Skip Down Five Paragraphs to Jump Right to My Experience with the Cherry Plus
I am a new contributor, but not a new audiophile. I’ve been at it since the mid-70s. I don’t change equipment frequently, at least not by comparison to what I see others doing. In the mid-80s, I discovered Merlin speakers, starting with IIIBs. I then moved onto the VSM track - VSM, VSM-SE, now VSM-ME, so not the latest. Somewhere along the way, Merlin’s BAM got added. On amps, I’ve had Moscode 150 (the original Harvey Rosenberg version), then Music Reference RM9 MKII. I also have a set of Wolcott’s The Presence monoblocks from an impulse buy. I occasionally would swap out the RM9 MKII for the Wolcotts and have used the Wolcotts for a more extended period when the RM9 MKII was in the shop, but the RM9 MKII is the main amp. The pre-amp since the mid-90s has been a Joule Electra LA-100 MK III.
Two and a half years ago I bought a HDTV, which put me on the slippery slope of home theater. I added a Fathom f113 subwoofer, Merlins TSMs as surround and center speakers, and an Integra 9.8 surround sound processor. The RM9 MKII was used on the L/R, the Wolcotts on the surrounds, and I got a Bryston PowerPac 300 for the center.
My big challenge was dealing with both 2.0 and 5.1 channels. There was no way I was going to have a separate 2-channel system in the same or different room, and given my existing equipment, it was not easy to have a parallel 2.0, 5.1 channel setup. It was overwhelming for my wife to have to configure, and a pain for me to always make sure I was leaving the system in a state where she didn’t have to think about it when she wanted to watch TV. I also liked the Integra’s Audyssey room correction software, which gets bypassed when the Integra is in direct mode.
I’ve gotten an OPPO-83 as a universal video-audio player. I feed it via HDMI to the Integra, which does the digital-to-analog conversion. I am very happy with the sound of this chain. There probably are surround sound processors with better digital-to-analog conversion than the Integra, e.g., Anthem D2 maybe, but again, I think the Integra is very good.
So, why all of this in a Digital Amplifier Company circle thread? Because it’s my first post and people should know where I am coming from, and more importantly because I have decided to replace my Music Reference RM9 MKII, and likely the Bryston and Wolcotts with Digital Amplifier Company amps in a system that I think is already quite good.
My motivations for looking for new amps are: not wanting to deal with tubes anymore from a reliability, maintenance, power consumption and heat generation point of view; standardize on one brand; improve ease of use with an amp that has remote turn on. I was mostly considering pure Class A amps, but didn’t like the cost, heat, power consumption downsides. Then I learned of the advances in Class D designs and stumbled on the Digital Amplifier Company circle and decided to give a Cherry Plus a try. I thought it had the aural attributes I was looking for and had a remote turn on, operated coolly, and was energy efficient.
I’ve been using the Cherry Plus in place of the RM9 MKII for a few weeks and really like the difference. I am actually surprised since the RM9 MKII is so well regarded. I really did not expect much of a difference.
Merlins have an excellent reputation for their dynamic, clean, open, transparent sound. I think the speakers are the most important part of the chain and dictate the sonic flavor. I want the rest of the chain to reveal all the Merlins are capable of. In my opinion, the Cherry Plus does this better than the RM9 MKII. The sound is cleaner, more effortless, and noise free.
I am lucky to have been a subscriber to the Pittsburgh Symphony while Mariss Jansons was conductor. One of my favorite Jansons strengths was his ability to get the players to draw the music out of silence. He didn’t start soft, or very soft, but very, very, very soft when needed. It could be ethereal. Then boom, when loud was needed, it was instantly there. All the time with great detail. Again, lucky for me, the Merlins can reproduce this, and they do it better when driven by the Cherry Plus compared to the RM9 MKII. The pureness of the sound on good recordings is thrilling.
The Merlins are often paired with tube amps, including RM9 MKIIs. I was concerned that the Cherry Plus might be too controlling and maybe too bright. That was unfounded. In reality, the Cherry Plus’s strengths play to the Merlins’ strengths. I would recommend an audition of the Cherry Plus to anyone looking for a new amp who prizes effortless, clean, noise-free, open, and transparent sound.