Review: Merlin Music Systems VSM MMe Speaker
The very short version : I think I soiled myself.
The slightly longer version : The Merlin MME are as close to no speaker as you’ll ever get. I’ve never owned or heard another speaker that allowed me to connect this much to the music.
The long version : When I got my first pair of Merlins a few years ago, I thought « This is the end of the quest ». I was right and wrong. Right as I’m still using VSMs, wrong as I just received the latter iteration, the MME.
Now I am a simple man. I remember with some nostalgia the time when I hadn’t drunk from the audiophile cup, and when I enjoyed music so much on my basic $1000 stereo. With audiophilia came years of joy and frustration, both intertwined, one never far from the other.
For the first time in years, I’ve managed to reconcile the music lover and the audiophile in me.
I could describe the MME in audiophile terms but I don’t think that’s the point here. In all departments but deep bass, they match the best of other speakers. Yes, the treble is as airy and delicate as with Focal’s Berylium tweeter, the imaging as solid and expansive as with Avalons, the midrange as delicate as with the best of Jean-Marie Reynaud’s, the transparency as stunning as with electrostatics. But what the Merlins do is bring all of this in one package, which no other I’m aware of do.
I can’t really compare them to the previous version as my system has changed since. All I can say, as mentionned above, is that I’ve never felt so close to the music, to the musical genius of a performer. For me, the VSM MMEs are to other speakers what a mountain landscape would be to a great photography of that same landscape. They both show the same thing. But one will let you feel the wind in your hair, will engulf you in an overpowering emotional experience. You will become part of it as opposed to just a spectator.
That’s the magic of the VSM MME. Like the real thing, they are laid-back and let the natural warmth of music shine through. They are detailed but are the exact opposite of cold or analytical.They’ll open a big hole in your listening room onto another dimension. The effect can be quite spooky and exhilarating, be ready to sleep less. Even on bad recordings, which they won’t sugar-coat but won’t make sound worse, they will make you connect to the performance like no others, and you’ll end up listening to the whole record. Albums that I’d previously discarded because they sounded compressed or thin I now listen through. The VSM MME have changed the way I listen to music, or rather, they’ve made me listen to music the way I did before : for the music itself.
And all of this while feeding the audiophile monster in you until you hear him say « I’m not hungry for more ». God, the sound of those Wiener Philarmoniker strings… Piano, which I think is the hardest instrument to reproduce, sounds right at last. Plucked guitar strings have the speed and sweetness of the real thing (I play the guitar, so I’m quite attached to that). Cymbals shimmer and die into nothingness… I could go on forever.
Now do they have shortcomings ? Not for me but two details are worth mentionning. They do great bass but are not exaggerated in that departement, so not for the headbanging crowd who likes to hear twice as much bass as is on the record. They can rock, no worries, they just won’t shake the walls with bass. I feel no frustration whatsoever in that respect. The second thing is that the BAM just has one input, so you’ll have to switch interconnects if you have more than one source. I guess one would easily get a little RCA splitter, I'm just too lazy. Once more, it’s meaningless compared to the musical experience you’re about to embark when you press « Play » or drop the needle in the groove.
A friend of mine came the other night and he’s heard some of my previous system without batting an eyelid, or rather thinking «Sounds good but I wouldn’t spend so much money on that ». I played him a few records and his eyes almost popped out of their sockets. He’s now saving money to get the smaller TSMs.
Add to that Bobby’s impeccable customer service, probably one of the best in the industry, and you’re in for a treat. Bobby will help you through anything you need, I actually keep wondering how he manages to devote so much time to his customers and design those wonders.
Enough said, go have a listen for yourself !
Ars Sonum Filarmonia
Esoteric X-03 SE
Nottingham 294 + VdH Condor
Most of the major brands + a lot of the small esoteric manufacturers. Too long to list.