Meridian Digital Theatre surround-sound music system Page 2
The first big boxes to arrive contained a pair of DSP6000 digital speakers and a bonus 508-24 CD player. My intent was to become familiar with Meridian's flagship speakers in the two-channel paradigm with which I am experienced. The 508-24 was provided so that, while the final touches were made on the production of the Reference 800 DVD/CD player, I could get comfortable with Meridian's integrated systems approach. Although these three units were installed by Meridian's Marc Koval, I was easily able to modify the setups and add a few other sources. The DSP6000s were placed about 8' apart and about 12' from my listening position, toed-in so that their axes converged at the listening seat.
The DSP6000 (the latest version of the speaker that was reviewed by Robert Harley in September and October 1991 and by J. Gordon Holt in June 1995) is asymmetrically tapered, with its midrange and high-frequency drivers in the top of its tall, slim main cabinet, which contains the bass drivers, amplifiers, digital signal processors, and DACs. It's finished in glossy black, and is attached to its partner speaker by a short cable. The main cabinet contains four side-mounted 8" woofers, driven by a pair of 100W amplifiers. The 6" midrange and the 1" aluminum-dome tweeter are driven by separate 75W amps. The DSP6000 accepts only digital inputs to its dual Motorola DSP56001 processors, which handle signal extraction (which channel am I?) and control processing (volume, tone control, etc.) and feed four Bitstream DACs. The crossover between the drive-units is implemented in the digital domain; the signals are not converted to analog until they reach the amplifier inputs.
Lest one think that its lack of buttons and knobs means that the DSP6000 is inflexible, note that, in addition to volume control, the inbuilt processor offers control of absolute phase, frequency tilt, bass level, and loudness compensation. Moreover, there are two quite unusual adjustments possible: First, interchannel balance is accomplished either by reducing the level or by delaying the signal in one channel, thus correcting for the two parameters affected by off-axis listening. Second, the Axis control operates in a manner similar to the balance control, but only on the MF/HF drivers, acoustically "tilting" the system to adjust for the vertical listening angle. As my usual listening position is decidedly below the tweeter axis of these 53.5"-tall speakers, I found the Axis control essential.
The DSP6000 was damn good. From initial turn-on, it was obvious that this DAC/amp/speaker combination was as open and transparent as any I've had in my home. The DSP6000 never disappointed, offering the kind of performance that sent me scurrying to the CD racks to haul out all my favorites, as well as my torture discs. Using George Cardas' CD-R sampler, Oregon Music, a disc of disarmingly natural depictions, I felt that the ladies of Bella Acapella were standing shoulder-to-shoulder between the DSP6000s as they performed "Mr. Sandman." The clarity of their individual voices was nearly perfect, and there was a complete lack of any artificial aura around them.
The bass, too, was exemplary. Remember, with 400W dedicated to a total of eight 8" drivers, this is a potent system. Plucked and bowed bass, as presented on King and Moore's "Man in the Oven" on Oregon Music, was incredible, especially when played at levels appropriate to an acoustic performance.
With bigger stuff---from Mahler to Wagner and from Pink Floyd to Yello---the DSP6000s handled everything I threw at them, and always seemed to have lots in reserve. In fact, I rarely set the volume above "80"---and the scale goes up another 19dB! Despite pushing the system to levels my neighbors surely had to appreciate, the DSP6000s never blocked up the room, as has happened with lesser systems pushed to these levels; they just got louder and louder until I, not the system, cried "Uncle!" Béla Fleck's Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (Warner Bros. 26562-2) was as well defined as it had been on the potent Genesis 500 that I reviewed in May '99, with its self-powered woofers---but the Meridians displaced even more air, and displaced the G500s as the best low-bass reproducers I've used. The DSP6000s needed no help from a subwoofer and got none, even in the multichannel tryouts.
Although not lacking in depth, the sonic images the DSP6000s presented seemed always behind the speaker plane. The effect was not unlike having a wide, open window into the recording venue. Almost nothing separated me from the orchestra and/or singer---the aural view was defined by the picture-window aperture at the speaker plane. This window was wider than those created by most of the other speakers that have occupied my listening room, but not so wide as those offered by the Artemis EOS or Apogee Duettas.