Meridian 207 Pro CD player Page 2

The manual supplied with the Meridian is thorough, but fails to explain the function of several of the six LEDs configured in two columns in the center of the display panel. The first indicates the selection of CD absolute-phase reversal. Below that is a display indication which lights up on selection of any of the special display modes. Repeat play selection is indicated by the third LED. The second column gives unique information not provided by most players. The top light (EQ) indicates if the disc was recorded with pre-emphasis (used in a distinct minority of recordings, if my experiences are any indication, footnote 3). The remaining two lights, E1 and E2, indicate fully corrected and interpolated errors, respectively.

The only time indicator E1 gave any indication other than the very start of a selected track, where it flickered momentarily—probably to indicate adjustment of the laser—was when an audible mistrack occurred. E2 never lit up during my tests, implying that all errors were fully corrected. I didn't exactly stare at it during the auditions, but did spot-check extensively during my post-audition, pre-emphasis survey.

There is, in my judgment, one important feature missing from the 207 control panel—forward and reverse scan. It is available from the 209 remote control, a $150 option. If you elect not to purchase the remote, you will have no way of searching for a particular passage. This will be of more than casual concern to classical music listeners, and, to a lesser degree, might be missed by pop listeners as well. I did not receive a 209 remote along with my review sample, unfortunately, so cannot comment on it here. But I was able to activate the major remote functions with a remote I had on hand for another Philips-based player. The activation of the scan function using this remote revealed that the 207 has a silent scan—unlike most current scans in which snippets of sound can be heard. The lack of an audible scan makes finding a specific passage more difficult.

I found two additional problems with the 207, one of which was likely (I hope) a sample defect, the other probably endemic to the species. The latter was electromagnetic radiation, which will cause interference on some channels of a nearby television with an indoor antenna—a potential irritation, especially for apartment dwellers who refuse to succumb to cable and prefer to leave their Meridian Pro on at all times.

The other problem was a tendency for the loading drawer to stick. This was a frequent annoyance during my early auditions, but improved later in the evaluation. In the last few hours of use, it has recurred only twice. When the drawer did stick, it could be encouraged manually with a gentle (but firm) push or pull, but that shouldn't have been necessary. While I have no way of knowing if this problem was an isolated defect, it should be noted that I have not had this difficulty with any other CD player I have tested.

The 207 did have minor tracking problems. It never lapsed into the familiar, full-blown CD stutter-step (aba-dee-aba-dee-aba-dee—that's all, folks) known and loved by all, but was prone to loud snapping noises (noted on several other machines I have tested) when unable to perform full error correction. This could usually be traced to a large speck of dirt stuck on the CD surface—removing the offending party cured the problem—but you can expect similar glitches from large, non-removable scratches. While the problem was infrequent, any owner of the 207 should be prepared for tracking difficulties greater than the norm on scratched or otherwise mistreated discs. For more on disc tracking, see the addendum lurking in the vicinity of this review.

The Sound
The 207, despite its preamp capabilities, is primarily a CD player, and must succeed or fail on that basis. My first (and major) objective was therefore to evaluate it as a CD player, using its fixed outputs into a known high-quality preamp—the Klyne.

Reviewers who do not wish to be misunderstood are almost required to preface a CD-player review with this cautionary note: "Despite any praise here, the best analog performance is still superior." The 207 is one of an increasing number of players which almost (but not quite) do away with the need for that caveat. It had a tough act to follow in being reviewed immediately after the CAL Tempest II. While it could not match that player's palpable, three-dimensional midrange, nor duplicate the feeling (provided by the Tempest) that here was a player even digiphobes might enthuse over, it nevertheless impressed me immediately with an effortless, natural quality. I noted an occasional fine grain in the extreme high end, but it was elusive and not evident on all recordings; its upper range was consistently unforced yet detailed, never overetched or hard, and never veiled.

Its reproduction of choral recordings was typical of its overall performance. Star of Wonder (Reference Recordings RR-21CD) is as good as such recordings get; played back on the 207, it could not match the open, airy quality of the equivalent LP, but was nonetheless first-rate. Individual voices within the chorus were well-differentiated, but not to the extent of dominating the choral blend. Depth was well-defined. The harp solo on the same recording (Britten's "Interlude" from Ceremony of Carols) was superbly delicate and refined; the bass's solo on "What Child Is This?" had a believable natural timbre and warmth.

The bass performance of the Meridian was tight, deep, and well-defined, with just a slight upper-bass fullness. I don't want to make too much of the latter; it was barely evident on voices, providing a pleasant (and not unnatural) body and weight—just enough to put the overall balance on the warm side of neutral.

Footnote 3: I sampled 36 CDs and found pre-emphasis used on 7, including two samplers on which it was used on some (but not all) tracks. Commonly available recordings on which it is used include all tracks on the Creme de la Creme Sheffield sampler except tracks 8 and 10, the Bainbridge Steven Kates cello recording, and two Telarcs, Two Gentlemen Folk and the Previn Alexander Nevsky. Of the nine Telarcs sampled, these were the only two with pre-emphasis.
Meridian Audio Ltd.
US distributor: Meridian America Inc.
8055 Troon Circle, Suite C
Austell, GA 30168-7849
(404) 344-7111