Merlin Music TSM MMM Speakers (Part 2)

5/6/2013 9:14:25 AM


The sound quality of the midrange delivered by the TSM is equal to all but the very best speakers I have heard in the $10,000 price range. It is smooth, full, relaxed and incredibly realistic. The dynamic contrast is easily the best I have heard from any speaker under $5,000. The highs are rendered with incredible realism and the bass is extraordinary for a speaker with a 6.25 inch woofer. It’s not exactly subwoofer territory but all the way down to 55 Hz, it is tight, controlled and tuneful. Yes, there are plenty of speakers in the $3,000 price range that will deliver much deeper bass than the TSM, but I would rather opt for a speaker that delivers bass down to 55 Hz accurately rather than one that goes much lower but without the control and tunefulness of the TSM.

The TSM is also one of the most neutral speakers I have heard in this price range. They are great at helping you gauge the quality of your upstream components, cables and interconnects. They have great synergy with Cardas cables. I tried out lesser quality cables and the TSMs were quick to reveal the flaws in them. They truly deserve to be matched with superior upstream components and cables, which will bring out the best in them.

The TSM is also one of the best two-way mini-monitors I have heard when it comes to getting the woofer and the tweeter to dance well together. Bobby’s choice of driver units and crossovers has resulted in a speaker system that has extraordinary continuousness across all audible frequencies. The transition from the woofer to the tweeter is amazingly seamless.

With my collection of around 72,000 tracks across my vinyl, CD, Sooloos and iMac music collection, covering most genres (except hip-hop and rap) I was able to try out a wide variety of tracks on the TSM. It acquitted itself with flying colors with every genre but it did show a penchant for jazz, classical and bluegrass.

The TSM is also the top of its class when it comes to sheer musicality

The TSM is also the top of its class when it comes to sheer musicality. I have heard countless speakers that get everything right but are just not musical. There are speakers that may be a technical tour de force but just don’t tug at your heartstrings when delivering a romantic love song or seduce you when playing a husky voiced diva or make you tear up when listening to a heartbreaking ballad. This is a quality that few speakers below the $10,000 price range have and the TSM has it in spades, delivering the emotional content of the music that really lets you connect with the artiste.

When it comes to reproducing voices, especially female, the TSM has few if any rivals in its price range. Most comparably priced speakers tend to sound quite nasal, one-dimensional and flat when delivering voices. In comparison the TSM makes it very easy to conjure up a flesh and blood body as the source of the voice.

Imaging is one of the TSM’s fortes. If you get the placement right and play a very well recorded track, the TSM pulls a Houdini on you. The speakers sonically disappear while leaving behind a solid and well defined sound stage that is tall, wide and deep. They are also one of the most fatigue free speakers I have heard in this price category. During the review I tried all night listening session with the TSMs and at the end of it, it was lack of sleep rather than listening fatigue that prompted me to end the session.

Does this mean that the TSM is automatically the right speaker for you if your budget is around $3,000 to $5,000? Not really. If you are a bass freak who expects to not just hear the bass but feel its impact on your chest, the TSM is not for you. The TSM is also not recommended for very large listening rooms (over 3,500 cubic feet). They can play surprisingly loud for their size, but when you get to sound pressure levels of over 95 dB you can detect compression and other forms of distortion.

The TSM is also not recommended if your upstream components, cables and interconnects are not of high quality. These transducers are straight talkers and do not mind telling on failings in the upstream components and cables feeding them.

It did not matter whether I drove the TSMs with solid state or tube upstream components. It was comfortable with either but it was a smidgen more partial to tubes. One particular tube amplifier that the TSMs seem to waltz beautifully with is the Ars Sonum Filarmonia. The synergy of this pairing is very apparent.

 Ars Sonum Filarmonia SE

 Ars Sonum Filarmonia SE 

Like most fields of consumer electronics, speakers are subject to technology obsolescence in some of their parts or circuits. This sometimes 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.

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 you get the best out of his sonic works of art.

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