NJ/NY Area-Introduction of the Merrill Audio Tape Head Preamp- this Saturday

Afveep

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Jun 9, 2010
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Merrill Audio & XtremeFidelity will be holding a premier and demonstration of Merrill's new Tape Head Preamplifier in XtremeFidelity’s listening room in River Vale (Bergen County) New Jersey on Saturday, July 13th.

The just released, state-of-the-art tape preamplifier will be demonstrated on a system consisting of an ATR Services fully-remanufactured Ampex ATR-102 1/2 track reel-reel deck, Merrill Christine Reference Preamplifier, the amazing new Merrill Element 118 Monoblock Amplifiers, and listening through the world-renowned Tidal Audio Agoria loudspeakers.

Each session will consist of a personal presentation by principal and chief designer Merrill Wettasinghe on the architecture, design goals and road map of the multi-unit tape preamp product line; listening comparison with the Ampex ATR playback electronics; and an extensive tape listening session through the Merrill Tape Head preamp.

The new Merrill Audio Tape Head Preamplifier is a solid-state unit for decks wired with direct head outputs.

There will be 3 levels of the Tape Head Preamplifier. All will be physically the same in the standard Merrill Audio gold metal faceplate with separate power supply and all will be essentially the same from a sonic, exceptionally-high audio quality standpoint. The differences will be largely in the feature sets.

The base-level version available for delivery now is the PURE. Its philosophy is to keep the signal path as "pure" as absolutely possible with almost fanatical attention paid to minimizing phase shift and maximizing channel tracking accuracy. These are hallmark design traits of all of Merrill's electronics. The PURE is a preamp that is a maximum performance, plug-and-play unit (except for setting tape speed and NAB/IEC EQ).

SPECIFICATIONS:
  • Price: $9,000 MSRP
  • EQ available.
    • 3.75 IPS NAB
    • 7.5 IPS NAB
    • 7.5 IPS IEC
    • 15 IPS NAB
    • 15 IPS IEC
    • 30 IPS IEC2
  • S/N: better than 110dB
  • Gain: 71dB, with -6dB cut. Lower gains can be factory configured
  • Input: Balanced
  • Output: Balanced
  • Output Impedance: 50 ohms
  • Maximum output voltage: 24 Volts (+/- 12 Volts)
  • External power supply Standard
  • Dual Mono design
  • Remote Control
  • Display: Dot-Matrix; configurable for brightness, delayed dim or off.
  • Saved last used settings
  • Footers: Isoacoustics GAIA III
  • Dimensions:
    • Dual Mono PURE Tape Head Preamp
      • 430mm (17”) x 400mm (16”) x 85mm (3.4”) without footers
      • 430mm (17”) x 400mm (16”) x 125mm (4.9”) with footers
    • External Kratos II Power Supply
      • 153mm (6”) x 88mm (3.5) x 310mm ( 12.2” )
The middle level preamplifier is the MASTER, and will retail for $15,000.00. Audio circuitry is similar, but this version adds more flexibility and adjustability for users who want more features. Included will be a touch screen display, VU meters, and some level of HF "tone controls" as requested by mastering engineers. Other details are being finalized and the release date for the MASTER version is this Summer.

The top of the Tape Head Preamplifier product Line is the "Pro" retailing for $22,000.00. In addition to the features of the other models, it will have highly sophisticated Equalization. Final details and specifications are in development in consultation with leading industry users and engineers.

Presentation sessions will be held at 10AM and 2PM on Saturday, July 13th. Availability for these sessions is very limited and is available first come by email reservation only at tcanavan@xtremefidelity.net

River Vale is located approximately 20 minutes north of the George Washington bridge; less than 10 minutes from either exit 172 of the Garden State Parkway or Exit 6W of the Palisades Parkway.

Please feel free to contact me for any questions,
Tom
tcanavan@xtremefidelity.net
www.xtremefidelity.net
 

Afveep

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Jun 9, 2010
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CKKeung

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Jun 18, 2011
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Mr. Merrill Wettasinghe has designed the tape head amp with brain and heart!
It's so easy for Ampex owners to try/apply the Merrill tape head amp onto their Ampex tape decks.

