MERLIN MUSIC VSM MXM Speakers

$13,600 per pair

By

Malcolm Gomes

 

For as long as you are a guest on planet Earth, you cannot escape the laws of physics. However, we have all come across instances, where it does seem like the laws of physics have been magically transcended. In many cases, these experiences literally boggle our minds and take our breath away.

In the world of audio, most of us believe that reproducing music with the frequency response, dynamic range and deep, tuneful bass that approaches what you hear at a live performance, loudspeakers needs to be multi-way systems with large woofers mounted on large cabinets so as to move a lot of air.

However every once in a while we encounter a speaker that turns this conventional thinking on its head by reproducing the kind of sound that totally belies its size and design. In such instances we feel a bit disoriented because our sense of hearing detects sound that totally contradicts what our sense of sight perceives.

In my case I encountered such a sensory discombobulating experience the first time I heard the performance of a Merlin VSM speaker around a decade ago. My eyes told me that I was listening to a petite 2-way mini-monitor speaker designed to look and act like a floor stander. However my ears conveyed a totally different story. The sound I was hearing, was as big as a house, as real as a terra firma and as seductive as Mrs. Robinson in the movie ‘The Graduate’.  

     

Given that the woofer of the VSM was only 6.5 inches, I remember looking all around the room for a subwoofer while Bobby Palkovich, the refreshingly outspoken gentleman who designed the speaker looked on in amusement before telling me that if I was looking for a subwoofer I was wasting my time. 

That encounter took place many moons ago and since then, the VSM has undergone numerous refinements while retaining most of its original design principles. In the world of high-end audio where there is a tendency to push the performance envelop by resorting to dramatic ‘new and improved’ designs and exotic unobtanium materials, there are not too many companies that focus on constantly refining a proven basic design in a seemingly never ending quest to squeeze out every single bit of performance that the design can yield.  Publisher’s note: The other Dirty Little Secret is that many companies put out “new” models, claim all kinds of new innovations and have a nifty marketing name for them just to get on the cover of magazines and create a new “buzz” for something that’s not really all that “new” at all. But you can count on the covers to proclaim them as a “stunning breakthrough”.  Of course, it’s the same thing with everything from beers to cars. That’s the game. Bobby Palkovic doesn’t play it. When’s the last time you saw a Merlin speaker on a cover?

This philosophy has earned Bobby and his speakers a cult like following, evidence of which can be read via posts on most of the leading audiophile forums left by die-hard Merlin fans who wax lyrical on the performance of their beloved Merlin speakers!

Bobby, Merlin’s founder, chief designer and head wizard, eschews the glamour of exotic new ‘flavor of the month’ designs, preferring to stick with a tried and true basic design and invest his time, energy and smarts to periodically make meaningful enhancements by seemingly small changes which yield surprisingly large and easily detectable improvements in performance of the only two models of speakers that his company crafts; the mini-monitor TSM and the floor stander VSM. The latest iteration of the VSM is the MXM (also referred to as the Master) with the Master BAM and RC that is the subject of this review.

The Master VSM arrived at my house in a very large and very heavy (around 200 pounds) carton that contained both the speakers. Carrying the carton from the truck to my underground purpose-built listening room was not exactly fun. In fact, while my son and one of his big, muscular friends assisted me in this task; my son actually sprained his back. However, once we got the carton into the listening room the process of removing and installing the speakers was pretty straightforward.

The build quality, design and (piano black) finish of the VSM though tastefully understated, makes for a very handsome looking speaker and the small footprint combined with its ability to blend into almost any kind of décor, greatly boosts its wife acceptance factor. The VSM is available in either a textured Studio Black or a premium high gloss, clear coat finish. The latter is offered in a choice of very attractive colors. The Piano Black and the Ruby Heart Red are my personal favorites. The other available colors are Moss Green, Black Ice Blue, Pearl White and Eggplant.

Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way, shall we? The VSM is a front-vented design with the port tuned to 37 Hz. The cabinet is made out of pan fiber held together with super strong polyurethane glue. The front baffle is an unusually thick 1.5 inches. The gently curving front edges of the speaker cabinet minimize diffraction. There are three brass tuning rods on the front and top of the speakers that add to the sleek, sophisticated look of the speaker. These rods are not just cosmetic; rather, they serve to control the pitch movement of resonance patterns in the baffle.

The VSM employs a Scanspeak 6.5 inch woofer that incorporates a paper carbon-fiber cone, a cast aluminum basket and low diffraction rubber surrounds. Bobby has these driver units especially made to his specifications. The VSMs tweeter is the venerable Dynaudio Esotar D330/A, which is considered by many, to be one of the best tweeters in existence today. The crossover is 12 dB per octave with a crossover point at 2,200 Hz. Both drivers are wired in electrical phase, are impedance corrected, Q circuited and have fixed outputs. The internal wiring for the Master VSM is all point-to-point hand wired using Cardas’ top of the line Clear, which is custom made for Bobby, by his good buddy George Cardas.

I am firmly in the camp that believes that with today’s technology, a well-designed, intelligently engineered two-way speaker system has some significant sonic advantages over all but the very best and sometimes obscenely priced three-way systems. One significant advantage that a two-way system has is that it is exponentially easier to design a crossover network that coherently blends two drivers as opposed to achieving the same level of top to bottom continualness when blending three different drivers. The vast majority of three-way speaker systems I have reviewed deliver sound that is quite incoherent mainly because having three sets of drivers creates an additional cancellation node which adds even more to the problem. In fact I have heard a few three-way systems from highly reputed brands where I could plainly tell that the three drivers sound quite separate from each other that is a far cry from what you hear at a live performance. I have also found that, generally speaking, it is easier to design and build a speaker system that sonically disappears and creates a solid, holographic and believable sound stage when it is a two-way system rather than a three-way design.  

 

The VSM MXM comes with its own RC (Zobel) network and jumper cables. The RC network incorporates Duelund capacitors, which are uber expensive, but Bobby justifies incorporating them because, he says, they help the speaker deliver sound that is a lot more relaxed and room filling, with increased micro and macro dynamics and more expansive portrayal with significantly more contrast potential for an overall sonic image that is more realistic.  If the amplifier you used with these speakers incorporates a Zobel network, you do not need the RCs provided by Merlin Music.

Bobby strongly recommends against bi-wiring or bi-amping his speakers unless specific wire gauges are used. The jumpers that Bobby provides are specifically designed to optimize the performance of the tweeters. I called Bobby’s bluff by bi-amping and bi-wiring the speakers with very high quality cables I had on hand and found that Bobby was right; there was distinct deterioration in sound quality.

 

WHAM BAM...

Now we come to a part of the VSM that had stirred up quite a bit of controversy, the bass augmentation module (BAM). The reason it is so controversial is that it has a subsonic bass roll-off filter that eliminates frequencies below 27 Hz and above 200 kHz. It also adds a 5.2 dB boost at 35 Hz. Detractors of the BAM claim that if the speaker had been designed correctly in the first place, there would be no need for a module to mess around with the frequencies, which according to them, is just an attempt to try and correct deficiencies in the speaker.

My initial reaction to the BAM was one of guarded skepticism, as the argument of its detractors seemed to make sense in theory. However, once I heard the VSM with the BAM, all my doubts vanished faster than a 4.186 kHz staccato note on a grand piano. I have to assume that most of the detractors, probable never heard the speakers with the BAM and so, formed opinions based on the commonly held belief that the less circuits you put in the signal path the better will be the ultimate sound quality you get.

