I have the MME and my room size is 16 X 20 and they sound great with a rel sub
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I did a lot of listening over a few months. (and perhaps even more in the last few weeks!) I don't like to make claims that a speaker is "better" than another. It offends people in some cases. Plus there is always the issue of rooms, associated gear and listening tastes.
Some of the speakers I listened to were as follows: Focal Diablo Utopia, Revel Gem2 (and several larger versions), Magnepan 3.6 (Owned the 1.6 last year), Totem The One (and some of the larger models). Quiet recently I had friends visit me. They own Vandersteen 3A and Proac D38, two excellent designs. My friend with the Proacs preferred the Merlins. We all agreed that the Vandersteen is a fantastic speaker, but was incapable of matching the detail of the Merlins. The main issue with the Proacs was a midrange that made music sound like speakers. They could not disapear.
At this point with the Merlins I'm very impressed. Some of my friends are even more impressed because they are being powered by a Manley Stingray II with Cardas se9 wire. Good stuff, but hardly the final word for these speakers. The Proacs, for example, are fed by a Jeff Rowland amp and Classe CD player. That system's cost is three times higher. He's using cables that cost as much as my amp. Perhaps there are less expensive components that would enhance the Proac's performance.
Finally....I am a guy who likes ribbons and some hybrid designs. I like a fast musical transducer just as much as a neutral one. The Merlins are the only two way monitor (thus far) that feeds my aural requirements in that arena.
But I could tell you that I heard Megospehere 007's for 100K and the Merlins were better. Doesn't mean a thing. YOUR ears are the one component that absolutely differs from mine. The latest generation of Merlin speakers have, in my opinion, dialed in the last nuance of neutrality and detail possible for such a design...or nearly so. If you get anywhere near the Mahopac area of NY you can hear them for yourself!
I own the older version, the TSM-MMs, since 2001, and it is the first speaker that I have not wanted to upgrade from after owning it for 2 years, and I have it for nearly 10 years. I have made numerous upgrades to every other component in my system, but have not desired to upgrade these speakers. I used to own Mini-Utopias, Celestion SL-700s, ProAc 1SCs, etc, and none of them are as musical or as enjoyable as these Merlins. Of these, the Mini-Utopias were the most impressive sounding, but I grew tired of the uneven output - they sounded like a speaker with no bass driver (compared to the Merlins), and the Merlins sounded less colored. The Celestion SL-700s were fantastic speakers and are the closest in performance to the Merlins, but the Merlins are more musical and less colored. The ProAcs were dark sounding and the least desirable of the 4 speakers, although I bought them for a reason, they are quite good - but not in comparison to the Celestions and Merlins.
I completely agree with the excellent review above, but one aspect of their performance that was not discussed was their bass. They do not go very deep (as is true with all monitor speakers), but the bass they do produce is tight, accurate, and extremely musical - perhaps the best bass I have heard from a monitor speaker. I was not aching for a sub, as I loved their bass, but I had heard so many good things about the REL Storm III paired with the TSMs, that I bought one. Wow, what a nice addition! I was very happy with the Merlins, and believe I would still own them if I did not buy the REL sub last year, but the REL was a nice complement to these speakers. I do not plan to upgrade them ever, altough I will continue to audition possible replacements. I auditioned many speakers in the past 10 years, the Harbeths most recently, and was very impressed with them; however, they were not as musical and uncolored as the Merlins. Unless I find a true gem of a speaker, the only upgrades that are likely are the mods that Bobby has made to these speakers, as he is constantly perfecting his the TSMs and VSMs. I believe this is one of the main reasons for their tremendous performance - Bobby started with an excellent design, and over the past 15 years or so, has been perfecting this design and then releasing updates that can be added for minimal cost. I am looking forward to having them upgraded to the TSM-MMe in the near future, but I am so happy with them as is, I keep putting off the upgrade.
As a former, musician, sound engineer, audio store repair tech, audio store salesman, and speaker designer/builder; and a current electrical engineer and acoustician, I cannot recommend these speakers highly enough.
hifiguy, thank you!
but do the mme upgrade and take them to the next level. it is inexpensive, takes only a day or two and can really make them right. some new parts, lead freeing and modifications to the tweeter face plates. imho, they would be somewhere between the mme and the mmi in sound and performance. also look at the master rc link on the site. these two upgrades would be good for about 60% and be profound, imho.
Regarding the bass of the Merlins....Someone, in reviewing the larger VSM's, made a comment that is quite applicable. They said that the Merlins went down low, but did not create the kind of bass that slams a person in the chest...something that owners of big subs and bigger speakers may be used to. Upon going to a concert he listened carefully to the bass and noted that nothing "slammed" him the chest at the live event either! Well of course it didn't. The music was not dealing with a "tiny" listening room.
I can make the same observation. I've been front 5 rows at concerts and bass never hits me that way, yet many folks have come to expect this effect from a home system, with deep notes rumbling their guts.
This is usually not good bass quality. It's loud, deep and impressive...perhaps even fun, but it's not what's usually heard at a live venue. I can name some VERY big names in high end speaker design that make bass in this way. Merlin is not one of them.
Within their range the TSM's create astonishing bass. It's accurate and nothing more.
