What amp should be used with merlin vsm's?

Maybe merlin owners can help me with this, I am looking for an amp to go with my merlins. Should I get a belles 150a hotrod or sim w5 or a b&k st140. Are there any other amps I should look at? Which of these can bring me the best sound? I would like to get joule's vzn100 but am not financially ready, but if there is a tube amp that costs less- something under $3500 used, I would consider it.
If you talk to Bobby at Merlin, he himself will strongly encourage the use of the Belles 150a hotrod. Unless going with Tubes, I would audition the Belles, & enjoy the savings!

You will have tubes on the pre, with will give you the warmth you seek with the Belles. Upgrade later when you have more dispossible funds, as the Belles amps are always in demand.

You should give Bobby a call, he's one heck of a great down to earth guy who to talk to. He will not stir you wrong, in getting the best sonics out of his speaker well within your budget. Enjoy!
I agree w/Audiobugged. Bobby can give great advice.

Another avenue might be Atma-sphere amps, if your speakers have the tube harness. Often find the M60 or older (12 tube) MA1s on used market.

My Merlins sound fantastic with w/the 12-tube MA1s.
Strongly recommend the Berning ZH-270, if you can find one. OTL amps bring out the best of the Merlins
I don't have a clue on how many pairs of speakers they have in the market place;nor how many of those owners visit this site.(It would seem like all of them)
There was a 270 for sale last week it went in the NY minute.------Anybody using PP triode,such as my CJ8xs? --Or the Manley combos???---With these speakers??
The previous posts are very good advice.Anyway,if you have ELITE solid state driving some tubes in the pre or more importantly,the phono stage you should enjoy superb sound,run cooler,have better bass control and not have to deal with tube replacements.Not to say that you will not get fab. performance from a good tube amp,but the REALLY GOOD solid state amps are,as of now,shockingly good.Good luck,sounds like you are on your way to a wonderful set-up.
Just thought I should mention that after using sim audio w-5 for a year and a half, this amp brings out everything I want from this speaker. I should also mention that I had no idea how good these speakers were until I tweeked my analog set-up to where it's at now. I thought these speakers were great, but little did I know they are much better than I had expected. For those searching for a first rate speaker I most highly recommend the vsm's. Imho I didn't hear anything at the expo (nyc's 2007) that beat my sound , maybe equalled it but not beat it. These are keepers, just keep in mind, get the source right, before upgrading downstream electronics. My pre by the way is sim p-5 and my tt is vpi tweeked to death with leadshot everywhere. Phono is e.a.r. 834p modified and lead shot installed for dampening arm is graham 2.2. with leadshot sitting there too. I know I know I drove the price of lead shot up. cartidge sumiko blackbird. Room treatment all over the place, speakers still suspended from ceiling driven by sim w-5 , only other speaker is a martin logan sub hardly needed, even had to lower the subs output setting to 30 hz. and below, thats how good the merlins are.

In Norway, there are quite a few VSM owners, and many of them are getting very good results with GRAAF GM-20 OTL. I have heard this combo a lot, and in a small/midsize room it is a really good match IMO. The amp is rated 20W, but I know it is measured to 28W. It is a beautiful Italian piece of art, and you should be able to find it for about 2-2.5K. If you find a 240V unit, it is easy to convert it to 110V. The input transformer has taps for all currents, but you will need some skills, or have someone do it for you. It also should be said that this amp is like a race car, and needs to be treated like one.
On the subject of low powered OTL amps I used a Transcendent T8 25 watt OTL and it worked great with the VSM but ultimately it didn't have quite enough juice for my room. For a small space it would be a consideration as it is well within your budget. I bought it on a recommendation by Bobby and was quite happy until...... I heard a Berning ZH270 which has more power and mid bass energy along with SS bass definition. It is a great full bandwidth amp, very extended highs as well. This amp is the last word in transparency. The Joules are glorious with the VSM, well engineered but run warm and take up quit a bit of space. Maybe a consideration maybe not but you would never be unhappy with the magic they make with the VSM.

I would consider a used Berning in lieu of any ss amp as it offers very long tube life and low operating temp. 100 amps idle 300 at full power. With its combination of tube strengths and SS dependability it is tough to beat.

I highly recommend you call Bobby and discuss your tastes and preferences. He will steer you in the right direction with your budget in mind.
Pedrillo, we're still awaiting photos of your VSMs afloating!

