Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks
DETAILED, MUSICAL, POWERFUL.
The Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks are based on the exceptional design advances developed for the Element 118 Power Amplifier, but unlike the 118, the 116 has been specifically scaled to meet a price point. Capitalizing on the extraordinary research and development accomplished for the Element 118 Power Amplifier Monoblocks, the Element 116 approaches the same sonic signature – allowing you to emotionally connect with your music in a manner that is as life like as possible. The Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblock has the similar ultra low noise resolution that makes it possible for you to distinguish even the most minute differentiations in the musical presentation.
The first and foremost consideration for true to life music reproduction is speed.
To achieve this demanding level of speed the Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks rely on the same innovative technology developed for the Element 118 Power Amplifier Monoblocks.
This makes the Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks the second fastest power amplifier from Merrill Audio, an achievement that indeed sets a very high bar.
To deal with this demanding level of speed requires stable circuitry with accurate reproduction capability during extreme speed occurrences. Since overshoot and ringing are the most significant obstacles of speed, the Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks are carefully crafted to maintain this high speed and are engineered to eliminate the anomalies that cause overshoot and ringing.
Using the most advanced and newest Gallium Nitride transistors available, the Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks are capable of delivering speeds into the Gigahertz range. Incorporating highly developed techniques, the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) parasitic inductance and capacitance have been reduced to near zero. Since the development of specialized fabrication and manufacturing procedures came with a host of new challenges, implementing the advanced transistors and sophisticated PCBs placed significant time demands on Merrill Audio.
An additional significant design requirement was the capability to faithfully reproduce every musically significant detail available. This is already a unique characteristic of the Christine Reference Preamplifier and the Jens Reference Phono Stage, two stellar Merrill Audio achievements that shine as singularly significant state of the art achievements in amplifier technology.
To accomplish this level of notable level of performance, innovative circuit techniques were implemented. One is Merrill Audio’s ZXOL design featuring a completely open loop design that has no feedback whatsoever!
Eliminating feedback has two distinct advantages. The speed capability is increased significantly and a remarkable gain in the clarity of musical information is achieved. Since there is no signal loop-back, all the feedback loop distortions as well as the attendant time delays are eliminated.
All these taxing issues have been resolved successfully and the resulting newly developed technology is now part of Merrill Audio’s arsenal of expertise.
Although expensive, challenging, and very time consuming to accomplish, Merrill Audio has achieved a truly transformative result with their Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks.
The Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks are audibly the cleanest sounding amplifiers you will hear. These amplifiers have been designed to deliver spacious, airy sound abundant in vivid detail. Articulated, deep, tight, and powerful bass is an additional strong suit of Merrill Audio’s ZXOL design.
The bottom line is that the Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks are exceptionally fast, uncommonly clean, and exceedingly musical, that will, with the greatest of ease, transport you to the 5th row at Carnegie Hall.
The Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks were engineered with 360 degree integration in mind. This process involved evaluating all factors that contribute to the maximization of sonic performance and then selecting those aspects that will accomplish that goal most effectively, without losing sight of unnecessary cost considerations.
Only the highest quality components were selected regardless of the application.
For the chassis Solid Stainless Steel Outriggers were chosen to provide stable weight distribution and vibration control, while GAIA III Footers by IsoAcoustics provide isolation and absorption from the ground plane.
Along with the platform isolation, the chassis is designed to minimize external sound vibration disturbances using midpoint diffusers and stabilizers. The Chassis is executed in a very tasteful nickel and Rose Gold. It is plated rather than anodized since plating is a softer, more absorbent material.
The Element 116 Power amplifier Monoblocks use the top of the line Speaker Binding Posts from WBT featuring direct copper posts that will conveniently accommodate spades, bananas and bare wire. These components are the latest designs from WBT and have been engineered for the best sound.
It has been firmly established that the quality of AC power connections is a very important consideration. With that priority in mind, the highly regarded Furutech Rhodium Plated 20A IEC AC power inlets were selected for the Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks since the tightest connection is achieved by the more robust 20 AMP IEC connector. This heavy duty connector will grip a weighty AC power cord more firmly to establish an electrically solid connection, and is available as an industry standard.
