Question for Merlin VSM/ARS Sonum owners

Hi all,
What did you have (preamp/amp) before convert to one piece Filarmonia ?
Is this Filarmonia sound that good with VSM?
I currently run my VSM-MXe with Cary SLP-05 with Cary CAD-120S (both are Stereophile Class A rated if that matter) - My CD player is Cary 306-200 - Using Cardas Golden Ref balanced cable thru out system.
Wonderful sounding in short -
Now I have a thought of trying Filarmonia to save some rack space (1 vs 3), cable, and $$ as well
I would like to know what you have before ARS Sonum and your comments
If switch to Filarmonia can perform 8/10 of my current set up, then I would consider since I can pocket ~ $3K, less tubes to roll, save 2 rack slots, 1 pair of Cardas GR IC ($500).
Need more opinions from owners
Thinking you will like it very much so its win/win.Others will chime in shortly which is good about this place,good luck,Bob
I had a Thor TA-1000 mkII pre and Art Audio Jota monos before I got the Fila. The Fila was an improvement across the board. I also just got the upgraded BAM and RC's, and my system sounds like the best of tubes and s/s. Refined and transparent like the best tubes, but weighty and fast like the best s/s. It's an amazing little integrated. I plan to gradually upgrade my cables to Cardas Clear and may eventually get the Merlin sub that is apparently in the works, but as far as my basic setup, I'm done.

Word of advice: If you decide to go for the Fila, and you only intend to run one source, do not get the tape loop option. Otherwise you will need an extra pair of interconnects.
Thanks for response,
If you need a sub to cover bottom octet, get a REL Storm III. This is what I have, blend in very well with my VSM.
BTW: I have the super BAM which has both RCA and XLR in/output
Not saying the Fila is better than what you have, but it is certainly a great pairing with the Merlin, between ergonomics and money in your pocket, I don't you will be dissapointed. I made the move from CAT amp and pre to the Ars, and in terms of musical satisfaction I thought the Ars was right up there. If you want to improve on what you have and the Ars, I think you would need to make a move to OTL amps (Joule or Atma-sphere), but for many, they could just live with the Ars and not think twice about it. I do prefere the Atma-sphere separates, but you are talking 3x $$$, alot more tubes and heat, and space.

Yamaha C2

Sumo Athena

Blue Circle BC3

Blue Circle BC3000(Special Edition)

Hovland HP100

ASL TwinHead


Adcom 565's

Classe 15

Plinius SA100 Mk2/3



ASL 1009's.
I'll bet that Plinius SA100 sounded good.I just auditioned an Ayre,CJ MV60se,and Canary.All very good,but I see why tubes are recommended.Happy Easter,bob
Thanks all,
An used Fila SE is on its way to my door :-)
I'll report back
I have some Amperex PQ 6922 white label from previous CJ pre - and I will roll with existing tube for sure
For E34L - not sure if I can roll with EL34 or 6CA7 since I have quite a few matched quad from my TAD60

Which name brand is best for these E34L ? How about 5814/12AU7 pair ?
Stick with the JJ EL34L (and I think you really need to stick with the "L"s though the standard 34s will work)and the Jan Phillips that come with the amp. The EL34Ls have quite a bit more bottom end the EL34s and the amp is voiced with that in mind.
the e34l is a much better sounding tube than the el34. and as for tube rolling, it is really doubtful that you will find a better sounding combination than what is there already. you will only make it sound different and imho, not better. the jan 5814 is a classic.
the e34ls must be a matched quad.
how old is the amp?

Hi all,
After 3 weeks of listen to my new Filar SE with stock tubes, here is my comments in comparing to my existing Cary SLP05/CAD120S:
Cary pair give more punch, body, and detail. Sound is rounder (?) even at low volume.
I would give 7/10. Now, I'm satisfy - ARS Sonum can do so much, but not miracle.
I'm keeping the Cary pair!
this is perhaps a little unfair because your fila is an older model and not one of the latest which sound a lot better. please keep that in mind.
best, b
Yes, actually a bit unfair since my Cary pair are loaded with NOS (kenrad black bottle 6SN7s, Mullard Blackburn 5AR4, Gold Lion reissue KT88) along with Herbie tube damper rings on all tubes and Revelation Audio Labs umbilical cord - About $1500 worth upgrade
Well, you do have a preamp/amp combo selling for a bit over 3x the price versus a small, lower powered integrated "voiced" for the speaker, seems like a fair fight to me. Should not be too shocking you might prefer a $12,000+ combo (and Dennis Had is not chopped liver) to the Ars, but the question is how far does the Ars take you at a far lower price point? Pretty far I think. Ultimately, I prefered my $13,000+ Atma-sphere combo, but I sort of expected that. That being said, one could easily live with the Ars/Merlin combo, get off the merry-go-round and just enjoy the music without worrying about the next upgrade, tweak, buying expensive ICs or NOS tube rolling.
I'm totally agree with you, Pubul57
Having Cary running with Merlin for sometimes, I always feel like trying the Ars (just to make sure I don't miss anything :-))
Now I'm happy knowing the fact - I'll give it a try with Amperex PQ white label 6922 and a pair of Amperex Bugleboy 12AU7 Holland along with Herbie tube damper ring. Just want to test it out
t, new tubes sockets, new pc board, new chasis, lf golden ref pc, lead free solder, movement of feedback to another part of the circuit where you cannot hear it, gold pin 82 and more. the difference is remarkable.
the old one was no slouch but the new one is much better.
over the time they have been imported, little by little.
even the early ones are fantastic imho.
i know yours and you are fine.
I have heard the ARS Sonum on the merlin and its a very good combination. But there is NOTHING like an OTL especially on the merlin.
I agree with you comment regarding OTLs, yet the Ars is in many ways a great entry and exit unit with the Merlins. A solid recommendation any way you look at it, but not the last word in bringing out the Merlin magic.