No discussion of amps for the Merlins would be complete w/o a mention of the Joule Electra, Atma-Sphere and Berning OTLs. I haven't had a chance to hear the Graff or Transcendent, but would guess that they both would be good choices too.
The non-OTL Ars Sonum Philharmonia that Bobby is now importing to the US is a great match in a push pull amp.
The latest version of the speaker is reportedly a better match with many solid state amps, with Ayre and Sim coming to mind.
FWIW, I agree w/Pedrillo that the speaker continues to amaze as other improvements are made in my system. I expect this to be the case for some time! Cheers,
manley snappers are used by many and they sound rich, powerful and very balanced. i can strongly recommend them to anyone wanting a more weighted presentation. the berning is lighter and faster and a little more airy, this will appeal to many also. atma ma 1, 2s are superb as well as joule amps. lots to choose from here.
and george, vsms have been made for 13 years and there are thousands of pairs in the us alone. too bad you never heard them with a super bam as they sound a lot fuller due to the 30% reduction in powersupply regulation. pich definition in the bass is up considerably.
I recently moved from Cary Sixpacs to Quicksilver (6C33C0) Triodes and have found the change to be terrific. I also know that Bobby really likes the 6C33C tube. Clear, impactful with a beautiful midrange. The sixpcs were really good (seducctive and velvety) I just think that the Quickies are more live.
Pedrillo, I'd give a listen to the Quicksilver V4 tube amps, which put out 120 watts per chanel. They are very liquid, have very good 3-dimensionality, and a convincing presence. They are about $4000 used, but worth it.

EAR 890 tube - 70 wts P/P. Can be had used for under $3,500.00.
BAT VK60 or VK75 with V-Cap TFTF coupling caps. I'm using a recapped VK75SE with VSM-MXs. Transparent, neutral, authoritative with Merlins, particularly when biwired. Hardly a typical configuration, though.
I've used a bunch of different amps with my VSMs over the years and most have worked out very well.
My personal favorites include:

Cary 805 (might be over your stated budget, but really excellent)
Cary 300B monos (magic with vocal music)
Pancor Dyna re-issues (Power + pre should be under $1K used - if you can find 'em. Sound is really good, but these eat tubes and then get noisy. Even so, this is the best value I've come across).

These also worked well, but were less striking to me:

Odyssey Monos
Pathos Classic One Integrated
Original Quicksilver monos

Good luck,

FWIW we have a lot of customers running Merlins. I doubt that its coincidence...
Atmasphere, Joule, and Berning for OTLs - they all work well (very) with the Merlins. CAT JL2s for P/P (good reports on VAC). Ayre and BEL for solid state. Ars Sonum or Manley for an integrated.
I wish I could try them all!!!!!!!!
Where are the PICTURES of the wire suspended system?
Pedrillo, based on your price range, I think you should talk to Bobby about the Ars Sonum Integrated. Do a search, you'll be surprised at the amplification some other Merlin owners have used before making the switch. Mine is on order. It sound fantastic at the NYC Stereo show. If you want to stick to SS, I would look for a used Ayre V5x.
I've been using the ARS Sonum Filarmonia integrated for the past year with my VSM-MX's and it's a great match and highly recommended. I just upgraded the fuses in it to the HiFiTuning silver ones and it made it even better.

Highly recommended and a perfect match for Merlin's. Best of luck in your choice.
Bhoage, what did the fuses do to the sound? Send me an e-mail so we don't sabatoge this thread. thanks.
Just got the amp today. it's smaller than I thought it would be. I think I'll do the fuse thing too.
I too was suprised when I saw the Ars, they are small, but you will not think so listening to them. Something very appealing about a small, compact unit that can give you great sound.
Tab110s -- congrats on the receiving the Filarmonia. Please keep us posted on your impression.
Tab110s, I know what you mean about it being smaller than you thought. I don't know if I didn't realize it was a little smaller than average or simply forgot between ordering and receiving it. Anyway, after more than a year I can say it looks fine to me, (I got used to the size), but as Pubul57 said, it certainly doesn't sound small. It's a great amp.

