For some years now, during the run of the Consumer Electronics Show that’s held in January in Las Vegas, there’s been a competing show held off-site that targets the audiophile segment. Billed as T.H.E. Show, which stands for The Home Entertainment show, the event allows small specialist audiophile companies to attract show-goers who are primarily interested in the latest high-end audio gear.
T.H.E. Show Newport Beach marks the organization’s first open-to-the-public show, held recently at the Airport Hilton hotel adjacent to Orange County’s John Wayne airport in Irvine, California. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have attended the show, as our sister publication The Absolute Sound had a full team there (their excellent coverage of the show can be found under the Blog section on avguide.com), while my beat is targeted to the video side of things. But when I found out that Meridian would be there with their spectacular ultra high-end 810 video projection system, well, that was enough for me to endure the multi-hour trek into and out of LA just to see it again.
UK-based Meridian first previewed the 810 projection system for their US retailers in late 2009, with an official trade introduction at the 2010 CES show, but until this show, the 810 hadn’t been on demo at an open-to-the-public event in this country.
It’s a full-on, ultra high-definition 4K affair and is shipped as a complete system that includes the projector itself along with the companion controller and video processor, and a motorized external anamorphic lens setup featuring optics from Schneider, a high-end lens maker based in Germany. The lens also features motorized zoom and focus, something you typically wouldn’t find on a commercial digital theater projector.
The companion controller and video processor was co-developed with chip-maker Marvel Technologies, and is based on Maarvell’s top-line Qdeo processor chip which handles various video functions such as deinterlacing and upconversion, and is capable of outputting a true 4K (4096 horizontal by 2400 vertical pixels) signal to the projector’s three 1.27-inch D-ILA imaging devices.
As befits a true bespoke product, every 810 system is customized for each individual installation, and the final calibration process, which is done prior to shipment, takes four days. Using a customized calibration program developed by master calibration expert William Phelps, Meridian fine tunes each 810 for the exact type of screen material and screen color (white or gray) that will be used in the customer’s home theater or screening room.
At the show, Meridian paired its 810 demo system with a sixteen foot wide 2.35:1 Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 screen, and the picture was nothing short of revelatory. The projector can put out up to 4000 lumens, enough to fill extremely large screens and yet still deliver a sufficiently bright and punchy image. The sound quality was equally superb, with the demo system featuring Meridian’s digital loudspeakers including a pair of 8000’s for the front left and right channels, a 7200 handling center channel duties, a pair of 7200’s providing back surround audio and a pair of 5200 models rounding out the package providing left and right side channels.
Although the 810 system was originally introduced with a suggested retail price of $189,000 in the US, the price was adjusted upward a while back, and the current SRP for the 810 system is now $225,000. According to Meridian America's representative at the show, the firm has sold about thirty model 810 systems to US customers since launch, which is quite a healthy sales rate for such an ultra high-end product.