To help mark the 25th anniversary of the launch of Meridian’s first digital loudspeaker, Meridian co-founder Bob Stuart presented three new Special Edition Meridian DSP Digital Active Loudspeakers at audio retailer Audio High in Mountain View, CA. Meridian has pioneered an all-digital signal path to the loudspeaker since 1989 with the introduction of its D600 speaker, which was quickly followed by the DSP6000, the first loudspeaker to include Digital Signal Processing.
The company’s new digital loudspeaker offerings include: The DSP8000 SE ($80,000/pair), the DSP7200 SE ($46,000/pair), and the DSP5200 SE ($20,000/pair). Each is available now on order, and current customers of previous models (the DSP5200, DSP7200, and DSP8000) can upgrade those speakers with the new Meridian-designed short-horn-loaded Beryllium-dome tweeter, as well as new extended-bandwidth analog electronics and a new DSP package. Based upon the reaction from some current Meridian owners in the audience, these upgrades move these digital loudspeakers to even higher levels of sonic performance.
What I find so enticing about Meridian’s digital loudspeaker approach is that all one needs to add to them for a complete system is a digital front end, like Meridian’s 818 Reference Audio Core which was mated to the DSP8000 SE in the demo at Audio High. The 818 includes a high-performance preamplifier that uses triple FIFO buffering, DSP upsampling and apodising filters, as well as a Meridian Sooloos player. Adding a digital source in combination with a Meridian digital speaker makes for a very straight-forward, elegant system that has incredible power and flexibility. Based on what I heard at Audio High, the sonic results are eye-opening, too!
Times have certainly changed since the introduction of Meridian’s original digital loudspeakers. Bob Stuart said that current flagship Special Edition DSP8000 “is fifty-times as powerful” as their first digital speaker and sports several innovations. While Meridian’s digital loudspeakers have always been active, with the amplifiers and line-level crossovers inside the cabinet, this new generation features beryllium dome tweeters, upgraded electronics, and driver clamp rings on the midrange and bass drivers to minimize colorations by increasing mechanical stability. The DSP8000SE has two-times the DSP power of the standard model and uses Enhanced Bass Alignment (EBA) technology to produce bass with remarkable clarity and transient speed.
“All the notes are in time,” said Mr. Stuart, who serves as Meridian’s Chairman and Chief Technical Officer. “What you hear is what the microphones hear,” he added. “These new Special Edition loudspeakers specifically benefit from Meridian’s scientific research into how humans perceive sound, or ‘how we hear,’ in particular focusing on how our brains process live sound.”
While personally demoing the DSP8000SE ($80,000/pair), Bob added that low frequency delay is a problem that plagues traditional loudspeaker designs. In short, the bass arrives late, particularly the deepest tones. Meridian’s DSP technology corrects these delay artifacts and enables the DSP8000SE to play down to 20Hz with both power and control. It also allows the speaker to sound terrific in a variety of environments.
Bob Stuart said that his reference is “real instruments in real space” and combined with some of the best high-res files, like those from Wilson Audiophile Recordings, he has been able to come remarkably close with these new offerings. On the 176.4kHz/24bit David Abel, Julie Steinberg recording of Beethoven’s Sonata in G and Enescu’s Sonata No. 3 (one of my favorite recordings) the sound was breathtaking, with real coherence between the drivers, harmonic integrity, and remarkable speed without smearing on the leading edges of transients.
On the high-res recording of the Ravel String Quartet, performed by the Guarneri String Quartet, I was struck by the sense of space and air in the broad soundstage, the natural presentation with oodles of fine detail, as well as the incredible focus of the instruments.
The 24/192kHz Britten Simple Symphony had naturally articulate, solid, undistorted bass, and on a high-res ECM recording of Keith Jarrett on solo piano, I thought I heard more on that recording through the Meridian system, than I’ve heard on vinyl (e.g. the reverberations of the hall). That's high praise!
The last recording I heard was an unreleased 192kHz recording off an analog master of Milt Jackson on vibes and Ray Charles on piano. The hall acoustic was remarkable and the sound was relaxed, natural, and lifelike. This recording totally sucked me into the performance, similar to my experience at a live concert in a good hall.
Admittedly, I have been more in the analog camp when it comes to high-performance audio systems, but these new Meridian special edition digital loudspeakers (combined with high-res music files and a great digital front end) are game-changers!
Meridian’s Nation-Wide Tour
Meridian is on a nation-wide tour showcasing these remarkable special edition loudspeakers. I would encourage all audiophiles and music lovers to check them out. It may change your perception of digital—it did for me!
Although the tour is well under way, there still may be time to listen for yourself. Following is the schedule:
Access Networks, Los Angeles, CA
Audio Advisors, West Palm Beach, FL
Meridian Fort Lauderdale Boutique
Innovative Audio hosted at Meridian Headquarters NYC
Meridian Headquarters NYC
To find out more about the tour, or these special edition loudspeakers, go to: https://www.meridian-audio.com/en/campaigns/anniversary/