A Visit To Meridian HQ

Dealership

Our company TIH is a re-established Meridian dealership. Our focus is on the custom installation market and Meridian offers us a range of products that can be configured as'distributed' in nature allowing simple upgrades and changes to these configurations enabling new features, interfaces and increased performance as appropriate.

 

Masterclass Courses

The master class courses are available to all Meridian dealers and contribute to Cedia membership.The one day stereo master class course teaches candidates the fundamental skills needed to specify & setup high performance two-channel audio systems.

 

Course content covers how best to achieve maximum musical enjoyment in a variety of different spaces and environments. Specifically the course covers:

  1. Listening room effects
  2. Audio signal management
  3. Electronics & Speakers
  4. System configuration
  5. Practical demonstrations. 

The service support manager Des Ford was on hand to deliver the course. Des has been with Meridian for a considerable number of years and he will not mind me saying so, as he is extremely proud of Meridian's achievements over the years. Meridian runs through his DNA and as he freely expresses, has seen it all. It therefore does give me the opportunity to quiz him on all of the nuisances of Meridian equipment and operation, more of which later. Product areas were highlighted for discussion and the following is a technical and commercial summary:-

         Sooloos Platform is subscription free & MQA ready

        Sooloos Platform is subscription free & MQA ready

Sooloos Platform

Sooloos with a 818V3 controller along with a pair of SE DSP loudspeakers fed with MQA material is the most advanced audio technology available today, period.

 

 

 

 

The  continued development of the Sooloos platform required Meridian to reduce the entry cost to customers ensuring larger market penetration against competitive solutions.

Meridian achieved the entry cost reduction in a number of staggered ways:-

  1. Introduced a MS200 Sooloos single end point with speakerlink , analogue and SPDIF. This product has remained at the same great value since launch.
  2. Developed an 'free' iPad, iPhone app. These apps are subject to 'continuous development' adding new features and benefits as appropriate.
  3. Enabled the option for users to migrate the 'Core' function and storage capability to the third party NAS provider QNAP.
  4. Developed 'TouchPC' enabling an enhanced graphical interface and increased functionality, giving a migration path from Control 15/10. It also allows for new interesting installations such as large screen touch displays. Meridian have a 50" touch screen operational in their reception area.

This means Sooloos as a standalone product is now free of charge and subscription free. It gives the customer complete control on storage, electronics and loudspeakers options. 

For clarification, the MC600, MD600 and Control 15 are now being phased out worldwide as stocks are sold through.

MS200 Sooloos End Point

Prior to the MS200 the MC600 (six zone) allowed the integration of multiple zones along with storage and core. A useful product however it added cost and redundancy if all zones were not enabled.

The MS200 Sooloos end point for custom installers is an ideal product enabling expandable system design. A new 1U rack mount kit is available housing up to four MS200's.

Couple the MS200 with the new DSP320 and installers have an unbeatable solution, and that is before EBA is enabled. Installers have the option of locating the MS200 at the speaker location or in a media cupboard.

MC200

The MC200 which contains the core function is an ideal Sooloos system. It is essentially a one stop solution and It's functionality is unique at this level:-

  1. Contains a 1TB HDD allowing up to 2000 lossless albums, that is a lot of listening pleasure.
  2. Enables collation of streaming libraries from Tidal, Rhapsody and Napster with more to come.
  3. Delivery of bit perfect files to any Sooloos end point.

 

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)

Meridian's current  products  that contain MQA decoders are the 808V6 Signature Reference CD player and 818V3 Controller and also the Explorer2. and Prime. 

 

It is important to note that the Sooloos platform delivers a bit perfect file to endpoints, thus it is inherently MQA Ready dependent on the receiving hardware. It is the hardware at the endpoint which is the deciding factor. The Sooloos platform already has inherent apodising and upsampling technology for existing CD and digital collections. 

If there is not an MQA decoder in the signal path the file is played at CD quality, an MS200 for example will playback in standard CD resolution. This is known as backwards capability and is highly desirable allowing a single file to be managed by music companies and the distribution network.

The SE DSP loudspeakers do not contain MQA decoders but preserve MQA resolution in it's highest form thanks to the high bandwidth electronics and Beryllium Tweeter.

MQA replay and control capability throughout the Meridian range continues to be developed, with enhancements such as the latest Sooloos platform software update (V2.494 3rd May 2016) which contains deeper MQA integration.

