bass cannot be matched by any transformer coupled amp.
But if change is what you want, drop me a note privately, I'll be more than happy to buy your amp :)
Personally, I think you'd be making a big mistake in getting rid of the Berning for the reasons noted above. Perhaps you should consider changing to a speaker that is not so lean sounding and one that doesn't tend to get shrill in the top-end on various material. In addition, the BAM can wreak havoc with the signal and cause compatibility problems when paired with other components. Just my opinion, having formerly owned Merlins, paired with various amplification.
p.s. - I'm a Berning owner.
Just a brief correction to the previous post regarding silver wire.
Not all silver is hard or etchy just as not all copper is soft and rounded.
The actual determinants of cable "tone" are far more a factor of conductor purity, conductor geometry, and dielectric configuration/composition.
It is an old wives' tale that silver is grainy, hard, lean, or etchy.
Audiofeil is absolutely correct, I use silver myself but the big BP does not recommend silver with his speakers. It takes careful selection of cables for these speakers, BP likes Cardas.
A note here on this, it's not silver or copper but how the cable is designed, shielding and how it's handled is an important part of a high bandwidth system
Maybe Merlin should now be working on the " super-sonic-BAM", yeah, that would fix it all right?..... Please.
Your Joule pre is great, your Berning amp is great, your speakers are a 15 year work in progress that are just getting marginally better. Try another speaker before you frustrate yourself to insanity...
Not suprised there is no answer from Blackwillard. The Merlins were great 15 years ago and have only gotten better - don't know how to weigh the "marginally" comment, other than to say each generation has been an improvement and the VSM is one of the most "sorted out" speakers out there. The improvement may be marginal in some sense, the VSMs were always good and never a piece of %#$*& that one could improve by leaps and bounds. As to the amp issue, I did own the CAT JL2 which is a great amp that can perfom great with a very wide range of speakers, and did perform very well with the Merlins. However, after trying a lot of other amps, I ended with the Atma-sphere M-60 which are easily the best performers I have had with the VSMs - hard to think you'll ever hear them bettered, though the Joule VZNs I expect would be formidable and to some ears may be preferable, especially if you already the very excellent Joule LA150 MKII preamp. I'm sold on the magic of OTLs; with the right speaker - the Merlin is. The Music Reference RM9 is also superb amplifier for a Class A/B, push-pull, tranformer based amplifier - both with EL34 or KT88s; I slightly prefer the KT88s in the RM9 with the Merlins