Merrill Audio is a relatively small company with a relatively big idea. It’s out to make the best and most uncompromising audio amplifier electronics out there. The Element 118 mono amps are just one example of how it intends to do just that. These are big, powerful mono amps that give and demand no quarter from music lover and system alike. That’s the Merrill way!
The name itself shows just what I mean by uncompromising. Element 118 is an artificially produced radioactive element called Oganesson. Scientists know enough about Oganesson to know almost nothing about it, although it was discovered in the 2000s because after bombarding californium with calcium ions for 1,080 hours, they had produced precisely three atoms of Organesson, which had a half-life of 0.89 milliseconds. From this, we can conclude Merrill Wettasinghe of Merrill Audio is a bit of a science nerd; no-one else would name their amp after a super rare element, and that the scientists who discovered element 118 don’t get out that much. I’d also argue that 0.89 milliseconds is about as long as you need to listen to the Element 118 mono amps before you realise just how good they are!
Even by Merrill’s uncompromising standards, the Element 118 is pretty out there. It’s the most ambitious audio project Merrill has ever produced. And we’re back to drawing parallels with that name again; Merrill claims the Element 118 “reflects the newest in technologies”, which means a Class D design using fast switching gallium nitride transistors that can work to a wide-bandwidth up into the GHz level.
Let’s lay a great audio ghost to rest: the audiophile’s irrational fear of Class D. OK, maybe not completely irrational; early samples were pretty awful in musical terms, but it’s also worth remembering that was more than 20 years ago, and things have moved on. Just as those first steps in transistor amplifiers like the Leak Stereo 30 had little in common with a mid-1980s Krell power amplifier, so we need to get past the knee-jerk Class D reaction that is not for audiophile use (a notion that still plagues good audio) and move on. The Merrill 118 is probably too rare to stage the fightback to prove just how good Class D can be, but the proof is in the listening.
Merrill has chosen to go with Class D not because it’s small or that it runs cool, although that last is a handy by-product. Instead, it’s chosen because it’s the right technology to deliver a good sonic performance. Of course, it’s capable of delivering a good performance if you know what you are doing, and Merrill clearly does.
The level of uncompromising (that word again) dedication shines through everywhere in the Element 118. For example, the amplifier is balanced only and doesn’t even have an on/off switch. The chassis is nickel plated with rose gold panels and sits on outriggers with Iso Acoustics Gaia II footers on each, making it a very stable platform.