Meridian DSP8000 digital active loudspeaker Page 3

"Wait a minute," I hear you say. "Doesn't the Technics downsample/truncate to 16/48 from its digital output?"

Well, no. The DSP8000's front-panel display unambiguously showed "PCM 96kHz," and I checked the data format with RME's DIGICheck software. It appears that it is not the player but the disc, and therefore the content provider, that controls the presence or absence of a hi-rez digital output. Put a Classic or Chesky DVD-V disc in a DVD player and, provided the manufacturer has included the necessary double-speed interface hardware—Technics, Panasonic, Pioneer do; Toshiba, Onkyo, Sony do not—you get a two-channel 24/96 datastream out of the S/PDIF port, even when the player's manufacturer states that the machine always downsamples/truncates to 16/48. But with all the DVD-As I had handy, the Technics was allowed to put out only 16/48 via its S/PDIF output; upsampling that signal by feeding it to one of the Meridian 800's digital inputs gave only a small improvement in sound quality.

Meridian High Resolution
The DSP8000 supports Meridian High Resolution (MHR). In Meridian's words, this is "a proprietary secure encoding format that uses encryption and anti-copy methods to provide a secure copyright protection environment," allowing the speakers to be fed hi-rez data even when the content provider doesn't wish those data to be made available "outside the box." Thus, when you play a DVD-Audio disc on the latest version of the Meridian 800 (premiered at the September CEDIA conference), MHR-encrypted versions of the 24/96 data can still be fed to DSP8000s.

MHR also offers a possible sonic benefit in that, when the data are decrypted within the speaker, the effects of any word-clock jitter will be decorrelated from the music, thus reducing the jitter's audibility. Even knowing that, however, I still felt straight CD data played back on the 800 and upsampled to 88.2kHz sounded better than when the same data were upsampled and encrypted with MHR. (The 800's data output can be toggled between the two states, and the its upsampling turned off, using the Configuration program.)

Criticisms
Only one. While I could adjust the HF control to ameliorate the somewhat shut-in highs, the mid-treble balance was always a little on the forward side. While this added to the impression of detail and clarity, it was at the expense of a slightly relentless quality—a small degree of "bite" in the lower treble—with recordings that were already overcooked in this region.

I must emphasize that whether or not this slight treble forwardness will bother you will be very dependent on the distance between the speakers and the sidewalls, and on the absorption of the room furnishings—and, of course, on the recordings. In a recent fit of madness, I picked up Diamonds Are Forever (Nettwerk America 6700-30178-2), a CD of Shirley Bassey remixes. Despite my experience of remixes almost always retreating into techno-clichés and sampled lo-rez garbage, I had hopes for this album, which features Propellerheads, Mantronix, and 10 other remixers let loose on 13 classic tracks by the Tigress from Tiger Bay.

I shouldn't have bothered. Even with this CD upsampled to 88.2kHz, the DSP8000s let me clearly hear that all involved had clearly thought 16-bit resolution an unattainable dream!

Conclusions
The Meridian DSP8000 offers full-range, Class A sound. While the speaker can be used with third-party digital sources, it gives of its best with the Meridian 800 DVD/CD transport. Yes, $40,000/pair seems expensive for a pair of speakers, but you also get 650Wpc of amplification and state-of-the-art digital processing in a superbly styled, room-friendly package. While I hesitate to use the word "bargain" in this context, you'd have to spend at least $40,000 to match the DSP8000's performance with a pair of conventional speakers used with a conventional preamplifier, power amplifier, and digital processor. Highly recommended.

COMPANY INFO
Meridian
3800 Camp Creek Parkway
Building 2400, Suite 122
Atlanta, GA 30331
(404) 344-7111
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