SS amps for merlin vsm

I am using merlins with AA prestige SACD, Filarmonia amp and cardas GR
cables. would like to buy a SS int amp. ($ 5000) How is plinius 9200 with merlin vsm. anybody tried this ?

thank you
I can not comment on Plinius,but I have heard Merlins with both Belles and Butler and it was magic!
I'm workin' a Sim Audio i7...certainly under that price point used. Very happy with the setup.


thank you for ur inputs

Belles have very high damping factor..... which butler amp David ..MONADS ?
Hi Masilu,
It's the Butler 2 ch. TDB-2250

A bud of mine bought one for his Mer's.

Someone more up on Merlin correct me if Im wrong,but Im positive Bobby has Belles on his very short list of SS amps to pair with his incredible speakers.

Have an Ayre V5xe and its great,good luck,Bob
Interesting question. I too am using a Filarmonia with my VSM-MXe's. I'm just looking to try something new and maybe using SS in the summer and the Fila in the winter.

Not to hijack this thread but I'm wondering if anyone has heard or has an opinion of using any of the Luxman integrateds with the Merlins?

Have any of you Merlin owners ever auditioned a First Watt offering...J2...M2?

Seems like one of them would be a good match, but one never knows until one hears it.
Talk with Bobby at merlin to get his views as well.
I've used a Krell KSA 50s, Odyssey monos, TAD Hibachi monos, and a Bel Canto ICE powered integrated, at one time or another. All are good sounding amps and all worked well with my VSMs, but the TADs were probably my favorite (and they were the least expensive, too).

Don't know about Plinius.

I just got my Merlin TSM-XMr ruby reds!

I will best using them with a Manley Stingray, but also trying out a few SS amps, such as the Odyssey Stratos and even a Emotiva 3 channel.

I'll report in about a week to ten days.

hello there,

I have tried using the Plinius 9100 on my VSM-Ms. First the sound was very airy and at times overly detailed. The bass held up to my rel strata III in the same room! Why I didnt keep it? The sound was just to forward for my liking. I do not recomenned putting the 9200 on the VSMs. I recommend getting a SA-50 (or sa-100 - sa 102) plinius amp (known to be one of the more tube-like SS's) and then get a joule preamp to match it....match made in heaven for the SS lover...possibly

I di have the Aleph J (First Watt/Pass) and it indeed worked very well with the Merlins, about as good as the XA30.5s driving the Merlins which are such an easy load (not current hungry). I assume, the J2s would also work well, but have not heard them. In both cases, J or J2 there are very easy amps for tube preamps to drive.

have anyboby tried TAD and pass 30.5 with merlins ?
As mentioned above, I've used the TAD (ss) Hibachi monos with great results.

Has anyone heard the Merlins paired with SS Mcintosh gear? Specifically a MA6500 or MA6900?

I am thinking it would be a good match.
Never heard the combo, but Bobby said he like the Mac SS gear with the autoformers - I think both the 6500 and 6900 have autoformers.
Ayre is very good also Counterpoint though not a true SS.Mac 7270 was also good,they are exceptional speakers,B
I'm pretty sure the 6500 doesnt have the autoformers but the 6900 does. I want to hear the combo very badly.
what about berning?
The Marantz PM-15 (the original 1994 model) and the latest TSM mmi monitors are a match made in heaven.
I've been running a Luxman L-590aII for the last week with my Merlin VSM-MXR speakers. Love the combo. That "little" (60lb!) integrated is a really fine piece of kit and, if you're looking for solid-state sound, I don't think you could ask for more than the Luxman class A amp sound. Very warm (and not just because of the heat output).

I have to say, the Luxman sure is easy to listen to. Warm, like I said. Fantastic mid and deep bass, but a little congested in the upper mids/treble.

FWIW, I have in the past used Plinius gear (M16p + SA 250 mk4) to drive my Merlins after I sold off my Fila last year and was waiting for the Joule-Electra gear to show. I wasn't blown away by the combo -- it was just okay, but not remarkable -- and have since learned that the big Plinius amps might be have too much damping to really let the Merlin speakers do their thing. If you're going to do solid-state with Merlins, esp the newer ones, you might be best served by going with lower power (and lower damping) amps. Expect that YMMV.

