SS for Merlins VSMs?

Is there anyone who has found an SS amp that they prefer to tube amps with their Merlins? I have most recently owned CAT JL2, Atma-spehre M-60, Music Reference RM9 Special Edition and RM10MKII, Quicksilver V4s, and the Ars Sonum integrated (In each and everyone sound terrific with the Merlins). For SS, I did try Pass XA30.5 and First Watt Aleph J, but did not prefer them to my tube amps (I now use Music Reference RM10s - summer; and the Atma-spehere M60s the rest of the year).

So, any great SS sucess stories with the Merlins up against the kind of tube gear I have owned? Or is that just a elusive chase?
I am going to post this in the Speaker forum - I think it is more appropriate.
Either way works.I have used Ayre,Mac,Counterpoint,Rega,Berning,I think thats it.....all great and quite equal actually,cheers,B

Tubes are Tubes and SS is SS.
So, based on my experience, and having tried some pretty good SS, and still preferred tubes, there is unlikely to be any SS that will satisfy me. I lean towards believing that, but I am always hopeful that I will find an SS amp I will fall in love with; but as you say tubes are tubes and.....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.

I'd recommend you try and audition the new Quicksilver 88 monoblocks; I think they may be better than the V4s and you certainly don't need the power. They wouldn't throw much heat into your room in the summer either.
I have my eye on them:)Have always loved QS amps, started with the 8417....
Pubul57, Just wanted to add that I'm getting very enjoyable sound from my TSMs with a NAD c320BEE budget ss integrated. Now that in its self my disqualify my comments (might just prove that I have a tin ear). But my thoughts are that if I can get good sound from the NAD then there must be some ss gear that would sound amazing with the Merlins.

Now, like Gmuffley said, tubes are tubes and SS is SS. But both can sound fantastic.


I have been a tube man for years believing that there could be no SS that I would like as well as a great tube system. I tried Pass, TRL, Rowland, and more but none to my ears were as enjoyable as a great tube system until now.
I have discovered a SS integrated. Yes believe it or not a integrated amp from a French company named Neodio. I have their NR 600 Signature. It replaced a Air Tight 300b amp and Joule Electra ME300 pre amp and believe or not its not even close favoring the Neodio.
I will take a look. Thanks. Anything that can beat a Joule/Air Tight combo is worth a look.
Pubul, I owned the VSMs in the late 90s through 2003. At the time, Bobby was recommending the little Belles 150A. It had a nice sweetness to it, and Bobby actually preferred it to the 350A and other SS offerings at the time. Of course, he always recommended a tubed pre which in my case was the Audible Illusions L1.

I guess it depends on what degree of tube freak you are and whether you have some tone control potential with your pre-amp. Other SS pieces I have owned that fall into the category of "not like tubes, not like SS" are Intuitive Design Coordinate monoblocks and the TRL Samsons. Dale's earlier generation of SS mono amps (Essence) are even more tubey with rich midrange, but they are hard to find (people don't sell them) and are pricey.

Bob and I have been chatting about the Neodio on another thread and it sounds very promising. I would love to hear it as well. Bob now owns Dale's Gamma Summits (great speakers) and they are a fairly difficult speaker (IMO) to match amps with. The Gammas like high current to really open them up, which typically means SS or big push-pull tube amps. Those speakers are mucho revealing so most SS falls short. The fact that the Neodio is able to make them sing is really saying something.

One final thought: the LSA statement tube hybrid. I have heard a lot of good things (I have heard John Tucker's modded Shanling CDP and his Exemplar pre and like the sound; he was involved in their design), and they may work as well. That amp is on my list for a second system....

Question: since Bobby is a Joule man, have you ever tried his monoblocks?
I only owned the Joule LA150 MKII and then the LA150
Signature preamps which I used at various times with the
amps listed in my OP.

While I certainly enjoyed the Joule mono-blocks at shows, I
would say no better than the Atma-sphere M60s which were
also more affordable - I now use an Atma preamp with them. I
went back and forth with the Lightspeed Attenuator and the
Joule preamp with my Music Reference RM10 MKIIs and loved
both combos, so I sold the $7000 Joule and kept the $450

If I bought an SS amp I suspect the LSA would not work right
because of impedance problems in most cases, and I would
probably feel the need for tubes somewhere in the chain.
I presumed your LSA would not be in the equation....
Nope, might have to go with the Atma pre, or the Joule yet again:(
For me, this paradigm would include a tubed pre, but the Neodio is still an intriguing option. A few friends like the Class A approach, including Clayton, Gryphon, etc. From talking with Bob, though, he has had the Gryphon too and still prefers this new creature.
Try the MSB amplifier. Best of both world, IMO.
Have you every tried LSA Atma M60?
What's the comparision between MP3+ M60 vs LSA + M60?

The only person I know that has tested an LSA with Atma-sphere (S30) is Clio9. Though I could, I've not bothered making the test since the Atma pre/amp combo works so well I've not been motivated to A/B the two approaches.
Thank you for your answers!

When you are using LSA+ MR10MK2 , you put MBAM between
CDP and LSA with RCA ICs?

I'm considering LSA+M60 .
Then which one do you think is better ?
RCA IC only ?
Or RCA Adapter + XLR IC ?
Yes, the BAM proceeds the LSA then the RM9. My only concern with the M60 and the LSA is that the amp requires quite a bit of gain ahead of it as it is not very sensitive amp for full power. Doesn't mean it won't work, but it is a caveat. Clio9 claimed no problem, but his speakers are more sensitive than the Merlins.
Thank you for prompt reply.
Your advice is very much helpful.

My CDP Analog output is 2.7V rms , and
Input Sensitivity of M60 is 2.83V (3.0V for S30).

Input sensitivity for RM10 MK2 is 0.97V....

Merlin VSM is 89dB..sooo

It will be appreciated to give me any advice.
Sanjosehan- If you are considering the passive approach, why not go direct? CDP direct to M-60 fitted w optional volume control? Takes a pair of ICs and output jacks out of the equation?
Hi,I'm considering LSA + M60 due to budget restrictions.
Also, I was impressed with rare inputs of LAS, too.

My plan is to begin with LSA + M60 first , and Active Pre+M60 later , and make an A/B comparision , and choose one later.

LSA has much more flexibility than optional volume control in buying/selling point of view.

So any input about input sensitivity of amp with LSA will be very much appreciated.
That would like be even better than the LSA, given the absence of an extra IC, and perfect impedance match. Ralph also uses an extremely well design attenuator - wish I had the opportunity ti try that.
The M60 needs 2.8v for full power, I think that is the right number. Most digital sources put out 2v max. With the wrong speakers, you might not have enough gain for the M60s to drive the speakers loud enough. My Music Reference goes to full power with 1v, so no problem with the passive approach.
Thank you for your comments.
Atma also offers custom volume control option for M60.
Then it means that option is for high sensitive speakers only?
Or it can improve input sensitivity from 2.8V to 1.5V or lower ?
Not sure about that, but call Raplh, I suspect it must not have any sensitivity issues with any standard source, but not sure how the option changes the actual spec.
Thank you very much for your comments.
I'll ask it to Ralph.

Also , I'll try LSA+ M60 later (End of May)with Merlin.