In reality, eliminating out of band frequencies unburdens the amplifier and speaker of frequencies that could lead to significant intermodulation distortion, which is typically indicated by weak, ill-defined, boomy bass. The upper cut-off frees the system from high frequencies that are well beyond the human audible spectrum and which could result in undesirable electromagnetic interference. The BAM is therefore designed to allow the VSM MXM to generate clean, controlled, deep and tuneful bass that would otherwise require a speaker cabinet that is around twice the size of this speaker which results in a loss of 3 to 6 db in efficiency; a very elegant solution to be sure!

The BAM is available in various permutations and combinations. You could opt for a single ended, fully balanced, dual ops (XLR and RCA) or dual mono configuration. The BAM needs to be placed in the signal path. It can be placed between the source component and the preamplifier (for single source systems), between the preamplifier and the power amplifier or in the tape loop of the preamplifier or integrated amplifier. Having tried all three options I settled on the second one.

The frequency response of the VSM MXM is 33 Hz to 22 kHz +/- 2 dB, 1 meter on axis. According to Bobby, optimum listening is achieved at 10° off axis where the frequency response improves to 36 Hz to 20 kHz +/-1.5 dB. To get the speakers to the optimum toe-in position of 10 degrees vis-à-vis the sweet spot, Bobby provides a wooden alignment tool that makes it very easy, simple and quick to toe-in the speaker to just the right angle vis-à-vis the sweet spot.

What makes the VSM a very easy load to drive, even with relatively low output tube amplifiers, is the fact that it has a sensitivity of 89 dB and a nominal impedance of 8 ohms with a minimum impedance of 6.5 ohms. This is complemented with a 15.6 ohms crossover point. Power handling is rated at 200 watts maximum with a minimum of 17 watts for tube and 25 watts for solid-state amplification.

The confidence that Bobby has in his speakers is reflected in an impressive 10-year warranty that covers both parts and labor; significantly higher than the industry average.

The VSM MXM takes over as the Merlin flagship from the MXr. As compared to the MXr, the MXM features Cardas’ top-of-the-line ‘Clear’ wiring in the speaker cabinet, the jumper cables, in the RC network and in the BAM.

The Master BAM uses a power supply that, according to Bobby, is 50 times quieter than the standard unit. Its bass EQ circuit has a Q that has been optimized to provide improved definition and more uniform bass character. Bobby has also revised the circuit board to help it better withstand mishandling during shipping. The BAM can be switched to operate in pure battery mode that to my ears improved the sound quality in that; it was more effortless and relaxed.

The VSM MXMs are not very fussy about placement but if you do take the time and make the effort to get them in the optimum position vis-à-vis your room you will be richly rewarded. I found that using the Cardas method of placing speaker was a great starting point for the VSM MXM. From there it required just a little tweaking to lock the sonic image into place. The alignment of the speakers is also crucial to getting the best out of the VSMs. An alignment level tool is provided and should be used.

Although the VSMs come with some very sharp spikes, Bobby says that coupling the speakers directly to the floor rather than through a carpet will deliver a 5% to 10% improvement to the sound quality. My listening room has a concrete floor covered with Berber carpet. Bobby suggested that I cut the carpet under the speakers using a very sharp knife and let the speakers couple directly to the concrete. He rationalized it with the fact that I could replace the carpet at any time and the seams will not be seen. I have a very understanding wife who tolerates most of my audiophile idiosyncrasies, but she emphatically drew the line at cutting out sections of the carpet in the middle of the room. The review was therefore done with the speakers on spikes placed on the carpet.

Now that we have got the technical stuff are out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks; to what really matters; the quality of the sound reproduction. At the very outset, I would like to disclose that the VSM MXM has got to be one of the more difficult speakers I have reviewed. This is because they are amazingly neutral and offer a truly transparent window into the quality of the recording and the upstream electronics that you use. This being the case, what I ended up noticing during the audition are the quality of the recording, characteristics of the source components, the pre and power amplifiers, the cables and interconnects and the power conditioners that I used with the VSM MXM.

I now realize why dozens of manufacturers of high-end audio upstream components use Merlin Music Loudspeakers as their monitors when designing and testing their components. Many recording studios around the world also use these incredible transducers as near field and mixing monitors.

