Merlin VMS versus VMPS RM-40 versus Proac 3.8

Has anyone had a chance to listen and compare any of these speakers? Unfortunately there are not dealers nearby, so any input you can give is much appreciated. They will probably be paired with Pass amplification and Tact 2.0 room correction used as a pre.


I have enjoyed my 3.8s for over a year now. They are very laid back, accurate, neutral and have a lot of resolution. They will not deliver thundering bass nor will they blow you out of the room. However, they can play loud enough for me (well over 105 decibels) with my Accuphase P-450 amp (200wpc), and are a pleasure to listen to for long periods without fatigue. IMO they are not the best Rock-n-Roll speaker, Klipsch comes to mind. I have heard a lot of good things about the Merlins both from people in the industry and on internet forums, but you should seek input from an owner.
The vmps rm-40's will take you to a level above the merlin or the proac's if you are willing to spend enough time to tune them in to your room. This is their only draw back. It is a slow process and some people are not up to the task. They are very big and heavy speakers and would be a great match with pass amps. You can talk to some rm-40 owners at their forum on the harmonic discord web site.
The RM-40s sure have garnered a good reputation and I would love to try a pair. But, at 240lbs each (or there-abouts) they are just too large and heavy. The weight is particularly bothersome, for me anyway. When I think about all the technological advances over the last century, it just seems there should be a reasonably inexpensive lightweight cabinet material available.
A local dealer sells VMPS and they look like they are made in a guarage. Very dinamic though and "good" build quality. Will play levels louder than your two other speakers listed. The Proacs are more audiophile with better parts,drivers/crossovers etc. and have total pride of ownership. They would be great with the Pass amp and will play plenty loud for normal people. The Merlins are like owning Wilsons-Absolute contentment in every area there is from build to sonics minus the bigger speakers thumpping ability. Within their limits,you cannot do better. I would go with the tube harness though even with the solid state Pass. Call the owner,Bobby will talk to you directly and answer all of your questions.
cant say i've heard the others, but i think if you want true & accurate music go with the Merlins. they are amazing speakers. they simply disappear when they play music & for there size they have very very good bass.
i've not heard the VMPS, but they are getting some raves lately (see latest bound for sound). however, 2 things will keep me from ever owning those speakers:
1) build quality is known to be low
2) no highs when standing up --you have to sit down to listen to these speakers, which seems silly considering they're almost 6' tall.

i own merlins. in small to mid size rooms, they are without equal. tonally, i've never heard a better speaker.

if you're debating VMPS vs Merlins, you really don't know what you want. they're two VERY different designs (merlins: coherence & transparency vs VMPS wall flexing bass)

Rhyno Get real, nobody stands up and listens to their speakers the set in a chair. Build quality is not known to be low, as a fact if you take the time to check the quality of the drivers,and all other parts you will find that the vmps are way way better than the merlins. The vmps has a coherence & transparency on par with magnapan or any other good planer speaker and very good bottom end when tuned to your room. They are large,tall and heavy and take some time to set up. Your merlin speakers are just not even close in this case.
So Good, I'll believe it when I hear it that a speaker using different driver technologies offers the coherence of one offering the same. I haven't EVER heard it to date. Long term listening really brings this fact home. The MOST coherent speakers are those that have a single source driver, Maggies, Soundlabs and the like. Merlins get damn close to that degree of coherence. And also do you really believe that the Vamps are special in that they require special set-up and fine tuning to sound their best? This can be said of ALL systems, Merlin's included.

As Rhyno noted, both these speakers are of two different camps. I have heard Brian Cheney's designs from years ago and thought they were quite good but in no way could be compared with the Merlin's which are world class speakers for small to medium sized rooms with superb tonality, coherence and resolution but lacking the bass energy that some can't live without.

Better is very subjective in the hunt for aural nirvana. There IS NO best, only compromises that one is willing to live with within the constraints of budget, room and listening priorities.
if build quality is so good, is that why cheney had to service the first hundred or so midrange drivers on the RM40s? is that why he had to put a posting on harmonic discord describing how to resolder the midrange planars b/c the original solder joint was loose & causing distortion???

hmmm, last time i checked, i never had to get near my merlins w/ an iron. --sorry buddy, you don't know what you're talking about.

give a knuckle rap test. the VMPS cabinet rings like a bell.
the merlins is not perfect, but it is solid, just like the product, end to end.

NOTE: i never said the VMPS was a bad speaker. i WILL say that its ridiculous to spend $5k on a speaker you have to sit down to listen to, and i will say that build quality is an issue when all the facts support it.