DSP320 Architectural Loudspeaker

Of particular interest to ourselves is the new DSP320 architectural loudspeaker. 

The DSP320 is Meridian's most compact loudspeaker targeted at simple installation either into ceilings or walls. Their size allows simple installation into stud walls and or ceiling joist voids. for custom installers it eliminates the requirement for rack based amplifiers and associated control electronics, no other in wall or in ceiling loudspeakers comes close to it.
The DSP320 features a special left + right mode, selected via a switch on the front panel. This mode combines the left + right stereo signals and outputs them from the single speaker, eliminating the cancellation effects and increased harmonic distortion typical with passive ‘single stereo’ speakers. This makes the loudspeaker ideal for single point locations such as dressing rooms and bathrooms. On-board digital signal processing has been designed to offer thermal and dynamic bass protection with accurate transients, so, when playing at high levels, the DSP320 delivers a clean, detailed and accurate sound.

The DSP320 can be integrated into systems with Meridian’s free-standing DSP loudspeakers and Meridian's theater demonstration room has done this to great effect. It is being marketed for installers working on just about any project where sound is required. Whether the installer wants to integrate distributed audio around the home through a Meridian Sooloos system or a 2-channel or multi-channel installation for home and marine environments.
The installation may be flush-mounted or completed with an optional bezel to hold the magnetically attached paintable grille. All the elements – fireproof rough-in box, frame, loudspeaker enclosure, included scrim and grille – allow room for on-site adjustment (except when flush-mounted) so that the entire assembly can be fitted with precision into almost any type of ceiling or wall.

M6 DSP Loudspeaker

I have soft spot for the M6, it gives a very high performance through a compact lifestyle enclosure whilst importantly offering EBA. The driver configuration consists of the wide range tweeter assembly and a long throw downwards firing woofer located in the base. This woofer needs special mention as it has a large radiating cross sectional area for the speaker basket diameter making it ideal for the M6 loudspeaker.

This driver configuration has been subsequently developed through the DSP520 and DSP640 loudspeakers giving them a slim form factor (100mm depth) allowing these speakers to be fitted in between standard 200mm pitch stud walling. With the recent price reduction, the M6 along withe the DSP3200 are the best value for money speaker Meridian manufacture.

The Meridian Building

I have visited the company of a number occasions in the past and the building always impresses with its scale and authority. You may be aware that the building was built by the investment money that came through TAG McClaren group many years ago. Not only are Meridian located in the building but also the now separate entity MQA (Master Quality authenticated), located on the second floor behind closed doors, for commercial reasons no Meridian staff are allowed to enter MQA, nor are MQA staff allowed to enter Meridian's facility.

Meridian DS

The entrance reception area is a treasure trove of highly desirable Meridian equipment from DSP5200SE's to a pair of stunning black gloss DSP8000SE's  running from a 818V3 controller.

At the rear of the reception is the entrance to the main building and what greets you is a Meridian Museum of older generation components.

The latest addition has been a mint condition pair of M1 speakers running from a 100 series series amplifier being fed with a Sooloos zone and it sounded amazing for it's age and heritage. Also shown in the Museum were 500, 600 series and a 300s series range that never made it past the pre-production phase,

Manufacturing

The manufacturing shop floor is perfect for how Meridian operate. They manufacture all PCB assemblies on site bringing them together with component chassis and speaker chassis through a very well organised flowline. those of you with a manufacturing background will be familiar with workflows such as Kanban.

 

Meridian have honed these operations to great effect. Work in progress is always a balance of product supply and demand and I am pleased to say that efficiency was high meaning customer delivery times are excellent.
Speaker testing of a complete assembly is undertaken in a small room with  a complex microphone and test tone sweep system. This process is automated however the operator keeps an experienced ear on the process.

DSP Special Edition Loudspeakers in Select Colours ready for the High End Show In Munich 2016

DSP Special Edition Loudspeakers in Select Colours ready for the High End Show In Munich 2016

R&D development listening room

This room was initially designed and installed by Tag MClaren and it is interesting that apart from a couple of ceiling panels Meridian have not changed the room away from it's original design, such was the quality of the initial design. 

This room is where all speakers are voiced either floor standing, in wall and automotive, indeed there were automotive speakers that had just been mounted on the front wall for new development purposes.

