I am all for people having a nice hifi, but the department-store offerings from global brands around Christmas time sadden me. After all, there are numerous real audiophile companies – many of them, delightfully, British – now offering equipment of a level or three above the mass-market standards, and all in one consumer-friendly package. Such as this from Musical Fidelity of Wembley, a multi-unit system that at £1,299 is an outstanding buy.
The box of the Merlin Multi Format Audio System reads “Music is our religion”, which may be coming on a bit strong, but the brand has certainly shown devotion to sourcing some superbly high-quality elements. There’s a tremendous combined dual-mono amp (with twin DACs) and an aptX Bluetooth streamer made in Taiwan; a pair of matching heavy, metal‑cased speakers that can be configured vertically or horizontally and still sound excellent; and there’s the Merlin matching vinyl deck, the Round Table (of course), an impressive, weighty, old-fashioned platter and belt drive with a solid MDF body, painted and lacquered in the Czech Republic. All of which has been aesthetically melded into an interior-enhancing whole. The Merlin is as fine a mini-system as you’ll get, with the substantial twist of that lovely deck – available separately for £599, incidentally, and well worth it.