Some photos taken from Merrill facebook :

66617008_1401163536699306_7332588147366166528_o.jpg
66700241_1401163326699327_5201232165987155968_o.jpg
66480201_1401163203366006_1197027911043907584_o.jpg
67078175_1401163226699337_7284961925035720704_o.jpg

Very thoughtful indeed!
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Has anyone auditioned this tape pre-amp with a Studer?
 

Afveep

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Jun 9, 2010
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Hi Ron,
(Disclaimer: XtremeFidelity, Merrill Audio Dealer) Thanks for asking about the Merrill tape preamp. Yes, one of my customers has used it on his A810. He reported excellent results with the Studer the same as with all of his multiple (Ampex, Otari) decks.

There really is zero variation in sonic performance between deck manufacturers with the Merrill preamps; what matters is how well the direct head output wiring is done. On the Ampex ATRs, we can supply a bypass card set that plugs in and replaces the Ampex cards and wires out to XLRs, eliminating the need to do the tricky head wiring (see posts above). Of course, theoretically, this is not as “direct”, but it does sound amazingly good. There is still the option to go direct to the head, or, if you want to maintain the ability to easily swap head blocks, to the bottom of the head connector.

On Studers and other machines, one needs to do direct wiring and we always recommend that this be accomplished by a qualified tape deck technician who has done this before. Choice of the proper wire and routing of that wire through the deck is absolutely critical.

Obviously this doesn't directly answer your question for an unbiased listening impression, which I can't give you. Tape aficionados who might be interested in the Merrill preamp are welcome to contact me directly at XtremeFidelity to hear it for themselves. Of course, that is always the best solution.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Thank you, Tom!

Is the entire circuit of the Merrill tape preamp 100% discrete components? Is there any op-amp used at all?

Do you know the design brief pursuant to which the designer chose to make a completely solid-state preamp (rather than a tube pre-amp)?
 
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Afveep

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Jun 9, 2010
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Hi Ron,
In terms of the preamp circuitry, discrete vs. op-amps, etc., Merrill is famously secretive of the design and components. I don’t know the answer to your question. The chassis on all of the Merrill Audio products are sealed and opening them voids the warranty. His stock answer is that “It does not matter; if you like the sound; enjoy it!"

Tubes vs solid state- Merrill makes no secret that his driving design philosophy is very high resolution, speed and very low noise, created through very high bandwidth and extremely low phase shift, while above all, being truthful to the music. He apparently believes that this can only be realized by the latest advanced solid state designs and technology.

Certainly, this is one designer's opinion. What I can honestly tell you is that, in this case, it works spectacularly well, born out by very happy customers!
Tom
 
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Cohnaudio

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Dec 24, 2016
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Ron,
I don't know anything about the electronics (other that it is solid state) and an not an engineer, but I can say that the purity of the sound must reflect a focus on purity of the signal path. I have the master version and aside from the unbelievable Dynamics, it's the natural transparency that amazes me every time I listen - regardless of the genre of music. I have the unit hooked up to my ATR 102 using the cards (planning to wire directly from the head board when I get a chance). The Tape pre is a perfect fit with my Dartzeel preamp and amp. Happy to answer any questions you might have
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Ron,
I don't know anything about the electronics (other that it is solid state) and an not an engineer, but I can say that the purity of the sound must reflect a focus on purity of the signal path. I have the master version and aside from the unbelievable Dynamics, it's the natural transparency that amazes me every time I listen - regardless of the genre of music. I have the unit hooked up to my ATR 102 using the cards (planning to wire directly from the head board when I get a chance). The Tape pre is a perfect fit with my Dartzeel preamp and amp. Happy to answer any questions you might have

Thank you for reporting on this!

Why did you choose the Master version rather than the simpler Pure version?

Did you also consider Nick Doshi's tape pre-amp?
 

Cohnaudio

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Dec 24, 2016
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Well, that's a really good question. I guess it was audiionervosa. The fear that there may be the occasional tape where I would need to adjust the HF (also the meters are cool). As it turns out, on 99.9,% of my tapes (from a number of different sources) the HF is no more than 1/2 db out ( on most of the tapes it's close to perfect). I almost always use the pure mode (on a few tapes the sound is a bit tipped up even though the test tones show it as flat, so I dial it down a touch). To me there is a subtle improvement in clarity in that mode. The closest analogy I can think of is using the Dartzeel preamp in battery mode vs AC mode. Obviously you need a system revealing enough to hear the difference.