Internally the Element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblock PCB boards are manufactured to the highest excellence available and further engineered for sustaining a most stable temperature distribution. Using 8 pounds of pure copper per monoblock, the highly refined heat distribution system maintains a steady temperature environment on the PCB boards, a condition absolutely essential for linear operation.
The element 116 Power Amplifier Monoblocks only use stranded wire that is OFC, silver plated and sleeved in Teflon and was selected for its low parasitics impedance and dielectric characteristics. High Gauge wire is the norm throughout and every audio signal path is hand soldered to provide the purest possible connection.
|Power rating:||300watts into 8ohms|
|600 watts into 4 ohms|
|1200 watts into 2 ohms|
|Speaker Terminals:||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|
|Remote:||12V trigger, 3.5m, 20mA|
|Footers:||GAiA III from Isoacoustics|
|Size:||430mm (16.9”) W x 110mm (4.3”) H x 418mm (16.5”) D|
|Shipping size:||559mm (22”) W x 254mm (10”) H x 559mm (22”) D|
A company located a little closer to home — in Bernardsville, New Jersey — but also unknown to me before the FAE was Merrill Audio, founded in 2010, who showed their Element 116 mono amplifiers ($22,000/pair).
The Element 116 isn’t Merrill’s most powerful or most expensive mono amp — that would be the Element 118 ($36,000/pair) — but with claimed power outputs of 300W into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, or 1200W into 2 ohms, it should provide enough juice for most speakers. What intrigued me wasn’t the Element 116’s high power or attractive casework — a combination of black nickel with accents of rose-gold-colored plating. Instead, I was smitten by the exceptionally refined, detailed sound that emerged from the Muraudio SP1 speakers the amps were driving. (I reviewed the SP1s on this site last June.) According to owner-designer Merrill Wettasinghe, the Element 116’s output stage is unique in relying on gallium-nitride transistors, which operate at much higher speed than typical transistors, and thus allowed Wettasinghe to build a class-D circuit devoid of the typical problems with such amps, and that uses no feedback whatsoever.
When I told Wettasinghe that I was impressed by the detail coming from the speakers, he told me that what I heard had a lot to do with the Element 116s’ lack of feedback. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know — after all, I was hearing the sound of an unfamiliar system in an unfamiliar room. But I’m very familiar with the sound of the Muraudio SP1 speakers, and the sound of them driven by the Merrills was so good that I was intrigued. Wettasinghe got some of our other writers interested, too — minutes after my show report went live, they commented specifically on this amp. We want to get a pair of these in for a full review.
by Doug Schneider
– Comparative Thoughts –
Merrill Audio Element 116 vs Veritas Class D Monoblock Amplifiiers
Over the years, I’ve had numerous amps of various topologies…NAD, Simaudio, Pass Labs, Atma-Sphere, Conrad Johnson, to name a few. Some purchased/many just in for a brief audition/review. As professional musicians, my wife and I have crafted a home audio system that serves both downtime as well as critical listening of recording project drafts, reference study, etc. So, we really have to get it right when it comes to truth-in-source reproduction – no artificial colors or sweeteners. I think we’re pretty close, or at least for what our budget will allow. Thus, when we chose to retain Merrill’s Veritas monos a few yrs ago, it was after numerous auditions listening for that major step forward towards authenticity. I was and remain an ardent admirer of Merrill’s sound designs, so when the opportunity was presented to compare our Veritas to his new Element 116’s, there was no hesitation.
I’ll bypass recounting the spec comparisons, as they are readily available. Rather, I’d like to offer a few simple listening observations:
The Veritas are sonically attractive on a number of levels: Transient clarity, overall speed and accuracy, exceptional detail at low amplitudes, spacial resolution, well-placed sources, and an organic truth-in-source which I particularly admire. As has been mentioned by others, the Element 116’s really do take these same fundamental qualities and expound on them in every direction.
It should be mentioned that the design and build of the 116 chassis is incredibly elegant – fit-n-finish is top-shelf, offering an unquestionable state-of-the-art appearance. WBT speaker binding posts are built like a tank – beefy, with fantastic grip and feel. IMHO, quanta leap forward from the Cardas binding posts on the Veritas.
