A day prior to the start of THE Show Newport, Meridian announced their new Reference Meridian Ultra DAC that caught my attention. Looking at the spec sheet- a dedicated clock card & dual mono DACs, this was the DAC to hear, if you want to experience MQA. Its global debut was at Sunny’s Audio Video room @ Newport, and I was curious to see what it could deliver.
Sunil Merchant, owner of Sunny’s Audio Video supported 4 rooms at THE Show Newport. Sunny’s main room was a powerhouse of:
- Wilson Audio Sasha 2 speakers
- Wilson Audio Watchdog subs x 2!
- Audio Research Reference 6 pre-amp
- Audio Research Reference 3 Phono pre-amp
- Audio Research Reference 250 SE amplifiers x 4!
- Meridian Ultra DAC
- Audioquest Niagara 700 power conditioner x 2!
- Audioquest WEL Signature cabling
- HRS SXR Racks and M3X Shelves
- Bergmann turntable and Lyra Etna cartridge
Once seated, track after track, it reminded me what this hobby is about… getting engaged with the music. I didn’t want to leave, and returned to this room several times. Something magical about Wilson Audio Speakers + Audio Research electronics.
I don’t think I have ever seen a room with four Audio Research Ref 250 SE amps- talk about a lot of tubes! In place was a dedicated Audioquest Niagara 7000 for power conditioning the 4 amps at the front of the room, as well as a second Niagara 7000 for the sources in the beautiful HRS SXR Rack. The Niagara 7000 first caught my attention at Music Matters 11 and I was happy to see it again. We will have an in-depth review of the Niagara 7000 coming soon.
Back to MQA and Meridian Ultra DAC. Newport was my first opportunity to listen to any MQA files.
I admit that there was a time that I liked Adele, back during the release of her album 19. I can’t listen to her anymore, and the constant barrage of her on the radio causes me to flip channels faster than my 8-year-old. But as Sunny pressed PLAY on the Meridian Sooloos to queue “Hello” from Adele’s 25 album, I was engaged. For the first time, I actually enjoyed hearing that track (yes, I’m embarrassed). What’s interesting is I own that LP, and have played it 3-4 times on my reference analog rig, and it did nothing for me. But in Sunny’s room, it was different. Interesting.
I hunted through his collection to find other MQA tracks that I was familiar with. Norah Jones – Come away with me, is one I am very familiar with as I have played it a few too many times from the Quality Records re-issue. In MQA, that track sounded good — really good. The pace, the details, the warmth, are all things I could listen to all day. Not enough data to reach a conclusion on MQA, but piqued my interest that MQA has potential.
I have no interest in ever getting rid of my analog rig and LPs, but if we can find a digital format that is engaging like my analog rig, that is a good thing.