I'm sure you'll enjoy it
I loaned it to a friend who tried it on his PSB's and loved it. He wanted to use it on his Vandy Quatro's, but couldn't since the speaker filters need a pre-in/pre-out whcih the Ars doesn't provide.
Richard Vandersteen said I could modify the amp to make it work, but I know my limits.
Any Merlin SS amps users out there? What are your experiences? While I use two tube amps with the Merlins, I find the Pass/First Watt Aleph J works very well indeed, though frankly the Atma-sphere OTLs are at the top of my list after having tried many with the VSMs. Perhaps the Aleph J works well because it behaves a bit like OTL in having dropping wattage into dipping impedances (not a problem with Melrins), very low NFB, and tube like damping factor (2).
For mostly logistical reasons, I switched out the Odyssey monos for the smaller chasis TAD ss monos. They are a happier match with the VSMs and probably the best ss match I've yet found. Still go back to tubes pretty frequently, though.

I don't know if it is the case with all speakers, but to my ears, the Merlins clearly and consistently show the superiority of tubes, no matter how good the SS. That being said I can live with the Pass gear. But at the end of the day, they're still not tubes. Just my personal preference, some may actually like SS better. But for me, Atma-sphere and Merlins are a world-class combination. Still, I would like to have an SS "back-up" or option and the best I've heard so far are the Alephs and the XA30.5.
have a look at the bel amps paul. bel of ca. i think it is the 2002.
Hi Bobby & all,

I think you may be thinking of the BEL 1001 amps. The BEL (Brown Electronic Labs) amps, read similar, but not to be confused with the Belles or Bel Cantos. Maybe the other two work well, but I don't know.

I have a BEL Mark IV model I'm now using, but just purchased a monoblock pair of the Mark V's and currently waiting on their delivery. Fwiw, I have my Mark IV up for sale on agon. Great amps and synergy with the VSM's imho.

There is a 2002 designed in the early 80s by Richard Brown; in fact, one is up for sale now, apparently rebuilt in 2005 after UPS totalled it in transit.
these are the amps i was talking about.
very cool. many merlin owners use them and love them. some had big tubes amps, even otls.
Bobby a while back (earlier this thread) you mentioned the Manley Snappers which use the EL34 for tube which you have said elsewher you like (and found in the Ars Sonum); have you had any experience directly or through your customers with EL84 based amps?
From what I hear, the first choice should be the Ars filarmonia ..I think there is one on sale now with some addons

I use a leben cs-600 with my TSMs and they are mindblowing. with 6L6GC tubes there is no shortage of punch or power and its highly recommended
Arj, I agree the Ars is excellent; I owned one for six months or sold, but preferred the CAT JL2 and Atma-sphere (a bit more expensive). Based on reviews and reputation, I bet the Leben is well worth trying.
Conrad Johnson with these speakers sounds amazing!
Which CJ are you using?
CJ premier 4.
Not surprising that you are having success with an EL34 tube based amp and the Merlins. This tube seems to be a winner with the speakers; and then there are the OTLs....
hi guys, i like el34s, e34ls, 6550's, 90's and 99's. in reality it is more about how the manufacturer untilizes them than the tubes themselves. but the 34's are relaxed and have a very natural unforced quality about them.
and cj products are noted for their sound too. many around the world use them on merlin speakers. good choice ped.
best regards, b
the past 14 years I hve driven various versions of VSM speakers with Music Reference Rm9 Mk I & MK II, Berning Zh270 and Joule Electra VZN 100 OTL.

All of the amps have had their strong points charm. I agree with Bobby, the El34's in the MR products had a midrange magic that was down right seductive in every sense of the word.

The Berning Zh270 a sense of clarity, speed and bottom end slam and sounds excellent. This amp was also the most profoundly affected by tube swapping.

My reference since 2004 has been the JE VZN 100 OTL with Music Wood chasis. The are built like tanks, easy on tubes and simply make fantastic music with the Merlins.

My .02 cents.

Jim, I have been using the Music Reference RM9 Special Edition and the Atma-sphere M60s, and while different, I like them both and no way I can decide to sell one off, they both work there own kind of magic with the Merlins, there is something special about OTLs and I'm sure you know exactly what I mean with your Joules. For someone on a relative budget, I would strongly recommend the Music Reference RM10 amp, or the Ars Sonumn or Manley Stingray integrateds.
bump this up
"bump this up"

For God's sake, why........?

Zombie thread come to eat your brains!