Review: Merlin Music Systems VSM MMe Speaker
I just wanted to share a happy rant about my experience with a new pair of VSM MMe's. I've been into serious hi-fi (and a music lover) for many years and I just didn't think speakers could change a system this much.
There are no Merlin dealers over here and I originally came accross VSMs back in 2004, when my boss (an American working in the UK) was planning to move back to the US and convinced me to buy his VSM SEs. I took a bit of persuading, as I loved my KEF Reference Model 2.2s. But the SEs were in a different league to my KEFs - shockingly un-coloured, much more detailed but sweet and very spacious with great soundstage.
In terms of making music sound like music, the SEs made my KEFs look silly. They played so much more of what was going on - atmosphere, space, emotion. And this was the first time I had ever heard bass that truly played tunes - remarkably deep for relatively small speakers and unfeasibly tight, fast and controlled. So I was hooked.
OK, back to the present. After reading a lot about how much VSMS had moved on since the SEs, I took the plunge and ordered a new pair of MMe's (MMe's rather than MMx's as I have solid state amps). When they arrrived, I knew they would need buring in, but the difference over the old SEs was dramatic even in the first hour. Much bigger, weightier sound, wider, more detailed, and so, so sweet.
I now have well over 300 hours on the speakers and they have improved enormously on what I was hearing in the first week. I should add here that I listen to an unusually wide range of music: from classical through Jazz, singer-songwriter, folk, pop, electronic, dance, R&B and hip-hop. If there are good musicians behind the music, then I usually like it.
I could go on at length about how the MMes seem to break all the rules by sounding breath-takingly detailed and airy, while also sounding incredibly sweet. And if it's your thing, the soundstage is about 30% wider and much deeper. Now it's a beliveable place that's with you in the room, not an artificial 'Hi-Fi' thing.
You know that over-used hi-fi mag phrase about speakers disappearing? When the music plays, the MMe's really do disappear. The music has nothing to do with the speakers - it's just there in the room.
But it's what MME's do for music, rather than hi-fi, that really strikes me after living with them for a few weeks. Music I know well suddenly has a new piano line, plain as day. And it's not just a piano line, but piano being played with incredible emotion that just wasn't there before. Same goes for a favourite vocal at the beginning of a song - now there's a second voice quietly harmonizing and very beautifully. I always thought you had to change your front end to get these kind of changes.
I've always loved to hear the voices of talented female singers and, where the SEs were already remarkable, the MMe's take texture emotion and 'thereness' to new levels. This is the kind of texture that is touchable and addictive.
I was told to expect deeper and more tuneful bass. Turns out this was a big understatement. Yes, the bass really is deeper, bigger, more tuneful and controlled than ever before, but how my system has rhythm and bounce that it never had (I always thought my ageing CD player was to blame). Suddenly, music makes sense as music - it all just hangs together rhythmically and in every other way. It just sounds right.
Regarding bass extension, there's a lot of talk online about a slight lack of weight at the bottom end. I'm probably using quite different amps to most VSM owners, where there seem to be a lot of fine valve amps. I use two big Meridian 557 amps running bridged mono and I guess they may play a part in this. In my system the MMes go deeper than they should – very deep indeed and with absolute weight and conviction. This is all the scale I could want.
Anyway, time to stop ranting and sign off. If you have an older set of VSMs, get them upgrade! Or just take the plunge and buy the latest version. These speakers tick all the 'Hi-Fi' check boxes, but it's the way they play music that will make you happy.
CDP: Tag McLaren CDT20R
DAC: Tag McLaren DAC20sl
KEF Reference Model 2.2 and 203/2
Merlin VSM SE (old version of current VSM MMe)