VAC 30/30 would be tops on my list. I don't think you need the power of the VAC 70/70 for Merlin's.
I don't have experience with the other tube amps you have listed, but based upon what I've read in the past, I'd also be considering Atma-sphere, Music Reference RM9 and several Cary offerings.
Solide state amps would not be on my list.
I think it would depend on your taste and in the case of the lower powered amps, room size. The Trancendent T8 for example at 25 watts may not have enough power in a large space. Sound wise I would choose any of the OTLs on the list for their ability to work well with the Merlins along with transparency, speed and full bandwidth performance the fact is that for MY taste they offer all the positive attributes of ss and tubes, the best of both worlds. Have you listened to any of the amps on your list with the VSM? You're going to get a lot of different opinions and at the end of the day yours is the only one that matters.
As it probably will be no surprise to most Merlin fans, I was hoping to find an SS amp with OTL qualities, but that may not exist.
I have a small room so then I may get away with an Atma-sphere M30, but I thinketh that I would like to have the power of M60, but the heat is too much and don't want to deal with so many tubes. I would consider the Berning but the price tag is stopping me.
I liked the sound of M60 though.
I didn't title this thread as such;"best ss amp for Merlin" because I was wondering if there are other tube amps that may not run hot or be too expensive.
Plus I was wondering in what order do these amps fall in.
Ollirdep, do you own Merlin VSM now, if so, which version? My understanding is that the newest VSM sounds very good with either tube or SS amplification. I used to have the VSM MM version, and they definitely benefited by using tubes. I still own the TSM MM in a second system and run a Cary sli80 with excellent results. Good luck.
Regarding the M-60s it is possible to run them with less output tubes per channel. For example you can remove two output tubes per side. Less power and less heat are the results, but in this configuration you should still have more power than an S-30.
You have a lot of nice choices on your list.
In a small room, you don't need a ton of power to get VSMs to really sing. Unless you like to listen LOUD!, in which case the VSMs might not be the best choice, anyway.
Assuming that you're not headbanging, I'd note my experience, FWIW.
I've used a lot of different amps with my VSMs (including several solid state amps that were excellent matches) and the bottom line is that the speaker reveals the specific qualities of the mated amplification more clearly than any other I've owned. I really doubt that you'll find a SS amp that really "feels" like an OTL thru the VSMS, so...
If you really like the particulars of OTL sound, I'd suggest that you go with a low power OTL amp. Thus will minimize heat and the lowish power output will very likely still be more than adequate into the VSMs benign load. I had an early Atma-sphere S-30 that was extremely sensitive to the partnered load and it was very happy with the VSM. I also had success using the 15WPC Cary 300B in a moderately sized room.
My own view, go OTL.
Clio09 makes a good point. I believe the power supply regulation in the M-60's is higher quality than the M-30. So if you have the space for the amps, you could cut back on tubes and heat and get the benefits of the monoblocks.
Ollirdep, I honestly don't believe you are going to find a SS amp with ALL the attributes of the best OTL's, it may exist but I would expect it would be pricey. I'm sure you might find one you like UNTIL you listened to an OTL with this speaker. The Pass Aleph series of amps are nice but I haven't heard with VSMs, Class A operation which I tend to like but again more heat and I have found the bass a bit lacking with these amps but a very sweet natural presentation.
From a practical AND sound perspective the Berning is probably the best option but may NOT be the first choice for everyone. I have commented many times through the years on this forum and elsewhere on my love affair with this amp and my VSMs. I still own it and it is truly an amp to build a VSM system around. Not only that but it is dependable, extremely well designed and hand built by a very meticulous man. Form follows function. I personally think it is SOTA, at least for my taste and what I am trying to achieve compared to other amplifiers if not all of them. To this day feel it is the best audio purchase I've made for its efficiency, reliability and performance and the ability to be a foundation for improvement in the rest of the system, in other words this amp is unforgiving of anything less in front of it. The T8 which I also owned for a while is a very refined sounding amp if you can find one at a reasonable price but if you listen to large scale classical music I personally don't think it will have enough power in a medium to large size space. The Atma-sphere and Joule, only the latter I heard with VSM, would be excellent choices and maybe a first choice but the heat would have to be factored in. Would it be an issue to you? For me it was living in Florida and it making my room toasty in February with the windows open! I would keep MY focus on the OTLs with Merlin. I'm sure the ARS is very nice or Bobby wouldn't recommend it but I'm also pretty certain it is not going to do what OTL amps do and when you have a speaker that works well with this design it is quite difficult to go back. The resolution and space/time aspects of music along with natural tonality and dynamic shadings all put together are in my experience the most difficult aspects of making recorded music more believable and the OTLs do it better than anything I've listened to especially when paired to a speaker that can highlight this. Bottom line is we never know how good something is until we hear something that improves on it. If you see a used zh270 on the market for 4-4.5K snatch it up at least to listen, you can always sell it or a better option, if possible is to listen in a sorted out system to know the possibilities. This could be said for all these amps. It is difficult to rely on the opinions of others if your tastes are different. The newer zh230 at less than half the power and North of 8K seem less of a value, the quadrature at 200 watts and 30K is overkill with the VSM so that leaves the zh270 used as a steal, again, IMO. You HAVE to listen but there is plenty of info in the archives on these amps with Merlin to get all the opinions you could hope for.
