Sys­tem so­lu­tion

Sound + Image - - News -

In this cat­e­gory we’re look­ing for a com­plete sys­tem, or most of a sys­tem, which sim­pli­fies your pur­chase de­ci­sion by giv­ing you ev­ery­thing in one place. And in the mid­dle of 2015, UK hi-fi com­pany Mu­si­cal Fidelity de­liv­ered the Mer­lin, which could have been tai­lor-made to fit our re­quire­ments. We get ex­cited just re­mem­ber­ing how this pack­age got ev­ery­thing right — the mini am­pli­fier and the two oval-fronted speak­ers came in their bright red fin­ish (sil­ver and black are also avail­able), the amp is weighty, the speak­ers too, and im­pec­ca­bly fin­ished — those red cylin­ders are metal, not plas­tic; their speaker ter­mi­nals are full-sized bind­ing posts, while the speaker baf­fle be­hind the solid grille is in­ter­est­ingly shaped and stepped around the 76mm bal­anced-mode ra­di­a­tor speaker at its cen­tre. (Mu­si­cal Fidelity calls this a “dif­frac­tion mul­ti­plier”, say­ing it al­lows a “huge but ac­cu­rate stereo sounds­tage” — which it did.)

The amp it­self is small, and from a first glance at the back panel you’d think its con­nec­tions would be min­i­mal given only a few square cen­time­tres of space for them to the left of the power socket and the speaker ter­mi­nals. But squeezed in there are a Blue­tooth an­tenna, a mi­cro-USB in­put that con­nects with your com­puter, a mini­jack ana­logue/op­ti­cal combo in­put, and a sin­gle pair of RCA phono in­puts which can take an ana­logue line-level sig­nal or, via a small DIP switch, a turntable in­put; an earth ter­mi­nal sits along­side.

So that’s six op­tions avail­able for the four in­puts, most likely quite suf­fi­cient for the mod­ern home — you might con­nect your TV to the op­ti­cal mini­jack in­put, your com­puter to the USB, and use the Blue­tooth for ad-hoc mu­sic from your smart de­vice, leav­ing the RCA phono sock­ets free for the turntable which Mu­si­cal Fidelity has re­leased with the sys­tem as an op­tion.This is called the ‘Round­table’ (it has curved cor­ners, but it’s a long way from be­ing round), with a felt-mat­ted MDF plinth and a low-res­o­nance nine-inch arm fit­ted with an Au­dio Tech­nica 95E car­tridge. As with all the Mer­lin units, it’s fin­ished beau­ti­fully and reeks of qual­ity.

The char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Mer­lin sys­tem at close range — an airy light­ness which lends clar­ity to ev­ery­thing — per­fectly serve the usual soft­ness of Blue­tooth. Via com­puter USB, even bet­ter — sen­sa­tional clar­ity, vo­cals cen­tred in their own lit­tle world, while the bass sounded nat­u­ral, re­al­is­tic, clear and bal­anced. We had won­dered if bass would be a weak­ness given the sys­tem’s size, and there are lim­its — the BMR ra­di­a­tors weren’t per­fect at mat­ing deep dance bass with high-fre­quency de­tail. But the clar­ity of del­i­cate record­ings was mar­vel­lous, re­veal­ing, for ex­am­ple, the the mega-church re­verb ap­plied to Brian Wil­son’s vo­cals on ‘On An Is­land’. And the turntable is won­der­ful (it has much in com­mon with Pro-Ject de­signs).

Mer­lin it may be named, but there’s no in­ex­pli­ca­ble wiz­ardry go­ing on here — just an ex­cel­lent idea for to­day’s liv­ing, a compact and at­trac­tive sys­tem im­ple­mented with an ex­pe­ri­enced eye and au­dio re­gard to high-qual­ity de­sign. And prices have re­duced since we re­viewed it — dou­ble hap­pi­ness! Now amp+speak­ers $1299, turntable $999, or amp+speak­ers+turntable $1999. More info:­diomar­ket­

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