As a reviewer, I feel it is part of my mandate to let readers know the sound characteristics of an audio component. With the VSM MXM that is easier said than done because this speaker hardly has any sound characteristics of its own. This is a double-edged sword, because if you use them with well recorded and mastered tracks and upstream components and cables that are as neutral as today’s state of the art allows and which have good synergy between them, you will be rewarded with a performance that approaches the sublime. On the flip side, if you use the VSM MXM with poorly recorded music and upstream components that have distinct sound characteristics, then it is the sum total of these characteristics that you will hear from these speakers. If this sum total floats your boat, then it would behoove you to seriously consider the VSM MXM.

 

FORGIVE ME - NOT

One point of disagreement I had with Bobby is about how forgiving the VSMs are. He opined that they are quite forgiving. I beg to differ. I found the VSM MXM to be ruthlessly revealing when driven by substandard upstream components and software, mercilessly showing all their flaws.

The other aspect that made it so difficult to review these speakers is that, with the right upstream components and software, they did such a great job connecting me emotionally with the musicians and what they communicate through the music, my focus kept drifting from analyzing the sound to enjoying the emotional connection with the artistes.  Publisher’s note: Ahh! You have discovered what true hi-end audio is all about!

I often got lost in the emotional embrace of the music and had to refocus on the performance characteristics and making notes on the same. I kept asking myself; how do I describe the sound characteristics a speaker that adds little, if any, of its own character to the sound? It’s not easy, but I’ll give it my best shot!

The VSM MXM is the closest of any multi-way dynamic speaker I have heard has come to emulating a very high quality single full-range driver unit speaker or a top-notch electrostatic or planar speaker. It delivers a seamless, coherent top to bottom rendering of the audible frequency spectrum, while plunging the depths of audible bass frequencies that most single driver or panel speaker can only dream of delivering with any degree of verisimilitude.

Bobby has managed to conjure up a way to make the woofer and the tweeter work together so incredibly seamlessly the sound is amazingly continuous across all audible frequencies. I now understand why many call him, the ‘Wizard of Hemlock. Hard as I tried, I was not able to detect a transition point from the woofer to the tweeter. This also helps the VSM MXM create one of the best side to side, top to bottom and back to front sonic holographic images I have heard from any speaker irrespective of price; an amazingly coherent three dimensional sound stage in the true sense of the word.

I could not resist inviting a friend, a die-hard electrostatic speaker fan, to audition the VSM MXM. His face looked as if Jennifer Lopez had just sat in his lap! He proclaimed that this speaker was the first dynamic transducer he heard that did not have the box speaker sound and which matched electrostatic speakers for that midrange magic that he had, hitherto, believed was the exclusive domain of true high-end, crossover free, panel speakers. If you belong to the audiophile sub-set that just cannot reconcile to speakers with crossover networks and the compromises they represent, I would strongly urge you to audition the VSM MXM. It might just change your view that crossovers are a necessary evil that always results in compromised sound quality.  

The VSM MXM reproduces micro and macro dynamics with electron microscope precision but it is far from analytical, on the contrary, when fed with good recordings through neutral upstream components, they are one of the most musical speakers I have ever heard. They had the uncanny ability to size each instrument just right. I have heard some mega buck speakers, especially the ones with cabinets that are larger than coffins; make percussion instruments sound much larger than they really are. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, do not enjoy speakers that make a drum set sound like it is twice as big as it actually is, played by someone the size of Andre the Giant.   

The Master VSM MXM is also a maestro at reproducing voices. It renders voices with so much texture, body, palpability and emotion, it was not at all difficult for my brain to conjure up the presence of an actual flesh and blood human body in the listening room, as the source of the voice.

