The Merrill Audio Veritas monoblock amplifiers arrived a few weeks ago and from the moment you open the main packaging they whisper understated high-end
at you. The packaging is low key luxury and you get that expectant feeling that what is inside is going to be something rather special…and it is.

Each of the amplifiers is machined from a single block of aluminium weighing 66 pounds with chambers inside for the electronics. The MERRILL3walls of the “casing” are kept at an inch thick to reduce vibrations. Inside the amps the wiring is kept as short as is feasible so that there is no need for the use of shielded cables which introduce capacitance and, argues Merrill Wettasinghe the owner and designer, affect the sound quality, resulting in a “bloated bass and reduced high frequencies”. Inside the amplifiers the wiring is all of a Litz construction and is point to point. This is time consuming stuff and, like a luxury motorcar this attention to detail adds to the build costs of the amplifiers.

Bi wiring is “done from the board to provide true bi-wiring” with each bi-wire cable being Cardas 11 AWG Litz. This cable is then connected to the wonderful Cardas speaker posts that are Rhodium over copper. This is the first time I’ve come across an amplifier using the Cardas binding posts and they are a bit of a revelation for me. They look completely unlike any binding post I’ve ever come across. They accept bare wires and spades only and, without exception, are the most secure binding posts I can imagine. Say what you will about the importance of these kind of things, but if we are to get the very best from our audio I reckon this attention to detail is at worst reassuring and at best vital.

The amplifiers use the Ncore NC1200 modules and feature a true balanced design which is designed to reduce noise and the inputs are Cardas XLRs.

On the shelf there is little to write home about and little to really feature for photographs. They look like two silver coloured boxes of standard width. There are no lights on the front, but there is a muting switch located just under the front panel on the bottom of each amp. Note, the muting switch is not an on off switch and once the amps are connected to the mains they are essentially live and the literature that comes with the amps stresses that no connecting of speakers should be done unless the wall socket is unplugged. This mute button has a blue LED that illuminates when the amp is un-muted and you really don’t see it unless the amps are placed on a reflective surface. On the front of each amp is the Merrill Audio logo and the name Veritas. That’s it. These amps really are a masterclass in understated elegance. Some will find them boring looking I’m sure, but sat on their Stillpoint feet they look stealthily purposeful. It has to be said that if you are looking for an amplifier that shouts “look at me, look at me, I’m over here” then these are not the amplifiers for you. Personally I love the fact that the Veritas’ don’t feel the need to bellow their presence, much in the same way that a discreet but luxurious timepiece needn’t. Ok, you get the picture, MErrillNBackthese are unquestionably and undeniably a luxury and high-end product judging by their exterior appearance and their attention to detail with their inner workings. To an extent the price reflects this too…they are $12 000 in the US and more in Europe where import taxes will need to be added, though Merrill says that he will cover the 20% import duties for EU orders. This is a good chunk of money for most people (myself included) and so if you are the kind of person that thinks the high-end in audio is a decadent waste of resources and finances then I suggest you stop reading right now.

Sound

The Veritas were in the system for barely a quarter of an hour before both Linette and I looked at each other agog and realised that these unassuming lumps of aluminium were something rather special indeed. The first thing you notice is an absolute lack on noise in between tracks. Nothing. Nowt. Crank the volume up as loud as you dare and all you are getting here is a clean signal devoid of added distortion, devoid of unwanted distractions and you know what, I reckon that what I’m hearing is just how good the preamplifier I’m using actually is. OK, the set up isn’t ideal as my pre isn’t balanced but you get the picture I’m sure.

This is Class D technology and I am well aware that it has its detractors, but what Bruno Putzey (the designer of the Hypex modules) has done with the NC1200 is take the Class D technology of the UcD circuit developed in 2001 and transformed it into a truly audiophile component. What Merrill have then done is implement this technology in a pair of amplifiers that make the most of what the modules can do. Measurements, done not by us, show that the modules are perfectly linear and stable right down to loads of 2 Ohms. They deliver 350 Watts into 8 Ohms, 650 W into 4 Ohms and 1200 W into 2 Ohms and so forget your difficult loads and forget (if the measurements are to be believed) roll off at the frequency extremes.

The system we used throughout the review period was our normal Coffman Labs GA-1 valve preamplifier fed with the VAD DAC and hi-res files from the computer. Cables were a mix of Tellurium Q, Chord, CAD and Merrill’s own whilst speakers were the hORN Mummys.