Get the facts straight. The defective Neo mid panels had nothing to do with Brian Cheney, but were manufactured incorrectly from his Canadian supplier. Brian recognized the problem and offered a solution for those DIY's who wished to repair it themselves. Anyone else, he offered new replacement panels. At 240lbs a speaker, I don't think they ring like a bell, and I'm sorry, your Merlins do not have drivers as advanced as in the VMPS RM40. Build quality is not an issue. Brian stands by every speaker he sells. He has been making speakers for over 25 years, and the RM40 is a break through product that is getting tremendous, well deserved praise. I don't any ***hole who stands up when doing any serious listening to speakers. I am sure the Merlins are terrific speakers, and if they make you happy, thet is all that counts. There is no reason to unfairly catergorize VMPS speakers- read what people are saying- the internet nonsense of VMPS speakers having only "wall flexing bass" are getting old and completely false. Go listen and find out for yourself.
Have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year.
FWIW, there is serious listening and just plain listening. For example, my office is adjacent to the sound room, so the stereo is on almost all the time. While I love, even lust for, ribbons and planar speakers their limited sweet spot makes them less than desireable for my environment.

More than once I've auditioned planar and ribbon speakers only to have to come to the disappointing conclusion that they just won't work well in my world.

Two sets of speakers. Yeah, that's what I need!
Know way are VMPS only a wall smacking bass heavy speaker!!!! in fact just the 100% oppisite.They have Ribbon mids and tweets,and anyone familiar with great speakers know that ribbons are the here and now when it comes to mids on up in the spectrum.Just look around and see for yourself how many more manufacturers are using some type of ribbon in there design many more than lets say 8 to 10 years ago,there is a reason for this.They just are the most delicate and delicious sound you have EVER heard PERIOD.VMPS speakers are light years ahead of most other speaker manufacturers out there,and build quality well
Wow! I've been missing a good fight over here! I can't comment personally on these speakers, but I love a good old-fashioned "slug-out"!

My only valid comment here would be that I love Berning amps, and David Berning has just ordered a set of Merlin VSM-M for voicing his amps on. He also has a set of Maggies.

I suspect Tubegroover's rig is running exactly as David Berning intended his amp to sound.
Geeeeez guys, reeelax! Here's some perspective for everyone on both sides of this argument:

Brian Cheney has developed an affordable full range tower speaker knock-off that's sort of a cross between a dunlavy SC-IVa and a Genesis/Infinity ribbon tower that has many of the same dynamic, effortless and integrated sound qualities that these ultra expensive speakers are known for (with even better low end bass and power than the $8000+, now out of business SC-IVa). This is what the RM-40 is IMHO. He managed to pull this feat off by sourcing incredibly inexpensive ribbons from China that are 85% of the performance of the ultra expensive offerings (at less than 20% the cost per unit). His woofer tooling and economy of scale most likely allowed him to also source in his custom woofers at a very reasonable price too. With some decent first order crossovers these speakers came together to produce a wonderful sound that just doesn't sound cheap by any means and actually makes you wonder show the hell he did it with such inexpensive drivers. Driver technology just doesn't cost what it used to. More importantly, the differenced between excellent designed cheap drivers and ultra cost no object stat of the art drivers is closer than it has ever been in history. There is a difference, but it can be carefully masked by the talents of an excellent speaker designer like Brian. Could Brian's speaker be more detailed, more refined and better sounding with top of the drivers and rock solid cabinetry? Absolutely! The point is that it would cost something like $25k+ to do it that way and the differences would be pretty small for the 500% increase in cost. I congratulate Brian for bringing us some of the sonic qualities that you only could get for stupid money just a few years ago.

Bobby (of Merlin) went the entire other direction. He used top of the line, cost no object drivers in a cabinet that was also near the top in terms of construction. (This is why the VSM costs so much, yet it only has two drivers.) In all actuality, this speaker should sound good! It uses nothing but the best of the best parts, etc. IMHO, this type of speaker is much easier to get perfect (for it's limited response due to the two way design) because the parts are all world class. Based on what I know it seems that everything is tweaked in this speaker also. It's sort of a tour de-force design.

