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Newport 2016: Meridian DSP 7200 Special Edition and MQA

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Meridian DSP 7200 Special Edition (approx. $30,000 USD/pair).

Newport250x2501There’s something to be said for 240 lbs of digital-active loudspeakers (analog gain & filtering featuring proprietary Meridian Class-A discrete amplification – 600 watts/speaker) with built-in DSP, and DACs, that can pretty much be put into any room and sound great (+/-3dB from 30 Hz to more than 32 kHz). Got a long, narrow room, and weird corners, or angled ceilings? No problem. Meridian’s proprietary Digital Signal Processing helps smooth out any lumpy frequency responses being maligned by non-standard room shapes, and Meridian’s Enhanced Bass Alignment (EBA) technology provides stunningly deep, fast bass that kept rocking my head back at Newport Beach like Frazier did Ali (From the Meridian website: Enhanced Bass Alignment provides accurate time-alignment of the drivers in the system, delivering exceptional imaging and a clear, transparent, more life-like sound). I was listening to MQA files being fed to the Meridian DSP7200SE loudspeakers, and really enjoying the tremendous sonic impact the design was capable of delivering. As someone who lives in one of the world’s stupidest real estate markets, where square footage is at an ubër premium, the idea of only needing a digital streamer to feed these svelte beasts is very appealing in maintaining the Japanese design aesthetic I’ve come to embrace, and keeping my listening open.

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Beautiful hand-lacquered finishes available in 270 Meridian Select custom colors (piano lacquer black or white at no extra cost).

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stop imagining Tidal/Roon, an iPad Mini, a discreet streaming component (Auralic Aries anyone?), and a pair of these beauties as my complete system. That’s it. (I’ll admit, I was fantasizing/fetishizing about that very thought the entire time I was in the room). No dealing with a shit-ton of cabling like most systems (other than AC cables, all they need is an Ethernet cable between speakers, and to feed them source files),no multiple boxes, racks, isolation gear, tubes, or hundreds of LPs taking up gobs of space, cleaning of vinyl… but I digress.

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Two 7.9″ long-throw bass drivers, one 6.3″ mid-driver, and one 1″ piston-tweeter in short horn with beryllium dome, and silver voice coils.

While the 7200s aren’t cheap, looky-see some of what they have packed into them… from the Meridian website:

Master Quality Authenticated (MQA): Sourced from the original studio master recording as approved by the creative team, MQA combines an advanced new digital sampling technology that captures extremely high frequency timing and detail in an audio signal with an equally novel system to “encapsulate” that data into a form for delivery using any lossless file format or streaming. The listener’s decoder reconstructs the entire original signal, bringing up an indicator confirming that what they are hearing is exactly the same as the original master. Without the decoder, the listener enjoys CD quality reproduction. Its most advanced form, “MQA Studio”, uses the technology in the studio to generate an even higher quality master recording as the source.

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MQA capable… regardless of what you think of it, I like it.

I’ve heard MQA, if you haven’t heard it, then try to figure out a way to hear some of the files for yourself, and please do a comparison. You won’t be sorry you did, and then regardless what all the talking heads who live in their mother’s basement say about it, you will have your own opinion, and can decide for yourself if you prefer it or not. What I heard of MQA, I really enjoyed: it was musical as all hell, strange alternate universe that it resides in be damned.

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Digital Signal Processing (DSP): The traditional setup – amplifiers driving passive loudspeakers – is inefficient, limiting sound quality. Meridian loudspeakers contain a complete, matched audio system with efficient DSP crossovers,  multiple DACs and driver-specific amplifiers, giving higher overall quality, less power use, and the performance of a traditional loudspeaker eight times the physical volume.

FIFO Buffering (First-In First-out): Each sample of a digital recording must remain evenly spaced in time. Unfortunately, timing can vary, especially when reading discs. This is “jitter”, degrading music’s sense of space and diminishing realism. Meridian’s multiple “First In, First Out” buffering system minimizes jitter, ensuring perfect timing and improved clarity. You enjoy a clearer feeling of the instruments and their interrelationship.

Meridan High Resolution (MHR): MHR was the first approved encryption method for transferring high definition digital audio between components. Previously, it had to be in the analogue domain, reducing quality. MHR allows secure movement of high resolution digital audio within a Meridian system, without compromise, improving quality by reducing cyclic repetition.

Meridan Apodising Filter: Filters are critical in digital audio. Commonly they introduce distortion and harshness because of “pre-ringing”. Early digital recordings suffer from harshness too, due to primitive filters. After painstaking research, Meridian developed a special filter that avoids pre-ringing, so it can be steeper, cleaning up the effects of early filters. The result: a better, cleaner sound from recordings old and new.

