Sounding "better" is completely subjective. Everyone has different ability, interpretation, and preferences of what sounds "best". So, if you think Merlin sounds better than SF, lucky you! You get to save 5x the amount of money. Go buy music with your savings!
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Unistar, music is so subjective so its always impossible to say anyone component is better than another, regardless of price. Some people like the Sonus Faber sound (I being one of them). Some people love the resolution and speed of Magico, others think its too sterile. As rockadanny said, go have some fun with the money you saved!
Unistar99, that is twice now that you have asked if you are wrong. How can you be wrong when judging subjective items? Who can tell you what flavor you like best? As Rockadanny and Tboooe have noted, this hobby is very subjective, what sounds best to one rarely sounds best to another.
If you happen to enjoy the sound of the less expensive product, you are not right or wrong, you are lucky. Enjoy your good fortune.
more transparent, closer to the original recording without adding anything else
Unless you were there when the material was recorded, mixed, and mastered, and had a far better than average audio memory, or immediate access to both pairs of speakers, how would you know which is closest to the truth? Way too uncontrolled of a test to make accurate conclusions.
You do not list your equipment and that could be what makes some of the difference. I build my own gear and repair gear so I hear so many different combinations in my system. They all don't make my system sound good. One amp mates better than another amp so unless you know why than your statement is completely useless. Room size also plays a part in how a system sounds, etc. The preamp I build will make your preamp sound like crap. Yes, I can back that up also.
These are two very different house sounds - particularly if you're talking older SF. Anyone who thinks that one brand has it right might well be inclined to believe that the other has it wrong. I own both brands and believe that different recordings are better served by one or the other. On a very good quality recording on which bass extension, bass impact, and ultimate dynamics aren't critical, I'd actually agree with the OP that Merlin VSM is a "better" (obviously, my opinion only) speaker than my SF Cremona or my SF Minuettos. I certainly can't speak to other SF models.
Sadly, three quarters of my record collection doesn't completely satisfy that standard, so I mix 'n match. I own many records that I prefer to hear via my SF Cremonas and a few others that send best on the little Minuettos in my office. I'd add that the delta in sound between the Minuettos ( a tiny monitor) and the floorstanding Cremonas is, itself, quite significant.
If I only collected smallish scale, acoustic music that is very well recorded, I'd personally choose Merlin every time. Since my taste in music is more varied, then compromises are evident in either choice.
My take, anyway.
The Merlin VSM is actually about the same price as the stave-constructed Sonus
Faber Olympica III. If you are looking at high performance 2-way towers, the
bargain in the bunch would be the Odyssey Lorelei, a 90-lb. 2-way that uses the same very expensive woofer as the Merlin, but is only $2700/pair. The second page of 6 Moons Audio's review of the Odyssey makes several comparisons
to the Merlin. I find this paragraph particularly enlightening concerning your original premise of accuracy vs. musical communication:
So it's more a matter of listening goals and taste, not of superiority. I find SF
speakers to be seductive and captivating. They elicit a strong emotional
connection with the music, and for me, that's what I'm looking for when I play
music at home. At the same time, I completely understand if someone were to
prefer the Merlin. But since the Olympica III is the same price as the Merlin, I'm
willing to consider them of equal quality, if not in philosophy. However, I'd tend
to think that a $65,000 Sonus Faber would have noticeably superior dynamics,
bass extension, and room-filling power, even if the presentation were more
romantic than the Merlin.
I have heard most Sonus FAber models and besides eye candy they are hand made one at a time and virtually pieces of art. I have heard them with expensive components. I have heard them sound wonderful and have heard them sound so dry and flat that I thought something was wrong.It is possible with your particular components that the Merlins sound better. Enjoy
Does Merlin offer a neutral floorstanding speaker with bass down to 40hz for $3500? The Venere 3.0 screams potential! I heard the 3.0 being pushed by a Integra 125w/ch HT amp, it sounded fine but I could hear the potential lurking. The SF Venere 3.0 is one of a handful of new "affordable" speakers that with careful component matching could create a near "SOTA" system at a very modest price point.