I have heard the Doshi tape preamp a few times, mostly at Myles' place. I prefer the Merrill because to my ears it is more transparent and dynamic than the Doshi. If you need the mid-range roundness of tubes, you might prefer the Doshi. There is no edge/hardness/graininess in the Merrill, but there is also no sugar-coating. To me, it is truthful and musical.
 

Mike Lavigne

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Apr 25, 2010
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not heard the Merrill.....OTOH a couple months ago Merrill Wettasinghe did visit my room for a listening session. nice guy.

so far i've never been particularly impressed by the Doshi; i've liked it but not loved it enough to acquire one. it seemed i was hearing 'through' it. i think i prefer the transparency of my King Cello.

i'd like to try the Merrill sometime if i can. that might happen.
 

Afveep

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Jun 9, 2010
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not heard the Merrill.....OTOH a couple months ago Merrill Wettasinghe did visit my room for a listening session. nice guy.

so far i've never been particularly impressed by the Doshi; i've liked it but not loved it enough to acquire one. it seemed i was hearing 'through' it. i think i prefer the transparency of my King Cello.

i'd like to try the Merrill sometime if i can. that might happen.
Hi Mike,
I think I can make that happen! I had been planning to contact you before all this Covid-19 disaster occurred. I'll be in touch directly right away.
Tom
 

dminches

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Oct 22, 2011
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not heard the Merrill.....OTOH a couple months ago Merrill Wettasinghe did visit my room for a listening session. nice guy.

so far i've never been particularly impressed by the Doshi; i've liked it but not loved it enough to acquire one. it seemed i was hearing 'through' it. i think i prefer the transparency of my King Cello.

i'd like to try the Merrill sometime if i can. that might happen.

Mike, have you heard the Doshi in your system? If you haven’t I don’t think you can really appreciate it until it is in a familiar setting. I haven’t heard many tape preamps (just the Doshi and one other) but I have heard a lot of internal reproducers and the Doshi sounds better than all them. My guess is that @Bruce B has heard a bunch. I am sure the Merrill sounds great too.
 

Afveep

Well-Known Member
Jun 9, 2010
21
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I am very pleased to announce the availability of the MERRILL AUDIO MASTER TRIDENT TAPE HEAD PREAMP. The TRIDENT is a 3 INPUT version of the MASTER preamp for users who have more than one tape deck. Using the color touch screen, settings for each input can be individually saved and then recalled, including Tape EQ, Speed, Meter decay, Output level, HF level, and VU level.

The maximum gain on the Merrill Audio Master TRIDENT Tape Head Preamp is set to 71dB, and has an adjustable output level from 0dB to 71dB. There are 6 Speed and Equalization settings provided which are 3.75ips/NAB, 7.5 IPS/NAB, 7.5 IPS/IEC, 15IPS/NAB, 15IPS/IEC and 30IPS/AES. Easy settings are done from the front panel capacitive color 5 inch touch screen. The total of 9 saved setting configurations are saved to memory and are restored on power up. The Tape Head Preamplifier will accept tape outputs from 0.3mV to 6mV and has a maximum peak to peak output range of 24 volts, allowing for superb dynamics.

The Merrill Audio MASTER TRIDENT Tape Head Preamplifier comes in a work of art chassis, Rose Gold Front, black chassis with a full color, 5inch, Capacitive touch screen TFT display for easy reading and configuration. Inputs and outputs are balanced. The preamp includes the Merrill Audio Kratos 2 external power supply.

The price of the MASTER TRIDENT is $19,000.00. The single input MASTER is $16,000.00. Upgrades to TRIDENT are available for MASTER owners; please contact me.

Auditions of Merrill Audio Master Tape Preamps are available at XtremeFidelity.
Tom
XtremeFidelity
Merrill Audio dealer / Tape Specialist MASTER Tape Head Preamp Lifestyle.jpg MASTER Tape Head Preamp Front with PSU.jpg MASTER Tape Head Preamp Back.jpg
 
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Ron Resnick

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Are the basic amplification and equalizations circuits in the Master identical to the circuits in the Pure?
 

Afveep

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Jun 9, 2010
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Are the basic amplification and equalizations circuits in the Master identical to the circuits in the Pure?
Yes. The audio circuits and performance are exactly the same both models.
 

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