All about the new Meridian Director Digital to Analogue Convertor DAC
If you'd like our very best digital sound in an affordable, friendly and easy to use package, you are just about to become a happy Meridian owner.
For as long as we have been involved with music, Meridian has been the leader in digital - the quality of their CD players is nothing short of legendary and their expertise in the whole field of home music reproduction is unmatched. And yes, some of their products and systems are seriously expensive.
Archived page: January 2016
– Please see the Meridian Explorer or the NuPrime range for our recommended new DACs
But with the introduction of the Director - a high-quality DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) designed to deliver superior audio performance from digital sources such as media players, CD players and computers, Meridian have finally delivered a product we can all enjoy. For NZ$995.
'Offering Meridian quality at such an affordable level leaves me wondering why anyone would invest in any of the similarly or higher priced alternatives from the scores of manufacturers whose names were unknown just a year or two ago, not to mention the me-too products cluttering the shelves from better known brands. Brilliantly conceived and faultlessly executed, the Meridian Director is the DAC to beat in this market segment – and several notches above. Highly recommended.' www.ultrahighendreview.com
It is easy to underestimate just how good the Meridian Director is. We've recently been reveling in the sound of fantastic new digital products from NuForce - the game changing DDA100 digital integrated amplifier and a bevy of even more capable DACs all cluster around the Meridian’s price - would Meridians foray into this highly competitive arena give us something unique and special?
In short - yes. The Meridian Director is accurately aimed at those who already have capable hifi systems whereas Nuforce provide a new range of components that we tend to build systems around. It will seldom be an either/or choice.
With Meridian, it's all about the sound.
'On source material ranging from modern pop and rock through classical I was continually impressed by the natural and musical sound emanating from the Director DAC. Especially on my own live recordings, which I know quite well, the Director produced an expansive soundstage with excellent imaging and explosive dynamics.' audiophilereview.com
'The overall timbre is naturally warm, bordering on mellow, but not without the rich harmonic detail necessary to avoid homogenizing the sound. This is not a case of the DAC imparting color of its own, but of it reproducing the natural sound of the instruments. I know this because it is the same tone conveyed by my reference dCS Debussy, which is quite neutral. Without question, string tone with the Meridian Director is remarkable.' www.ultrahighendreview.com
The Director is a compact, elegant and robust DAC - an ideal upgrade for CD and other disc players, direct connection to computers, and wireless systems such as AirPlay and Sonos bringing superior performance and significantly out-performing the standard DACs found inside these devices. Director runs straight into your existing amplifier or preamp. The better your system presently is, the bigger the improvement the Director is going to make.
Connection-wise, the Director is a simple device - you can have a computer (via USB) and one other component - say CD player or Airport Express (via opitical or coaxial) - coming in. And a single set of RCA cables going out to your amplifier. But it is what is going on inside that really counts. Director features technology drawn from Meridian's award-winning Reference 800 Series, offering up to 24-bit resolution and 192khz sampling and the full range of proprietary Meridian resolution enhancement technologies such as Upsampling and Apodising* that has made Meridian the leading name in digital. In other words, you are getting the best bits of a $20,000+ CD player.
Of course, unless you are hardworking and dedicated enough to afford such a player, the level of sound quality we are trying to describe may be hard to imagine. But once you hear the Director in your own system, you'll very quickly start to understand and appreciate Meridians 35 years of digital experience. The Directors sound is characterised by a complete lack of glare or harshness - it somehow pulls off the trick of being fantastically detailed and revealing, yet remaining smooth and easy to listen to - rather than pinning you to the back of your seat, it wraps and enfolds you in music. Which is not to say the Director lacks drive or power - the bass performance is class leading being deep and rich rather than hard or unrelenting. The all-round performance is wonderfully balanced.
*Meridian Apodising Filter
Filters are critical in digital audio. Commonly they introduce distortion and harshness because of 'pre-ringing'. Early digital recordings suffer from harshness too, due to primitive filters. After painstaking research, Meridian developed a special filter that avoids pre-ringing, for a cleaner sound. As a result, it can be steeper, cleaning up the effects of the filters used on early digital recordings. The result: a better, cleaner sound from recordings old and new. The Apodising Filter is employed in association with upsampling, which moves all filtering far above the range of human hearing, removing any impact on the sound quality.
Let's put this in context - I've got a pile of discs from bands I love but they often sound dense, compressed and murky. The Director manages to unravel the layers in a way I've never heard before - it doesn't leap out at you - rather the strands are presented in a coherent whole. Quiet passages are more engaging but when things let loose, the Director still hangs it together and doesn't sacrifice power or scale for smoothness. And the balance is the closest we've yet come to our analogue setup - for a fraction of the price.
