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Meridian Audio Part Two

After attending the Meridian demo, I had more questions, so we next cornered Duncan Smith, shown to the right standing next to what must be the widest center channel speaker I have ever seen the Meridian DSP-5500 center. Duncan was also friendly and enthusiastic about all matters audio, and we talked for quite a while.

I asked him about Meridian's room-correction module for the 861, and he said that it was unreleased for a number of reasons: it was difficult to set up and use (they're working on improving that) and they're waiting for the high sample rate (ie. 96kHz and 192kHz DVD Audio, and SACD) issues to settle down so they can do room correction on high-sample rate signals.

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I also asked Duncan why Meridian thought audio upsampling was beneficial. He firmly believed that it was beneficial, and offered a few explanations why. Duncan emphasized that upsampling could not create new information. Instead, he said that it alters the jitter characteristics of the digital receiver (eg. the DAC) in a favorable way because the S/P-DIF format was so bad. Duncan didn't mention that this was predicted by Malcolm Hawksford in a paper written years earlier. I expressed surprise at this reason given that Meridian goes through great lengths to suppress jitter, and he expressed his disappointment in the S/P-DIF format in his one-word response, "unfortunately". He also mentioned that Meridian's upsampling filter used precisely implemented arithmetic, and that by effectively bypassing certain computation stages by delivering a 96 kHz signal, upsampling improved sound quality. They've clearly been thinking a lot about this because I just had to ask the initial question, and Duncan went on for quite a while with no prompting from me. I asked Duncan if they did any blind testing at Meridian, and he said that they do some, but much of their work is also checked by colleagues who have no vested interest in their project. Duncan also mentioned that if it doesn't measure right, it's not even worth listening to.

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Duncan and I next talked about Meridian's user-interface and how it's been viewed as an important weak point of the processors. He admitted that the company's products were sometimes difficult to use, but stated that they were slowly improving, especially if you compare any of the current processors to the 565. He said that Meridian's bias was to put as much control in the product as possible, and unfortunately, this made for a complex user interface.

I asked him about one of those features, Meridian's highly adjustable subwoofer crossover frequency, and how difficult it was for customers to set. Duncan mentioned that subwoofers were already difficult to set up and that the added complexity of selecting a crossover in 1Hz increments really didn't matter that much. In fact, he mentioned that Meridian really doesn't like to use subs with satellites. Instead, they prefer using full-range speakers, especially since bass is directional. He mentioned that when watching movies, he would just set the sub crossover to 80Hz, and forget about it. When listening to music, he would adjust the sub high-pass frequency down until he no longer heard the sub. I got the impression that he didn't really think much of subwoofers... []

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


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