Merlin : Full Review.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Jazz Ad, Sep 29, 2003.

  1. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    So the local studio rented some Merlin gear.
    They're planning to buy a high end bass amp system both for renting and recording and I got a chance to test try it in the recording room, alone and with a drummer.

    This brand has a very limited range of products.
    1 head, 2 cabs.



    First of all, this thing is LOUD. As in incredibly loud.
    I pushed master to 3 o'clock and it hurt my stomach.
    I don't know if it comes from the head of the cabs but the rig as a whole is one of the loudest units I've ever heard.

    Ok. Cabs.
    a 1x15+1x5 and a 2x10+T, both 8 ohms, equipped with Fane speakers.
    The 15" is available in 4 or 8 ohms.

    They looks absolutely beautiful, that blue/purple gril is totally awesome.
    They seemed extremelly sturdy and heavy to me. After checking the site, the 15" weights 68 lbs and the 2x10 49 lbs. Built for the road indeed, but mostly built for the roadies. I couldn't see myself moving those things all the time.

    Both are full range, but I have no specs. Separately or together, they perfectly handled my Zipper Bass downtuned to C with pickups wired series (many rigs just can't accurately reproduce this) and the B from the MusicMan the guy had in the studio.
    They remind me a lot of Eden cabs. Very clear and straight sound, with that gentle low medium rumbling.

    I haven't been impressed by the 2x10. The horn seems useless and the sound is not different from any other cab on the market.

    On the other hand, the 15+5 is really cool. The 5" ideally complements the 15" in the punch and attack area. I could see somebody using the 4 ohm version on its own, especially since it rates at 650 W. Seems like an ideal cab for a rock/blues/funk/dub setup.

    Again no specs so I can't check sensibility, but both cabs seemed to have great projection and as said was really loud.
    No parasit vibration or useless rumble.

    The head is another story.
    Reasonnable weight (36 lbs) for 650 W @ 4 ohms.
    SS power section, 1 tube somewhere in the preamp.

    From left to right, you get :
    - Input jack.
    - Boost preshape. Enhances lows and highs, your typical metal or slap sound. Sounds really cliche to me. Not very usable.
    - Mid boost preshape. This one is interesting. It gives a very vintage touch to your sound. Just like the Boost, it's a bit cliche but this one works much better. When you use them together it makes a bit of a blurry sound.
    - Gain knob. Very nice. After half of the course it gets very gritty, especially with the mid boost activated. Sounds a lot like typical Ampeg, but with a much cleaner and tighter signal. Just like for the cabs, EDEN comes to mind, but the overall sound gives a unique impression of power with a lot of headroom.
    Very flattering and it still respects the sound of your bass.
    - EQ section. 3 band passive bass-mid-treble. This one only cuts, it doesn't boost. I find it worthless. You don't want to get rid of lows, especially since this rig doesn't rumble the ground. Same for mids. No clarity issues so there is no point in cutting signal. Highs are set way too high and only cuts hiss at very high volume.
    - Master.
    - Effect loop mix. Half of the course gets you a serial loop and the other half a parallel loop. Very clever.
    - Crossover. The power amp is mono so you can send lows to it and highs to another one. I'm not a fan of bi-amp setups but I could easily see this rig used as a high-class suwoofer.

    In the back you get the forememtionned classy effect loop, tuner out, XLR pre outputs and Power amp direct in. All speaker connections are Speakon.

    My overall feelings are so-so.
    All in one, it's a great rig with an "overkill" impression. It makes you feel like you own the ultimate tone generator with infinite power ressources.
    Now, there are a few flaws, especially the tone shaping section that would be better replaced with a 4 band active for example.
    The effect loop is just perfect. Way to go.
    It misses a footswitch to activate the effect loop or tone shapes.
    The 2x10+T could clearly be improved.
    15"+5" seems like an excellent idea.

    Of course, I gave all my appreciations with the price in mind.
    It's still miles ahead from most rigs I've ever played.
    Some people may find it perfect for themselves but I couldn't see myself investing so much in a rig that wouldn't be truly perfect in the first place.

    If you don't care for tone shaping and just want to accurately reproduce the sound of your instruments, without ever wondering about volume issues, I see the head as perfect.
    Many other quality cabs would do better than those.
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Wow. It seems to really interest everybody...:meh:
  3. Wow. It's only been an hour and a half...:meh:
  4. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    That's a lot on TalkBass. Especially with 45+ viewers. :spit:
  5. jock


    Jun 7, 2000
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Thanks for the review!
    I´ve heard roumers that they will release a preamp soon.
    The Merlin head is probably most interesting for us European guys as the price over here is $1500 vs $2400 in the US.
  6. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PA
    i'm sold... :D

    but seriously, GREAT review, JA! sheesh, and i thought i wrote lots. :cool:

    would be a shame if this got lots in the TB madness, so BUMP!
  7. Jon Burnet

    Jon Burnet

    Jan 21, 2001
    Memphis, TN
    i heard bill dickens playing through one with an accugroove cab.... it was KILLER.
  8. Whappo Grande

    Whappo Grande

    Feb 9, 2002
    Santa Clara, CA.
    Manager: AccuGroove Speakers
    I've owned a Merlin for over a year now & it's an outstanding amp with tons-o-power.

    However, I must confess that I've only heard it through my AccuGroove cabs. Therefore, I can't say that you'll be knocked out when the amp is used with other gear.

    At first I was apprehensive about the passive tone controls, but after using them, hubba, hubba. Power? At BassQuake Bill Dickens wanted to try our 21" Whappo Grande & his Signature 2x12 Sub. After pumping them separately, he played them together which almost caused seismic damage. (He was testing his low F#) The cabs are 800 watts & 1,400 watts a piece for a total of 2,200. The Merlin worked just fine & we are talkin LOUD.

    So...great amp with the right gear. As has been stated already, with other gear your mileage may very. I'll also add that Kevin from Godlyke, the US Merlin distributor, is a great guy to work with.
  9. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    That's what impressed me the most.
    Volume was incredible. It felt like a stadium concert PA.