Bhoage, the Merlins get a lot of use with OTLs- and I think its safe to say that the Merlins were designed with that sort of amplifier in mind.
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I would recommend Atma-Sphere M-60s and MP-3. A friend and long time contributor to this forum, pubul57 (RIP), ran this combo with his Merlin's and praised the sound. You may want to search the archives for some of his posts. This combo might push your budget a little north if buying new, especially if you get the full function version of the MP-3, but you should easily come under your budget buying used.
See if you can find one of the later editions of the CAT pre-amp and run it into a pair of Manley Neo-Classic 250's...Soundstage, depth, imaging, body, texture...you name it. Magical EL-34 midrange and tremendous, effortless power...
Your jazz will love both the natural sense of space, air and presence as well as all the dynamics you could imagine.
Just my two cents.
BTW: I've been running tubed monos for years (CJ Premier 12's). In a dark room...there's NOTHING like tube glowing monoblocs. Good luck
Recently traded up my tube system to an all Manley set up: Chinook, Jumbo Shrimp and Snappers. Clearly there is synergy among these components; they are well matched and, once warmed up, provide a very warm and detailed three dimensional sonic view into the recording with exceptional dynamic punch. Well exceeding my expectations, plus they are beautiful looking (my wife loves the way they look).
Thanks for the responses so far guys. I'm pretty well down to Atma M60's or Joules I think. With the Joules the heat and need for that variac thing are a bit of a concern as I'm trying to keep the setup as clean as possible in my living room and I don't see me needing 100 watts of power but I need mono-blocks. Which I think rules the Joule's out. So I think the M60's might be the best option for me?
I have the Atma Sphere and Quicksilver amplifiers and Merlin VSM loudspeakers. Both amplifiers surely work well, and which you would prefer depends on your own tastes. In a 15 X 25 room, the M60s do have enough power, but folks often go for more with the MA-1.
Anyway, a bit of a contrarian suggestion, but I'd keep your ARS Sonum. Though the other amplifiers make me happy, the ARS is a terrific amplifier in its own right, and outside of power, you really don't wrest improvement.