How does the Merlin compare to the VMPS? Well, that's a question that is not easy to answer. Each of these speakers is awesome it what they do right: the VMPS sounding like some of the huge ultra expensive speakers in terms of dynamics and sonic integration and the Merlin getting you into the details of the recording with ultra precision that very few speakers in the world can achieve, at the expense of massive dynamics, ultra low bass and a sense of hugeness (vertically) that only monster towers achieve. Which one would I take? That depends on what my priorities are in terms of music, my room size and my wife! IMHO there is no correct answer here because each speaker achieves greatness at what it does right and each speaker doesn't have flaws that are readily apparent if you take each speakers' positives into account as you are auditioning them. For example: As long as you are not looking for the absolute best sonic detail ever imagined from the VMPS, you will not be disappointed. As long as you are not looking for the best low bass and huge dynamics from the Merlins, you will not be disappointed. Each speaker is wonderful and achieves greatness in certain areas that the other speaker lacks and visa versa. End of story, end of argument, silly argument at that. That's my opinion in a, let's fight... ;)
Well said Ehider, little speakers belong in little rooms and big speakers belong in big rooms. I hate little tiny pianos setting down or standing up.
Thanks to everyone that chimed in with comments and counsel...much appreicated. At the risk of ruffling any more feathers, any observations on these speakers vis-a-vis Piega's offerings, say the P5 or P8?
Heard both the merlins and the proacs ,not the vmps RM-40s though heard other VMPS models .Aftering hearing a good modern !horn speaker ,all I can say is theres no dynamics, they sounded so small,All sounded to much like reproduced sound ,I have heard at lenght and owned many ,many $ systems far above the costs you are working with .But this I know ,low power tube gear and high sensitivity is where great musicallity lies ,no more audiophile cds just to get great sound even my crapy punk rock cds sound amazing .Now I build most of my own system though its still not cheap. My dual oris 150 horns are mind blowing ,you could easly build yourselve a Oris 150 for arround $4000-5000 or less ,Took me 25 years and way more than a $100,000 to find this kind of system synergy ,plus much grief tried about every combination of gear I could .At least now I know where it spend my time and cash you will not be disapointed seek out a like system for an audition,good luck with your quest .JK
I disagree with ehider's conclusions.

I've heard both the Merlin with BAM and the VMPS RM-40 on several occasions and at some length each. The Merlins were always driven by Joule Electra tubes, worth more than twice the cost of the speakers of about $8K, and the VMPS by Ampzilla2000 solid state amps worth $5K, about the same as the VMPS speakers at $4.6K.

ehider suggests that "As long as you are not looking for the absolute best sonic detail ever imagined from the VMPS, you will not be disappointed." We disagree on that point. In my view the VMPS ribbons surpasse any cone speaker I've ever heard, including Wilsons and JMLabs, and Dunlavy V or VI. No contest. For transparancy they are in the company Sound Labs, and MBL. I've not heard anything from Genesis.

The Merlin are a delight to listen to, go much deeper than one has any right to anticipate, and can fill a room with pleasing sound and have good dynamic response. They won't play at ear bleading levels, the way the VMPS would, but who cares. Unfortunately, they are not the value that VMPS is, even with the $1200 cap upgrade to the VMPS, which I have not heard.

If the VMPS have a flaw, it is in tweeter directionality. Treble falls off vertically. If you only sit to listen, you're fine. An advantage to that limiation is that the treble tends to not generate ceiling or floor room reflections which subtally polute the transparancy of many speakers. I know of no speaker at any price that is a better value for the money, and wish I owned a pair.

Incidently, the localized treble "problem," if you want to think of it as that (I don't consider it such) is cured with the VMPS RM/X which has a different ribbon tweeter that is down firing from the dop of the speaker at an adjustable angle. It has two more midrange ribbons for a total of 6 per side, and crosses to the tweeter lower which makes for even greater clarity. Andy they play deeper than any speaker or subwoofer I've ever heard -- clean solid beautiful base, without any boom, and all perfectly integrated. The same tweeter is apparently available for the RM-40 with a different crossover, for even improved transparancy and efficency. I've not heard that upgrade.

The Proac 3.8 I heard once in a shop with both tubes and solid state power. They look beautiful, but in my view are not sonically in the same league with either Merlin or VMPS.
Well here is my story. I have the Merlin VSM-M's in Wineberry. Paid about $3400 for them, which I thought was a good deal.

I love them, have not heard anything that "blows" them away with detail.

BUT... witht hat being said, I also have a Home Theater and they are just not dynamic enough. So I went out and bought M&K 150's to use just for HT. They were nice, but after going A-B, I still prefered the MErlins detail and imaginng even with HT. But still lacks punch.

So now I am selling the M&K's and thinking about VMPS. But have not heard them. I live in NY and don't know of any local dealer.