Another side note -- when auditioning my first pair of Merlins, I got a good long opportunity to try out a Red Wine Audio 30.2 amp. IMO, the sound quality was pretty close to the Filarmonia (ie, very good), and Vinnie has since rev'd his lineup with new batteries. As for me, I ultimately went with the Fila over the Red Wine, but that was mostly due to the tubes (which seemed exotic) and the build quality of the Fila, and not really a sound quality decision.

Currently, I'm on a new amp quest. I'd love to try out a solid state solution that had a bit more treble clarity than the Class A Luxman. I hope to try out a L-505u just to see if the Class A/B Luxmans have a more appealing sound, but I'm not hopeful.
still searching an amp for merlin..... not happy with fila.... its just ok....not good enough
Have you tried any of the above suggestions or are you looking for additional recommendations?
Masilu, what about the Ars/Merlin pairing is falling short for you? For many folks it has proven to be a magical pairing, but obviously not for you, but in what way. What changes in sound are you looking for? More of this...less of that, etc.
Burson PI-160 is capable to drive these babies without a problem. You can take a look at it.

i feel the bass is not very continius and not full..... overall sound is not smooth ....always keep me wanting more...
i just heard a jadis amp, 30 watter with merlins and it was sounding better than fila and merlin....
and heard a old full linn system and was sounding better than merlins of course ... 2 other audiophiles also felt so

i want to keep my looking for another amp which will bring out the majik of merlins
Was the Jadis the Orchestra of DA-30? Those Jadis integrated are wonderful indeed, if a bit overpriced, but alas....
Try a Yamaha a-s2000 integrated amp, its got that nice warm sound of the Luxman class A but the Yamaha is not congested in the upper mids/treble. Yamaha a-s2000 is a Classic that we will talk about for a long time!
I would seriously consider a Blue Circle Integrated. I switched from all Joule to BC with my Merlins and could not be happier. I would look at maybe the DAR integrated a 6sn7 Hybrid (SS output stage) - and if you need a Phono Pre added in, just ask - Gilbert is GREAT at custom stuff. Or maybe talk to Bob Neill about a FtTh Integrated - 6922 pre, SS outputs, (hybrid) and external power supply (you might be able to upgrade to GZPZ later on). The Blue Circle stuff is the only SS that beat the Joule (la150mk2 and 100otl at their own game) especially in terms of the PRaT BC does in spades, and the huge soundstage it makes the Merlins throw... and big bass to boot out of the VSM-MXe's... esp with Tg Audio Cables (over Cardas Golden Ref)

Thanks for all the inputs

i tried different solid state amps in my system from my friends

1, mark livenson pre not remember the exact model, but didnt like it at all...too smooth

2, plinius 8150,9200...8150 was good, not good enough to replace Fila

3, krell 400xi..will never buy it

4,audiolab 8000a...was good , i liked it better than all the above solid state amps..not better than fila

so far plinius 8150 and audiolab 8000a

will continue hunting..but will not buy with out auditioning in my room

i think 75 watts to 100 watts class AB or around 35 watts class A will be ideal solid state integrated

looking for bow audio zz1,lavarden IT......

was trying to audition

ayre, pass, sim, burson, blue circle

didnt get a chance
have you considered the hybrid BAT 300x-SE integrated? The tubed preamp section is wonderful. Best integrated I've heard/owned. No pure SS amp has come close...the tubes in the preamp section will last a long time so maintenance is not a huge issue...
I'd still check out Red Wine Audio. A Pass or Boulder integrated will give you a whole different experience, but will be more pricey, but they're also rather more linear than what it seems you've tried. Assuming your Merlins are like my Merlins then they can easily handle a more neutral amp. They'll also respond well to a amp that has a great grip. Since last year, I've upgraded my amp to a Plinius SA-Reference (just because) and I have *never* heard Merlins with this much bass power. It's crazy. My two subwoofers are now sitting completely idle, off in a corner and gathering dust.

Here's another thought. What cables are you using? If you're using the Merlin recommended Cardas, I humbly submit that perhaps you're not doing yourself any favors, esp. if you're not satisfied with the bass response of the speakers/amp combo.
For an integrated in your case, I would want to investigate the Blue Circle option.