The small footprint and dimensions of the VSM MXM, also helps it pull off a truly remarkable disappearing act that not too many speakers are capable of. Especially when I close my eyes, my ears could detect a very well defined, solid sound stage that seemed to be totally independent of the speakers. In fact when my wife heard these speakers for the first time, from the sweet spot she found it hard to believe that they were the source of the sound she was hearing till she walked up to one of the speakers to verify it! The rounded front edges are so well designed and ease diffraction out of the equation so well, if you stand behind the speakers, you could swear that the VSM MXM is equipped with a rear-firing tweeter.   

Some of the tunes I used for the audition included Sade – Soldier of love, Susannah McCorkle – Let’s face the music, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade, The Definitive Simon & Garfunkle, Boz Scaggs – Dig, Cantate Domino (Oscar’s Motet Choir), Yim Hok-Man Master of Chinese Percussion, Nils Lofgren - Acoustic Live and Jazz at the Pawnshop. This selection runs the whole gamut from whisper soft melodies that caress your ears, to tutti crescendos that soar to the heavens, from seductive male and female vocals to crisp drum tracks, from smooth, relaxed and laid back tunes to totally in your face arrangements.

  

I could not detect any significant weaknesses in the VSM MXM unless you consider the absence of sub 30 Hz frequencies to be one. However there were a whole lot of strengths. The voices of Susannah McCorkle and Nils Lofgren came through with almost the same emotionally laden magic, as you would detect if you heard them live. The deep bass contained in ‘Poem of Chinese Drums’ was challenging enough to make most speakers cry uncle, but the VSM MXM was more than a match for it, rendering every percussion instrument with superb dexterity and tautness. Choral performances are always a daunting task for most speakers, but the VSM MXM was able to deliver even multitudes of voices on ‘Cantate Domino’ with the same finesse that gives you goose bumps when you listen to them live.

Few tracks have the enormous dynamic range of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. I have made many speakers scream with pain when made to play this album at high SPLs. Not so with the VSM MXM. Their 111 dB capability allowed this speaker to take even music with unusually wide dynamics in its stride. One of the highlights of this review was auditioning the way these speakers handled Sade’s voice. This diva’s vocal chords are capable of a rich, voluptuous huskiness, the kind that seduces you hook line and sinker when reproduced well. I can’t remember when I enjoyed Sade this much before.  

Four aspects of sound that you hear at a live performance that no speaker I have heard, has been able to emulate to perfection, are the dynamic range, the air around each instrument, the harmonics and the way the leading edge of each musical note is rendered. In my opinion, these four are among the leading elements of sound that help our ears decipher if we are listening to a live performance or a reproduction of the same. The VSM MXM is right up there with the very best speakers I’ve heard in this regard.

Though still different enough from the live performance in these four aspects, to tell that it is not live, with the VSM MXM there were many moments during the audition, when I experienced what I like to refer to as ‘scary real’ moments. These are instances where a particular passage is rendered so close to what you hear at a live performance in terms of dynamic range, air around the instruments, harmonics and reproduction of the leading edges; it startles me for just a moment. I can’t recall another speaker that gave me more ‘scary real’ moments than the VSM MXM.

Another aspect of the VSM MXM that puts it into a select group of speakers is its ability to render subtle micro details without sounding mechanical; on the contrary, the sound is so velvety smooth, liquid, relaxed and effortless, I did not experience any fatigue even during very long audition sessions. I’ve listened to many fine high-end speakers that thrilled me with their performance, but not too many were able to sustain the sense of enjoyment for more than a couple of hours without fatigue setting in.  

While reviewing the VSM MXM, I often found myself so engrossed with the reproduced sound, I totally lost track of time. During one such review session unbeknownst to me, the audition went on till the wee hours of the morning, at which time, my droopy eyelids prompted me to check the time and the clock face seemed to scream, “get your audiophile butt to bed this instance, buddy!”

