I've heard them both. It depends a tiny bit on taste, but in my opinion the Guarnari's are the better speaker. They need a little more power than is recommended. At least 200 watts, 300 watts would be better.
12 responses Add your response
Have not heard the Merlins, but own the Guarneri's. A fiend who has listened to my system and to another system buit around the Merlins sez the Guarneris go down further (~ 45 Hz in my room)and have a richer midrange. The Guarneri's tweeter is particulalrly good..almost electrostatic in its purity and speed. I certainly would not consider parting w/ mine. As for power, I gues it depends on what you use. I have used Bryston's 7BST monoblocks and Aronov 9100 monoblocks. The latter, though only 120 watts/ch using KT88 tubes, give up nothing to the Brystons in dynamics and bass control..and are a particularly good match w/ the SFGs. As you'd suspect, wire matters. The Guarneris like good cable!
I would say we are talking about two very different speakers here with very different characters. IMHO, Sonus Faber products (even the Amti Homage which I have heard as well) have more of a sonic signature or character they impose on the music where the Merlin VSM Millenniums have a more even/honest repsonse which imposes much less of its own character. Yes, I own and sell Merlins and the VSM Millenniums are the speaker of choice for my music listening. In my room here (11.5' by 20') the VSM Milenium speakers (used with the BAM of course) I acheive bass response down to the low 30s that is very resolved with excellent weight and impact. Even without the BAM I can acheive bass repsonse to the high 30s... to the gentlemans friend above... differences in speaker placement/set-up could easily account for some of the difference hear, but what is more likey going on is the voicing of the Guarneris' VS. the Merlin is the bass. All Sonus Fabers I have ever hear have a rich mid-bass (slightly peaked and underdamped in repsonse) which gives the speaker the impression of sounding more meaty in the bass and in the case of a small two-way - its gives the speaker the feeling that it goes lower than it really does. This is why the Sonus Fabers need power (to help control the more underdamped character of the Sonus Fabers) - the reason why damped amplifer designs (like the Bryston which one of the gentleman above uses) are happy matches with the Guarneri's. The Merlin VSM Millennums on the other hand have a much more damped bass character, freindly impedance curve, and good sensitivty which make it a very happy match for amps like OTLs (many Merlin owners does use OTLs with thier speakers for good reason! :-)
Speaker choice is a very personal issue. Based on my experience with Joule Electra gear, if the Dredster plans on going with J-E OTLs the Merlin VSM Millenniums are a incredibly synnergistic match. To my personal preference, mating such great sounding amps with the Sonus Faber Guarneris would be taking away from the best that the genltemans system can be.
I own the Merlin VSM Milleniums, and have a Joule Electra OTL. This combination is magical. I'm sure the Sonus Faber is a great speaker, but I would think that there might be a better amp out there for them than an OTL. On the other hand, the Merlins were voiced using the amp that you own. Anyone with any experience in this hobby knows that amplifier/speaker synergy is especially important in obtaining the best possible results from your speakers. You already have 1/2 of the recipe. Unless you want to change amplifiers, it's an easy choice.
I am really happy that some of you seem so attached to the SFG. I know, I'm a manufacturer and the competion but above else, I am a music lover. I know how hard it is to find a speaker system that gets out of the way so you can enjoy the music.
I am not sure what version of the VSM you have heard. There are seven. Or whether you listened with or without the BAM. So, I will use the VSM M/battery BAM as the reference to clear up a couple of points (and only those points) mentioned earlier.
Alexc mentioned that a friend of his listened to the VSM and felt that the SFG had more body and a deeper bass. Again, I am not sure what version of VSM was listen to, whether a BAM was in the system or not and what system interfaces were used but I can tell you that this is totally impossible. The reason for this is because Merlin uses a larger woofer with a greater excursion, the woofer used in the Merlin has a much lower Fs of 28 hz, Merlin's cabinet is over 33% larger, Merlin's cabinet is Hemholtz tuned to 38 Hz and not 46 to 50 Hz, Merlin uses a line amplifier (in the BAM) to augment bass at 35 Hz, correct phase and filter out distortion below 28 Hz and finally tune the system so that it is only 4 1/2 dB down at 30 Hz. The Merlin woofer responds more like a 10 inch driver in quantity, impact and extension. As far as the SFG having a richer mid band, that is impossible too because of the afore mentioned. Treble is certainly a strong suit of the SFG but the Merlin, IMHO, is still superior because it has greater bandwidth protection to reduce distortion, it is impedance corrected and uses electronic circuit damping to rid the HF circuit of crossover induced resonance. Filters are also employed to rid the system of RFI and EMI while providing the amp with a termination of 100 Ohms at 100 KHz.
My last comment pertains to Kiwis post. Speaker choices are personal in nature. But, these two designs are so very different that there is more to consider than taste. The SFG is a lesser damped design than the VSM M. Because of this, a totally different sounding amp would be used to get the most out of each design. Just because the SFG sounds best with more current and a higher damping factor doesn't mean the VSM M will respond in the same way. In fact the exact opposite is true because the the Merlin likes a fuller sounding and less damped amplifier. The reason for this lies in the crossover design. The SFG has greater impedance in the components that create the knee of the crossover. You need current and damping to control this region so ultimately, you'll be looking for a high powered SS amp to diminish the output here. The VSM M measures only .11 Ohms in the circuit creating the knee thus allowing lower powered and less damped amplifiers to be employed. Yet, you can still use an SS amplifier of any power or design as long as the amplifier sounds full and realxed (with a lower damping potential). Tubes will actually embellish the output in this range.
Both the SFG and VSM M are great speaker systems but they are designed for a very different listener and set of circumstances. IMHO, the VSM M compares more to the Amati Homage in over all performance.
I believe that Stereophile made the comparison of the VSM to the Amati Homage in their review of the Merlins, to further Bobby's point. Sterophile also made the VSM a runner-up for speaker product of the year in the current issue. I really like my Merlins, and I've owned many speakers. The last two I owned were Talon Khorus and Silverline La Folias. Neither gave me the listening pleasure that I get from the Merlins. They just seem to do everything right.
Bobby guards his Merlins like a pit bull. You will not win in any debate about any speaker against his babys. This man knows more about speakers than most of your speaker builders alive today. I know I had the Merlin Vsm-m. They taught me more about sound than any speaker I had before them. Speakers are a personal choice go with your ears they are both fine speakers.