Merrill Element 116 audition in Hong Kong - A New Era of ClassD

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,985
1,237
520
Hong Kong
#1
Class D amplifiers were often being looked down on in the past, until when better designs such as nCore, IceEdge emerged these several years.
Even so, most of audiophiles in Hong Kong still prefer conventional Class A or AB amplifiers.
They stereotype Class D as more suitable for entry- or at most mid-grade audio systems.

New hopes have appeared in 2018.
The Nuprime Evolution One mono poweramps received praises in diff countries.
https://www.hifi-advice.com/blog/review/analog-reviews/amplifier-reviews/nuprime-evolution-one/
https://sonicunity.com/pages/the-nuprime-evo-one-review-first-listening-session
https://review.u-audio.com.tw/reviewdetail.asp?reviewid=1542


And the ClassD guru Bruno Putzeys has a new venture : Purifi.
https://www.purifi-audio.com/
https://6moons.com/audioreview_articles/purifi/
https://www.miveraaudio.com/forum/the-puremusic-family/testing-the-new-purifi-1et400a-amplifier-modules
Preliminary assessment is very good but is their collaboration with NAD aiming at mid or hi-end market?

Nuprime Evolution One and Purifi can be considered to be evolutary types of products.
What I am more interested in is the application of Gallium Nitride power transistors in audio amplifiers.
Technics, AGD Productions & Merrill Audio have launched amps using this new class of transistors last year.
WBF members can do a google search for the press reviews on them.

Last Saturday, I was able to audition the Merrill Element 116 mono poweramps in an home environment in Hong Kong!
They are paired with Antipodes DX server, Lampizator Pacific DAC, Emia full-balanced silver autoformer passive preamp and Verity Audio Sarastro IIS speakers.
20190706_150025~2.jpg

My friend David's previous monos are MBL Corona. They are based on modified nCore modules of Bruno Putzeys.
20190706_145727~2.jpg

The Element 116 is very well and nicely built. The external design/look is excellent. The chassis is made of mirror/reflective steel plate with gold colour metal blocks for ?vibration modulation. The original footers are GAIA III Footers of IsoAcoustics :
20190706_174617~2.jpg
20190706_174632~2.jpg

The connectors are also of high quality : from Furutech & WBT:
20190706_145551~2.jpg

We listened for 3 hours and were very surprised by the sonic characters of the Element 116.
Before the audition we expected that the fast Gallium Nitride would make a fast/dynamical amp with very extended freq range. In simple words - a very HiFish amp.
On the contrary the truth is that Element 116 doesn't have any traits of the older generations of ClassD amps.
It's actually extremely musical : fast and dynamical but warm and rich.
There wasn't any mechanicalness in the midrange & treble. They were smooth and continuous.
The bass was deep and articulate/fast. The Sarastro IIS speakers were under its complete control.
The soundstage was wide & deep and images within were stable and real-like.

All in all the Element 116 bettered the MBL Corona monos in all sonic aspects.
IMHO it can challenge hi-end conventional class A and class AB poweramps with prices several times higher.
The cost/performance ratio is impeccable!

i opine that Gallium Nitride power transistors has brought about a bright future and a new era for audio amps.
I have plan to upgrade my poweramps later this year or in early 2020.
Merrill Element Series will be a top choice of mine for sure!
:D:D:D
 

Ric Schultz

Well-Known Member
Jun 22, 2013
207
23
248
Soquel, CA
#2
The MBL amps are probably not so great by todays standard. From what I read they use an OEM version of the old UCD 700 module (designed over 14 years ago).....not even Ncore. These amps were designed in 2012. It is no wonder that the brand new Merrills trounced them. You need to A/B with some of the latest class D and class A/B and class A amps to see where this new Merrill stands versus the latest and best in the same price range. How can you say this amp can challenge conventional amps with prices several times higher when all you have A/Bed with is very old technology? I am not saying your are wrong.....who knows? Only those who listen to all the latest together will know. Have you tried the mono Cherry Megachino II amps with 1500 watt trannies and quad caps ($17K)? Have you tried the Nuprime big monos ($8K)? Have you tried the mono Constellation or Pass amps in that price range? How about the $5K mono Van Alstine amps that creamed the older Merrill Veritas amps? Have you heard some great tube amps in the 20K range? There are probably at least 10 other contenders not mentioned.
We are all so stupid.....he he. We know nothing. We only think we know something based on a very small listening bias. There are so many products and so many price points. I wish some magazine would gather all the gear in the world and A/B them all over a year and release the results.....all burned in, all tried with different power cords and footers and on different systems. Then we will know something. You can buy a car, camera, tv or whatever by just reading the reviews and then purchasing....and be happy. High end audio is a freak show. Every review in every magazine says the same thing about different gear. How are you going to know anything unless you listen in your home.
 
