Review: Merlin Music Systems TSM MXM Monitor

Category: Speakers

I have been listening to this speaker for a month.
I’d like to state that I have no personal affiliation with Merlin Music. At the same time it is a pleasure to acknowledge the friendly support by its owner.

Let me start way back but to the point. I am a professional violinist - just google user name & violin; you will find me! I use speakers for two reasons: I use them daily for monitoring my work, as well as in the evenings for „music“; which is mainly not the music I play myself, be it Piano, large Orchestra or Jazz.
I do not do much Rock, except when my Son listens with them his newly „discovered“ Genesis ;-)

I use old LP’s on my Townshend Rock TT or CD’s on a truly convincing Bow ZZ8.
Amps on use are two very special items, one a Berning ZH230, that I use either with a ZOTLpre or with an Audio Consulting Silver Rock TVC, the former being slightly lighter but with an outstanding Phonostage (highly recommended).
The other amp has not yet come into use, but I mention it, as I am hoping for great results: An Audio Consulting Mipa, battery driven 30Watt amp of the highest order (Please wait some weeks, then I can comment on that one too).
Cables are Cardas GR and Audio Consulting.

When it comes to sound I have to apologize if I seem to relate to terms outside of HiFi: I feel pretty confident about describing the Sound of things, as I talk this language both with my sound engineer and with my violin maker, both of whom I see and work with around once a week; the aim in creating a violin as well as a recording – and I imagine the same applies to speakers - is always the same: How can you get clean sounds without being boring – and believe me, it is so easy to be boring!
Well here we come to the reason why I decided I write a review on a hifi site:

This speakers are not boring. And still they are clean.

What I find more remarkable than „ not boring“ ist their tonal structure;
They are built up from a right middletone, with nice extensions up and down. But you would not try and separate the sound, so it has those technical qualities of a point source, or the spacial qualities of an electrostat, without me even having to think o fit. In context: Before the TSM, I have used the VSM Mxe for many years and I have to say they are brilliant – but! Now With the TSM MXM’s the „but“ disappears – not because they would be better, but because they hide the missing thing, which is usually for simplicity called bass in a more believeable way. They in fact remind me of another speaker with a violin name, I used to own a SF Guarneri
(probably for nostalgic reasons, as my own fiddle was made by Pietro Guarneri - I greatly preferred - and replaced them with - the VSM’s)

Now if the TSM MXM would need to be likened to a violin, then I would choose it to be a late Niccolò Amati . (Here is why: there are fiddles with powerful bass like a Maggini; there are fantastic silver shiny fiddles from the German Stainer (we are speaking of fiddles around 1620!), then we have the chamaeleon like Stradivaris (they are sometimes really amazing, as you can form their sounds like water, and every string has got different colours, and the top has a complete different quality of the bass) or the rigidly powerful Del Gesù’s, but the real event for most violinists who ever played one, is a late Niccolò Amati; it is quite unassuming, not too loud, not to quirky, but it is really fast, has got every colour you ever thought of, and it makes you think of things, you never even thought of before)

Well, this unassuming element is not the smallest quality of this speaker, besides, I actually prefer a speaker being named six letters instead of hinting at being an impostor (even though the original guarneri was a great speaker) !
I personnally do not regret one moment, that I replaced my great speaker, that I never thought i would get rid of, a VSM Mxe with a:


Thanks for reading, and go for it!


PS When having gone of the grid with the Audio Consulting, i will report back, also in comparison with the Wadia 151. That will be a laugh.

