I was always pleased with the Plinius SA100 MkIII on my TSM-MX's. This was with a Reference Line passive and later with the Joule LA100 MkIII preamp.
I now have the Filarmonia integrated amp, but miss having my amp powered on 24/7 where I could sit for a quick listen anytime.
I know you're familiar with all of the "usual SS reco's"
I have had my Merlin vsm's since the 90's and from my own experience I can say that the best sound has always been with tube amps, especially my Atma-spheres. I took my Merlin's out of storage about a month ago when the weather got cool in Florida and I could live with the 1000 watts of heat that my amps put into the room,in another month I will go back to my Magnapan's with my sold state which runs 90% cooler.
That has been my experience too. I was hoping to see if someone who has used them with tubes (someting like the Joule, Atma, Berning, CAT or Fila) and found SS that they found to be just as good with their Merlins - might not be possible.
You are doing a lot of amp switching considering how you love the Merlins. Are you trying to get more out of them?
The SS amps I've used include the Odyssey Stratos monos, Krell KSA 50s and TAD Hibachis. All worked very well, but I preferred the TADs over the Krell over the Odysseys. The TADs were also the least expensive choice.
That said, I too, prefer a good tube amp (I've tried Prima Luna 7s, ARC VT 130SE, Cary 300B and 805 mono SET amps, among others) with these speakers. The Hibachis are very satisfying, nonetheless.
I just saw that you can get a pair of the TADs for $500 -- How is that possible? They do look interesting.
I don't think anything will sound better than the Atma-sphere with the Merlins (maybe Joule VZNs), so getting more out of them is not the goal. I would like to have a no fuss SS amp that I can use in the summer, without feeling like I've taken a big step down from the Atma-sphere. Prior to that I thought the CAT JL2 were fanatastic, but they generated even more heat than the M60s. Unfortuanatley I suspect that I will need Class A SS to be satisfied and that gives off a lot of heat as well. Looking back, I should have kept the Aleph Js. The amp Bobby P recommeded was the BEL 1001, but not easy to come by, and anyting but the MKV is getting a bit old on the capacitors.
Check out the Sugden A21a or anything in the Sugden line.
I have owned the Merlin VSM's in a couple iterations and I have owned the two amps I am going to suggest...but I have not owned them together (amps and speakers) so my suggestions are based on educated guess as opposed to real experience.
The Bel 1001 MkV would likely be a good choice as Bobbie suggests...very good amp.
The Stellovox PW-1's would as well IMO....perhaps even better than the Bel.
I have used the Stellovox with many speakers that were only supposed to work well with tube amps and the Stellavox has been excellent in each case.
This of course does not assure that they will sound good with the Merlin, but if I were a betting man....
I have heard that the Golmund SRM 125 mono's are at least as good as the Stellovox but I have not heard them or owned them and they are rare and more expensive than the Stellovox.
The Stellovox looks very interesting and I had never heard of it before. Might be problematic with tube and or passive linestages with its very low input impedance. The Sugden is one of that amps (as an integrated) that I have been very interested in, but not sure anyone has actually used them with Merlins, nevertheless they seem to be well thought of. LFD MKIII or IV also on my short list for consideration.
Perhaps changing the Merlins will yield the desired outcome.
paul, we have a number of people using the sugden with different versions of the tsm.
they all speak very highly of it.
I was looking to upgrade my Joule 100w otl's, sonics wise - I listened to a LOT of stuff, and found the 200 series of amps from Blue Circle to best the Joule here (HUGE stage)... It is SS and way less heat. And as trouble/worry free as it gets... I can now leave my system on 24/7 on the weekends when I have time to listen. Not saying the Joule is bad, cause it is most certainly not! I just fell for the BC sounds is all. I wasn't looking to cut down the heat, or use something easier than the Joule... but that is a side benefit to the upgrade in sonics here!
Thank you Bobby, No problem with 30 Class A watts of the 21SE?
Monk, that is the second time I have heard someone recommend the Blue Circle line, I will explore that too. For someone coming from a Joule, that says a lot, the Joule has sounded fantastic every time I have heard at one of the shows.
I've read up on the A21 line, Pubul57. If I recall the A21a should be fine also and has a sweeter presentation than the A21SE.
paul, the 30 watts will be fine.
My only datapoint is swapping the Berning ZH-270 out of my VSM mme rig with the Audio Research 100.2. As much as I consider the 100.2 probably the finest solid state amp that I have owned, it just doesn't compare with the Berning driving the VSM's.
Though I would love it to be the case, I am not looking to improve upon the Atma-sphere OTLs, just something I could live with happily. I also suspect that I might have to stick with Class A (Sugden, Luxman, Pass, etc.), but I am willing to try A/B. While I would consider an amp, I am leaning towards an integrated. So, no, I don't expect something better than what I already have, just viable alternative that Merlin fanatics have found to work well with their speakers, and the Merlin match is the key, for obviously some speakers need SS or high power, high current amps - thankfully the Merlins are not so demanding of quantity, but they sure do benefit from quality.
I own TSM-mme's not VSM's (someday) but can speak to the amp question.
I use both the McIntosh 275 tube amp and the MC-402 solid state. The tubes are excellent but the reality is I prefer the sound of the MC-402 as do other listeners. You also get the added benefits of instant on from the remote and no tube maintenance.
I also listened to the Merlins on an Arcam integrated and a Marantz integrated. They were OK too and had their own unique presentation however were not keepers.
I had prejudiced my own thoughts that transistors can never sound as good as tubes. In this case I was wrong.
Just my 2 cents.
The 6600, though not Class A, is certainly on my short list.
