Merlin 3B+ Speaker Refurbish

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Project by knotscott posted 08-15-2020 12:23 AM 576 views 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Merlin 3B+ Speaker Refurbish
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This is a pair of Merlin 3B+ speakers made in Rochester, NY circa 1990. These were given to me by a former Kodak co-worker, who also worked part time with me for Merlin around the time these speakers were made. His wife was tired of looking at them, and thought they were too big. Odds are good that I had a hand in the original manufacture of these 30 years ago. Without question I can lay claim to 100% of the refurbishment!

The original foam covering had completely disintegrated, the wood finish had some minor damage, one of the woofers had come disconnected, and the midrange and tweeter potentiometers needed some cleanup. The bottoms are loaded with sand, and they weigh over 100# each. These were a very serious pair of high end speakers that retailed for close to $1000/pr, and still sound pretty amazing even by today’s standards. I owned a pair of Merlin 4s years ago until I made the speakers I still use today.

I cured the performance ills, sanded and re-oiled the oak caps, and re-wrapped the tubes with 1/4” 30 ppi filter foam. ~ $45 of materials, and they’re back to looking like new. I had enough foam left over to wrap another small pair of speakers I had made in the mid 90s, and out of guilt offered them to the guy who gave me the Merlins, and he accepted. Those are a pretty respectable sounding little pair of speakers too with solid cherry wood.

Merlin 3B+:


Here are the Sterling ST-10s that I offered in trade:

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

6 comments so far

View mel52's profile


1640 posts in 1113 days

#1 posted 08-15-2020 03:15 AM

Congrats, you did a great job on them. Mel

-- MEL, Kansas

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


19531 posts in 4524 days

#2 posted 08-15-2020 05:10 AM

They look better than new. Nice work.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View RCCinNC's profile


268 posts in 1175 days

#3 posted 08-15-2020 04:01 PM

Much better looking now! The “sock” design allowed for better component quality too, as the cabinetry expense was far cheaper than a finished/ veneered unit.
Interesting speaker, very similar both in look and phase alignment design of Vandersteen’s…right down to the top panel window and the reduced/curved baffle area of the mid/tweeter. So much so I wonder if Merlin, or Vandersteen was an offshoot company from the other. I still have Model 1 Vandy’s from 1985, still going strong…though limited now to rear channel duty.
I bet they still sound great!

-- Live to putter...putter to live!

View Ron Stewart's profile

Ron Stewart

207 posts in 3352 days

#4 posted 08-15-2020 08:41 PM

Nice save.

I know Merlin speakers only from Stereophile ads and reviews. All of the ones I’ve seen have traditional hard-sided cabinets with fancy automotive paint jobs and inlaid triplets of metal strips. I didn’t realize their earlier models used foam socks like this.

It’s really cool that you may have helped produce the original pair, and that they eventually made their way back to you.

Is the cutout in the top intended to reduce diffraction from sound waves traveling up the baffle (which would have reflected off the top cap if it were solid)?

-- Ron Stewart

View knotscott's profile


8385 posts in 4224 days

#5 posted 08-16-2020 09:34 PM

Thanks guys! I really enjoyed bringing these back to form, and have loved having them around.

I’m pretty sure there was no association between Merlin and Vandersteen, though the similarities have been mentioned many times….they did know each other. The driver compliment and crossovers are different, but the physical layout was quite similar. Both great speakers. I think the Vandersteens were wrapped with grill cloth though. The Merlin designer, Bobby Pelkovic was from the Toronto area, and his business partner, Paul Heath was from south of Rochester. Vandersteen was based out of California the last I knew. I actually knew Richard Vandersteen too….very cool guy! I don’t think he thought much of what Merlin was doing because of the similarities in layout! I met him at the CES shows, and convinced him to fly to Rochester to address the Kodak Audio club in Rochester. We took him to dinner and heard about his career….he was a former truck driver with no college education. He said he got into speakers to pay for his racing habit! (that was by far the most well attended event that audio club ever held!).

Ron – The newer Merlin VSM and TSM series were after my time with Merlin. Your correct about the cutout. An overhang that large would have created a really bad reflection from the tweeter. I never got to hear a pair of the newer models, but I’d guess his technology evolved, and they were improved. He was a very bright, very gifted guy.

Below is a stripped pair of Vandersteen 2Cs and Merlin 3B+ side by side:

. Here’s a completed pair of each side by side:

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View RCCinNC's profile


268 posts in 1175 days

#6 posted 08-17-2020 02:01 AM

Not sure what the cutaway Vandersteens you posted are. Saw that in the HiFi Shark website too, but look like someone was having fun in the shop trying to “improve” the model 2. It never had a front woofer in the base like the Merlin, but had, and still has a ten inch passive radiator in the rear that is “direct coupled,” or active below 40 Hz. Correct photos below!

Not sure why I’m bothering to post this…I guess I’m kind of a Vandersteen fan boy…I love my 2ce’s, and think Vandersteen…and apparently Merlin, if not in collaboration…at least in mutual respect, were pursuing some really impressive speaker design concepts. Imaging with these guys are spectacular, but they are very much sweet spot speakers…laterally they stay consistent fairly well, but they have only a 6 “ window in the vertical axis, so proper speaker angle relative to the listener is extremely important.
Still, in 1977, when they first came out, they were way ahead of their time. They still make them…Now the Signature 3 version, some 6 or 7 iterations from the original, but basically the same design….and one heck of a lot more expensive. Over all, they’ve sold over 200,000 pairs of them. Must be doing something right…. ; )

Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Between audio, woodworking and photography…I really need find some cheaper hobbies! ; )

-- Live to putter...putter to live!

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