Review: Merlin Music Systems VSM - MX Speaker
This is a review of the VSM MX upgrade that I recently did for my VSM Millennium speakers. I bought the original VSM Millennium and got one of the first ones in 2000. I use these with Jud Barber's excellent OTL amps, and this is the setup that wins best of show all the time. I got the upgrade bug after a few years and decided to get the speakers to Merlin for a Super BAM, 6th toe, and VSM MX modification. For $1650 I have taken my set up to a whole new level. The VSM Millenniums are not shabby, and I have been very happy with them. But the MX is a major step up. The VSM MX mod reworks the crossover with cryo treatment, new parts and some proprietary Merlin magic. The Super Bam increases the impact of the BAM and requires reworking all the electronics and power circuitry. There is also some Cryo involved. The 6th toe adds another foot to the back so the triangle of proprietary spikes has two feet in the front instead of the back. If you have the Millennium, go for the upgrade. And if you are in the market for a pair of speakers, buy the Merlin VSM-MX with the premium piano grade finish. You won't be sorry and your wife will thank you.
We love everything but classical. Vocals male and female, rock, jazz small group and big band. We audition equipment with Paul Butterfield Better Days, Dead Can Dance Into the Labyrinth, Ry Cooder's The Border Soundtrack, Taj Mahal Real Thing all on vinyl. Bob Marley Exodus on CD. I like being able to hear all the dynamics, micro and macro, the bass, the image height and hall ambience, and the soundstaging that these pieces present.
After a couple of weeks in the spa, my speakers were back and better than ever. The speakers arrived one day and I set them up without the BAM and immediately I knew we were in for a treat. Without the BAM, the speakers had more of everything: dynamics, bass, and the continuity that Merlin is known for. Without the BAM, right out of the box, the MX sounded better than the Millennium with the BAM. The BAM arrived a day later, and its addition was a revelation. Suddenly the VSM was transformed into more than I had expected. The sound was bigger, the dynamics were better, more bass, better soundstage, lifesize image height. All snapped into focus. My wife noticed the improvement immediately; she has hypersensitive hearing but is not obsessive about describing the improvement. She doesn't care if it is better; only when it is worse. When she feels compelled to comment favorably, that is a benchmark of a successful upgrade in my system!
You get bass benefits of the bigger speaker without the baggage. The MX has the bass that rivals the big boys, has the ability to disappear that they dream about, and an integrated sonic continuity from using two small high quality drivers in a compact design that make them sound superior and perform better in my house than a big speaker would. You can't believe how they get such a big sound --- bigger than ever --- out of such a small box. And the small size, great value, excellent sound, and super cool look of the Ruby Heart Red finish keeps my wife smiling.
I have not auditioned a speaker that I would rather own. The custom finish is a strong statement that my friends feel compelled to comment on. They look so good that they are the center of attention in my living room. In an iPod world, people wonder about your priorities, until they hear what these sound like. No other weaknesses noted.
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The Merlins are my third set of audiophile grade speakers in the last 25 years. I have resisted the urge to upgrade often, but stopped here after B&W Matrix 804s most recently and KEF 101s years ago. I had Fried Model R's and Advents before that. I have flirted with other high end setups and seriously auditioned the Audio Physics, Verity Parsifal Encores and Wilson Watt Puppies. I have also spent some time with the Avant Garde DUO's in someboby's else's home. All these speakers sound great, but I am so glad I stuck with my Merlins, particularly after the MX upgrade. They do it all, and they do it all well, but are most inexpensive speaker of their peer group, which include the Parsifals and the Watt/Puppies, often by several thousand dollars. If there were a rating higher than 5 stars, the Merlin VSM MX would be on the short list for it.
Joule Electra VZN 100 Monoblocks, Joule Electra LA150 linestage, Naim CDSii, Verdier Platine with Morch and Helikon, AHT Non Signature Phono Stage, Cardas Golden Cross Speaker Cable and I/C. TG Audio Power Cords and Bybee Sucker.
Wilson Watt Puppies, Verity Parsifal Encore, Avant Garde Duo.