Not sure I can agree that bass slam is not a natural concert occurence.
What kind of concerts are you referring to?
Pop/rock live concerts involving electronic amplification often produce that kind of slam, even in large venues. You can feel the pressurization of the air which adds a visceral effect to the experience. It is often strived for in this kind of music and is evident on similar recordings.
Cheap live productions often do this but do it badly, resulting in slopy bass that dominates and ruins everything. Good productions of a similar nature in decent venues get it right and teh bass is perfectly balanced with slam just like a similar good home system playing bass heavy music recorded well to capture the slam without being to the detriment of the rest. BTW, getting these recordings to sound good with lots of bass slam at home without negative effects on teh rest has been one of the most challenging aspects of getting my system built and tuned in well. A lot of it involves the amp used and room acoustics as much as the speakers themselves.
Amplified arena's are certainly variable. Years ago I went to a Pink Floyd concert and that certainly had "slam" as I was close to some powerful speaker arrays.
Still, I don't recall the gut churning that I've heard from some speaker and sub systems in moderate sized rooms.
As for classical music, I rarely hear/feel slam as I do in a big system and I think you're quite right to a degree; the room is certainly a factor.
In the end we get bass reproduced in (usually) a much smaller room than it was performed. As an example I was listening to Magnepan 3.6 with a pair of Fathom 113's and the system was very impressive. Still, even in a room most would call quite large, I found the bass set to a unrealistic level. My friend and I could not agree on what the accurate settings were and I could only assume he had "gotten used" to the bass. Frankly....I felt that the Magnepans sounded best with NO sub at all in most cases.
I do feel that a lot of designers look at the lows and highs like "top speed" ratings and work to push them. After all, a speaker with solid and authoritative bass is impressive in the showroom and speaker design is a business just as much art.
The more I listen to these Merlins, the more I feel my fccus is shifting further away from frequency extremes. With that...yes, I DO use a nice sub with my TSMs, but my bet is that many people would find it set unusually low, adding just a subtle and seamless fill to the low end.
Yes, I have yet to experience any small monitors that cannot benefit from a well integrated sub for certain kinds of music where there is a lot going on in the low end and conveying power and/or majesty is part of the potential listening experience . My Dynaudio monitors come closer than I ever thought possible with such a small speaker when I acquired them, at least in a smaller room, to the extent that what was missing was quite subtle and really did not bother me much practically. Still, I knew something was missing in comparison to larger speaker designs and even to my own separate Triangle monitor + sub combo at the time.
My impression of the TSMs is that they are designed to do what they do to the max and in conjunction less so to push the limits of the low end which can be accomplished more practically and to better effect by adding a sub. By the time a design can do this well, it is usually technically no longer a small monitor but something bigger.
The soundstage of the TSM's is huge, quite a bit better than on my Magnepan 1.6....also recently listened to 3.6 and Vandersteen 3a, Proac D38. Those larger speakers have more bass and in taking in a first 30 seconds, they seem "larger" at first. That impression quickly fades as we come to realize that the Merlins enhance/color nothing. Those speakers I mention above are certainly very good.
I can only say this: I'm extremely happy with the Merlins and I hope more people hear about them. I believe that experienced listeners would find these (with good system/room matching) about as good as it gets.
How much does the upgrade to the mme version cost? Sonically, do modifications to the tweeter face plate, lead freeing and the rc master link result in a huge difference? Have the drivers been changed from the ones used from, say, 2000? I'm just curious because I heard a pair of TSMs around then and they were quite good, although not clearly better than several other monitors in the same price range. Thanks,
upgrade from what specific model daniel?
the changes can produce a profound improvment in sound.
new versions of the woofers, a different hand made tweeter, new terminals, wiring harnesses, hf q circuits, cryo and a new cablinet material all make for big improvments imho.
2000 was 10 years ago and since then we have made 4 significant improvements to the speaker.
best regards, b
While I can't give you info on costs, I can tell you what the owner of previous TSM-MMe hears with my newer version. He finds them even more transparent and continous. So much so that he scuttled our plans to make a direct comparison. To the best of my knowledge the new TSM has a different tweeter & cabinet material (not small changes) along with a variety of other changes, any one of which would make a difference of course. If you get deeper into audio you'll quickly learn that even subtle mods can make or break a design.
You can do a lot of reserach here and on other boards and you may also study all of the reviews. The accolades, from a wide range of users is just about 100%. The recent improvements also appear to be garnering the same response.
On a related sidenote, my friend changed the wiring on his Proacs and that simple tweak made a significant improvement. It comes as no surprise that the Merlin changes allow for even greater sonic improvements.
Daniel 22, if you own a pair of TSMs (I think you said you only heard a pair 10 or 11 years ago), or know someone who does, why not give Bobby a buzz over at Merlin?
He will explain the merits of the upgrades in detail along with the costs. There are also a ton of owners who have gone for the upgrades....don't see any complaints! ;')
I'm currently trying a borrowed pair of cam400 amps by Classe with the Merlins with interesting results (compared to the Stingray and Odyssey). I will post an update once I'm confident the speakers are 100% broken in. My search for the right CD player continues though!