What new amp for my Merlins

I asked this question about 6mo ago. A lot of you told me to get the X upgrade first, I did and what a great improvement. So now I ask the same question again.
Have you asked Bobby P.?
I am using Audio aero capitole 50 watts classe A with merlin tsm mm,incredible, better than gamut d200mk3+ sonus faber guarniere. I am waiting a pair of merlins vsm mxe. Pristine, equilibrity, crystaline,powerfull. I used before with merlins: gamut d200mk3, JR concentra I, audiopax mono 89, manley stingray, some mcintosh, and no one is better than AA.
Jaydiane, You might check with member Sbank who recently changed to Atma-Sphere MA-1 amps on his Merlin VSM-MXs. I understand he's enjoying the combination.

Link to Sbank's system description
Although Bobby says that the MA-1s are the way to go, if you cannot go that high, consider Atma M-60s, but only if you can go balanced out to the amps. Otherwise, Joule Electra or Berning. If you are in the northeast, you are welcome to come to CT and hear the M-60s and VZN-80.
Is there anyone using the Ars-Sonum Filarmonia SE integrated amp that Bobby imports and recommends?
Although Bobby says that the MA-1s are the way to go, if you cannot go that high, consider Atma M-60s, but only if you can go balanced out to the amps. Otherwise, Joule Electra or Berning. If you are in the northeast, you are welcome to come to CT and hear the M-60s and VZN-80.

I ordered the Filarmonia last March and expect to be getting it soon. Have TSM-MX's w/TG Audio speaker cables. I'm getting anxious about the new integrated. Have heard so many good things about it.
I am using an ARS filharmonia on my VSM-Mxe's and it is a wonderful amplifier.

It doesn't run out of steam like the Joule Stargates do and the little amplifer is built like a tank. There is no remote control, and the tubes do tend to put out a good bit of heat, but the sound is glorious and full with outstanding resolution and an incredible soundstage. The amplifier doesn't sound tubey in terms of a diffuse bass or rolled off high end, but does offer the microdynamics and air of tubes with a palpable midrange. It really is made for the Merlins.

My only criticism would be the lack of preamp outputs and remote control, but the trade off is worth it for world class sound.

10-16-06: Tmiddle

I ordered the Filarmonia last March and expect to be getting it soon.

My only criticism would be the lack of preamp outputs and remote control, but the trade off is worth it for world class sound.

Tarichar (Threads | Answers)
The lack of preamp outputs is a potential dealbreaker, but it does have tape outputs, and therefore a sub can be connected if one utilizes speaker level converters like those sold by ACI.

I do get the impression that the Ars-Sonum is perhaps best suited as an ideal match for the Merlins as opposed to other loudspeakers.

Thanks for your description of its sound. It appears in keeping with Bobby's goals as one would expect.
For those of you with the Ars, do you have the amp in your rack or on the floor by the speaker's? Exactly how much heat does it put out?
I am using the Six Pac monos (50 watts) with my MX's. Very nice results.
The reason for the delay was that they were in the process of moving their production site. I believe everything is back on line now.

I am interested in the heat issue as well. The amp could go on the top of my 3 shelf rack, but it would be nice to be able to place it below if I switch my source to a top loading cdp.

I run Cary 805 mono blocks in my 15 x 18 x 8 room with absolutely breath taking results. Highly recommended.
It could fit on the bottom but I have my 5 channel amplifier in there. In addition, I have 6 and 8 year old children and I'm afraid they may hurt my tubes.

It does put out heat, but every tube amplifier does. I had a 50 watt deHavilland SET that put out twice as much heat, and a RAM Labs labs amplifier that put out about the same amount. I've also had VTL MB450's that put out a lot more heat, and the VTL tiny triodes that put out a little less. I guess its all relative, but the ARS puts out more heat than most solid state unless it is biased into class A.

I'm sure they sound great, but I can't get past the looks of the 6packs(or Atmasphere for that matter).