The ARS Sonum is indeed a very good entry level amp. I’ve tried out tons of amps tubs/solid sates on the Merlins. But as i stated nothing beats the OTL and the, same goes for the cabling (cardas all the way)
Hi all,
Just want report back on tube roll of my Filar.
I swapped with Amperex 6922 PQ white label USA - result finer detail on high freq, mid-range is smoother.
Next swapped the orig JAN 5814-A's with a pair of Amperex Bugle Boy 12AU7 Holland - result incredible bass, stronger and tighter.
Overall result is excellent for the money (~$150)
If your combo is lacking bass, try a pair Amperex Bugle boy :-)
PS: I also place 3/4 lb heavyhat Mapleshade (x3) on each of the tranformer- not sure if they're help (have some lay around)
My next step will be trying Herbie Ultrasonic tube damper
t, tube rolling imho may or may not make it sound better but it will certainly change it's sound. think on this, years of r+d have been spent on it. it is a tuned item with those tubes. also, his amp is an older version than yours. yours probably sounds better than his without the effort.
think before you move.
If you want NOS tubes, there is no better source for testing and getting what you think your getting that Andy at Vintage Tube Services. Don't know if you will like them better than the JAN Phillips 5814s as I never tube rolled the Ars when I owned it and there is something to the idea that it might just very well be "voiced" for the JAN Phillips, even if the Amperex is a better tube in most applications.
Thanks for the input, Bobby. It would be silly for me to make any moves until the new babies arrive and I've had some time to get familiar with them, anyway.
right you are...
and with the mx-rs and the master bam and master rc's you will prefer what you have anyway. again, imho.
Mr. T
Best place for 12Ax7/6922 tubes is Brent Jessee (google it)
Like I said, spent $150 just to know your amp limit is cheap compare to buy a pair of CGR IC - If you don't like them, unload them here.
I do like my result - PS: my Filar SE is 2007 production. It's getting better and better every day :-)
And remember: a dollar spent on room tune worth more than $10 spent on equipment :-)
Happy listening
Bobby and the designer both make the claim that the Jan Phillips is the best NOS in the ARS, any reason to doubt their claim? Well as has been said, at least spend some time with the supplied tubes before jumping on the tube rolling trail.
I took Bobby advice to go back to Filar's original tubes, live with them for a month. Then I roll back with Amperex Bugle and PQ - I still prefer the Amperex sounding.
Like playing LP, you live with minor hum, click, pop but the analog sound is so rich compare to digital that people just forgive.
thuan, but how is the expanse? you had issues with it. the jan should sound wider and deeper and the amperex fuller more forward and closed in.
Hi Bobby,
Roll tubes did not affect the sound stage.
I follow your advice moving speakers 8ft apart and the seating 10ft from speakers - sound stage get wider and stereo separation is better than previous set up.
Now I need to "dial-in" final spot base on Jim Smith's instruction in "Get Better Sound" - It's time consuming :-)
I have tried E88CC from Telefunken and Siemens.. liked teles...then i read thuan98s views on amprex

i tried 1 Amperex 6922 PQ white label USA & 2 Amperex Bugle Boy 12AU7 Holland and its wonderfully will stop taping your feet insted get up and dance..thank you thuan98 for sharing your views in the forum

it is definitely better than the regular tubes (jj & philips) in fila by a big margin
For anyone interested, I recently posted a review of the new Merlin Master VSM's in the reviews sections.
Excellent review T. Some times you just have to listen to something to get past your preconcieved notions. Few believe that a smallish 2-way speaker could be among the very best speakers in the world - till they hear the Merlins for themselves. 130+ "reviewers" (user reviews on seem to think so too, and you can't that kind postive response through advertising and cocktails.
Is there any side effcts on Amperex tubes instead of riginal tubes ?

I'm not sure why Tuan98 returned to original tubes.

Yes, I moved on to SET tube: Cary CAD-805C monos
Gotta love them. Its sound is so rich due to 300B and 845 tubes combo. Cost me a small fortune to roll with WE300B and RCA 845
And Bobby is working on my Master BAM and RC
I got rid of my ASL 1009's because I'm the tweaky sort and the upgrade for my amps were $1800 and the 845's I wanted were $2k a pair.