I wish I could afford to own both the VMPS for HT and Merlin for music, but I can't and think that might be a bit insane.

What to do, what to do...
Well Blueshirt, there is an owner of the RM-40's that hangs out at Harmonic Discord's VMPS forum, he lives in N.Y. and has let a few people from that area come over to listen. I would drop a post on that forum, he may see it and offer a listen.
Sogood, I posted on there last night. John Casler a dealer from LA said another pair should be shipping soon to NY. So I think an audition is in my future. Thanks for the repsonse.
For the record, VMPS ribbons are from Canada, not China. The woofers Brain Cheney manufactures himself. They are not outsourced. VMPS does not use low quality parts in anything. The cabinet may not look as pretty as other boutique speaker manufacturers, but they get the job done and keep costs down. It's the sound that matters most.

AudioAsylum member JonBee owns VMPS 626R and MERLIN VSM Gen III and Revel M20s, he prefers the VMPS over all. They are more detailed than most any speaker. Detail is not something they lack.

With regards to the high frequency dispersion, the latest FST tweeter largely corrects this problem. They are certainly not perfect, but they give up nothing to the Merlin IMO.
Why all the defensive posts on VMPS? Here's some more details on VMPS' speakers, just so everyone realizes that they are damn good, but NOT the absolute gestalt of speaker designs which are not built to a price point.

As I stated in my prior post, Brian pulled off an incredible feat with his RM-40 design IMHO. He managed to offer a full range kick ass speaker for around $5k that has many qualities of $25k+ speakers made just a few years ago.

Now, "just for the record" here is where the VMPS speakers are not absolutely perfect (but again, damnnnnnnn good!):

Those circular ribbon tweeters ARE made in CHINA at under $40 a pop. They are really good for the money but are NOT perfect by any means! Slightly colored as compared to the best of the best ribbons or domes (at $235 to $1100 a pop!).

There is a response dip in the RM-40's above 15Khz due to cancellation effects that the two tweeters interaction causes. The new single tweeter upgrade ; (read non-circular) solves this issue very elegantly. Additionally, it is a much higher performance tweeter too! But as for the dual circulars, it is a cost driven compromise IMHO. That being said, it isn't easily recognizable as a compromise when you listen to the RM-40's on their own without comparing them to VERY expensive speakers done right.

The midranges are also a great ribbon driver for the money and probably one of the greatest design implementations that makes the RM-40's do what they do soooooo well. They crossover extremely low, so there is no nasty crossover point in the lower midrange to worry about. I applaud Brian for his ability to see the beauty of this driver's potential. That being said, I do have to inform everyone here that this ribbon is NOT the gestalt of all ribbon designs. All you have to do is look at the waterfall chart of this midrange ribbon to see that it is "relatively" clean, but not up to the absolute levels as some of the "cost no object" ribbon designs. I really like this driver, and could probably live with it for ever, but if I were building a cost no object ribbon speaker, I would "stack" the "best of the best" ribbons instead. This would achieve a superior waterfall plot and sound even cleaner than Brian's chosen ribbon (think Genesis or Infinity's speakers and you get the idea here).

Per my first post, I recognize that Brian makes his own woofers (that's what the term "tooling" meant). I think he really knows what he's doing here based on what I've seen of his designs and choice of materials.

In regards to the internal parts inside of VMPS speakers, Brian isn't cheap but I am ABSOLUTELY convinced that any owner can improve his RM-40's sound with better wiring than Brian uses. I think Brian did a great job based on his limited budget and at least uses decent wiring suited to each driver. I think most audiophiles would be shocked to discover how many big name speakers have such crappy internal wiring! That being said, this is one area which all VMPS owners can further improve their speakers themselves.

One poster here got pretty defensive about my statement; " As long as you are not looking for the absolute best sonic detail ever imagined from the VMPS, you will not be disappointed". Well let's face it, the VMPS are NOT the end all speaker in the world today. They are damn good and I love them for the money. I have heard better detail in the highs from under $5k speakers using better ribbon tweeters than the circular ones that Brian uses (GR Research comes to mind). I also have heard less coloration from speakers using Hyquphon domes. As said by others here, the FST upgrade solves this issue.

Hopefully I've clarified MY position and prior statements here. I do get very tired of seeing many posters (on this and other forums) put VMPS at the very TOP of the speaker design pedestal.

I've always felt that Brian is one of the most talented speaker designers in the business today. IMHO is one of the very few speaker guys who has found very ingenious cost saving ways to get close to the best sound of the speakers which very few normal people can afford. He is one of my heros. Way to go Brian!