Review: Merlin Music Systems VSM-MX Speaker

Category: Speakers

VSM-MX (piano black) with Battery BAM


- 12’w x 15’l x 7’h dedicated room (opens partially to another room) in basement
- speakers positioned along the short wall 42” out from front wall, 32” out from side wall (measurements taken from center of woofer)
- speakers are 6.5’ apart (mid woofer to mid woofer) using three Z-feet (2 front, one center rear)
- listening chair is 9.5’- 10’ away from both woofers
- cement floor with wall to wall heavy carpeting and a big oriental rug on top of that between listening chair and speakers
- room treatment is a Jon Risch-based DIY panel absorbers that measure about 5’ high by 2.5’ wide (on 1’ stilts). Composed of 6” of fiberglass wrapped with 1/2” high loft polyester. Out from walls about 5”. I have 5 of them at various strategic positions.


- VSM-MX (piano black) with Merlin’s latest Battery BAM (see Merlin’s webpage under “What’s New” – June 10, 2005)
- Dedicated 20 amp circuit (amp/preamp plugged directly into this)
- Isolation transformer (1 KVa) fed from the 20 amp circuit. CDP, BAM, tape deck hooked into this
- Marantz SA-14 v1 SACD player
- Joule Electra LA 150 newest revision (one with 8 tubes –no 6H30-P as the Mu follower – he returned to the 6350 workhorse tubes for that)
- Belles 150A Hot Rod stereo amplifier
- Nakamichi RX-202 tape deck
- Interconnects from Element Cable (JR-based 89259/89248 twisted design with Eichmann Bullet Plugs) and Heartland cables (89259-based with Eichmann Bullet Plugs)
- Goertz MI-2 6’ speaker cables (single wired)

Phew, I hope that that is helpful to someone!

Ok, I am going to approach Bobby and ask if I can buy shares in his company as I have bought the VSM-SE (with AC BAM), the VSM-M (BBAM), the VSM-MM and now the VSM-MX with the updated BAM.

The speakers came in a single box (~200 lbs) meticulously packaged and the setup instructions were straight forward. Mine came initially without the BAM as Bobby was in the final stage of updating it. Thus, I lived with the VSM-MX for about 6 weeks without a BAM hooked into the system.
The sound prior to the BAM? Fantastic, but missing a bit of the wallop that I was used to experiencing with the VSM. What the hell else did you expect? Now with the BAM hooked up into the tape loop of the Joule, the sound has become more involving and tactile, and of course, deeper with more grunt. Of all the three BAMs that I have owned, (AC BAM, the older BBAM, and now this one) this one betters the others. The reason? Better power supply (and more versatile), improved batteries, improved filters…all the above plus others that Bobby keeps to himself? Who knows, but the end result is mostly all that matters to me.

I am not well versed in the typical writing fashion that so many audiophiles seem to have mastered; however, there is a certain “rightness” to this speaker system that I cannot adequately put into words. Notice that I said “speaker system”. This includes the often recommended components to partner with the Merlins that seem to have synergy (I am sick of seeing that word, but it is true here nonetheless). According to Bobby, the MM and MX’s have now a wider scope of equipment that mate well with them including the ARS Sonum Filarmonia integrated amp. They do not have to be expensive (look at my amp).

I usually have only 45 minutes to one hour at the end of a busy day (professional life, children, wife…you know the usual routine) and EVERY SINGLE DAY I eagerly look forward to that time. It helps keep me going. You know what I am talking about.

Is it worth the $10 500 US MSRP? Well, if you want the best two way damn-near full range beautifully finished speaker system on the market today with a customer support network that is second to none (just one example: he phoned me at home to inquire how things were going!), then yes it is.

Questions/Comments? Feel free to email me.


Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Paradigm 7SE, Paradigm Studio 60v2, Revel F30, Gershman Acoustics Avant Garde RX-20, previous VSM's, Dynaudio Contour 3.0, S3.4
Hi David. As the owner of your old MMs I don't want to hear about MXs and new improved Bams. I'm just getting some of this payed down on the credit card.Yours are my first Merlins. I also mate them with the Belles HR amp;and quite a spectacular combo it 'are'.With all the elapsed time between speakers,then even more time before adding the Bam,I'd be lost at making a comparison.--(Old Guy; short attention span;memory challenged--)I'm happy you're happy. They did use the right name for the speakers;they are "Magic Music Makers". I miss the 'thump-part' now and then but not enough to do that much about it.Much of my listening is casual--while on-line--while watching tv w/ no tv-audio /kind of thing. My CJ8xs, are quite a step up for the serious sessions.Your vernacular is just fine, writing skills can be overrated and become humdrum---(here).--We get enough of that while reading product literature.--(Of course having similar speakers;you know I'm on the same page wit'cha.)
Hi George!

Good to hear from you. The difference between the MM and the MX is relatively small (even Bobby would not disagree about this - hell, he said as much to me!). The upgraded BAM, however, seems to me to be the bigger jump although it most definitely does not make the previous version obsolete.
Yes the Belles amp is a good/great match w/ the Merlins. I am, however on the lookout for a tubed amp. CJ's perhaps?

Happy listening,

George ~ I have the same speakers as you do.I do however have the balanced BAM with the modification to accept SE in and outputs ,as well.I use mine balanced between my MLevinson 36s dac and the Pathos Logos.Have your BAM upgraded to the new one,some day.I am going to, soon.Enjoy your speakers.

David ~ If you have the Joule pre,keep the Belles until you can go for the Joule powers.A logical direction to follow,I would say.
Hi Chris,

I would agree and that is exactly what I am doing, although Jud's OTLs have certainly gone up in price over the last few years. Added on top of that, the musicwood version is an extra $2000 per chasis which makes it a considerable "investment" if I go that route.

Greetings fellow Merlin owners: Ok, I've never owned an OTL. I did own the Dehavilland Aries G and it just ain't in the same league as my CJ 8,XS.---It cost me near 2k to make that judgement.____On the Belles vs the CJs_____I'm sure there is an impedence difference between 'em. When I switch to the CJs the volume is much higher. After I kick the volume back to what sounds like what I had; I now get more bass and the sound is so much more refined more pure,et,al. BTW mine is a factory triode,using only el34's---Then there is a dif. in el34's. I have 16 Ram Labs Siemans--all 16 matched by them. $1,400 for the set but worth the price. ......
Sorry for getting off on the amp shoot-out but the Belles is a great point of reference.---Dumb me,tubes go downhill and I don't notice right away. Moral of this,when my Belles sounds like my CJ's;I need new tubes.---Do they have a Bam trade in??

Bobby answered that one can get their BAM upgraded to the new "Super BAM" (as he calls it). All one has to do is contact him and ask the price.