Could you post a pic of your set-up?

The Six's are actually quite attractive, but just like anything else subjective. I don't batteries for my digital camera or I would.
Hello. I have the Filarmonia on my rack, you can have a look at my system photo's and see it right there :-) It put's out heat of course but it's not an issue at all in my current config.

I think the Amp sounds absolutely wonderful. Much more solid / full sounding than my previous 22w Single Ended amp that it replaced but not tubey sounding, just really believable. It has very good bass, excellent resolution and in general is a great amp. I highly recommend it and would buy it again if I had to do it all over. I don't see upgrading this amp any time soon... if ever.

Best of luck in your choice.
The six pacs are even more attractive with the silver face plates. Don't let looks fool you. I owned a V12i and many Cary people preferred the six pacs to those amps. With silver face plates if looks are what concern you, these should address that issue.
The Sixpacs' appearance is ok when tuened off. It's great when turned on in a dark room! Those twelve EL34s put on quite a light show. As far as sound quality goes, I think they are marvelous. I have not heard the Ars or Manley.
I just asked Bobby if the Ars can be had in "Black Chrome" with a silver faceplate. Does the Ars light-up the room much?
As Rushton mentioned, I have recently moved from Berning to Atma-Sphere MA1s, and am pleased with the change. They both are very good matches, it really comes down to personal taste.
In my rig, the MA1s provide greater ability to untangle complex orchestral music, and the music emerges from a blacker background. Music is effortless and natural. The Berning has a bit more energy on rock records, and is directionally more of a solid state sounds with tonal balance that might just tip up the lower mids, and upper bass region a bit.
The Berning is high on goosebump factor, and certainly the easiest to own of any tube amps I've had: it's small, runs cool, auto-bias, incredible tube life.
I also have a friend who runs Cary Sixpacs, and although I haven't heard them, he is pleased as punch.
If budget is not an issue, I think Bobby still will personally recommend the Joule VZN-100 monoblocks over all others. The good news is that you've got a speaker that will accurately allow you to hear the differences in all these terrific amps. It's a good problem to have!
Hi Tabl10s. I wouldn't say that it's exactly bright. It's obviously a tube amp meaning that you can see some glow and it looks nice in a dark room but no, I don't find it lights up the room all that much. Don't know if that's a good thing or not from your perspective but that's my take. Cheers.

Any owners of the Filarmonia/VSM combo in S. California?
I actually like it pitch black to the point where I can't see anything. I can't listen with my eyes closed(day or night), so a dark room serves as a substitute.
I have talked to Bobby quit a few times and ofcourse when I was I was there. At the top of his list, #1 is Joule, then in any order you will hear Berning, CAT, Atma-Sphere etc.
The only one he is running in the shop is the one he is inporting(do not remember the name).
I want to thank all of you that have responded. The one thing that is holding me back on the Joule is the heat down here in central Florida. In another thread I mentioned heat, he said open a window. Today that would be letting in 90 degree, humid heat.
Thanks again, Jay
If heat is an issue, the Berning is the way to go. It runs cool, takes up little room, and tubes last much longer than almost all other tube gear.
Berning gear also holds its value nicely, so you won't have a lot of risk if you decide to move in a different direction later. Cheers,
Did you use the Bernings as monos and what pre?
I had a stereo Berning that I used with 3 different preamps. First, I had a Cary SLP-2002(very flawed). Then I used a Joule LA-150(paired w/Pentagon PS3 phono stage), CAT SL1 Mk III w/internal phono, finally a Joule LA 100 mk III(& OPS1 phono). Others have reported First Sound preamps as a good match, too.
The LA150 had the best line stage, but phono performance drove my changes. Severe unusual RFI issues in my new room led me in another direction(i.e. all balanced gear), but that shouldn't affect your thinking.
Feel free to contact me offline if you'd like to discuss by phone. Cheers,
I called Bobby and gave him four choices that I had, not including Joule-Electra, and hands down it was the Cary V12R. He recommended the Six Pacs as well, but I wanted the 100 watt UL option. I drive mine with Raytheon 5751s instead of the 12BZ7 (black plate, windmill getters) and a First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II ... a killer combination for my TSM-MMs.
Manley Stingray,in 25w Triode mode.Siemens ECC 81 tubes.No complaints from my side... !! Its a great combo,but thats already very well established.