Ayre,Mac,Counterpoint,Rega,maybe one other I cant think of were all quite nice.Those speakers are so versatile.Been 7 years now and the only thing I dont lust to change.Tube amps I've used seemed no better or worse,good luck,B
FWIW, I've been running my TSM-mmi's (not VSM's) with a pair of Manley Mahi's in triode mode, mostly -- roughly 24 watts into 6 ohms, and they sound great and play plenty loud, too. YMMV, naturally.
For many years I used a HK reciever for my tsm me's-they
sounded great-i use a modright denon 2900 truth tube cd
player in the direct mode on the hk-recently bought a Forte
4a class a amp from a friend-I use the hk as a pre-amp
in the direct mode and the difference was unbelievable-no comparision.
You mean the "upgrade" to the Forte 4A was a big improvement?
Pubul57, i've used a Sugden A21a with the Merlins for almost a year. it was really very good, especially midrange/Vocals.
But then i tried a Leben CS600 (almost 3 times the cost) and have not looked back since..
Pubul57,yes the upgrade to the forte 4a was a major improvement.
Arj, unfortuantely I hear you:) It feels a bit like chasing your tail. Why, I might just bite the bullet and by a Mac 6600 that will outlast me and be done with it. May not be the very best, but it is quite good and will be with me when I retire in 10-15 years or so.
Bobby do you think the older Jeff Roland amps models 6,8,or 9 would be a good match;I run model 6 monoblocks on usher rw729's and would think the Merlins would love these amps.
rleff, smooth spacious and perhaps not as robust sounding as the mc but very good.
Bobby thanks for the feedback
Don't know if this has been mentioned yet, but the Belles 150a Hot Rod.
David, how did the Belles compare with your Joule and Ars Sonum? Fair comparison? I would love it if the Belles 150A Reference were in their category driving Melrins, but....
Pubul, if you opt to audition/purchase the Mcintosh, I would love to hear your feedback on the combo.
paul, i would agree and would love to hear what you think of the ss amps with autoformers. mc that is.
i liked them.
Why not tubes?
Those who know Bobby, know of his fondness for tubes--and know that his designs are such that tubes can drive them without any problems.
Just wondering, it seems a natural choice.
Lrsky- I think tubes is the answer but the op is probing for solid state amps;but if he is open to tubes I agree 100% with your post.
I have two tube amps (Music Reference and Atma-sphere), recently 3 - they are not going anywhere - just want to try and find a "successful" SS pairing. I have no doubt that tubes and Merlin are the way to go as a general rule as they let tubes do what they do so well (and some speakers don't).
It is well known that tubes work beautifully with Merlins. But I believe some are under the impression that you have to use tubes with Merlins to have great sound and that just isn't the case.
I like posts like this so misconceptions can be cleared up. Merlins, like any great speaker, sound wonderful with tube or SS when care is taken in set up. And that's great for guys like me that just don't want tubes.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE tubes. In fact, for a season, I had VSMs with a great tube set up and I may have tubes again in the future. I still miss that set up. But I enjoy my TSMs with cheap NAD SS just as much in its context.
Pubul57, hang in there. You'll ind SS amplification that you can enjoy in those summer months. I know it.
Does anyone thing the Merlin VSMs would work well with an
Edge NL12.1 (especially in the highs, not being to raw or tipped up)? Sorry for adding another question to the thread here. Thank you.
Had a Mac7270/C30 combo for a couple years with the VSM-MM,s.Very nice,the Edge should be as good as Rowlands though overdamped as well which isn't a dealbreaker,just not Bobby's preference as his shows attest to.Maybe he's changing also,who knows?Its all good,cheers,Bob
Hello.....I use a VTL ST 85 EL34 based amp with my Merlin TSMXe speakers. I like it with tubes, but also use a pair of upgraded Odyssey Khartargo Mono Blocks which are SS in the summer. I also like them. Just a different presentation to the music, both sound good just different. I also like Tetrode mode better than Triode in my tube amp...go figure. But also using Amperex/ Mullard Holland EL 34 tubes........$$$$
I considered the Merlins a few years ago after hearing
them and being impressed at the NY show, but I
didn't get them because someone warned me they had
too aggressive highs, which I wanted to avoid in a speaker.
Now I have Harbeths and find them not as detailed or resolving as I would like and was used to with my old
The Dynaudio Esotar D330/A tweeter has aggressive highs?? That's a first.
Thanks Brf, I had the same thought.
The Esotar is just so fine in Dynaudios.
Rgs2, I have the Merlin TSM mmi monitors and the highs are not too aggressive in my system. I do a lot of tweaking, as you know.
I had Merlins Vsm Mx speakers for several years and I ran them Quicksilver Triodes, Cary Sixpacs and heard the Belles 150A Hot Rod extensively and I can tell you that the highs were absolutely, positively never aggressive. The esotar tweeter is smooth and non fatiguing.
I have to agree, the Esotar is known to be among the very best tweeters available - no tweeter gets that hard earned reputation being agressive. The Merlin is balanced from top to bottom, one of the qualities that make it such a desirable speaker.
Yes, I did hear them myself and there was no hint of aggressive highs. In fact, they were outstanding each time I heard them.
I am not really sure if it is the tweeter to be blamed. even with the TSM MMes getting the amp (SS/Tube) right is necessary..Regarding the so called brightness, I would really put that to the transparency of the speaker ..with no rolloff. what you hear is what the amp is giving as output :)
With my leben using the stock Sovtek 6L6GCs the highs were kind of hard and sharp. with the Winged C's and the Russian Reflecter equivalents they are smooth and extended