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Introducing the new Merrill Audio Tape Head Preamplifier Series

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  • Introducing the new Merrill Audio Tape Head Preamplifier Series

    As a Merrill Audio Dealer, and avowed reel-reel tape enthusiast myself, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the new Merrill Audio Tape Head Preamplifier series.

    You will find my earlier thread in the Industry News & Events Forum, announcing an introductory event at my XtremeFidelity listening room in New Jersey on Saturday, July 13th, where Merrill will present the initial "PURE" level of the product and describe the design goals of the entire line of three preamps, do a comparison to the standard Ampex ATR-102 electronics and follow with a listening session.

    In order to keep the other forum to its limited "News & Event" announcement subject matter, I'm going to post answers to questions requesting more information here, keeping that thread limited to the introductory event on July 13th. If you are in the NY/NJ area, we encourage you to sign up and come to the presentation!

    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 expected to be 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. Input is of course very welcome.

    The PURE is available now for order from XtremeFidelity. Upgrades to the MASTER & PRO will be available when they are delivered.
    Tom


    TIDAL Audio Agoria Loudspeakers; VAC, Merrill Audio & Bricasti electronics; Spiral Groove SG-2 TT with Centroid Arm & Transfiguration Proteus D Cartridge; Ampex ATR-102 with Merrill Audio Tape Preamp & Ampex electronics & Tape Project/Technics RS1500 reel-reels with Bottlehead Tube Repro Pre; Sonore Signature RenduSE Network Player; Bricasti M12 DAC/Source Controller; Ansuz Cables & Power Distribution

    INDUSTRY AFFILIATION: Dealer- XtremeFidelity.net (VAC, Bricasti Design, Merrill Audio, Sonore, Ansuz, Aavik, Synergistic Research & others)

  • #2
    Are there any pictures or specs available?
    Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Doshi Audio V3 Phono Pre; Analog: Wave Kinetics NVS; Durand Telos and SME 3012R Tonearms, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement v2; Miyajima Madake, Miyajima Zero, Benz Micro LPS; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Studer A810; Studer A812; Tascam BR-20; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Big 7 DAC

    Comment


    • #3
      Is this preamp optimized for any particular repro head?
      Speakers: Rockport Avior
      Amp: Ypsilon Aelius Mk II Silver Edition
      Preamp: Pass Labs XS
      Phono preamp: Ypsilon VPS-100, Slagle Silver SUTs
      Phono: Continuum Criterion, Kuzma 4-Point, Lyra Etna SL (and others)
      Digital: LauferTeknik Memory Player, dCS Scarlatti DAC
      Tape: Studer A80 RC, King/Cello preamp

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Cohnaudio View Post
        I have been listening to this preamp on my ATR 102 for some time now. I don't want to steal Tom's thunder, but I will say that this is an exceptional preamp. It has very impressive transparency and speed and is just so pure sounding
        Are you allowed to share a couple pictures of the front and back and talk about the unit’s ability to be calibrated to the repro head?
        Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Doshi Audio V3 Phono Pre; Analog: Wave Kinetics NVS; Durand Telos and SME 3012R Tonearms, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement v2; Miyajima Madake, Miyajima Zero, Benz Micro LPS; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Studer A810; Studer A812; Tascam BR-20; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Big 7 DAC

        Comment


        • #5
          Sorry for the radio-silence the last few days; have taken a few days vacation. We'll be posting some information within the next few days. Please stay tuned!
          Tom / XtremeFidelity
          TIDAL Audio Agoria Loudspeakers; VAC, Merrill Audio & Bricasti electronics; Spiral Groove SG-2 TT with Centroid Arm & Transfiguration Proteus D Cartridge; Ampex ATR-102 with Merrill Audio Tape Preamp & Ampex electronics & Tape Project/Technics RS1500 reel-reels with Bottlehead Tube Repro Pre; Sonore Signature RenduSE Network Player; Bricasti M12 DAC/Source Controller; Ansuz Cables & Power Distribution

          INDUSTRY AFFILIATION: Dealer- XtremeFidelity.net (VAC, Bricasti Design, Merrill Audio, Sonore, Ansuz, Aavik, Synergistic Research & others)

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by squasher View Post
            Is this preamp optimized for any particular repro head?
            Good question. There is a reason why some industry experts are against external tape preamps. Both the head inductance and the cable capacitance have a large influence on the performance of any tape preamp. The manufacturer of this new preamp should post frequency response charts with various heads and various cables. Also the electrical resonant frequency of the preamp should be stated with various heads and various cable. This frequency should be above the audible range (20K or higher). There is a wide variation of head inductances* and cable capacitance out there, so you can't just use any head and any cable with a tape preamp if your goal is optimum performance.