If I had Merlin speakers there are only a few amps which I would pair them with due to my experience with them. I would absolutely put Joule at the top of that list. I've also heard them with Atma-Sphere amps which I would be a very close second. Pass XA series are also very good with them but I would go tubes if at all possible.
A gentleman on Audio Asylum replaced his custom OTL amps for his Maggies with the Gilmore Raptor monoblocks. I replaced my VTL ST-80 with the Raptors on my Maggies and they sound more like a great tube amp then any amp I have ever heard. Don't be put off by the fact that they are class D ampsw. They are the real deal
If you go to Audiogon's virtual systems page and type in Merlin, you will get a good idea as to what current Merlin owners are using for amplification.
Check out the Butler Audio's Monad A100s. I have a pair forsale on Agon
Thank you all for your inputs.
What would you prefer between the atma m60/mp3 combo or the ars or the berning with matching pre whatever that may be?
And what is the order of ss power amps?
If you want tubes and low heat I can vouch for the new Carver tube amps that do just that. The current TAS review of the Carver VTA 305 is ligit and could easily be said of the VTA 180s.
If you become interested check with Underwood HiFi for a better price. Or
Here are some threads over the years that discussed this topic:
Anyone using Joule Electr VZN100 MKIII amplifiers?
Merlin speaker /Amplifier combinations?
What amp should be used with merlin vsm's?
How much power for Merlin VSM speakers?
Plinius Amps mated with Merlin VSM-Ms?
krell & merlin what next?
CAT versus OTLs and Merlin
Parasound Halo JC1 mono amps and Merlin VSM-MX
What's best for MX's?
What new amp for my Merlins
CAT versus Berning
amps for Merlin VSM-MXE
Atmasphere Novacron MA1.5 amp with Merlin VSMSE
Shindo and Merlin VSM
Stupidgood: Ars Sonum
Merlin VSM and SETs?
Good tube integrated for Merlin speakers?
an amp without "electronic" sound
Leben integrated amps and Merlin VSM
Cary, Cayin or Primaluna EL34 for Merlin VSM-MME
Question for Merlin VSM/ARS Sonum owners
SS amps for merlin vsm
solid state vs tubes
Berning EA-230 vs RM-10mkII with Merlin VSM
SS amp for Merlin VSMs?
Merlin VSM/MMe with Berning ZH-270
Need help with Merlin vsm mme for home theater
Going from latest threads to oldest I started to go through the : SS amp for Merlin VSMs? 1-27-11 thread and found this:
Neodio NR 600 Signature an ss french integrated amp from Bobheinatz who says: It replaced an Air Tight 300b amp and Joule Electra ME300 pre amp and believe it or not its not even close favoring the Neodio
From the next thread: Berning EA-230 vs RM-10mkII with Merlin VSM
FWIW, I prefer the RM-10
Joule/Manley/Merlin is certainly a great combination too. As is the Ars Sonum if you want to make your life simpler and not miss a beat. Seems to be a few folks that want from a Joule/Joule combo to Ars Sonum without looking back. As you know, the amp/speaker interface is the most important, and in the case of the Ars, you practically have an amp specifically tweaked to work with the Merlins - and yes, those 30 watts are more than enough.
I now have an RM-10 MkII as well and would say its one of the most underrated amps out there
Reading the posts here regarding Merlins are some good thoughts.The cat rapping about his Maggies must be lost but is a decent typist.Bobby usually says stay away from amps with high damping numbers.I've had some of the above and really like the Berning and Ayre.Can't wait to try one of Ralphs also,good thread,cheers,James
I would say try the Atma-Sphere combo. However, if you already have an RM-10 you might be half way there. A former contributor to these forums, Pubul57 used the Atma-Sphere combo with his Merlin's. He also used an RM-10 paired with the Lightspeed attenuator. If you have a single source system this is a great combo. I use it as well, but do not have Merlin's.