Last edited:

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,985
1,237
520
Hong Kong
#3
The MBL amps are probably not so great by todays standard. From what I read they use an OEM version of the old UCD 700 module (designed over 14 years ago).....not even Ncore. These amps were designed in 2012. It is no wonder that the brand new Merrills trounced them. You need to A/B with some of the latest class D and class A/B and class A amps to see where this new Merrill stands versus the latest and best in the same price range. How can you say this amp can challenge conventional amps with prices several times higher when all you have A/Bed with is very old technology? I am not saying your are wrong.....who knows? Only those who listen to all the latest together will know. Have you tried the mono Cherry Megachino II amps with 1500 watt trannies and quad caps ($17K)? Have you tried the Nuprime big monos ($8K)? Have you tried the mono Constellation or Pass amps in that price range? How about the $5K mono Van Alstine amps that creamed the older Merrill Veritas amps? Have you heard some great tube amps in the 20K range? There are probably at least 10 other contenders not mentioned.
We are all so stupid.....he he. We know nothing. We only think we know something based on a very small listening bias. There are so many products and so many price points. I wish some magazine would gather all the gear in the world and A/B them all over a year and release the results.....all burned in, all tried with different power cords and footers and on different systems. Then we will know something. You can buy a car, camera, tv or whatever by just reading the reviews and then purchasing....and be happy. High end audio is a freak show. Every review in every magazine says the same thing about different gear. How are you going to know anything unless you listen in your home.
Haha
I did add " I opine..." on the sentence.

BTW Hong Kong is a compact city and I have auditioned most of the amps of wellknown brands: Constellation, Gryphon, Pass Xs Series, Dan Agnostino ...etc
One pitfall is that it's difficult to arrange direct comparison, because all of them are huge and heavy.
Another reason is that these hi-end amps are mostly directly sold via their own dealers instead of retailers which may carry several brands.

I also know that some other amps/brands such as Cherry Megachino II and Al Alstine have received many priases overseas. However they have no dealer in HK.

If we should only write comments/reviews here on WBF after serious direct comparison at home and exhaustion of all paring components, WBF may become quite quiet.

Audio/ music is for fun. I wrote my personal feelings here. WBF members if interested should go to have listen themselves, particularly for components in the serious price ranges.
Yes, nobody is perfect and nobody can know everything.
 
Last edited:
#4
The MBL amps are probably not so great by todays standard. From what I read they use an OEM version of the old UCD 700 module (designed over 14 years ago).....not even Ncore. These amps were designed in 2012. It is no wonder that the brand new Merrills trounced them. You need to A/B with some of the latest class D and class A/B and class A amps to see where this new Merrill stands versus the latest and best in the same price range. How can you say this amp can challenge conventional amps with prices several times higher when all you have A/Bed with is very old technology? I am not saying your are wrong.....who knows? Only those who listen to all the latest together will know. Have you tried the mono Cherry Megachino II amps with 1500 watt trannies and quad caps ($17K)? Have you tried the Nuprime big monos ($8K)? Have you tried the mono Constellation or Pass amps in that price range? How about the $5K mono Van Alstine amps that creamed the older Merrill Veritas amps? Have you heard some great tube amps in the 20K range? There are probably at least 10 other contenders not mentioned.
We are all so stupid.....he he. We know nothing. We only think we know something based on a very small listening bias. There are so many products and so many price points. I wish some magazine would gather all the gear in the world and A/B them all over a year and release the results.....all burned in, all tried with different power cords and footers and on different systems. Then we will know something. You can buy a car, camera, tv or whatever by just reading the reviews and then purchasing....and be happy. High end audio is a freak show. Every review in every magazine says the same thing about different gear. How are you going to know anything unless you listen in your home.
I know this will turn into a fight so note that I won't reply after this.

It was nice of Peter to share and it seems Ric has some givences to let loose, not sure what they are.

How about the $5K mono Van Alstine amps that creamed the older Merrill Veritas amps? - older vs new technology supposition here not used? I suspect it was set up to be one sided comparison. And if not, kudos to Van Alstine.

"There are a handful of amplifiers that create a sound as fast and as precise as this, but one of the few that is still in production is DarTZeel. The two have a lot in common sonically, although the Element 118 is perhaps even more neutral-sounding than the Swiss triumph. " , HiFi Plus, Alan Sircom Editor in Chief.
Read it here.


