"The Cara proved to be quite a performer. Compared with my much more expensive Mark Levinson 380s, the Merrill line stage only came up slightly short on liquidity and high-frequency polish, but it was not as dark and had a less-plummy bottom end.
I also borrowed a Christine from Merrill, just to see what an additional $9,000 would buy. The Christine was jaw-dropping, with more bandwidth, superior speed, greater detail and a wider and deeper sound stage. It definitely earns its price difference. But when I switched back to the Cara, I didn’t feel like I’d stepped too far down the ladder. The family resemblance was remarkable.
When I talked to Wettasinghe after my home listening was completed, he explained that his chief goal for the Cara was to achieve as little internal noise as possible within his budget. This seems like a no-brainer for any piece of high-end equipment, but I’ve come to realize there’s low noise and then there’s really low noise.
Taking distortion down to almost the vanishing point brings many benefits, especially for a preamp. With the Cara, Merrill Audio has done that. The fact that Wettasinghe accomplished this in a $3,500 product — with a separate power supply, dual-mono operation and flagship-level fit-and-finish — is stunning. My advice is to buy one before Merrill figures out he could be charging a lot more."
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