Review: Merlin Music Systems TSM-MME Monitor
It has been a gradually increasing pleasure to listen to the TXM-MME speakers these past several months! Because there are so many previous reviews which address the soundstaging, imaging, and other properties of these modest but powerful monitors, I was determined in my review to focus as much as possible on the musical characteristics of the speakers.
In Seattle we are blessed with a wonderful symphony orchestra and a stupendous symphony hall. Listening to the Seattle Symphony live has never led me to expect or even aim for a close approximation in my home listening. The overall power, denseness of sound, and physical impact is simply at a scale that I cannot believe we will ever get that close to with our stereos,
But - a BIG but, I might add - there are several charcters of the TSM-MME that on a vastly smaller scale are striking and eminently musical. These include (1) the timbre of instruments, which are vastly clearer and therefore in my opinion more musical; (2) the reduction in distorition, which continues to capture my fancy; (3) the solidness of instruments, voices, and (4) the real dynamics as one hears a crescendo. When I was waiting on the arrival of the speakers, I mentioned to Bobby Palkovic that the most beautiful aspect of listening to the Seattle Symphony in Benaroya Hall is the magic of a massive momo image with natural "stereo" distribution of the instruments within the mono image. While we all have certain preferences, I have come to recognize that for my ears the most musical sound is one where there is denisity to the center image. Sooundstaging and discrete instrument placement come in very much a second or third place.
I have had some very good speakers over the past twenty years, including Hyperion monitors, the Von Schwiekert VR-3, the Thiel 3.6, the Mission 782, and my favorite of them all - the Kef 104/2. The latter are very musical speakers, very easy to just enjoy. However, they have much more distortion and the stability of the image as well as its density is significantly weaker than the Merlin's. It's quite interesting how well Bobbyt knows his two "children," his description of what would be different with the TSM-MMEs compared to the KEF 104/2 was spot on.
I was happy with the KEF's. I am very happy with the Merlin's. Although I know that there is much room to grow up from the ancillary equipment (Musical Fidelity pre and amp, California Audio Labs CL-15), I think I'll take a breather and enjoy the music for a while without following the upgrade pull. The cost of getting Bobby's recommended CD and amplifier, not to say the cables, is daunting. Perhaps if we had installment methods for high-cost equipment similar to automobiles....
It's of course of pleasure to support a fine "father" like Bobby Palkovic. His model is one very much worthy of our support (squeezing the maximum out of a limited number of items).
I enjoy jazz, classical music, rock, old counry, and vocal music. I value truth of timbre over the "Look! The french horns are at least 2 feet outside the left speaker."
Ultimately one should feel blessed to be able to hear beautiful, emotionally charged music at our homes. Not as a replacement for the live concert, but as more time spent with beauty.
California Audio Labs CL-15
Musical Fidelity PSU
Musical Fidleity Tube Buffer
Musical Fidelity A3cr Amplifeir and Preamplifer
Cunningham passive subwoofers with outboard crossover
Hyperion, Kef, Von Schwiekert