Positive-Feedback.com Brutus Award, along side DarTZeel
Read it Here

The comparison done against other Ncore implementations. And the review.
Read it Here

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves
beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ” Eric Hoffer
 

Ric Schultz

Well-Known Member
Jun 22, 2013
207
23
248
Soquel, CA
#5
More and more I consider myself an educator/learner. What I am basically saying is that no one knows anything as high end audio is full of people living in their own world and reviews that do not tell us anything about the possibilities. Every review and comment is the same "this is the best at its price point I have ever heard and can compete with things 2 to 3 times the price". Yet the reviewer/commenter has no reason to say this as they have only heard a tiny slice of what is possible. You do know that reviewers get to buy gear at half price from manufacturers.....this is one reason why they never say anything bad about what they had before.....don't want to cut the manufacturer off, in case the manufacture comes up with something they might want later.......and magazines.....well they don't want to rock the boat as they get their revenue from ads. So, what we get is nothing.....no real information.....There are too dang many products and no way for people to seriously A/B them.....this game is crazy beyond belief.....However, it is fun as hell. Great sound is available today at all price ranges. My entire system is $8.5K and sounds killer. Of course, I make most everything in the system......and no connectors, tweaked like crazy, etc......and of course, looks like dodo....he he.

The new Merrill amps may be the best for the money.....but until there are tons of reviews that seriously A/B with all the possible competition.....how will you know? Usually it is the established customers of a company that at first buy the newer gear from them. That is why you saw mostly people A/Bing the new Merrills with the older Veritas. If $22,000 new one does not beat $12,000 old one......well the company will go out of business. So, no doubt the new Merrills are better than the older Merrills......but what about all the other gear under $40,000 in the world?

All of this over expensive stuff will come to a head soon. I am sure you have seen the Kii speakers.......this is just the beginning. When even better class D amps and DACs and DSP get put into speakers you will see value like never before. Imagine 3 Merrill amps in a speaker box with a super DAC and DSP and super drivers.....all EQed to be flat at listening position and no bass nodes.....Imagine it costs maybe 20-30K for the pair.....no more preamp, no more analog cables, no more speaker cables........just one pair of power cords to the speakers and either wireless or Ethernet to the speakers.......you have one source thang that sends the data and runs off an inverter for best sound. This would sound better than most any amps, preamps, super cables and Magico speakers.....no doubt. We are talking triamping with no passive xover parts! This is going to blow your mind. Of course, many of us older audiophiles will resist this as we cannot change gear every second and have to trust one manufacturer to deliver the goods. But for the younger audiophiles and newbies......oh my God, what a revelation. Stay tuned for the revolution.....It is coming soon. By the way, I have nothing to do with this new revolution. I will be retiring from Audio in a year or so. But I cannot wait for this streamlining of audio as it will give us way better sound for less and with less junk in the room and less cables and more time to listen rather than tweak. All, a good thing.
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,985
1,237
520
Hong Kong
#6
My frd just replaced his Antipodes DX with an Extreme server.
He said that it worked very well with his Pacific DAC and Element 116 amps.
:D

IMG-20190712-WA0065~2.jpg
 
Likes: howiebrou

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,985
1,237
520
Hong Kong
#7

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,985
1,237
520
Hong Kong
#8
Apr 3, 2017
168
73
200
Hong Kong
#9
Here’s a primer from Infineon on PWM (Class D) amplifiers, to help audiophiles understand the science.

Without a doubt, innovations such as GaN MOSFETs and OCXO femto-clocks (with <0.5 ps jitter, and low phase shift) have helped ameliorate (or even eliminate) the inherent design and performance weaknesses highlighted in this White Paper from 2005:
https://www.infineon.com/dgdl/an-1071.pdf?fileId=5546d462533600a40153559538eb0ff1

The Tact Millennium amplifier which I owned 20 years ago had a PCM to PWM conversion circuit which was very unique at the time.

Its output section was described in a review as follows:
http://www.soundstagenetwork.com/revequip/robert01.htm

“Instead of outputting a signal of varying voltage, the PWM amplifier outputs a series of pulses of varying width but of steady voltage. These pulses are the filtered by a low-pass filter in order to make them into a musical signal. You need to switch the voltage, in the Millennium's case a maximum of 58 volts, at a relatively high frequency, otherwise reproduction really suffers (and that was a major problem in earlier PWM amps). In the case of the Millennium, this done at 352.8kHz, and the low-pass filter sets in at a comparatively mild 60kHz with 12dB-per-octave roll-off.”

I‘m assuming that the Merrill amps operate similarly, but with refined circuits which have evolved over time to quash the shortcomings, as well as achieve new performance parameters. Eager to learn more, and looking forwarding to auditioning the Element 116s in Hong Kong !
 
Last edited:
Apr 3, 2017
168
73
200
Hong Kong
#10
Last edited:
#11
QuadDiffusors - you have done a lot of home work, with the amplifier technologies and it seems diffusor technology also.

The articles do point out some of the old deficiencies in MOSFETS for Class D. These deficiencies are still inherent in Class A and Class B topologies. however they manifest in different ways. With Class B, designers of amplifiers have slapped on a Class A overlap to reduce the effects of the switching or overbised one side to operate in a Class A before switching to the other side. Both have switching issues however due to the slow speed of the MOSFETS and the parasitics, this is seen as a benefit - more Tube like, and a smoothing of detail.