So you were able to do a side by side comparison, in the same room, using the same amp, source component(s), and cables, of Sonus Faber's top model(s) vs. Merlin speakers? Exactly which SF speaker(s) did you listen to, side by side, with the Merlin? The Aida? The Lilium? And where did this happen...I didn't know there were any dealers that sold both SF and Merlin together, I thought Merlins were sold direct.
The title of this thread betrays a bias and presumption that automatically nullifies the neutrality with which I might otherwise approach its content. My first tendency upon reading your heading says "troll alert".
The more learned among us repeat daily in these pages that speakers (beyond the measurables) are a purely subjective matter. So what qualifies you to imply that one speaker is better than another by coyly inquiring why an unestablished assertion is true? Don't you first have to establish it is indeed fact? You are behaving like Fox News.
Macrijack, i am actually trying to understand when paying for SF is it actually that you get ba etter sound or are paying directly for the craftmanship, material and design more then for the reproduction of the sound and that is why there is such a big price difference. I know that sf are known for a specific warm sound, probably less true of the new models, whereas the merlins are always known for being transparent without adding anything extra. So this leaves one wondering should he pay $$$ for wormanship and materials and get less of a sound or get merlins which are not bad looking and be happy with the sound. I am also trying to see if i do get SF, ie amati futura or guarneri evolution, which are gorgeous peace of art btw, will i be dissapointed in sound compared to merlins???
07-05-14: Unistar99Why do you keep insisting that "there is such a big price difference" between the Merlin VSM and a floorstanding Sonus Faber?
The Merlin VSM series 2-way floorstander in all its permutations ranges from $9,020 to $13,600/pair. The Sonus Faber 3-way Olympica II retails at $10,000/pair and the 3-way floorstanding Olympica III retails at $13,500/pair.
Their prices couldn't track much closer had Merlin and Sonus Faber colluded on the matter.
Yes, there are far more expensive SFs in their flagship Aida ($160,000) and "The Sonus Faber" ($200,000) models, but they compete in the Focal Utopia Grande/Wilson Alexandria/XLF stratosphere.
Unistar99, I'd hardly call the Olympica II and III lower end models. You might call the Venere series lower end in that they're all made in China and $3500 or less. But the Olympica series use the staved construction of the higher end models and are made in Italy. They use a pinned soft dome tweeter that converts a dome radiator into a smooth, linear, and extended ring radiator. They have very low cabinet resonances thanks to the staved construction, and--unlike the Merlin VSM--make use of the entire floorstanding cabinet for higher efficiency (more dynamic range) and deeper bass extension without need for a BAM module.
I heard the now-discontinued Cremona M at $10K and it was an extraordinary speaker and value at that price. The Olympica series replaces the Cremona series and would have to equal or exceed it to stay competitive in that market.
It's great that you have found a pair of speakers that meet your audio needs so well and I hope you will continue to enjoy them for a long time to come. Merlin makes some nice speakers that work well in a lot of audiophile's systems, and having Bobby around providing customer support is a plus too. However, your posts speak in absolute terms with which many on this forum would not necessarily agree.
The Merlin speakers have a tremendous past history of development effort and fine tuning. I've not heard all the SF models, but the ones I have heard (the last being the Grand Piano) sound nowhere near as "real" to me as the various Merlin models I've owned. Could be luck, or could be all the hard work and time devoted to making the speaker. Merlins aren't for everyone, but I prefer them over anything I've heard since my serious listening sessions started about 35 years ago. The only speakers I've enjoyed nearly as much were my Acoustats.
Seriously? The Grand
Pianos are from 17 years ago. SF's current lines are mind-blowingly musical,
natural, and most of all, seductive and involving.
Anything from their Homage, Olympica, and top lines are friggin' awesome now,
and the entry-level Veneres aren't too shabby either.
I couldn't help but notice the many troll addicts on these forums. A sore eye for the ever dwindling bubble community that already exists. It doesn't take much for trolls to come out of closets nowadays with any posts and/or any OP. Furthermore anything costing over 30K - just hire a band to come out into your living room, every Friday night, for a whole year - would be more real than any transducers, light bulb and circuit could put out.
wow there are more Troll Police on this thread than people who actually want to talk about the speakers. Thank god for the Troll Police for saving the audio world from those that want to talk subjectively about their speakers without having pages of measurements and documentation - not the least of which needs to be a certified affidavit that you have no relationship to Bobby P, his dealers, someone who owns or even once owned Merlins, or even once thought about owning a Merlin or other speaker that you liked for that matter.