A great amp for the asking price.
I have the Ars Sonum and a Joule LA150MKII/CAT JL2. So you might think I have some pretty good amplification for the Merlins, and of course your right. I love both combinations and that is saying something for the Ars given the separates it is "competing" with - the Ars is simply great value and just plain great with the Merlins regardless of cost. My question is have any of you had good experiences with SS and the Merlins. I'm going to use the Joule with the SS, which may limit some choices. Bobby has mentioned the BEL 1001, Ayre, McIntosh with the autotranformers, and in the past he mentioned Belles (may SIM was on that list as well). I have always liked the Pass Aleph series so I might consider the Pass XA30.5, although its 15kohm input impedance is a slight concern for the Joule (and the fact the XA series know to be warm for SS and with the Joule that may too much of a good thing), altough I am told it should work fine. Obviously the Merlin has specs that make it an ideal match for tubes and I think I'm covered on that front. What experiences do any of you have with the Merlin and SS, and have any of you prefered an SS amp to a tube amp with the speaker? I pretty much think a tube preamp is mandatory. Thank you.
I had a chance to hear the Merlins (partially completed X upgrade) with the ARS and found it really nice. I then had the chance this past weekend to hear the fully X upgraded (same friend) with his VAC Phi 110 and Joule LA-150 pre(current make) and it was absolutely stunning, much richer mids, more lifelike low end, beautiful highs with a nice deep and wide stage and image, vocals were chillingly realistic...two cents based on a few hours of listening, not an a/b session...but there was some real magic to what I heard this past weekend...
Good to hear you loved a system with the Joule LA-150 for a pre. I ultimatley chose it after having has a CAT SL1, LAMM LL2, and Placette Active. I think it works fantastically well with the CAT/Merlin and I imagine with the VAC as well, which are very highly regarded. I just wonder if there is an SS option out there to be used with my Joule that will blow me away being that I usually listen to the CAT JL2. I'm not going to sell the CAT, but I would like to see what SS might do for my system and not completely dissappoint given what I'm used to.
I would take a look at Clayton, some of the best ss amps I've heard. Another I really liked quite a bit were the Cary 500 ss mono's.....
One more ss....Herron
Arthursmuck, did you hear the Clayton, Cary and/or Herron with the Merlins? What might be great with Thiel, may not be the Merlin's cup of tea.
You know that's a great point, I have not heard those amps with Merlins, just thought of them as really good ss amps and ran off at the keyboard. Good catch, I amend my comments to include "your mileage may vary with Merlin, I have not heard these amps with this particular speaker"