While both the Veritas and 116 offer large fortes in speed and accuracy, the PRAT of the 116 is uncanny. Clarity seems to simply flow with this power plant behind the source. Every minutia recorded from the musicians is present in the listening experience in as natural a manner possible. Neither the Veritas nor the 116 ever come across as sterile for the sake of detail, but rather in an engaging and non-fatiguing way. What the 116 offers above the Veritas is a more tactile experience. Everything flows with an immediacy and sense of 3-dimensionality. The 116 seems to help lift the top and bottom off the frequency spectrum, allowing the timbral characteristics of both instrumental and vocal sources to sound wonderfully realistic and organic. Definitely no artificial colors or sweeteners here! I suspect much of this affect has to do with increased air/spacial awareness – essentially no noise discerned. Sonic image is deeper, more holographic when compared to the Veritas – backdrop is pitch black. Ease of listening through and around instrumental sources is impressive, yet the intent of a composite entity is never
lost. Equally, any vestiges of subtle over rings or distortion which may be present on certain recordings when powered by the Veritas seem to have disappeared with the 116.
Its fair to say that, in my opinion, the sonic presentation of the Element 116 is as confident as the Veritas, with a sizably more robust authority. A seemingly limitless but non-artificial frequency spectrum, coupled with a truthful reveal of organics from acoustic sources, partic. guitar and pno, help promote this experience. I sense anyone auditioning monos in this price bracket will find the Element 116’s deliver some of the best amplification anywhere, and clearly competitive with many designs priced well above. My congratulations and thanks to Merrill for his continued forward thinking in audio design! His efforts have made this musician very happy!
VAC Signature MKIIa SE Pre (w/ phono)
VPI Scoutmaster Sig. (w/ Dynavector XV-1s cart)
Daedalus Athena v. 2
JPS Aluminata pc’s, ic’s, speaker cable
Reference Recordings (Sampling):
Andy McKee “Art In Motion”
Buika “Nina de Fuego”
Stacey Kent “Dreamer In Concert”
Antonio Forcione “Tears Of Joy”
Alex de Grassi “Southern Exposure”
Jeff Hamilton Trio “The Best Things Happen”
Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny “beyond the Missouri Sky”
Oregon “In Performance”
Herbie Hancock “Maiden Voyage”
Jimi Hendrix “Band of Gypsys”
Skywalk “The Bohemians”
Joni Mitchell “Hejira”
Dr. Michael R. Bump
Percussive Arts Society Board of Directors
Professor/Director, Percussion Studies
Truman State University
Department of Music
2326 Ophelia Parrish
Kirksville, MO 63501
My general impression is WOA! Honestly, they leave the Veritas in the dust. I wont say that in the review of course. The Veritas are great amps and these cost 2ice as much. But there really is no comparison other than the E116 take all of the good qualities of the Veritas and run with them. The metaphor that comes to to mind is this: Imagine the sound image is a relief sculpture. With the Veritas, the image is chiseled with delicacy and finesse. You “see” (hear) all of the details and perceive all of the textures and tones, specially if you focus your attention on any of these qualities. With the E118, the image, its details, textures and tones are even more fine and clear, but, more pointedly, the background from where the images emerge is farther back, more recessed and thus the figures and their contour and placement in the scene is way more evident without effort. So if with the Veritas YOU COULD PERCEIVE THNGS IF YOU PLACED YOU ATTENTION ON THEM, with the E118, it is almost impossible to miss them. They are self-revealing and evident. They jump into space as the music unfolds with natural force and they recede into nothingness with such momentum that you can’t miss them. It is quite something. This was evident in ALL recordings. Dull records sounded alive, great records sounded as vivo performances right there on the space between the system and I. Specially one record, https://www.bauerstudios.de/de/data/shop/6560/ was so vivid and real that Mar, who was in a separate room and with earbuds on listening to a talk, yelled “WAO!!!” when the first track concluded and came to join me to listen to the rest of the LP. I did not tell her which amps were playing and asked her to close her eyes when finished and switched to the Veritas. She got up after a minute: “This sounds great, but it’s uninteresting by comparison.”
In short, these are quite an achievement. Seriously the best amplification I have ever heard. I am sure the 118s are even better, specially under stress, but these 116s are something achievable and to cherish.
I.Rivera, NYC, 20th Aug 2018.