Element 118 Power Amplifier Monoblocks
"Just Music, Nothing Else"
The Element 118 power amplifier monoblocks are the products which define and encapsulate our deeply considered thinking about music reproduction especially with regard to speed.
Why is Merrill Audio so focused on speed?
Let us consider for a moment the musical score. Perhaps one of Bach’s cello suites. We have some notes. The notes follow one another in most cases without a break. Sometimes the composer has given us a rest but otherwise the notes proceed inexorably, perfectly. But then the musician, the cellist in our example, must play these notes and when the cellist plays the notes there is a certain problem: within the score the notes proceed in unbroken progression, but it takes time for the musician to move between them.? The musician has to translate this perfection of unbroken progression onto something physical ? the instrument, and the instrument is of a certain size and there is a physical distance between these notes, which is greater the farther they are apart in pitch. A big conundrum for the musician who must convey the seamlessness of the score in the physical realm. It requires work, time and especially:
Speed. Reactivity, impulse, body quickness, faster than thinking. Possibly human musicians are some of the fastest reacting creatures on the planet.
Consider a great rock guitarist, like Brian May. He almost seems to be ahead of the music, even though he has the physical instrument with its fingerboard of a certain length, that takes time to traverse. It is as if he is on top of the notes, waiting for them. Speed, readiness.
When we go to a live concert, whether we realise it or not, whether the music be fast or slow, we are in the presence of speed, and extraordinary deftness. It is an essential part of our experience. It is defining.
At Merrill Audio we make musical instruments, not machines. We make amplifiers that are essentially musical and a big part of that musicality is their speed. This matter of reaction time has been a huge part of our cost-no-object approach to research and development and the ultimate result of that is: The Element 118 monoblock power amplifiers.
That feeling, when you are settling into your seat in the 5th row at Carnegie Hall. The air itself is charged; anticipation, presence – something is about to happen, something extraordinary. That is what we want you to experience in your own home with the Elelement 118 power amplifier monoblocks, before the needle hits the groove, or the laser shines, or the signal arrives from the DAC. Magic, the palpable electric charge of anticipation.
And when the instrument ? your Element 118 power amplifiers play we want to be on top of the music, in a ready state, awake, alert, able to move with the deftness and reactivity of the great musician.
For the technically inclined – there are some problems with traditional amplifier designs that mitigate against this vital impression and expression of speed, chiefly: what we call ‘overshoot’ and ‘ringing’.
What are overshoot and ringing?
Overshoot and ringing are related phenomena. Overshoot refers to the transitory values of any parameter that exceeds its final? desired steady state value during its transition from one value to another.
Ringing is an unwanted oscillation of a voltage or current. It happens when an electrical pulse causes the parasitic capacitances and inductances in the circuit (i.e. those that are not part of the design, but just by-products of the materials used to construct the circuit) to resonate at their characteristic frequency.
In other words: capacitance load can produce out of band ‘bursts’ which then produce resonant artifacts in components. These are kinds of distortion and, at Merrill Audio, we don’t want them, because they mitigate against our desired, ‘absolute black’ noise floor and ready state. We want to avoid having components tied up in anomalous resonant energy modes because this reduces their efficiency and speed. But completely eliminating the issue is difficult. Nevertheless this is what we have done.
The result is one of the purest, quietest, and fastest? amplifiers available ? The Element 118 Power Monoblock Amplifier ? just music, nothing else.
We design the Element 118 Power Monoblock Amplifiers to be beautiful.
We want you to welcome them into your home to enhance and complement your carefully considered living space.
The amplifiers are compact. Behemoths of musicality and power they may be, but they are discreet in their presence.
Materials and finishes are carefully chosen to provide beautiful, subtle contrasts and quiet visual power, On trend rose gold adorns the fascia, top and side features which are proportioned perfectly relative to the unit size. The bevelled rose gold fascia includes two vertical ‘V’ profile precision cut channels that frame a subtly outlined, engraved center space in which the artfully radiused, deeply recessed LCD display is framed.
The fascia is designed to express a quiet authority, hinting at the power within ? like a window into the dynamism and speed of the amplifiers’ internal thought.
The main body of the amplifier is finished in ultra high gloss nickel – a smart companion to the sultry copper-gold detailing elsewhere. We expose certain of our fixings, in the finest tradition of industrial aesthetic ? think race cars, or guilloche in which the design ‘confesses’ the means of its execution, and against this, further rose gold elements interpose and slightly soften. The side vented cooling panels include a gentle wave form innovation that gently balances prominent verticals, horizontals and precision edges elsewhere.
This unostentatious,? but commanding, piece sits on solid stainless steel outriggers, which are engineered to create an environment of balance and acoustic isolation for optimum performance of the instrument. These outriggers terminate in high performance footings that both isolate the piece from the ground plane and help to absorb unwanted low frequency vibrations which originate in the earth.
Needless to say componentry throughout is of the highest standard available, from binding posts to rhodium plated power connections. Rhodium is expensive, but extremely durable. This is what we require in our design. From circuit boards to our proprietary, copper rich heat distribution system everything is best in class, intended for a lifetime of pure listening pleasure.
We believe we have created a supremely musical instrument, that is life-enhancing, sonically and visually, integrating deep thinking about music and musicality, with a refined approach to aesthetics and presence, to delight you, fascinate your guests and provide unparalleled experiences of the true soul of music.
