I know where you are coming from. I spent countless hours on this forum reading, re-reading posts and trying to form an opinion on the Merlin and the 8.A. It was the first time went custom and the stakes were high. I finally choose the Merlin because of the good reviews, good price and excellent contact with the local UM rep. 18 months after I am very happy with my choice. I have demoed dozens if TOTL IEMs and IMO the Merlin's bass is unique. If you like thickness look no further. On some tracks with a purring bassline (signature sound of Dance artist Ian Carey) the Merlin sound is literally fat! Like a super-marbeled piece of meat. Today I am upgrading not because of the bass, but in spite of. I am looking for lusher mids and treble. Maybe one day I will send my Merlin for a mod to replace the BA drivers, but no one will touch this DD!