I am a troll - maybe there needs to be an audio discussion site where it is okay to be a troll. I own Merlins (and am enthusiastic about how great they are) and have even heard Sonus Fabers on a number of occasions. I liked both speakers. I own TSM's - they are great speakers in my room, with my gear, with my music (I prefer Stones to Beatles)and for my budget. Highly recommended and enjoyable based upon my experience with them.
ladavid, in doing a little research i found that the op owns a pair of tsm mm's. this version was certainly one of my favorites because it had a very transparent and expansive sound. i was going to respond with possible reasons for his findings until he was called a shill and troll which knocked him out of the discussion. no doubt that there are many who shill and troll on these forums but i have no knowledge of him or the reason for his post (other than to get some information from this forum). if it were me i might have asked my question a little differently at least so it was not as leading.
i find this sad because there are a few obvious design differences between sf and merlin products.
if the op had contacted me i would have explained these to him but he came here for help and this is what he got.
bobby at merlin
admranger, this is a very good question.
the black magic versions are more relaxed in the lower treble and upper mids so they do not suffer from the additve aspects of boundary refelctions (like the prevoious models). plus they may benefit from the additional boundary reinforcements for you as well. usually, when you move a speaker back in the room like this the focus and layering suffer. the only way around this is to damp the reflections on the rear and side walls. not necessary with the black magic edition. the bme's are much more user friendly.
thank you for the thoughtful question.
bobby at merlin
Ladavid, for your reading pleasure here is an urban and old definition of the noun 'troll' :
1. One who posts a deliberately provocative message to other posts and/or messages with the intention of causing disruption, disagreements and/or argument. 2. A, mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance.
On a more serious note, I hope you have the new black magic version of Bobby's speakers. A local seller here came over with his older TSM MMM for a comparison and results are truly different.
As for Sonus Faber, which model did you hear? and was it with the same electronics in your home?
I'm curious now!
I own the SF Concerto Grand Piano and enjoy them a lot. In my own experimentation I have heard them sound awesome (like now) and so-so with some gear/cable.
For you guys that have heard the Grand Piano, should I seek the Merlin?? Or do you feel synergy is key to these huge differences in opinion?
Just asking opinions, no other agenda.
I have a pair of Mirage M5si's that I bought in 1996. I still have them and use them as L-R in my HT 7.1 array. But even when I play stereo audio playback I still marvel at how real they sound, how quick, accurate, and deep the bass it, how honest the midrange, and how natural and unaggressive the treble is. But they're not Concerto Grand Pianos, so why am I telling you this?
Not long after I bought these, I heard the Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Pianos and was struck how similar they sounded in tonal balance, responsiveness, frequency extension, etc. Like my Mirages, the Concerto Grand Pianos simply get a lot of things right--coherence, tonal balance, soundstage, imaging ... They are very easy to listen to for long periods of time and musically very satisfying. I have been satisfied with my Mirages for 18 years, and it doesn't surprise me that you still have your Concert Grand Pianos. They're that good.
Over the years I've found that the better the upstream components and cabling, the more I'm rewarded with the resulting sound. The Mirages have proved to be remarkabley durable in sonic satisfaction over such a long time. I don't doubt that if i had the coin, I'd hear even more benefits with better amplification and cables. I suspect you'd get the same with your Concertos.
When you have something that sounds so consistently right, it's hard to find a reason to switch out.
Check the pertinent audio forums and you'll find that the original Concerto Grand Pianos are highly prized and the most sought-after version of that product offering from SF.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I am very satisfied with the Grand Piano
speakers. After reading your response, I think I'll stay put for now. I also own Usher cp6311 which I love but aren't quite as refined as the Sonus Faber to me, but very musical in my opinion.
I owned and enjoyed some Mirage speakers that belonged to the artist Seal's guitarist so the story goes...my closest brush with fame.
Thanks again for the note. Kindest regards.