For such a petite speaker, the VSM MXM can play surprisingly loud before I detected compression and other forms of distortion. Bobby claims that it can put out an impressive sound pressure level of 111 dB peaks. This is not that far from the loudness level you get at a live rock concert performance. In fact, sustained SPL of around 111 dB is not recommended, as it could put you at risk for long-term hearing loss! The band that held the Guinness Book of World records title in 1972 for the loudest rock concerts in the world is Deep Purple. Their concert generated an SPL of around 117 dB, which was enough to render 3 people from the audience unconscious.  Having attended my share of Deep Purple live concerts I can confirm that VSM MXM in full voice gets you closer to live rock concert performance SPL levels than most of the other 2-way speakers I have reviewed.

I have a collection of around 72,000 tracks across my vinyl, CD, Sooloos and iMac music collection and for most reviews, besides the albums I mentioned, I use suitably challenging tunes to put the audio component through its paces to push them to their limits in order to see how each component handles various genres of music. In this process, with most speakers, I am able to unveil quite a few flaws. With the VSM MXM, this was a futile exercise as the sheer transparency and neutrality of these speakers when driven by upstream components that were equally neutral, meant that it only ended up showing specific characteristics and flaws in the recordings.

As I mentioned before, since the VSM MXM presents such an easy load, almost any tube or solid-state amplifier can drive them with no problems. However, there seems to be a special synergy between the VSM MXM and the Ars Sonum SE and Gran Filarmonia amplifiers. The review was conducted using the Gran and I can honestly say that this is a match made in heaven, at a relatively down to earth price.

While we are on the subject of prices, it is common practice for high-end audio manufacturers to steadily raise the price of their components with each passing year. Sometimes you get a price increase even when there is no design or parts change in the component. It is only once in a blue moon that you see a reduction in the price of any high-end audio component and when they happen, the price drop is relatively small, typically in the 3% to 5% range. This being the case, I was totally taken aback when Bobby informed me that he has reduced the price of the VSM MXM from $15,200 to $13,600. That is a whopping 10% price reduction. In this economy where everything for manufacturers is more expensive and sales are down, many manufacturers are raising prices to stay profitable.

I fervently hope that other manufacturers in the industry will follow this example and consider passing on to their customers any savings that they may find in the production cost of their gear. This will be great for this wonderful hobby and for the high-end audio industry as a whole, which is sometimes accused of gouging customers with obscenely high prices and price increases, which are perceived as not being justified. With this price reduction, the VSM MXM, in my humble opinion, goes from being very competitive in its price range to being an absolute steal.

Merlin Music’s line-up of speakers has recently undergone quite a few changes. The TSM MMi and VSM MMi have been replaced by the TSM MM-m and VSM MM-m respectively. The MM-m stands for Magic Mod Master. Despite the upgrades and significantly improved performance, Bobby has held the line on prices; the newer models are offered for the same price as the models they have replaced. The VSM MXr is also no more and has been replaced with the VSM MXM (Master) as the flagship of the Merlin Music Speaker line-up.

Like most fields of consumer electronics, speakers are subject to technology obsolescence in some of their parts or circuits. This makes owners wish they had waited for a later model. Bobby has countered this factor by offering reasonably priced upgrades that bring older models amazingly close to the latest models in terms of performance. I have found that Bobby offers these upgrades only when he is confident that they will make a significant and meaningful difference to the performance of the speaker. There are five upgrades that I would recommend; making the speakers lead free, upgrading to the Master BAM (VSM only), upgrading the jumpers and RC networks to Master level and internally rewiring the speakers with Cardas Clear geometry cables.  See our World's First Review of the Cardas Beyond cables to see why.

Customer service at Merlin Music is as good as it gets. Bobby is very accessible. Current and prospective customers can call Bobby at his factory in Hemlock, New York. He has extraordinary patience and will spend all the time you need, providing guidance and advice to help get the best out of his sonic works of art.   

