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To Aron Garrecht,

I’m considering two of the amps you have reviewed to pair with my Trenner & Friedl Isis speakers. Well, actually, if you can weigh in on my choice between three amps, it would be much appreciated. I won’t have the opportunity to audition any of these amps, so your opinion would help a lot.

The amplifiers I’m considering are the Merrill Audio Element 118, the McIntosh Laboratory MC1.25KW, and one I’m not sure if you’re familiar with: the Canary Audio Reference Two.

I’ve been reading your reviews and find your insights to be honest and thoroughly researched.

United States

Thanks for the kind words. I’ll start off by saying I have not yet heard a pair of Trenner & Friedl speakers, nor am I that familiar with the Canary Reference Two amplifier.

Between the McIntosh MC1.25KW and the Merrill 118, you really couldn’t have selected two more polar-opposite amplifiers in terms of their sonic characters. The McIntosh amp puts forward a full, rich sound with a powerful bottom end, silky smooth yet neutral midrange, and a rather polite top end. I absolutely loved listening to this amplifier with classic rock, particularly at higher volumes, and I never found myself even coming close to any kind of listener fatigue, whatever the volume; there is a consistent sense of ease to this amplifier that I found very appealing.

The Merrill 118, on the other hand, left me with the impression that it thrives on communicating the last iota of detail from any recording. Tonally, it is exceedingly neutral, with a tighter, slightly more controlled bottom end than the McIntosh amp, a similar midrange neutrality and fluidity, but a considerably more detailed, airy top end. The Merrill is not a bright-sounding amplifier, but it is incredibly transparent, and sounds best with higher-quality recordings.

Both amplifiers are exceptionally well built and reportedly use very high-quality parts throughout, although I was not able to take a peek at the proprietary class-D circuitry inside the Merrill. I was impressed by the levels of fit and finish of both amplifiers; the Merrill struck me as having an exotic presence whereas the McIntosh had more of a luxurious, muscular feel to it.

Without knowing more about what you are looking for in terms of sonic character, or what your Trenner & Friedl speakers sound like, I really can’t offer you a recommendation of which amplifier might work better with your speakers. The Merrill and McIntosh both offer more than enough power and sufficient damping factor to easily drive and properly control the 15″ drivers in your speakers. During a quick look at the spec sheet for the Canary Reference Two I noticed that this amp only has a damping factor of 16, which is considerably lower than either the McIntosh or Merrill and could affect the bass performance, so this is something you may want to consider.

Perhaps what I can suggest is that if your speakers sound anything like my Paradigm Persona 7Fs, that is to say, unapologetically neutral, the McIntosh amp would be my choice.

I hope this was helpful, Ken, and do let me know which way you decide to go. . . . Aron Garrecht