Convention dictates I talk about some music by way of trying to describe the sound of these amplifiers so here goes. Allan Taylor’s “The Tennessee Waltz” from the Behind the Mix album really is something else with the banter at the start of the recording being right there in front of you…like two blokes having the conversation RIGHT THERE. Every nuance of the guitar is there once the music starts and the layers in the mix are clearly definable. This is no homogenous gloop but pinpoint accuracy of what is on the recording. It’s an odd one to find a suitable comparison and so I’m going to have to go all “Pseuds’ Corner” on you – if we go to one of the restaurants in town and order water with our meal we get just that…water. It’s clearly water and it’s perfectly potable. However, get home and pour a glass of water from our tap (which is spring fed) and the water is cleaner, purer and without chemical artefacts. You’d be perfectly happy with the water at the restaurant but there is a difference. And that’s what you have here with the Veritas’ amps…they are a purer and cleaner rendition of the music on a recording. Is it a colder and more clinical rendition…I’m not so sure, but I’m pleased to have the valve pre in the chain.MERRILL RACK

Switch the music to Hardloor’s “Once Again Back” and there is a feeling of power. The electronic hats are crisp and defined, whilst the rumbling bass is controlled and tight. What’s interesting here again is the way the music appears to be layered so that the kick drum not only reinforces the bass line, but it is also clearly definable in its own right. The snare drum (again electronic, obviously) cuts through the mix. Crank up the volume as loud as you dare and you get nothing but an increase in the volume – no distortions, no break ups, just clean and precise music that seems to cut an image in the space in front of you.

Jethro Tull’s “Thick As A Brick” from Original Masters is precise and again there is that layered quality…I can imagine that studio engineers will love these amplifiers. There is a feeling of truth.

OK, I’m gushing a bit (a lot) here but these really are very good amplifiers indeed and play to my tastes. Yes, they are analytical and clear-cut , not to mention completely unforgiving of crap recordings, but they’re not tiring to listen to in our set up and when fed with good quality recordings sound magnificent.

Miles Davis’ “Concierto De Aranjuez” has castanets at the start and you hear every clap of wood against wood (it reminds me of cicadas) and then the trumpet cuts the air sounding warm and dreamy – it’s a beautiful thing!

On the album “Big Band Time” (Paquito D’Rivera) and the tune “Moon Dance 2” each of the percussive elements has its own space in the soundstage and the feeling of being there is palpable…not least because you can have real volume without distortion. The lower registers are deep and powerful and that word “controlled” has to be used again. This is explosive stuff and sounds utterly fantastic.

Sarah Marie Young’s “Little Candy Heart” album has her voice sounding warm and emotional…and controlled…throughout her range.

On rock music such as Bush and their brilliant album “Sixteen Stone” the rawness and guttural nature of the recoding shines out.

Here’s the thing – these amplifiers are as transparent as I have heard and I really (REALLY) like them. They are made to throw clichés at  – “openMErrillBack2 window to the recording, veils lifted, inky black silences blah blah blah” and it is hard not to sound like some evangelical nut job when describing my experiences with them, but I have enjoyed these immensely.

Conclusion

Forget your preconceptions about Class D, these amplifiers from Merrill bring the listener an insight into the recording that is clean and transparent. There is power and control and they play every kind of music without adding anything of their own character. As a tool for music lovers they are a great thing – you can bring your own preferences into the mix with your choice of preamplifier, source, DAC etc so your listening experience can be tailored to your wants.

The Veritas amps do have a few issues in that if you have poor kit ahead in the chain forget them as they will make it blindingly obvious. If you steal your music and have crappy MP3s likewise forget these amps.

Yes  they are expensive, but then so are a lot of things in life and here you have a product that not only delivers the goods in absolute sound quality terms, but also in terms of the perceived value of the workmanship of the cases, the fittings etc. Could I live with them, yes, most definitely … I sort of wish I had the Roksan Darius S1 speakers here to try them with as I reckon that would be a real match made in heaven.

Hard to fault in my opinion but I just don’t give perfect tens. Had I the means to buy the review amps I certainly would.

Sound Quality – 9RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Build – 9

Value – 8.75

Overall –  8.92

Price as reviewed $12 000.

Highly Recommended for those looking for an amplifier that is fit and forget and that brings you as close to the truth in a recording as you are likely to get.

Stuart Smith

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