In terms of comparisons, the only other speakers below $25,000 that I’ve heard, which approach the VSM MXM in terms of sheer neutrality, transparency and musicality, are the Verity Parsifal Ovation ($20,000) and Martin Logan CLX ($19,900), both pictured below. I know of numerous very discerning audiophiles who in their quest for what they consider the holy grail of reproduced sound have changed their speakers many times before ending their quest once they encountered and acquired the heirloom quality VSM. Thanks to periodical upgrades offered by Bobby, in many cases, the VSM ends up becoming the last speaker an audiophile owns thus helping them get off the expensive and time consuming speaker upgrade treadmill.

I’d like to end this review with a caveat: If you fit the profile of the kind of audiophile that would appreciate the performance of the VSM MXM but do not have the coin for it, do yourself a favor and avoid auditioning them. It may result in a craving that could make you beg, borrow or steal, or alternatively, live on bread and water till your piggy bank has enough loot to make these speakers, yours. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 


The Merlin VSM MXM is not for everybody. At $13,600, it is not exactly chump change. However, gauging from the numerous speakers I have heard, it is my humble opinion that it represents the best value in its price range by a healthy margin. It is also the best overall 2-way speaker I have ever heard irrespective of price. It is recommended for people who appreciate sound with very high resolution and yet, utterly musical, neutral, relaxed and non-fatiguing with near perfect PRaT. It’s a great choice for people who currently have or plan to upgrade to upstream components that are as neutral as today’s technology allows. Although they work great with solid-state amps, it is well-designed tube amps that really make them sing. The VSM MXM is not for people for whom the bottom octave is a must have.

This speaker is intentionally designed not to plunge the depths of bass, to the lowest pipe organ note (16 Hz), which most people feel in their gut, rather than heard. Having said that, less than 3% of music plunges those depths. The bass frequencies that this speaker does reproduce, is rendered in an accurate, controlled and seductively tuneful manner, which should totally satisfy the vast majority of audiophiles. I cannot recall any other speaker with a 6.5-inch woofer that generates the kind of bass that flaps your pant legs and where you can feel the air turbulence of the port on your face even when you are seated 10 feet from the speakers. Hand on heart I can say, I have not heard any 2-way speaker at any price that goes this deep into the bass frequencies more tunefully and with such incredible tonal accuracy as the VSM MXM. In fact from 35 Hz and up the VSM is superior in many respects to all but a handful of 3-way speakers I have heard. These typically sell at two to three times the VSM price. It is worth noting that this is not a speaker for very large rooms (over 4,500 cubic feet), especially if most of what you listen to is very dynamic music with the volume cranked up all the time. Bobby has a subwoofer design in the works; if it turns out to be as good as the VSM MXM, the combined performance should constitute a true full range speaker system, that will be a very hard to beat even in the $27,000 price range.

 

Associated equipment:

CD Player - Bryston BCD-1 (SS)

Digital Player – Bryston BDP-1

Turntable - Technics SL-1200Mk2 (direct drive) with Goldring 1042GX cartridge

Music server - Sooloos 5 complete 3-piece system, iMac (latest) with Amarra 2.3 and Decibel media players 

Preamp – Bryston BP26 with MPS2 Power Supply

Power Amp – Ayre V3

Integrated Amp - Ars Sonum Gran Filharmonia (Tube)

Phono Stage - Bryston BP-1.5

Speakers – Merlin Music VSM – Master with Master BAM and RCs

Speaker Cables - Cardas Clear Beyond

Power Cords - LessLoss Signature

Interconnects - Cardas Clear

Headphones – Sennheiser HD 600

Digital - Transparent Reference (digital co-axial), Cardas (USB), Analysis Plus (Toslink)

Stands and Racks

Black Diamond Racing (The Shelf for Sources and LM series) 

Black Diamond Racing cones 

Shelfs are placed on a bed of pure silicone sand and equipment placed on the shelf via the cones

Review Equipment is not provided with any tweaks or enhancers

DAC – Calyx Femto DAC

Power Conditioner -  Isotek Sigma II

 

 

Back to other audio reviews

 

Back to HOMEPAGE