Meridian 602 CD transport Page 2
Front-panel controls are rudimentary, consisting of Open, Play, Stop, Pause, Next, and Prev, but this is because the unit is intended to be mainly used with the supplied 209 full-function remote control. This handsome flat black unit, with a clearly laid-out array of buttons, also operates the 208 CD player/preamplifier and 206B CD player. The 209's Display button cycles the 602 through modes in which it displays Track and Index number; Track number plus elapsed time for the entire disc; Track number plus elapsed time for the current track; Track number plus remaining time for the entire disc; and display blanked. Two additional red LEDs indicate data error and disc pre-emphasis. Two idiosyncrasies are: 1) the remote's Fast Forward and Reverse Scan buttons mute the output while in operationsomething that probably bothers reviewers more than audiophiles in general; and 2) it is not intuitive how to access index points. (You have to first press "*" on the remote.)
The unit's rear sports an IEC AC socket/switch module. As with other Meridian components, the 602 is intended to be left powered at all times, a "standby" button on the 209 putting the unit into a sleeping mode with the display off (apart from a single green dot) but the sonically important circuitry warmed up and ready for action. The AC switch on the rear is only intended to be used if the owner is going on vacation, for example. Two optical data outputs are provided, via standard Toslink jacks, paralleled by a coaxial output on a gold-plated RCA jack. Communication sockets are also providedDIN and Toslink opticalto allow the 602 to serve as the source for (and be controlled by the remote control for) the Meridian D600 and D6000 active loudspeaker systems.
As with other Meridian 200 and 600 series players and transports, the Philips transport mechanism is mounted on the sliding tray, the user actually placing the disc on the motor spindle rather than on a separate carrier. Care must be taken with this, as there is only a limited clearance between the disc in place and the top of the front-panel slot; if the disc is not correctly positioned, it can jam between the front of the sliding tray and the panel, to the consternation of the audiophile. But this is a rare occurrence, happening only once while I used the unit: when I started to place the disc in the tray, a static discharge triggered the 602's door-close mechanism. (Though I keep a humidifier running in my listening room, the Southwest is still so dry in the Winter and early Spring that you have to remember to discharge yourself by touching something metal each time before you operate the system.) The advantage of Meridian's layout, however, is that once the disc is inside the machine, it is completely acoustically sealed against airborne vibration.
How it sounds
I used the 602 for my last three months of music listening, as well as it being the main CD data source for my recent reviews of the KEF R107/2 and Wilson WATT 3/Puppy loudspeakers. I fed its output to the outrageously expensive Stax DAC-X1t processor, first via an inexpensive plastic-fiber Toslink data link, then by a variety of coaxial cables. Meridian clearly states in the 602 manual that the optical connections are to be preferred, because of the lowered possibility for RF interference. Nevertheless, after extensive comparisons, I preferred the better of the coaxial connections, in the form of the Mod Squad's Wonderlink. Which is what I used thereafter.
So, how does the 602 sound?
If you rank digital components on how close they approach the analog experience (and reality, the two not being disparate), the 602 is up there with the best. The soundstage was wide and deep, with individual instruments within that soundstage preserving their tonal individuality as the recorded level maxes out. This, for me, is where many digital source components fall down, the individual sounds melding into a mash of high-frequency partials at high levels, as though all the spaces in the spectrum were being filled with intermodulation products.
Low-frequency extension also seemed excellent, recorded organ having the appropriately full authority. A current favorite organ album of mine is the 1980 Telarc featuring Michael Murray at the Methuen instrument (CD-80049). The purity and clarity of this early digital recording's lower treble are very dependent on the digital playback system. With the disc in the 602, the doubling of the bass lines with the organ's 32' and 16' registers on the cycle-of-fourths passage in Bach's G-Minor Fantasia came over with full effect, contrasting the way in which an additional treble stop is added to the mix during each circular motion. If I had to pick just one aspect of its performance that mandates the 602's recommendation, it would have to be how it extends the subjective bass response of your system.