With GaN, this can be implemented in Class B also, however Class D can be the perfect amplifier with the supporting correct circuity using GaN transistors that there is no need to waste power in a Class A or Class B.

I don't expect that I will be the only one with the special designs of ZXOL - Zero Crossing time Open Loop (which also means zero feedback). And as this technology takes hold over the next 10 years, Music reproduction should reach a new level of performance.

QuadDiffusors - thank you for sharing the articles.
 
Apr 3, 2017
168
73
200
Hong Kong
#12
Hi Merrill, thanks for your kind words - great to hear from you! The gift of music is so amazing; I feel so lucky to connect with everyone through this wonderful forum - audiophiles, artists, designers, doctors, engineers, entertainers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, lawyers, musicians, scientists, and newbies alike. Looking forward to auditioning your amps and exchanging messages here.
 
Last edited:
Likes: CKKeung
Apr 3, 2017
168
73
200
Hong Kong
#13
Apr 3, 2017
168
73
200
Hong Kong
#14
Not to veer away too much from the forum title, but this review of the Purifi 1ET400A Class-D amplifier prototype module (suitable for DIY projects) will provide a taste of the tantalizingly high potential cost/performance ratio of the latest Class D amp designs when the collective experience and knowledge of specialized-audio semiconductor luminaries launch a startup to design and build a product with broad applications, and hence demand:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...easurements-of-purifi-1et400a-amplifier.7984/
 
Last edited:
Apr 3, 2017
168
73
200
Hong Kong
#15
Now auditioning the Merrill Element 116, thanks to my wonderfully generous friend David, who will also be lending me with his TotalDac D-1-Driver (balanced version) for audition. Both components were carefully selected after an extensive hunting and curation process as part of his “Life is Short - Endgame” system. Accordingly, they deserve the highest attention and respect, rousing my deepest curiosity for how they will better bring alive music in my system.

https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/totaldac-d1-driver-the-pre-amplifier-driver.29500/

Another gracious friend will be bringing the AGD Vivace monoblocks for audition at the same time.

http://hifiknights.com/reviews/amplifiers/agd-productions-vivace/
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/the-audion-mono-amps-from-agd-production.30629/

Both gentlemen were so kindly introduced to me by CKKeung; I’m so blessed to be an audiophile in HK !
 
Last edited:
Mar 2, 2019
7
3
8
53
#16
Interested to know your thoughts! I have also auditioned the AGD Vivace as well as the Merrill 118's but NOT the 116's....
 

Alrainbow

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
1,615
402
315
NYC , USA
#18
QuadDiffusors - you have done a lot of home work, with the amplifier technologies and it seems diffusor technology also.

The articles do point out some of the old deficiencies in MOSFETS for Class D. These deficiencies are still inherent in Class A and Class B topologies. however they manifest in different ways. With Class B, designers of amplifiers have slapped on a Class A overlap to reduce the effects of the switching or overbised one side to operate in a Class A before switching to the other side. Both have switching issues however due to the slow speed of the MOSFETS and the parasitics, this is seen as a benefit - more Tube like, and a smoothing of detail.

With GaN, this can be implemented in Class B also, however Class D can be the perfect amplifier with the supporting correct circuity using GaN transistors that there is no need to waste power in a Class A or Class B.

I don't expect that I will be the only one with the special designs of ZXOL - Zero Crossing time Open Loop (which also means zero feedback). And as this technology takes hold over the next 10 years, Music reproduction should reach a new level of performance.

QuadDiffusors - thank you for sharing the articles.
Question Merrill .!

Why is it Class D amps have issues passing squarewaves
 

Alrainbow

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
1,615
402
315
NYC , USA
#19
Now auditioning the Merrill Element 116, thanks to my wonderfully generous friend David, who will also be lending me with his TotalDac D-1-Driver (balanced version) for audition. Both components were carefully selected after an extensive hunting and curation process as part of his “Life is Short - Endgame” system. Accordingly, they deserve the highest attention and respect, rousing my deepest curiosity for how they will better bring alive music in my system.

https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/totaldac-d1-driver-the-pre-amplifier-driver.29500/

Another gracious friend will be bringing the AGD Vivace monoblocks for audition at the same time.

http://hifiknights.com/reviews/amplifiers/agd-productions-vivace/
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/the-audion-mono-amps-from-agd-production.30629/

Both gentlemen were so kindly introduced to me by CKKeung; I’m so blessed to be an audiophile in HK !
I have heard the Merrill Element , its fantastic sounding and worth a listen for sure . In the past i could not get past the poor timbre quality of class D amps , not so with the Merrill or none that could have been noticed at the time ...!
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high-end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing