Utopia Micros + Sub vs. Utopia Divas vs. Merlin


This is my first post and my first foray into the home audio world. Everything I know about 2 channel systems I've learned in the last two weeks reading hundreds or thousands of posts here. I'm building my first system for a carpeted room that is 13x18 with an 8' ceiling where the speakers have to be placed against the long wall and no farther than 3 feet from the wall behind. I listen to singer songwriter stuff (Jack Johnson), acoustic leaning indie rock (Shins, My Morning Jacket), some pop (the Fray, Corinne Bailey Rae), and a little classical. I only am interested in CDs.

I have a deal working for a McIntosh MC352 and MCD201 cd player, which will also act as a pre-amp.

I can only afford used speakers--Micros and VSM-MMs seem to be in the $4K range; Divas more but the difference is about the same as a sub--looking at the ACI Titan.

Given this approximately $5K-$6K speaker budget, would you recommend the Utopia Micro Be + a sub, the Utopia Divas, or the Merlin VSM-MMs?

Can I even run a sub without a dedicated preamp?

Thank you very much for your input.
I believe the sat/sub approach gives you more placement options since the bass is decoupled from the mid/treble and you'll have a true full range speaker system.

I suggest you utilize a bass management controller between the MCD201 and the MC352. You might talk to Mike at ACI about his thoughts on this.

Sounds like your first system will be a very good one.
In a German audio magazine the Diva bettered the Micro BE + Utopia sub , but do try the Diva at home.
The Diva seems to be very roomdependend ,in the right room it`s very very good.
Conrad - Have you heard a JM Labs speaker or a Merlin speaker before?

I've heard the Utopia but not the Merlins.
I'm basing my choices a lot on a composite of all the comments and reviews about both.
I know--it's not the best way to go about it but I find listening at dealers almost less helpful and I don't want to put out people that I won't be buying from because of budget constraints.
If you use a Rel Sub you will not need pre-amp outputs. This is because the connection is made directly to your amp. I have a Rel Britannia B3 and it blends very smoothly with my JM Lab - Focal Profile 918's. I researched many subs and there are lots of reviews about Rel subs and their connections directly to the amp.
What did you think of the Utopia?
I have the Divas, and while I dearly love them, they are very room and placement dependent. If you have the ability to work with the speakers position and not horribly limited by furnature, doorways, etc, then I would vote for the Divas. Should be able to find a used set for around $5k-$6k.
The new 1027 Be is much easier to place than the Divas and will work better in most rooms/set-ups. Every FOCAL dealer that I have visted this year has recommended the 1027 Be over the Diva for 2-channel listening. If your patient, you could find a used pair of 1027 Be for $5,000+, around the same price as used Diva, but may have better results.
I thought the Micros were very good, definitely good enough to make me happy. I've thought this about a number of speakers. They've all been pushed by fairly expensive electronics, though.
I just have a hard time comparing listening memories at this time since I've not been able to do quick A/B comparisons at the push of a button like I did when I bought Dynaudio car speakers about 4 years ago.
The Divas are awesome speakers but what Nealrm said is right on - you need to be able to experiement a little with their placement. I am talking several inches and not several feet so unless you have a room nazi over your shoulder, I would go with the Divas. They should work extremely well reather easily since you are placing them on the long wall. The short wall would have been a problem.

Also, McIntosh amplification with Focal is the way to go. You will end up with a killer system. Good luck and have fun. Arthur