Associated gear
Berning ZOTLpre & ZH230
alternatively Wadia 151 (from my son's system)
Audio Consulting Mipa (coming soon)

Bow ZZ8 modified by Lars Moltke to V7

Similar products
Thank you for the excellent review. It was very interesting to be presented a different perspective (i.e. the music and its origination instruments) and how those are reflected through your system. And the insightful comparisons of the "fiddle" by their artisan/makers was also enlightening.
Before the TSM, I have used the VSM Mxe for many years and I have to say they are brilliant – but! Now With the TSM MXM’s the „but“ disappears – not because they would be better, but because they hide the missing thing, which is usually for simplicity called bass in a more believeable way.
I have read the above sentence several times and failed to understand what you are trying to say. It sounds like you are saying that the new speaker is hiding the bass. Could you please clarify this part of your review?
The violin comparsons were very interesting.
try replacing the word "hide" with "cover".
egidius is from switzerland.
@Roxy, sorry to be round the bush:

I love the VSM's for what they do: However, let me relate a story that happened to me, and describes the "but" you might encounter with earlier generations of VSM's:
A Studio engineer comes in and listens to them, his first reaction is: aren'they rather lightweight? (happened once) I then explained, that these are actually extended monitors with an added Bam module - that same engineer stayed a whole afternoon and was smitten in the end declaring that he no longer missed what there wasn't there, because of the quality of the rest. Does that clarify the but?

As to the TSM Master, this first reaction of doubt will simply not happen - to big is the discrepancy between size and sound.

Just yesterday, when I finished my review, I felt it was a bit little meat on the bone, so I would like to describe in depth the change from the Sonus Faber Guarneri to the VSM MXe and now to the Master TSM:

I felt the Guarneris had the most wonderful colours i had ever encountered in speakers, especially concerning vowels. If it was a tad polite, it got much better when i paired them with the Berning ZH270 (Remember Franco Serblin uses the Berning as a reference as well).
Then I stumbled over very early Merlins, and was absolutely smitten by their clarity, even though i could appreciate the fullness of the Guarneri - Only when listening to the newer generation i suddenly realised that I had been missing a whole lot of information in consonants; so I changed brands (slightly reluctantly, as the Guarneris are so beautiful).
The Master TSM actually seems to pronounce both abilities, the singing of the Guarneri and the speaking of the VSM.
I don't know what they have done at Merlin, as I never felt like this about the TSM MMe, which I considered a very useful but somewhat utilitarian loudspeaker.
Hope this clarifies my discrete writing ;-)
Thanks for the clarification. I understand now.
I would like to add my experience of two weeks using the MASTER Tsm with the Wadia 151/170 either with MAC or the ipod.

Good as it is, I feel that male voices are wonderful, even the Beatles reissue comes along fantastic. But real shortcomings appear with MAhler symphonies - It feels congested. the other border is Rachmaninov piano pieces, where the attack is softened. But I think you get the gist. Great for solo singers, pop no problem, orchestra rather not too much of it. The same effect did not happen with either the Berning ZH230 nor the Audio Consulting MIPA (both nominally only 7Watts more powerful, but rather 10X your investement) I would be rather interested, how the Wadia would fare with Batteries. Have to try that one.


PS their is one weird issue happening, when using some ipod tracks, a very high frequency hiss is just about apparent (not in my head, other people hear it too, when asked thoug, because it is really superfine and quiet, but it might be the grid, hence my call for batteries)
I have been asked what cables I used with the Merlins:
I own the Cardas GR and a solid core Audio Consulting copper cable, which incidentally i used until two weeks with the Wadia, as it had been a dream combination:

Wadia S7i - Audio Consulting silver rock - AC MIPA - TSM

FANTASTIC, I love the clean colours, the singing and the speaking alike.

Unfortunately: With the Wadia 151/170 i had used the AC cable, even though the Cardas would have done better, as I only tried out now! However, the Mahler congestion stays ;-)

This would imply, that the 30W Bernings or Audio Consulting amps are perfect for the TSM, even though the 25W Wadia is acceptable if you stay within a certain kind of music.
As an addendum: The Red Wine Sig 30 (first generation has a similar "acceptable" behaviour, even though it has 30W, there goes numbers wisdom ;-)


PS This is not really anymore a review of the Master TSM: Rather a test of different amps.
Soon to come: Comparison of the Berning ZH230 / Audio Consulting MIPA