Stereophile's Products of 2006 Multichannel Music Component

2006 Multichannel Music Component

Meridian 861 Reference multichannel preamplifier-processor ($17,000–$19,000; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.29 No.7, July 2006 review)

Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Bryston SP2 multichannel preamplifier-processor ($4995; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.29 No.9, September 2006 review)
Denon DVD-5910 universal player ($3500; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.29 No.1, January 2006 review)
Denon DVD-3910 universal player ($1499; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.29 No.3, March 2006 review)
Linn Chakra C3100 & C4100 multichannel power amplifiers ($2675 & $3000; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.28 No.11, November 2005 review)

Our "Music in the Round" columnist, Kal Rubinson, believes that multichannel music is the future. In our 2006 Buyer's Guide, he wrote, unequivocally, "The two-channel reproduction that we have enjoyed for the past four and a half decades is but the first step from monophonic sound to true stereophonic reproduction."

If multichannel music really is the future, then Meridian has been way ahead of the times. Their 861 Reference surround controller first appeared on the cover of our February 2000 issue, four years before we created the category of Multichannel Music Component. That year, the 861 won Runner-Up honors in our Digital Source category. Now, six years later, featuring software that replaces pages of configuration options with a simple drag-and-drop graphic user interface, and offering improvements over its already stellar clarity, resolution, and dynamics, the ambitious 861 is our clear winner, topping Denon's DVD-5910 universal player by four votes.

Back in 2000, KR deemed the 861 "the most flexible and capable device in audio. . . . It offers as much insurance against the winds of technological change as is possible." Perhaps Kal really does know a thing or two about the future. Meridian certainly does—still providing high-quality musical satisfaction after all this time, the company's 861 Reference is the very definition of a Stereophile "Product of the Year."