Comparative Thoughts - Merrill Audio Element 116 vs Veritas Class D Monoblock Amplifiiers

Over the years, I’ve had numerous amps of various topologies…NAD, Simaudio, Pass Labs, Atma-Sphere, Conrad Johnson, to name a few. Some purchased/many just in for a brief audition/review. As professional musicians, my wife and I have crafted a home audio system that serves both downtime as well as critical listening of recording project drafts, reference study, etc. So, we really have to get it right when it comes to truth-in-source reproduction – no artificial colors or sweeteners. I think we’re pretty close, or at least for what our budget will allow. Thus, when we chose to retain Merrill’s Veritas monos a few yrs ago, it was after numerous auditions listening for that major step forward towards authenticity. I was and remain an ardent admirer of Merrill’s sound designs, so when the opportunity was presented to compare our Veritas to his new Element 116’s, there was no hesitation.

I’ll bypass recounting the spec comparisons, as they are readily available. Rather, I’d like to offer a few simple listening observations:

The Veritas are sonically attractive on a number of levels: Transient clarity, overall speed and accuracy, exceptional detail at low amplitudes, spacial resolution, well-placed sources, and an organic truth-in-source which I particularly admire. As has been mentioned by others, the Element 116’s really do take these same fundamental qualities and expound on them in every direction.

It should be mentioned that the design and build of the 116 chassis is incredibly elegant - fit-n-finish is top-shelf, offering an unquestionable state-of-the-art appearance. WBT speaker binding posts are built like a tank – beefy, with fantastic grip and feel. IMHO, quanta leap forward from the Cardas binding posts on the Veritas.

While both the Veritas and 116 offer large fortes in speed and accuracy, the PRAT of the 116 is uncanny. Clarity seems to simply flow with this power plant behind the source. Every minutia recorded from the musicians is present in the listening experience in as natural a manner possible. Neither the Veritas nor the 116 ever come across as sterile for the sake of detail, but rather in an engaging and non-fatiguing way. What the 116 offers above the Veritas is a more tactile experience. Everything flows with an immediacy and sense of 3-dimensionality. The 116 seems to help lift the top and bottom off the frequency spectrum, allowing the timbral characteristics of both instrumental and vocal sources to sound wonderfully realistic and organic. Definitely no artificial colors or sweeteners here! I suspect much of this affect has to do with increased air/spacial awareness – essentially no noise discerned. Sonic image is deeper, more holographic when compared to the Veritas - backdrop is pitch black. Ease of listening through and around instrumental sources is impressive, yet the intent of a composite entity is never lost. Equally, any vestiges of subtle over rings or distortion which may be present on certain recordings when powered by the Veritas seem to have disappeared with the 116.

Its fair to say that, in my opinion, the sonic presentation of the Element 116 is as confident as the Veritas, with a sizably more robust authority. A seemingly limitless but non-artificial frequency spectrum, coupled with a truthful reveal of organics from acoustic sources, partic. guitar and pno, help promote this experience. I sense anyone auditioning monos in this price bracket will find the Element 116’s deliver some of the best amplification anywhere, and clearly competitive with many designs priced well above. My congratulations and thanks to Merrill for his continued forward thinking in audio design! His efforts have made this musician very happy!

Associated Equipment:

VAC Signature MKIIa SE Pre (w/ phono)

Esoteric K-03

VPI Scoutmaster Sig. (w/ Dynavector XV-1s cart)

Daedalus Athena v. 2

JPS Aluminata pc’s, ic’s, speaker cable

Velodyne DD10+


Dr. Michael R. Bump

Professor of Music/Director, Percussion Studies

Truman State University

Percussion, Kansas Symphony

Percussive Arts Society Board of Advisors

Robust in the sense that all of the transient definition and overall frequency spectrum of the Veritas is given more presence through the 116’s. Its true that the 116’s offered a tighter punch in the lower frequencies (I ended up dialing out my sub early in the evaluation process, whereas I enjoyed having it with the Veritas). However, for me, the robustness of the 116’s was defined through its overall presence and organicity of instruments. My sample pieces were on loan and cannot say as to break-in hrs prior to receiving. I had it up and running in my system for a week prior to critical listening. Well worth a serious listen, IMHO!
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Dr. Bump,

Thank you very much for providing such a credible comparative assessment of two (apparently) very fine amplifiers (I've heard neither, so won't pretend to know just how good they truly are). It's nice to have access to a post from someone of such prodigious musical expertise--free of charge, no less. I'm a rank amateur--I don't even play an instrument (have take piano lessons-made it to the "dilettante" stage--at best). So information from someone of your stature is quite welcome, at least to someone like me. You've managed to pique my interest in the Merrill Audio Element 116 amplifiers, despite my giddy satisfaction with my Odyssey Stratos Extreme monoblock amplifiers, which are magnificent--to my ears, anyway.

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