First Listen: Meridian Explorer USB DAC

A Portable Pleasure

Digital-to-analog converters,
Music servers and computer audio
Meridian Explorer DAC/headphone amplifier
First Listen: Meridian Explorer USB DAC

First, and this is just preliminary–In spite of the fact that I’ve only listened a short while to the new and very chic Meridian Explorer pocket-sized USB/DAC, I haven’t been anything less than impressed.  Very impressed to be exact. It’s arrival coincided with my first listen to the new Reference Recording CD [RR129] of Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Vaughn Williams The Wasps Overture a personal favorite. It's a reference disc if there ever was one with especially gorgeous string sound. Later this week I plan to air the Explorer out  with higher rez files but based upon my initial encounter this bodes very well indeed for my next listening session.

Packaging and instructions, by the way are first rate and the feel and look of the aluminum-bodied capsule is luxe. Setup was uneventful–virtually glitsch-free as I suspected it would be with a Meridian product aimed at an audience only interested in getting up and running in a hurry. Here's the drill; Beginning with  the USB2 mini B socket of the Explorer,  I plugged the included USB cable to the Explorer and my MacBook Pro (Pure Music software/Memory Play setting, and 8 gigs of RAM) and ran a stereo miniplug-to stereo RCAs cable (I use an AudioQuest) into the analog inputs of the Hegel H300.  After checking the Mac’s Midi and Sound settings I booted up Pure Music/iTunes.

At this stage, most impressive was a lack of soundstage constriction–an area that tends to dog this portable segment. It’s not an arid sound rather there are touches of  analog-like warmth and fluidity that I regard as essential. The Explorer conveyed a wide expanse of the orchestra’s layout with a rewarding sense of depth and air between images. Even more important to these ears was an impressive ambient bloom that elevated the ceiling of the venue rather than tamping it down like a heavy lid over a stew pot. The sound was spacious, extended and transparent,  inviting comparisons to the more expensive DACs I’ve been listening to of late.  Next up , the higher rez files. Stay tuned.

Check out the press release and detailed specs at: