Merlin Master TSM
2012 Hi Fi Monthly
Reviewed by Henry Chen and Tzara Lin editor
I started this review with a solo piano sonata by Beethoven performed by the Russian pianist Emil Giles (DG 457 9002). Right from the beginning the Merlin Master TSM produced a very complete and refined sound. I first noticed that the sound had a very high density. This is different from a thick sound. It’s a pure, rich and stable sound with a sense of great depth of field. The TSM-MXM presented a vibrant piano sound as every note was delivered with full body and solid tone. Even though every key stroke does not give you the ultimate high overtones and sub-resonance the body of the note was clearly audible and very well presented.
Next I listened to piano quartets by the French composer Gabriel Faure (Harmia Mundi HMC 902032), performed by Trio Wanderer and violist Antonine Tamestit. The TSM-MXM goes low and tight, it produced bass at a good volume with out sounding fat. The overall sense of realism was extremely high, for example, the sound of the cello was very real, even the lowest note. Driven by the Ayre pre-power combo the sound of this chamber music was well balanced and elegant, not harsh or edgy. It easily reproduced Garbiel’s music which is elegant and serene. The stage for this type of chamber music is small and groups the performers closely together. It is not easy for any speaker to reproduce this type of sound stage. Yet the TSM-MXM shines here. It not only reproduced the sound stage successfully grouping the four performers closely together but the distance between them could be easily felt. The bowing, plucking and striking of the various instruments could be heard with an intense sense of realism. I was pleasantly surprised at what was presented in front of me ( kudos to the Ayre also).
Next was jazz musician, Stan Getz’s “Serenity” (Universal Music 838 770-2) recorded live at a night club. In contrast to Gabriel’s chamber music, the TSM-MXM now displayed a vastly different mood. While Gabriel’s music is refined and elegant, this jazz piece is presented lively and full of energy. It made me feel that I was actually at the performance. The tonal quality, the sound stage, image and all the detail made the experience very convincing. The reproduction of Stan Getz’s saxophone was awesome. The Merlin’s precise sound stage made me see Stan Getz performing right in front of me, blowing his sax and moving his body along with the music. The position of the various drums were also clearly placed in a well defined 3D image that can put a listener live at the performance.
When I played rock music, again, the TSM-MXM revealed yet another
perspective of itself.
My final choice for this review was the 1960 recording of Mahler’s
Symphony No 2 “Resurrection”-Otto Kemperer conducting the Phiaharmonia
Chorus and Orchestra (EMI 72435 67255 2 2 ). This was
The fidelity of this recording is not particularly high but I could still hear a very good sound stage, especially it’s height …it gave me the illusion that the ceiling of my listening room had disappeared! I felt that I was actually in a large auditorium. The stage of Mahler’s symphony is very big, not only does it have an orchestra section but also soloist mixed with choirs and organ. Towards the end of the fifth movement, all the sections are playing as one, creating a very wide bandwidth at a high volume level…and I was playing it loud! This is an extreme test for any speaker. The Merlins performed marvelously and produced majestic sound. The brass section, strings, choir, the organ’s low register and all the other instruments created an endless flow of energy that filled my listening room with wave after wave of stunning sound. While the complexity and structure of the music had been simplified by a minute degree, the grand scale on which the TSM-MXMs reproduced this music was second only to being present at a live performance.