I think Merlins are a special case because they have very smooth impedance curves and never dip below 6.5ohms, don't require high damping from the amp and they are also sensitive so they don't need much power - 30 watts should do. They are basically ideal for low/medium power tubes; that is tubes can work very effectively into their load. Some great sounding SS have lots of power, high damping factor, and capapble of driving difficult impedances - non of which the Merlins need, so my thinking is the a simpler designed SS, with relatively low power (I equate low power with better sounds quality and purity - if it is enough power), without heavy damping may be great with the Merlins, but not necessarily with a wide variety of speakers of all stripes. That is in part what interest me about the Pass XA-30.5, though compared to a tube amp it is fairly high damping factor (150). It seems that one property that some of the SS amps Bobby recommends have zero or very low negative feedback. Thing is, I can imagine an SS amp sounding fantastic with some speakers, but not necesssarily mating well with the Merlins. I get the feeling few Merlin owners use SS with their speakers, though I hear there are a few.
I heard the Moscode 401HR with Merlins. It wasn't good. Flat and lifeless. Checking the Moscode specs might be of value when evaluating SS amps. Remember, the Moscode is an output transformer-less design. I don't know the 401HR's damping factor.
That's the thing, on some speakers the Moscodes are fantastic. I suspect that no SS will sound as good as CAT, Joule, Atma, and perhaps Berning (VAC, and a few other grat tube amps) with the Merlins, but I would like to have an SS amp that is competitive with the sound I'm getting with the CAT, and for that matter the wonderful Ars Sonum. An alternative soundscape that is just as convicing, compelling and enjoyable. But I doubt there are many Merlin owners that have moved from tubes to SS and never looked back.
I would like to have an SS amp that is competitive with the sound I'm getting with the CAT, and for that matter the wonderful Ars Sonum. An alternative soundscape that is just as convicing, compelling and enjoyable.
Pubul57 (System | Threads | Answers)

You won't find any SS amp that will do what you seek, IMO.

You'll find an alternative sound that is better in some respects (but with trade-offs), and it will require a choice....but it won't be easy.
Is anybody using Quicksilvers with Merlins? His low and mid level amps seem like they would be a great match. I'm hoping to try a pair with my new TSM's.
Santacore, I had the Quicksilver V4s and liked them very much, but it was not as good as the CAT (not much is), but I could certaily live happily with them if the CAT was out of reach, there are many very happy QS owners. I do wonder how his Triode might sound. For the money (they are remarkably good values, especially if reliabilty means anything to you), I think Quicksilvers would sound mighty fine with the Merlins, especially, like you say, the Mini or Mid models -- you don't need a lot of power for the VSMs, I'm not sure how sensitive the TSMs are. The 30 watts from the Ars Sonum are plenty powerful in my 13x20 room. I don't know what your current equipment is in terms of your pre, etc. But if I had to choose between any pre with QS and an Ars Sonum with Merlin speakers I would take the Ars Sonum in a heart beat. Not that the Quickies are not good, they are very good, but the Ars and Merlins match so well through calaboration between the two manufacturers that you will not beleive $4,000 of pre/amp can sound so good, I think it is an endgame strategy with the Merlin if (IF) you want to get off the equipment merry-go-round - not that you should, by the Ars is that good.
Pubul57, thanks for the input. I contacted Mike at Quicksilver and he said there would be no benefit in using the Triodes due to the benign impedence of the Merlins. Those were the amps I was originally interested in. He recommened the V4's due to my comment about liking his old MS190. The V4's seem like too much power and too much money. Right now I'm struggling with going all the way with the ARS or trying to put together more reasonable seperates. I'm currently running a Manley Shrimp/Mahi's rig which sounds great but just lacks a bit of mid-range magic. Decisions, decisions.
If you are committed to Merlin speakers I would hold off till you can get the Ars Sonum. If you think you might try different speakers in the near future, the Ars may be limiting in your speaker choices. But if you stick with Merlin, you will not regret getting the Ars. Then again, I doubt many QS owners regret their decison either. One good thing about the Ars is that you will have two less decisions to make, no pre, no IC and you don't even have to worry about the power cord, oops, that's three.
I am using audio aero capitole 55 watts classe A, with audio aero prestige, I have one audiopax 98 ( 30 watts SET), and the audio aero is better , more headrum, more bass and definition,mediuns are fantastique; I do not think I can get one better.

Hi all

I have ARS fila se, pathos logos & Exposure 3010 S2 pre/pow full SS

and i can honestly tell everyone that Exposure is the best among the three ,with merlin VSM, superb matching...

If you have more money you can buy exposure pre/monoblocks 3010S2

no heat,very valve like sound, not very expensive

I have tried a lot of solid state amps with Merlin, cheap to very expensive..in the last 10 years... exposure was the best(UK)

i will soon upgrade to monoblocks