What the Meridian will do is make everything sound better - although the higher the resolution of the original recording, the more there will be to reveal. Low-bit rate MP3s streaming off an iPhone may be less than ideal, but the Meridian Director will make these sound better than many DACs running higher resolution files of the same songs. But give it better material with improved connections and you'll be hearing far more again. There is no downside.
The better the system you have, the more benefit you'll gain from the Director. Because the Director provides so much information, the more transparent the downstream electronics, the greater the transmission of this detail through your speaker will be. While lesser DACs will be shown to have short comings in the best systems, the sound quality of the Meridian Director is analogous to that of their best CD players. And so it would be a rare case in which the Director was not good enough. Yes - there are probably slightly better sounding DACs out there but they cost an order of magnitude more and given the rate of improvement we are seeing on the digital front, it seems crazy to go that far.
A good way to understand the Director is to work out what you’ll be connecting - the $159 Apple Airport Express allows you to place the Director in any room and get music wirelessly from your computer or iPhone/pad/touch - so it’s a great alternative to (and can sound considerably better than) any comparably priced disc player. Attached directly to amy computer via USB it will sound better again. And as an upgrade to any disc player - CD, DVD or BlueRay it’s going to knock your socks off. All of these scenarios will allow you to use the Director in an existing system and often do more.
Would you consider the Director if you wanted a whole new system? If something like the NuForce DDA100 and a pair of Monitor Audio RX 1 silver series speakers represents state of the art in a $2000 system stakes, how would we showcase the Director? To better the Nuforces abilities as an amplifier, you have to look at quite a special class of integrated amplifier - we'd suggest the Italian Audio Analogue Crescendo ($1300), or even better PrimaLuna tube amplifiers.
If it's all about music with Meridian then there is one speaker designer that would have to be at the top of our list to match - Sonus faber. For a round $4300 the Director/Crescendo/Venere 1.5 system is remarkable. Go to the PrimaLuna matched with floor standing Venere 2.5s and you'll be in a whole other world. Want to aim even higher? The new Sonus faber Olympica range will take you there. And to be honest, even with the best of these and some esoteric firepower on the amplifier front, I don't think you'll find the Director out of its depth - it's that good.
To be writing this about a hifi component that you can own for less than $1000 is nothing short of remarkable. This is the power of Meridian as a brand and the intellectual property behind it - no-one else has either the resources of experience to do what they have done. And in many ways this is all the more unusual in that Meridian have taken time out from their full digital systems approach to give us something that is the essence of their best and most original work. We've only got one word for this - Brilliant!
So if you've been waiting for the right time to get into music from your computer, want to improve the performance of your existing player or system, or are looking at a whole new system, there is every chance that the new Meridian Director is going to be perfect for you. Call or e mail us now and we'll make this happen for you.
The Meridian Director - Key Features
Takes digital audio from USB, Optical and Coax S/PDIF
Up to 24-bit, 192kHz Digital to Analogue conversion
Direct-coupled, fixed output for connection to an audio system
Meridian Resolution Enhancement technologies including Upsampling and Apodizing
Music grade power supply capacitors
4-layer PC board minimises noise and improves performance
Durable, elegant anodised metal enclosure
Hand made in the UK
Meridian Director USB and S/PDIF DAC: NZ Price $995 including GST.
About Meridian Audio
Meridian is based near Cambridge, UK, and was founded in 1977 by Bob Stuart and Allen Boothroyd. With over 35 years history of innovation and development of uncompromised consumer home entertainment systems offering exceptional performance, this award-winning company is widely recognised as a world leader in high-quality audio and video reproduction. Meridian developed the first audiophile CD player, the world's first consumer digital surround controller, and the MLP lossless packing system included in Blu-ray Disc. The company's optical disc players, DSP-based loudspeakers, video projectors, and scalers are unique in the industry, maintaining a super-quality digital signal throughout the path from the studio to the home, using advanced digital signal processing to deliver both a sweet, natural sound and smooth, crystal-sharp images with true cinematic realism. In late 2008, Meridian acquired leading networked media server developer Sooloos, and today the Meridian Digital Media System offers a unique combination of superb digital audio quality with the world's most innovative, flexible and intuitive touch screen.
Also consider our other DACs
NuForce DDA100 - not just a DAC but a fantastic amp to boot $899
Nuforce DAC80 - More inputs, Volume control and a more up front presentation $1295
NuForce UDH100 - USB only but with a superb headphone stage $995
Meridian Explorer - Portable USB DAC and headphone amplifier $495
HRT Music Streamers - USB DACs From $300
NuForce Icon HDP - Digital and analogue preamplifier $749
Wadia 121 - Full feature DAC with Volume control $2195
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