February 13, 2013. – Monday, England’s digital specialist Meridian introduced a device meant to compete directly with Audioquest’s wildly successful Dragonfly. Like that watershed product, Meridian’s product, dubbed The Explorer, is an affordable USB DAC meant to connect directly and easily to PC’s and Macs. Other similarities include: a small, sexy, lifestyle-friendly form factor; plug-and-play compatibility; a 3.5mm output for connectivity to a headphone or audio system; variable or fixed ouput; a surprisingly accessible price–The Explorer goes for just $299.95. Meridian states that inside The Explorer are extremely high-quality parts mounted to a six-layer PCB. Excellent sound is promised, thanks in part to separate clocks for integer multiples of 44.1kHZ and 48kHZ sampling rates, as well as support for asynchronous data transfer.
Despite the obvious similarities there are at least two significant differences between The Explorer and Dragonfly. First, The Explorer supports sample rates up to 192k, while Dragonfly maxes out at 96k. Second, Meridian’s unit does not itself include a USB plug at one end. Rather, The Explorer interfaces with a computer by means of a short, flexible USB cable that is compatible with its USB2 mini B socket. Although users might find this arrangement slightly less convenient, Meridian correctly points out the little-known fact that USB sockets on computer mother boards are notoriously prone to failure brought on by mechanical stress. By keeping the short cable plugged into the laptop, and connecting/disconnecting it at the DAC end, Meridian’s arrangement spares the computer that stress. It’s a thoughtful touch, though most users won’t appreciate the thought behind it.
A review of The Explorer, and the inevitable comparison with the Dragonfly, is surely in the cards.
By Alan Taffel
I can thank my parents for introducing me to both good music and good sound at an early age. Their extensive classical music collection, played through an enviable system, continually filled our house. When I was two, my parents gave me one of those all-in-one changers, which I played to death.More articles from this editor
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