The Merlin TSM
[TSM Specifications] [Product Pricing]
Over the years, the TSM has evolved into a very sophisticated mini monitor. Critical aspects of its design have been considered many times to rid the speakers of minute resonance and distortion components which can confuse and complicate sound reproduction. Terrible, if you listen to complex material like classics or choral works. The most recent Master versions, the MMM in studio black and MXM in premium finishes are the most refined and versatile of them all, offering incredibly real, bodied and naturally resolved sound. They can be used in live or damped rooms, be listened to near or far field and sound equally as good on solid state or tube amplification. These speakers are very neutral sounding so they do not have specific characteristics to combine with those on flawed recordings making them sound un-music-like. Most current TSM owners have mentioned that they can listen to a much greater percentage of their music collection and enjoy it.
The TSM is a sealed two way monitor. We chose an air suspension design for two reasons. The back pressure on the woofer cone helps keep the voice coil in linear drive (in the middle of the magnet) ensuring a more benign impedance characteristic coupled with increased power handling. Sealed enclosures tend to provide deeper bass as well and the TSM has usable bass down to 35 Hz. Remarkable for the woofer and cabinet size. The drivers were selected for their excellent self damping characteristics so that steep filters need not be employed. Steep filters suffer from excessive component coloration, dynamic compression and phase anomalies . The woofer of choice is a Morel 164 pulp cone driver with a 3 inch voice coil. Woofers are tested for tolerance, placed in pairs and then covered with a proprietary coating to reduce resonance. The tweeter is a refinement of the MDT 30 called the Renaissance 30.5. These damped silk dome tweeters are made for us in matched pairs as well. We then mill the tweeter face plates to recess the screw heads and spray on a textured coating to reduce diffraction even further. Our fasteners are a proprietary Pan Torx low profile design.
The cabinet is made out of a hardwood composite that is heavy and inert. The enclosure boasts of a 1.5” thick front baffle, bottom and back panel. The sides and top are 3/4” to replicate rigid yet slightly compliant aspects of design. The speaker is braced internally and packed with Dacron fiber fill, a superb broad band damping material. The crossover plate is removable enabling repairs and modifications to be done easily. All edges are milled with a large radius to further reduce edge diffraction while the tweeter is recessed to do the same. All in all a very sophisticated “beefy” enclosure with no sharp edges. To break up reflections, the MMM version is covered in the same water borne textured coating as the tweeter face plates while the MXM version is covered with a clear coat polyurethane automotive finish. The finish quality is spectacular and in essence, done by hand. Numerous hours of sanding and buffing with polishing compounds are clocked per pair. The MXM uses a special base coat that adds mass to the cabinet reducing minute cabinet resonances. The MXM actually weighs a few pounds more, sounds slightly fuller, a little more resolved, a touch clearer and a hair more continuous than the MMM. The difference is maybe a few percent in the favor of the MXM. However, this is not perceived by everyone who listens to them so the MMM version is a spectacular value and is perhaps, better suited to less critical systems. The two differ in the finish, its cost, the amount of coating on the woofers and the torque settings of the fasteners. That is all.
The filter network is second order and crossed at 2150 Hz. It is engineered so the drivers are playing in electrical phase without the usual midrange bump. This is only possible because our selected components have the necessary characteristics to work in this manner. The crossover is impedance corrected to shape the high frequency amplitude and to provide a more benign load for all amplifier types. The networks are also “Q” circuited so that any ringing occurring at the hi pass is negated. This enables muted trumpets, piccolos, flutes, loud sopranos and pianos to be played without “eeking”. The capacitors used are film/foil and are cryogenically treated to flesh out their sound to make the transition through crossover region as continuous sounding as possible. The inductors are hand wound to a tolerance of plus or minus .001%, in fact all of the crossover components are matched to this same tolerance so that both speakers test and sound in an identical fashion. We also use film resistors that are non inductive and resonance free to extend the high frequencies as far as possible. All of the components are soldered together in a lead free manner and hard wired for the best possible sound. The Cardas patented binding posts are used for terminations. The posts are copper making for a superior sounding connection without dissimilar metals and their different electrical properties at the connection point. Last of all the incredible and proprietary Cardas clear geometry cable is used for all internal wiring harnesses, jumpers and RC networks. We use the Cardas clear cable in both the MMM and MXM because we will not build a product without it. An RC or resistor capacitor network provides unterminated amplifiers with a 10 ohm load at 100 kHz to settle them down so they sound their best. All speaker systems become more of an open circuit the higher they go in frequency unless the amplifier is terminated in this way. For those of you who live in a city, they also act as a superb HF filter for RFI and EMI. We have two versions available, the SRC with a cryogenically treated film foil cap or the Master RC using the exceptional Duelund VSF Black copper foil capacitor.
I have heard some individuals call the TSM a conventional monitor design. You have read how every aspect of its design was considered to enhance its reproduction of music, be easy to drive and to make it sound as coherent as possible. Like a single driver if you will. Not many manufacturers can claim this. Conventional designs have sharp edges to diffract sound confusing focus, layering and expanse. Use underdamped cabinets that resonate broadband, obscuring the music. Use drivers that ring or draw attention to themselves like ribbons, metals or ceramics which require steep filters to tame their response. Have a depression in the midrange that compresses perspective while negatively affecting tonal balance and focus. This in turn makes you more aware of the actual speaker placement. Use inferior crossover topography and components that show considerable component coloration. The list can go on and on and this in our opinion, embodies all that is typical in our industry.
So How Do The TSMs Sound?
You may already know that the TSM has a “to die for” reputation for imaging and depth of field. But what you may not know is that the Master versions (the MMM and MXM) image more precisely, layer even better, sound clearer, smoother and are more balanced than ever before. They sound coherent, almost like a single driver design but with wider bandwidth and less distortion. The bandwidth improvements allow the TSM to sound more relaxed and expansive while their continuous nature makes them sound incredibly open, room filling and tonally complete. Spectacular is their clarity, lack of confusion and dynamic expression. These qualities place them in a select group of mini monitors because they simply allow the music to come through while sounding so realistic, they can take your breath away. Certainly one of the world’s most special monitor designs.
For many who listen at lower levels, near field or have smaller rooms, the mini monitor may be the perfect choice. Since the TSM has been reviewed as “having the midrange and top end of speakers selling for two or three times its cost” why not add a subwoofer and make a wonderful full range set up. This will appeal to those who listen in larger rooms, at louder levels or want more bass and extension than mini monitors have to offer. You may find that this more specialized approach gives you much better sound than some full range systems and save you a lot of money.
From 50 Hz up, older VSMs are no match for the Master TSM’s sound. If you are considering an older VSM because it has more bass than a TSM, consider the Master TSM and a subwoofer. You may find you are much further ahead.
Bobby A. Palkovich President of Merlin Music Systems Inc
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Merlin Music Systems Inc.
4705 Main Street, PO Box 146
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