            *10mH to 600mH
            Last edited by Tapetech; 06-25-2019, 08:05 PM.
            -Tim Leinbaugh
            -Professional RTR restoration and modification for 45 years.
            [email protected]
            www.MusicTechnology.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Great response, Tim.

              Your comments are precisely what I was trying to get at when I asked the question in the first place. "is this preamp optimized for any particular repro head?"

              I'm still very much an amateur with regard to this subject but it's my understanding that most, if not all, repro amps in the days of old were designed for a specific repro head (and short wiring) and could not be swapped out with different heads without paying a penalty somewhere.

              Hopefully, we can start seeing some of these specifications listed as more repro amps start appearing on the market.
              Speakers: Rockport Avior
              Amp: Ypsilon Aelius Mk II Silver Edition
              Preamp: Pass Labs XS
              Phono preamp: Ypsilon VPS-100, Slagle Silver SUTs
              Phono: Continuum Criterion, Kuzma 4-Point, Lyra Etna SL (and others)
              Digital: LauferTeknik Memory Player, dCS Scarlatti DAC
              Tape: Studer A80 RC, King/Cello preamp

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by squasher View Post
                Great response, Tim.

                Your comments are precisely what I was trying to get at when I asked the question in the first place. "is this preamp optimized for any particular repro head?"

                I'm still very much an amateur with regard to this subject but it's my understanding that most, if not all, repro amps in the days of old were designed for a specific repro head (and short wiring) and could not be swapped out with different heads without paying a penalty somewhere.

                Hopefully, we can start seeing some of these specifications listed as more repro amps start appearing on the market.
                This topic was discussed here in which you participated.

                https://www.audionirvana.org/forum/t...ape-head-cable

                Did Charlie give you a FR for your deck with his King-Cello?

                I was under the impression that was why Nick and Charlie used the MRL tapes when setting up their tapestages. It seems to me that Tim is using something other than the MRL Tape?
                Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                ________________________________________

                -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                -cj 40th Anniversary ART300 monoblock amplifiers
                -Merrill Audio Elemente 116 monoblock amplifiers
                -cj GAT preamplifier Series 2 preamplifier
                -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                -Lyra Atlas SL, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Allnic cables, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, MG Audio, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies Power Cords
                -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                  This topic was discussed here in which you participated.
                  I'm not sure which topic you're referring to but I don't think the subject of head choice vs. preamp design was discussed in the thread you referenced.

                  Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                  Did Charlie give you a FR for your deck with his King-Cello?
                  Um, no....

                  Charlie, as you know, is incredibly accommodating and I'm sure would have provided one if I had asked. He did provide a list of repro heads that would work with the King/Cello and some that wouldn't. That list is what I was hoping to get out of my question directed to the Merrill Audio folks.

                  Jim Wood's Inovonics tape repro amps had a procedure detailed in their User Manual for tapping into points of the the input stage for different repro heads. I'm sure this didn't account for all repro heads but at least this was a step in the right direction.


                  The Frequency Response characterization would be a nice thing to have if we could somehow influence the market...



                  Speakers: Rockport Avior
                  Amp: Ypsilon Aelius Mk II Silver Edition
                  Preamp: Pass Labs XS
                  Phono preamp: Ypsilon VPS-100, Slagle Silver SUTs
                  Phono: Continuum Criterion, Kuzma 4-Point, Lyra Etna SL (and others)
                  Digital: LauferTeknik Memory Player, dCS Scarlatti DAC
                  Tape: Studer A80 RC, King/Cello preamp

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Is there any chance that a sample version will be available for members here to audition in their own homes for a week or so?
                    Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Doshi Audio V3 Phono Pre; Analog: Wave Kinetics NVS; Durand Telos and SME 3012R Tonearms, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement v2; Miyajima Madake, Miyajima Zero, Benz Micro LPS; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Studer A810; Studer A812; Tascam BR-20; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Big 7 DAC

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Absolutely! Without getting overly commercial here, anyone serious and interested in an audition of the Merrill Tape Head preamp can PM me (Afveep) or contact me through the XtremeFidelity website and we will arrange for an audition.
                      Tom
                      TIDAL Audio Agoria Loudspeakers; VAC, Merrill Audio & Bricasti electronics; Spiral Groove SG-2 TT with Centroid Arm & Transfiguration Proteus D Cartridge; Ampex ATR-102 with Merrill Audio Tape Preamp & Ampex electronics & Tape Project/Technics RS1500 reel-reels with Bottlehead Tube Repro Pre; Sonore Signature RenduSE Network Player; Bricasti M12 DAC/Source Controller; Ansuz Cables & Power Distribution