Or if a pre-amp and mono blocks are an option I'd second the TAD hibachi amp recommendation and pair it with a good pre-amp of your choice.

socrates7 .. i am using all cardas golden reference (power cord,interconnect,speaker wire).any other thoughts..I DO HAVE A BASS ISSUE ...less BASS....I WILL BE HAPPY IF ITS 15% MORE

i had tried red wine audio integrated long was giving a very relaxed presentation..may be what i tried was with less power didn't go for it

which pass amp xa 30.5 or int 150 ?
will reserch on plinius sa reference...8150 was good but it was pushing the sound too much for my liking, opposite of the red wine audio i tried

will have a look on BAT integrated too

a highly experenced merlin owner suggested BELLES, BELL, BLUEcircle

@ Masilu,

I too use Belles. Currently have the Belles 150A Reference amp fed by a Bel Canto SEP2 tubed preamp (no longer in production). Love the combination.
Denvelle, have you ever had a tube amp with your Merlins by way of comparison with your Belles?
If you're okay with spending on cables (and if you have GR then it seems that you are), I'd try and get my hands on some alternative cables. Don't ignore those power cords, either. I've had spectacular luck with Clarity Cables. Best freakin' bass I ever got out of my Merlins when hooked up to my big Plinius amp. Wow. And yes, the mids and treble were maintained -- and in comparison to the Cardas, even extended.

As for Pass, I'd go for an integrated. Class A is very fun, but will "push" more in the mids than a Class A/B will.

You could also try a Luxman. The ~$4k L-505u is a startlingly good integrated (see the reviews) and the $10k L-509u is one of the best amps I've ever heard, period. The Class A versions you might find a bit syrupy.
@Pubul57 - yes, but it has been several years and on a different set of speakers. I had the Rogue 99 preamp and Model 88 power amp with the TSM-SE's and then the TSM-M's. The midrange was just ridiculously palpable, almost "wet" with realistic tonal color. The Coors (female singing group) sounded utterly real with the Rogue...(and here comes the "but") - BUT I ultimately preferred solid state power amp because the bass was a bit slow and muddy in comparison, and Merlin speakers (in general) have too great a coherent sound to introduce any lag. My current setup is with the VSM-MXe's with the latest Master BAM and RC networks - still don't plan to go with a tube power amp, but would never give up the tubed preamp. Just a great combination....
The Merlins (for better and worse) are more revealing of the upstream chain than any other speaker that I've heard. So.....

You might want to try a tube amp that allows rolling. I've recently been using my VSMs with Prima Luna 6 monos that allow a wide variety of tube choices. I've tried a half dozen different output tube types and the results varied widely. I know that Bobby (and many other folks) prefer the EL-34, but there's a lot of tube sound in the territory betwen that tube and SS.

You might well find that KT88s get you a combination of tube/ss sound that appeals. It will definitely be a more SS feel than EL 34s. I ended up running KT66s (which kind of split the difference between KT88s and EL34s) FWIW.

OTH, you might prefer SS....


I tried few KT 88 based sterio and monoblocks and found good bass response..but the sweetness of EL 34 was lost

the KT 88 based amps i tried were not class A

Fila in 25watts class A EL34 based amp

may be KT 88 in class A will do good

but i am looking for a simple solid state integrated amp that will go close to EL 34 mid and KT 88 bass

If you have to have tubes for your Merlin, go Ars Sonum.

If you're worried about power (and I think the 25wpc is not enough, myself), have you heard about/looked at the new (some time this year) Gran Filarmonia? Ask Bobby about this one or Google it. It's not up on the web yet except as a rumor w/some spy shots. Its a real looker.

That said, I would personally recommend 120wpc or more for the Merlins. And then add better cables. If you've never tried something other than Cardas -- and you're using tubes on them -- then you've never heard what these 2-ways can do. It's punch-a-hole-in-your-chest bass, but something I never got with a tube amp. Any tube amp.
08-14-11: Masilu

but i am looking for a simple solid state integrated amp that will go close to EL 34 mid and KT 88 bass

When you find that, please let us know:)

Anybody tried Musical fidelity amps with merlin ?