Enhanced Bass Alignment (EBA): High or low, all sounds travel at the same speed, so all the sounds from a live musical event arrive at your ear at the same time, whatever frequencies they contain. Loudspeakers, however, have a problem when playing low frequency sounds at the same time as mid and high frequencies – the bass arrives late, and the deeper the sound, the later it arrives. This delayed bass causes music to lose its impact and reduces the sense of the recorded space – it is often described as “boomy.” The goal is to have time-accurate loudspeakers, where all reproduced frequencies start and end at the same time. In a loudspeaker, this timing is affected by the crossover, driver, and enclosure 
type. To eliminate the delay between low, and mid and high frequencies, Meridian has designed a combination of digital filters and time delays for the mid and high frequencies. This solution enables the mid and high frequencies to “wait” for the low frequencies, delivering perfectly-timed music playback. Mid and high frequencies are delayed to time-align them, while upper bass is delayed with a special type of patented filter. These features must 
be implemented entirely in the digital domain, making them impossible to achieve in any passive or analogue-active loudspeaker design. Enhanced Bass Alignment provides accurate time-alignment of the drivers in the system, delivering exceptional imaging and a clear, transparent, more life like sound.

Yes, it’s got a lot of technology stuffed inside, but the 7200 sounds fantastic. It’s ballsy, fast, has deep, Stygian bass, sweet highs, and while it might not possess the Nth degree of tonal-cello woodiness, saxophone reediness, or resined-bow textured mids I’ve come to love from pairing SET amps, and high-efficiency speakers with a vinyl front end, it gets awful close without all the awful fuss, and that makes inner design-aesthetic Buddha smile.

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About Rafe Arnott (325 Articles)

Editor and Creative Director for Part-Time Audiophile & The Occasional Magazine.

3 Comments on Newport 2016: Meridian DSP 7200 Special Edition and MQA

  1. In response to the last comment regarding MQA & comparing to DSD, 192PCM, etc._ as one with half a brain should expect; a DSD file is most certainly going to perform better than a compressed format… otherwise recording studios would quickly abandon space-hogging; memory hogging DSD in a second.

    RE 192PCM compared to MQA; I’ve done this comparison. Myself and staff have been unable to put our finger on a demonstrable difference.

    Thinking about Putzey’s argument of MQA being “Hype”, MQA is an amazing breakthrough in compression that affords a means for music companies to deliver an exceptional experience through streaming services… you know, the way 99.9% of humanity experiences music these days.

    MQA was never designed with audiophiles in mind… it was designed for people who really enjoy music to consume it in a higher quality format than what they are accustom to… which might spawn a younger generation of listeners to not be content hearing their music via ear buds and bluetooth pill speakers.

    Meridian never developed MQA with the intent of folks downloading their own music files to be run through a USB DAC via their home-brewed music server running esoteric software.

    For all of us propeller heads who care more about listening and critiquing the gear than the actual music we’re hearing (and say what you want, but it’s totally true people); MQA should only be of concern for you if you want the best possible music experience via streaming services.

  2. Spector Norman // August 1, 2016 at 7:21 AM //

    Have A/B’d MQA vs CD on both Harbeth 40.1 and Meridian DSP 7200 SE and can honestly say that it represents an astounding leap forward in sound quality. Eagerly await more content coming onto the market and Tidal streaming

  3. Insert User Name Here // July 29, 2016 at 12:20 PM //

    Yes, the search for such minimalism is why I bought a pair of Kii THREE speakers and a Yellowtech PUC2 D2D converter, which (unlike the 7200s) can sit on my desktop–while going all the way down to 20Hz, +/- 0.5dB).

    Interestingly (unfortunately?) Kii’s designer, Bruno Putzeys, is not a fan of MQA and thinks it’s mostly hype. So it’s not now, nor will it ever likely be available from Kii products, though they are fully software driven so, theoretically, MQA could be added with a firmware update.

    I’ve never heard MQA, so I cannot say though, from all of the slathering press coverage I’ve read, it doesn’t seem that Meridian/MQA is ever played A/B against the PCM/DSD versions of the same tracks… so even if the MQA does indeed sound wonderful, it will sound no more wonderful than a 192PCM track of the same, which is Putzeys’s argument (true, MQA allows this track to be losselessly compressed down to a file-size small enough to stream through, say, Tidal, which IS cool, but the un-compressed track will, in the end, sound no different than a 192 PCM of the same–or so the argument goes). Again, I’ve never A/B’ed MQA, so I cannot say for sure and, with my current speakers, I likely never will. But, for me, digital-active speakers, for both aesthetic and sound-quality reasons, remains much the more exciting prospect than the much ballyhooed MQA.

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