Two Channel Listening Room - EBA and MQA

There is a separate two channel listening room towards the rear of the building, Des demonstrated a pair of DSP7200SE's running from a HP Envy Touch PC and through a 818V3 controller.

Des started the demonstrations with a simple EBA (Enhanced Bass Alignment) on or off. EBA is a signification development for Meridian and once you have heard EBA it is difficult to understand why you would go back to systems without EBA capability. 
The music simply 'snaps' into focus giving an amazingly clean and effortless delivery. This is unachievable with passive designs.

Time alignment solutions have been around for many a year including staggered 'baffles' for individual loudspeaker drive units. These solutions of course where merely a selling point and did not provide any real enhancement whatsoever. In effect to time align a tweeter it needed to be meters back from the woofer to provide any perceivable benefit. Meridian's  EBA operates over the complete frequency range and operates in nominal frequency bands. You are therefore not time aligning just the bass delivery but the whole frequency spectrum. 

Demonstrations from Des continued, material was wide ranging but a specific album on the Sooloos system was named MQA and I listened intently to the demonstration. The MQA album contains material that has been demonstrated over the past couple of years to industry partners, musicians, producers, investors and the general public. However hearing it in controlled conditions was a joy. 
The highlight track for myself was the Doors 'Riders Of The Storm'. A track that is engrained in the DNA of my youth and is as  potent as it was then as it is now. Whatever MQA is doing it is doing it marvelously. 

MQA is a music changing event that has barely started going.

Can you imagine fully authenticated MQA Fab Four from the appropriate Abbey Road master tapes. Giles Martin has his work cut out.

Left: The Prefab four Nasty, Stig, Dirk & Barry admit to taking tea in 1967.

 

The Cinema DEMONSTRATION suite

The cinema was of course initially configured by Tag Mclaren and it was state of the art when first installed.

If you have visited Meridian you may be familiar with the room from a number of years ago with the 810 Video Reference projector taking centre stage on a large floor plinth. This configuration has now gone and the room has been shortened in length allowing an equipment room to be built at the rear. The 810 projector is mounted on top of an equipment rack fitted with its anamorphic lens system.  The 810 is now a legend, only a few are lucky to own as Meridian has discontinued production.
The system components are a media server feeding an 861V8 processor and then onto an array of configurable speakers. Up front are the DSP8000SE slightly toed in, a DSP7200SE centre speaker on a bespoke stand with a slight upwards tilt. Sides are DSP7200SE and the rears DSP640 in walls. Just in case there is not enough bass for you, four DSW's are also installed, I suppose if you are Meridian you can just do it.
Also installed in the rear wall are DSP520's and in a interesting configuration in the ceiling are four DSP320's. I wanted to hear the DSP320's in more detail as they are a key speaker in Meridian's line up of custom installation products. 

Des and his colleague Russell started the demonstration, James Bond Skyfall exploded into life with its bombastic delivery of fine detailed and heavy explosive moments seamlessly integrated with immense detail. 
Musical interludes were from Roger Waters and BB King. All delivered with absolute precision. Having had a non SE version of this system at home in the past, I can assure you that I have not heard anything with so much precision and control in a theatre before and that includes a famous Atmos configured Soho Square demonstration suite

Meridian design Service

It is all too easy to get carried away with equipment components  but in the real world building size and living constraints define our listening and viewing room experience and Meridian help custom installers like ourselves with a service called 'Meridian Design and Specification Service'.

Meridian can provide accurate and customised audio visual system designs. This includes two-channel, multi-channel and multi-room system designs for the home or marine environments.

Automotive

Meridian now has the reputation for providing 'the best' in car experience, none more demonstrated by a long wheelbase Range Rover parked in the Meridian automotive development garage. Amazing sound. Apparently if you are an employee of Meridian you can book the car out for weekends, parking at the supermarket is always a challenge

A big thank you to Andrew and the service team who turned around two repairs during the day enabling delivery to a very grateful customer in the evening. That is customer service. Also a  big thank you to the Sales and Service teams for the organisation and support TIH looks forward to a very fruit full relationship. Next the multi channel master class. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are of TIH.

85 Swains Lane

Check it Out - www.85swainslane.co.uk/

                               DSP8000SE's at Swains Lane, check It Out - www.85swainslane.co.uk/