Robert sent me the 808 that he tested in TAS Issue 194. I installed it yesterday, connecting its' variable balanced outputs directly to my power amps (RH recommended this arrangement). Obviously these are first impressions, but here are my listening notes:
. Music sounds very relaxed and unforced; is it less dynamic than normal or has artificial edge been removed?
. Stage depth is impressive, and it appears that performers are located slightly farther back than normal
. Instrumental separation is outstanding -- much less sense that instuments are part of a wall of sound; much more sense that each instument exists as a specific entity
. instruments sound as if a very low level grunge has been removed -- clearer yet less sharp or edgy
. High frequencies are not at all soft, nor are they hard, but HF level seems a little lower; if this were my player I might rebalance the system slightly
. Re-balancing idea is reinforced by a sense that the bass, while very articulate could be stronger or punchier (but might be just a balance issue)
. I'm happy playing music at higher levels than is normally the case; dynamics are more enjoyable
. High frequencies sound very fine grained; maybe not as extended as some?
. Sibilants seem more natural than is normally the case -- like the difference between spoken sibilants and amplified sibilants
. Difficult to capture the significance of this change -- it is the product of things I didn't know were there being removed
The Meridian (and its technology) strikes me as a very signficant product. At the same time, I can imagine many people auditioning it and asking "what's the big deal?" I say that because the 808 doesn't dramatically "do" something (whereas, adding a sub to mini-monitors does something you can't miss; room correction does something you can't miss; dipoles create a sense of space different from forward facing speakers; horns do dynamics differently than electrostatics; etc.). If one were to audition the Meridian in a store on an unfamiliar system one might miss the things it subtracts (because you'd be listening to so many new phenomena at once). It isn't that what the Meridan does isn't obvious (I've played a total of only 25 tracks and the ideas above starting coming out right away). It is that it is subtle enough to be swamped by other factors.
If ever there were a product that demonstrates that subtle can be meaningful, this is it.
(FYI, associated equipment: mbl 101e loudspeakers, mbl 9008 power amps, Wireworld Gold Eclipse interconnects, Tara The One speaker cables, RPG Binary Amplitude Diffusors, RPG Flutterfree, RPG Modex.)