The Merlin TSM
[TSM Specifications] [Product Pricing]
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. They are terrible, if you listen to complex material like classics or choral works. The most recent Black Magic versions, in studio black and 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 Black Magic TSM owners have mentioned that they enjoy a greater percentage of their music collections than ever before while a majority of them no longer feel the need for sub-woofers.
Black Magic TSMs have five major improvements over previous models. Our woofer, the Morel 164, is treated in house with a new Mueller coating which adds mass and damps out of band resonance. The results are extended lower bandwidth and improved clarity. The binding posts, jumpers and RC networks are treated with a conditioner that coats the connectors so they do not oxidize. It also fills in tiny imperfections on the connector’s surface to provide a superior contact. This makes for a more bodied and cohesive presentation. The solder has been changed to a low tin formulation. High tin levels cause a nasality or a metallic harshness around 2 kHz in the lower treble. This new solder gives the TSM a more extended, silky and natural top end. The overall bandwidth is wider making the sound bigger and more room filling. The new Musicap from Uptone Audio is a remarkable improvement over the old Hovland Musicap. The Uptone offers a much wider bandwidth, a more muscular bass, a more relaxed perspective like the singer took two steps back into the music, sharper focus, a more layered and expansive sound with a silkier top end. Overall, a more dynamic and transparent presentation. The rear chamber cup of the Renaissance MST 30.5 has a new rounded profile to minimize standing waves. It is vented to reduce dynamic compression while the internal volume has been increased to extend its lower bandwidth. These innovations help create a smoother, more natural transition at the crossover point giving the tweeter greater extension and a "sound like silk". The implementation of these advancements enables the Black Magic TSM to reproduce music with an unparalleled sense of realism.
The TSM Design.
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. This is 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. The woofers are tested for tolerance, placed in pairs and then covered with a proprietary Mueller coating to reduce resonance. The tweeter is a refinement of the MDT 30 called the Renaissance 30.5. These damped and vented 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.
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 create a rigid yet slightly compliant design. The speaker is braced internally and packed with 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 studio version is covered in the same water borne textured coating as the tweeter face plates while the premium 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 premium finish uses a special base coat that adds mass to the cabinet reducing minute cabinet resonance. The premium version actually weighs a few pounds more, sounds fuller, more resolved, clearer and slightly more continuous than the studio. The difference is a few percentage points in the favor of the premium. However, this is not perceived by everyone who listens to them so the studio 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, the value of the capacitors 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 treated with cryogenics 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 in a pair, test and sound, virtually identical. 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 with Cardas eutectic silver solder and hard wired for the best possible sound. The Cardas patented binding posts are used for terminations. Their connecting rods are copper making for a superior sounding connection. Dissimilar metals with their different electrical properties create problems. A proprietary Cardas Clear cable is used for all internal wiring harnesses, jumpers and RC networks. We use the Cardas Clear cable in both the studio and premium, we will not build a product without it. All speaker systems become more of an open circuit the higher they go in frequency unless the out put of the amplifier is terminated . RC or resistor capacitor networks provide un-terminated amplifiers with a 10 ohm load at 100 kHz. This enables them to settle them down so they sound their best. 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 uses a film foil cap treated with cryogenics or the Master RC using the exceptional Duelund VSF Black copper foil capacitor.
Some individuals may call the TSM a conventional monitor. 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 under damped 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, use inferior crossover topography and components that show considerable component coloration. All of this makes you more aware of the actual speaker placement and the stratification of the output. The list can go on and on and this, in our opinion, embodies all that is “conventional” in our industry.
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 the Black Magic versions image more precisely, layer even better, sound clearer, smoother and are more balanced than ever before. Their sound is uniquely coherent, 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.
Many, who listen at lower levels, near field or have smaller rooms, our mini monitor may be the perfect choice. If your room is larger, you listen at louder levels or want more bass extension than mini monitors have to offer…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 sub-woofer and make a wonderful full range set up. You may find this more specialized approach gives you much better sound than some conventional full range systems and will save you a lot of money.
The older VSMs, from 50 Hz up, are no match for the Black Magic TSM’s sound. If you are considering an older VSM because it has more bass than a TSM, consider the Black Magic TSM and a sub-woofer. 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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