In fact we call them ‘sculptures that sing’.
|Power rating:||400W/8, 800/4, 1600/2ohms|
|Speaker Terminals:||Dual pairs of posts for bi-wiring|
|Dual pairs of posts for bi-wiring|
|WBT ? 0710 CuMc|
|Accepts Bananas, spades or wire.|
|Input:||XLR Balanced input, Cardas XLR|
|Power AC:||20A AC inlet, Furutech Rodhium Plated inlet|
|Footers:||Stainless Steel Outrigger|
|GAiA III from Isoacoustics|
|Size:||350mm (13.7?) W x 220mm (8.7?) H x 495 (20.4?) D without outriggers|
|460mm (18.1?) W x 275mm (10.8?) H x 495mm (20.4?) D with outriggers|
|Shipping size:||610mm (24?) W x 355mm (14?) H x 610mm (24?) D|
“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.
The Element 118’s are spookily, nearly supernaturally transparent, clean, and clear. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard better than this for these critical audio virtues in any amplifier. I’ve heard a few that are in this range?Audionet comes to mind, of course, and darTZeel?but the 118s are so very nearly not there in their transparency that it must join the very best of the very best in my audio pantheon.
And SPEED. Did I mention SPEED?
(“Look! Mercury just ran past!”)”
Positive-Feeback.com, Dr David Robinson, Editor in Chief.
I spent two days at the Capital Audio Show. This gave me time to actually listen to lots of exhibits. The Merrill Audio room, with the Veritas amps and German Physiks Borderland speakers, was clearly? among the best sounding rooms at the show. But even better, I was lucky enough to be included in a small group, just before the show opening on Sunday, to audition a new Merrill prototype amp, aimed at even higher performance. And the new amp delivered. It was almost immediately obvious that the new design was superior to the reference
Veritas amps that performed so well during the show. It was more open, more dynamic and smoother, etc. Was it a big difference? Yes, in the sense that the improvements were the kind that every real audiophile would kick himself if he couldn’t afford a product after comparing it to an excellent reference. I look forward to experiencing the production product.
Allen E., veteran reviewer.
“I was looking forward to my first visit to the Capitol Audio Fest in Maryland. With many potential good sounding rooms there, I decided that it would take 2 days to hear all the rooms and spend additional time in those rooms that sounded good to me. I brought a few reference LPs with me that I am familiar with that would provide a good test for each system that had a turntable and my companions had some good sounding digital recordings. Hearing the same recordings in each room really allowed me to evaluate each system in a more controlled way.
One of the best sounding rooms at the show was the room with Merrill Audio components, a VPI Turntable and German Physics speakers. Merrill asked us to come by early Sunday morning to audition the prototypes for his new Amplifier and Phono Stage. We listened to the same recordings on both the old and new components to do our comparisons.
Both new components did not disappoint. The differences were not subtle. What stood out most was the level of detail heard, greatly improved sonics and much better imaging. While these comments may sound like a checklist of audio clich?s, my ears hear what they hear. I can confidently say that the new line of Merrill Audio components are an order of magnitude better than what was already great sounding equipment, easily bettering systems in other rooms at much higher price points.”
“I have had the privilege to know Merrill Wettasinghe of Merrill Audio for several years and have come to know that when he offers me an opportunity to hear something he has been working on I can count on something special.
So when Merrill asked me if I could listen to a prototype of an amplifier of his own design I wasn?t going to say I was too busy. I just asked when and where. Sunday morning before Capital Audio Fest opened I first listened to the outstanding Veritas Amps that are the current top of the line. No fault could be found. The few of us that had been invited were all in agreement.
And then Merrill put in his new design. I expected that there might be a slight improvement here and there in the audio band. But no, there was not a slight improvement at all. Oh my gosh, I have to start saving my money because I want, no, I need this new Merrill Audio Amp. Mind you I am very happy with my Veritas Amps and have had no? intention of changing, till now.
What did I hear? More dynamics, speed, weight. They are also quieter, except how do you make something that already produces virtually no noise make even less noise? ! The noise of the Veritas is well beyond human hearing but yet you can easily hear the improvement in noise, or lack there of, that the new design provides.
I heard gravitas, presence and a more natural tonal quality to the instruments. Mind you it is not like the Veritas
was lacking before this.
But the instruments sounded more like they would if you were listening to them live. Not only in tonal quality but also in the weight that instruments can produce live.
So here are a few words that describe the new design.
Lifelike. Natural. Speed. Dynamic. Weight. Quiet. In a word, they ROCK. ”
As many of you know, I have developed a wonderful friendship with Merrill of Merrill Audio. He has started utilizing my room, system and ears as one of many opinions during his design process when he needs opinions on new designs.
He has developed his own Class-D amplifier module that Is quite special. Today, he brought over the semi final prototype of his new monoblocks for the two of us to compare to my reference Burmester 911mk3 amplifiers. To say I was impressed with his new mono block design and performance is an understatement! They will be a level above the Merrill Veritas monoblocks I previously owned.
On initial listen they are stunningly fast, have a bottomless noise floor, complete lack of distortion, crazy tight and well controlled bass, are super clean and accurate and yet maintain musicality, pace and rhythm with complex textures and harmonics. I could happily live with them instead of my Burmesters; initial impression. With time I will likely find some flaws and more definable character traits. But wow!!! The Burmester amps retail for over twice what these will be; so their price to performance value is exploding off the charts! And I must admit that the 3-D renderings of the final appearance is strikingly attractic.
It it was quite a sneak peak. And I look forward to hearing the final production version, or any version in between!