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Home Theater

Meridian Audio Part One

J. Robert Stuart, one of the two founders of Meridian, and its head engineer, is seen to the right posing next to a pair of bright yellow Meridian DSP-8000 digital active loudspeakers. In the rare case that bright yellow clashes with your interior decorating style, they can be custom-finished to a wide variety of colors. Meridian also displayed a slightly more sedate, darker blue DSP-8000 (below right).

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A real treat was the opportunity to talk to both Bob Stuart and Duncan Smith, a member of Meridian's research and development team. I talked to Bob about how multi-channel audio was going to be distributed, and the kinds of multi-channel audio he would like to distribute. Bob thought that height information was very important to reproduce, but was discouraged that many recording engineers don't believe so and will not try to record such a signal.

We then touched on a number of other things briefly because many people were also trying to talk to him. Philip Brandes and I encouraged him to be more active on the Internet, and told him how we appreciated an E-mail he sent to the surround sound mailing list a short while ago explaining how various forms of multi-channel audio could be carried with Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) on DVD-Audio. Bob mentioned that he was reticent to post on the 'Net because of the amount of E-mail he would get as a result.

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I asked one final question on Meridian's use of IEEE 1394, also popularly known as FireWire, and Bob said that they don't yet have a product because the chips from Digital Harmony weren't ready yet.

So what about the Meridian demo? I won't say much about the demo itself, I'll leave that to Philip Brandes, except that they used 'U-571', and that they had the world's most expensive MP3 player. There was over US$100,000 of Meridian speakers, transport, and processor configured in 7-channel mode playing back the upsampled, decoded PCM data of an MP3 file - MP3 playback being one of the trends at this year's CES. Meridian themselves are introducing a DVD player, the 596, that will play back MP3s stored on CDs or CD-Rs.

What was the most interesting part of the demo was Meridian's road map for the future of the 800 series. Version 2.7, which should be out really soon now and available for free download, will incorporate Dolby Pro Logic II and Meridian EZ. Meridian claims that this will make the 861 the first Dolby Pro Logic II decoder available. Meridian EZ is Meridian's application of their matrix decoders to the rear two channels of a 5.1-channel source creating a 7.1-channel signal. Meridian leaves the front three channels alone, and applies their matrixing algorithms to the rear channels alone. They claim that the decoded channels will be directional, being able to, for example, track the flying-dragon path in 'Dragonheart' through the additional channels.

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Version 3.0, and here the road map is becoming fuzzier, because it's somewhat far in the future still, will see the 861 processor and the 800 transport go digital multi-channel with the 800 providing digital data from DVD-Audio and SACD sources to the 800 through an encrypted, proprietary Meridian digital link (MMHR). The devices would also have MP3 decoding and a new user interface.

Even farther, and fuzzier out, is version 4.0 which will add more channels to the 861 which may be used for height channels, or additional side and rear speakers, or additional subwoofer channels. Meridian says that early 800 and 861 owners will have very generous upgrade paths, with the total cost of upgrades and original equipment being less than buying new equipment. They concluded the road map talk by saying that the 500 series would have similar upgrades, and that announcements would be made at a later date. []

More from Meridian Audio...

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Show report last updated: 23rd April 2001. 276 original images on-line.

 

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