Merrill Audio Thors compared to Belcanto 500S

My last post wasn't so clear and didn’t get much traction, so I thought I’d share my experience, instead.

First, I can’t thank the members here enough for sharing their knowledge and experience. It has been a great help to me, who being new to this hobby, was able to assemble a decent system following the advice and information contained in their posts. Thank-you.

Coming from Adcom’s and CDs from years ago, I wanted to build a relatively convenient system that sounded great without throwing out my 650 or so CDs. My constraints were similar to those of many, but not all. For the time being my system has to be in the family room and cannot violate my wife’s sense of decor, or apparent expense. Since we just built the house, have a young child, pets, and have not yet finished the basement, this seemed reasonable enough to me until I can build a dedicated audio room.

In any case, I started with an Innuos Zen Mini, its LPSU, a Bel Canto 2.7 DAC/pre, Bel Canto 500S amp, fairly good OCC 6N interconnects, speaker wire and PSB Imagine T2 speakers to listen to streamed music through Roon and my ripped CDs. That system sounded a lot better that what I was used to. However, I started reading this forum and felt that my sonic experience could improve even more.

My room is 35” by 16’ with 10’ ceilings and my goal is to enjoy full but detailed reproduction that presents each instrument in its own space as realistically as possible without tiring me out with excessive shrill or boom. The initial system fit the bill somewhat but seemed a little etched with too much base. I followed the general advice posted here and mounted the speakers on Isocoustic Gaia IIIs, hooked them up with Transparent Gen 5 super speaker cables and replaced the interconnects with Wireworld Eclipse 8 XLRs. Everything else was placed on appropriately sized sorbothane disks. The system improved considerably; the base was tamed, and the high notes were less prominent but still too evident. When I upgraded the Zen Mini to an Innuos Zenith MK3 streamer/server/ripper, the music came alive, became generally more enveloping and realistic, which made a significant difference in the overall, detail and openness of my streamed and ripped selections. I could have stopped there and been happy.

But, before I bought the Zenith, I thought that I needed a new amp because I experienced clipping at moderate volume, so, I started looking for a new amp. It turns out that the clipping was caused by improper Roon DSP settings. Before that revelation, though, I found what seemed like good upgrade for a decent price on this forum and bought a pair of  Merrill Audio Thor monoblocs. These monoblocks came with Stillpoint footers, Cardas XLRs, Furutech IECs, custom Furutech Silver plated 27 strand copper power cords – all the stuff I’d rather not worry about. With the basics out of the way, after about 20 hours of warm-up, I found the sound of the Thors to be more to my liking than the 500s in that each instrument was distinct, replete with most if not all of its transients from attack to decay and plenty of ‘air’ or space around each note.  This accounts for a greater sense of realism and, in my case, enjoyment. The base was more defined, not bloated, and the highs only appeared as expected with the instrument played -- I’ve been listening to a lot of Coltrane, Monk, Bach and harmonica blues (Little Walter). I can’t say which amp is better, but to me, the Thors were more to my taste and lent themselves to longer listening sessions with more enjoyment and less fatigue.

(Note on digital: Since from this forum I learned that everything matters, I installed a dedicated highspeed switch, powered both the modem and switch with ifi noiseless power supplies ($50) and ran everything through Cat 6 or better ethernet cable.)

(I’ve also got the Thors plugged into a Furman 15i power conditioner against Merrill’s recommendation; I don’t think that this makes a negative difference but will shoot Merrill an email on Monday).

Happy Listening!