It was late in the day, and I returned again to the fabulous Merrill Audio room at T.H.E. Show 2016. Merrill Wettasinghe dropped the needle on a VPI Avenger Signature turntable, and I could watch the smiles appear across the room.
“Hey, why am I hearing instruments behind the speakers???”, one attendee called out. I smiled. This attendee had just experienced a beautifully designed audio system, that was re-creating music with a 3D / holographic like feel. It was engaging, detailed, fast & dynamic, musical with beautiful midrange…. flat out delicious…
Merrill Audio is definitely on a roll these days, and this year, their room built on their magnificent Jens Phono stage pre-amplifier and Veritas Monoblock power amplifiers as they introduced the new gold series Christine Reference Preamplifier.
Starting with a clean sheet of paper, and no limits on budget, Merrill set out to produce his reference pre-amplifier that can provide the most accurate music reproduction with highest precision possible.
Merrill explained some of the key areas of focus:
- Fully Balanced Differential design
- Very high CMMR regardless of the minor hot/cold resistance difference from the source and the cable.
- Full featured with input presets, output presets, dual independent outputs, high drive for long or high capacitance interconnects, large display
- High quality components
- External power supply
In the room, Merrill had some impressive print-outs of the frequency response for the new Christine Reference Pre-amplifier using a square wave, which can be hard to produce. In the frequency response plots, you could see that the square waves are reproduced perfectly without overshoot or ring. More on this later in an upcoming detailed review of the Christine Reference pre-amplifier. Definitely a piece that sparked my interest. It is available now for $12,400.
From the German Physiks site:
The HRS-130 uses a single carbon fibre German Physiks DDD driver mounted on top of a slim, floor standing cabinet, with a downward firing woofer set in its base. These work seamlessly together to create a detailed, three-dimensional stereo image that immerses you in the music. The transparency of the DDD driver opens a new window on to your music collection, by helping to reveal fine detail and ambience information that you would normally only expect to hear at a live performance. Most important of all, the DDD driver’s exceptional transparency better allows you to experience the emotion that is the essence of a good musical performance.
The updated VPI Analog Drive System is a replacement for the prior generation VPI Synchronous Drive System (SDS) that combines a turntable motor speed controller and a line isolator into one box. I have used the original VPI SDS for years in a prior system and always felt it elevated my turntables performance.
I was not familiar with the VAS Nova Signature cartridge, but was impressed by its performance at just $3000. Its sound was very similar to Lyra cartridges, almost like a Lyra Kleos on steroids, or a smaller brother to a Lyra Etna for a fraction of the cost.
All up a great room and one of my favorites @ T.H.E Show 2016.
Complete equipment list:
- Merrill Audio Christine Reference Pre-amplifier
- Merrill Audio Jens Phono Pre-amplifier
- Merrill Audio Veritas Monoblock amplifiers
- German Physiks HRS-130 speakers
- VPI Avenger Signature Turntable with VAS Nova Signature Cartridge,
- NEW VPI Analog Drive System (new speed controller replacing the prior VPI SDS)
- EMM Labs DAC2x
- Stillpoints ESS Rack