Meridian DSP8000 digital active loudspeaker Page 2

All of the digital adjustments are available from the Meridian System Remote. The processed digital datastreams for each speaker's drive-unit feeds are sent to four 24-bit/192kHz delta-sigma D/A chips, the outputs of which drive the power-amplifier modules. Five separate bipolar amplifiers are used in each speaker: three 150W amps each drive a pair of woofers, while two 100W modules drive the tweeter-and-midrange unit. According to Meridian's downloadable literature on the '8000, these low-feedback amplifiers offer "extremely low noise, high detail, and fast bass" due to "the combination of idealized magnetic design, careful star earthing, and very fast output devices."

The power supply uses two "substantial" toroidal transformers. Other than the AC cord, the only external evidence that the DSP8000 is a powered speaker is the black, finned, extruded heatsink that occupies most of the rear panel's real estate above the terminal panel.

Meridian's Andy Regan set up the speakers in my listening room in a slightly asymmetrical arrangement giving the best upper-to-mid-bass transition. Set "flat," the speakers sounded both bass-heavy and a little shut-in in the highs. After Andy had returned to Meridian Central in Georgia, I fooled around with the controls and ended up with HF set to "+1" and Bass set to "-3," which to my ears produced the optimal in-room balance. The tweeter is a high 49" from the floor; accordingly, I set the Axis Tilt to "-1," appropriate for my 38" seated ear height.

The main source was a Meridian 800 DVD/CD player (footnote 1), which fed a digital datastream to the left, "Master" speaker, and all three Meridian components were linked with Comms cables. A second S/PDIF link connected the two speakers; each takes just its own channel from the two-channel S/PDIF stream. I started off using Meridian's own S/PDIF link, but later substituted AudioQuest's silver-conductored SVD-4, which I felt gave the soundstage slightly better dimensionality.

Before getting into the sound, I congratulate Meridian for the clarity of the DSP8000 and 800 manuals. Reviewing past Meridian components, I have ended up cursing manuals that contained but successfully hid the information I needed. But using the manuals to set up and adjust these Meridian products was painless. Some setup options for the 800 required using the Configuration program (Windows PC only), but even that was painless, using the supplied RS-232 null-modem cable.

The effortless sweep of the DSP8000s' presentation was aided by the extended and well-defined low frequencies. The fourth-movement climax of the 1959 recording of Saint-Saëns' "Organ Symphony," with Charles Munch conducting the Boston SO (JVC's superb XRCD2 re-release of the RCA original, JMCXR-0002), where the organ dramatically punctuates the orchestral declarations of the big tune with majestic chords, was reproduced with no sense of strain (other than my own, from the woodwind's occasionally sour intonation and some horn clams).

With less dynamic recordings featuring less massive organs, the sense of reproduced space was boundless. A favorite CD of mine from last year is cellist Yo-Yo Ma's Simply Baroque II (Sony Classical SK 60681). On track 2, Ma traverses the aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations as organist Ton Koopman weaves intricate continuo patterns around and behind the cello. Via the DSP8000s, the central cello image was palpably stable in the center of the stage, the well-defined dome of ambience around both instrumentalists lit up by occasional action noises from the chamber organ.

It was, in fact, this superbly defined stereo imaging that continued to impress me with the Meridian speakers. Even though the demonstrations the company has staged at shows have used multiple speakers in home theater and surround contexts, a single pair demonstrated almost holographic properties.

During the review period, I was editing and mixing the master of a recording I had made of Minnesota-based Cantus, due for release this month on the male choir's own label. I had used four microphones at the sessions: a central ORTF pair of Neumann cardioids and my usual spaced pair of B&K omnis. The Meridians were invaluable during this process, allowing me to hear precisely how different mixes of the two mike pairs affected the re-creation of the original soundstage. The B&Ks gave the best tonal quality, but as I increased their level in the mix, the images of the singers at the extreme edges of the stage began to fold over back toward the center. Balancing the desired tonal balance against the compromised imaging was facilitated by my being able to use a speaker so transparent to such fine recorded detail.

Classic Records is to be congratulated for re-releasing Sonny Clark's 1958 Blue Note recording, Cool Struttin', as a 24/96 DVD-Video (DAD 1037). Played back on the Technics DVD-Audio/Video player I picked up cheap in a J&R MusicWorld sale and feeding the second digital input on the "Master" DSP8000, not only was the sound of Philly Joe Jones' cymbals astonishingly lifelike, but the image of Clark's piano just hung between and behind the Meridians. (Comparisons with the Rudy Van Gelder Edition CD reissue of this classic recording, Blue Note 4 95237 4, were rendered moot by the very different stereo mixes on the two discs.)

Footnote 1: See Kalman Rubinson's typically thorough review of this unit in the February 2000 issue.
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Kevin Johnstone's picture

This is quoted as 0.02% at any frequency or level. - This is at least an order of magnitude better than quoted for top passive loudspeakers. Can this huge improvement be heard? Is this why Meridian sounds different? Is this improvement because there are no analog crossovers but dedicated DAC and Power Amp for each driver?

steve59's picture

Meridian homepage offers multiple reasons why the finished product succeeds at recreating the recording.