There’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.