                      INDUSTRY AFFILIATION: Dealer- XtremeFidelity.net (VAC, Bricasti Design, Merrill Audio, Sonore, Ansuz, Aavik, Synergistic Research & others)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                        I was under the impression that was why Nick and Charlie used the MRL tapes when setting up their tapestages. It seems to me that Tim is using something other than the MRL Tape?
                        I used an MRL tape to calibrate my external tape preamp.The tape has 5 tones and a 20 to 20K sweep. For the below chart, I had to carefully adjust the preamp's low frequency EQ, main EQ and gap-compensation EQ. If I were to use another play head (with different inductance) or a another IC cable (with different capacitance), this response curve would change significantly. BTW, since I was using a Flux Magnetics head, I thought to send Greg Orton a copy of the graph (he designs/builds FM heads). His succinct reply was "excellent!".
                        Last edited by Tapetech; 06-29-2019, 09:00 PM.
                        -Tim Leinbaugh
                        -Professional RTR restoration and modification for 45 years.
                        [email protected]
                        www.MusicTechnology.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          some comments...

                          As a "supplier" of external tape pres, you have to contend with various machines; heads; wiring "schemes/cables" and perhaps more importantly, whomever does the actual wiring out. And for the most part, you never see the deck/pre in its finished/connected state as it /they can be "pretty far away".

                          By providing internal LF and HF adjustments - or external if the customer desires, I've found that most either like the way the stock unit sounded or spent the time with calibration tapes and meters to get it that way. The few who actually reported back were VERY happy with the measurements. When setting up a pre before shipping using my own Stellavox with either a 100 or 200 mH head (depending on whichever is closest to the customer's head) I find it pretty easy to get response within a dB above 150hz or so and within 2dB below that - especially with IEC EQ. Having the Sound Technology 1500 with its capability to sync/sweep the whole 20 to 20Khz spectrum makes things pretty easy - and a joy to use.

                          A number of customers have wanted multiple inputs - for more than one machine. And a few to switch between tape and phono EQ (which my pre provides). Don't necessarily like switching signals of that low level but no one has complained.

                          Charles

                          By the way Afveep, beautiful job on the products!
                          Last edited by stellavox; 07-02-2019, 05:52 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by stellavox View Post

                            Charles

                            By the way Afveep, beautiful job on the products!
                            Thank you Charlie!, But I can't take ANY credit. That goes to Merrill Wettasinghe, the brilliant designer behind all of the Merrill Audio products. I'm just the dealer...

                            TIDAL Audio Agoria Loudspeakers; VAC, Merrill Audio & Bricasti electronics; Spiral Groove SG-2 TT with Centroid Arm & Transfiguration Proteus D Cartridge; Ampex ATR-102 with Merrill Audio Tape Preamp & Ampex electronics & Tape Project/Technics RS1500 reel-reels with Bottlehead Tube Repro Pre; Sonore Signature RenduSE Network Player; Bricasti M12 DAC/Source Controller; Ansuz Cables & Power Distribution

                            INDUSTRY AFFILIATION: Dealer- XtremeFidelity.net (VAC, Bricasti Design, Merrill Audio, Sonore, Ansuz, Aavik, Synergistic Research & others)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Great review just hit in Enjoy The Music
                              Merrill Audio PURE Tape Head Preamp Simple to use sweet sounding analog! Review By Richard Cohn of Enjoy the Music.com's Superior Audio Audiophile Music and Equipment Review Magazine
                              TIDAL Audio Agoria Loudspeakers; VAC, Merrill Audio & Bricasti electronics; Spiral Groove SG-2 TT with Centroid Arm & Transfiguration Proteus D Cartridge; Ampex ATR-102 with Merrill Audio Tape Preamp & Ampex electronics & Tape Project/Technics RS1500 reel-reels with Bottlehead Tube Repro Pre; Sonore Signature RenduSE Network Player; Bricasti M12 DAC/Source Controller; Ansuz Cables & Power Distribution

                              INDUSTRY AFFILIATION: Dealer- XtremeFidelity.net (VAC, Bricasti Design, Merrill Audio, Sonore, Ansuz, Aavik, Synergistic Research & others)

                              Comment

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