I will be doing an audition on Primare ss integrated and sim audio power amps with Modwright pre in my room this weekend...

will report

I'm using a Musical Fidelity Nuvista M3 with the VSM mmi. The sound is very good, but then I don't have a lot to compare it with. I have a pair of atma-sphere M60s but I don't have a pre-amp to go with it yet. I have tried taking the pre-out from the M3 into the M60s. The M60s clearly work better with the VSM's then the power amp in the M3 does, but for the most part it isn't a huge difference. That could also be because that pre isn't the best match with the M60s either. Biggest difference is in the bass which is fuller with the M60s then the M3. That surprised me because I always thought bass was the more the forte of ss vs tube amps and the M3 really does a great job with dynaudio speaker. I think it has to do with the higher damping factor of the M3 vs M60s which doesn't agree as well with the merlins.
"The Merlins (for better and worse) are more revealing of the upstream chain than any other speaker that I've heard"

Hi Masilu

I couldn't agree more with Marty's observations therefore if you are looking for the carefree nature of ss including long tube life, auto biasing, feedback adjustment, low heat with the presentation only tubes can provide I still say the Berning Zh270 or the newer zh230 is about as good as you can get and will eliminate the complaints above providing you like its natural presentation, we all have different goals, no? :) One cavaet though is that because of the very transparent nature of these amps, along with all the OTL's one must really pay attention to the upstream chain to a greater degree. I have used this amp with the VSM for 9.5 years now and have not come to the FULL realization of how natural this combo can sound changing just the smallest of details in the chain, it keeps rising, it is a lot of fun to come this far and know that it can still be improved upon in those oh so subtle ways that make the music listening experience so totally enjoyable and involving. The longer I own the amp the more I realize how special it is, all amps have shortcomings somewhere, right? The bass is both full, controlled and deep without any extra fat or lack of definition. This is one area where the Merlin's can suprise given all the comments of "where's the bass?" I have not heard ANY ss or tube amp, bar none, that controls the bass better with the Merlin's along with extended highs with absolutely no brightness or glare and this with that SET presence and that liveness/realness aspect you get. You will not approach this with ss, sorry to say, at least I haven't heard it come close. The Merlin's with their electrostatic clarity requires this to come to their potential which many folks that give up too soon never realize. The Berning is not as much in the conversation these days but it is as viable as ever and is special with this quite special speaker. The zh270 still becomes available used at around 4-4.5K. The zh230 at less power is quite a bit more expensive new and used. If in Florida you are quite welcome to come and hear for yourself.

One thing though that doesn't fit your criteria is that it is best to use a tube pre-amp rather than straight from source to amp although that is an option with the zh270 as it does have a mediocre volume control, not recommended however. Have you looked at any of the Class D integrateds, the ice amp?
My experience is "spot on" with Tubegroover. If you can find a ZX270, by all means try it. For me it is almost unbelievable that such an un-imposing little box can do what it does. I purchased the amp a few years ago and have never even bothered to open the cover, let alone replace the tubes. I don't even know what tubes are in it, and don't care. It's my only component that I get anxiety when I think I may someday have to risk shipping it back to Berning for something or another. Will probably drive it to Maryland if that day ever comes. Bridges best of tubes & SS.

Merlin VSM-mm master upgrade, Herron pre, Berning power, CGR cables
And another vote for berning!!
I have both the zh 230&270, both fabulous with merlins, better than my previous accuphase e550 or sugden masterclass.

I auditioned Primare 30.1 integrated and simaudio moon w3 with Modwright pre in my room ....

Primare sound was close to Ars Fila, something almost like fila with more power...I would have confused if given a chance to pick one between these two, since i already have fila theres no point buying close comparison Fila Outperforms...Bass is fuller in fila compared to primare

Then it was Modwright pre and moon power...sound was smooth,not bright, bass was toooo tight and not full..Overall it was very good, but fila was better...

I think my ears and merlin are tunned for tubes

So there ends the agressive search for SS amps for Merlin

thank you for all the sincere inputs

now let me have a look on Berning ZH 270