Meridian’s ability to consistently produce top-echelon audio gear that combines technological advancement with ergonomic elegance is only equaled by their breathtakingly high pricetags. But once the initial shock at the number of 0s, 9s and 5s attached to the prices subsides, it’s easy to be seduced by Meridian’s Siren song. Their gear works and sounds fabulous.
Just as Goldilocks chose the middle road for her sleeping accommodations, Meridian hopes that prospective owners will find their new Audio Core 200 system to be the perfect system for small and mid-sized rooms. In terms of price and capabilities it sits right between the Meridian F80 tabletop unit and their full-blown 800 series components.
The Audio Core 200 stereo system consists of an Audio Core controller and two DSP 3200 powered/active/digital speakers. The system can be hooked up to almost any source you can think of. It supports digital sources via two S/PDIF and USB inputs, analog via both RCA and mini connections, and any Meridian network device via its Meridian SpeakerLink connections. Audio Core Outputs include twin SpeakerLink connections and one 3.5mm stereo analog variable-level headphone output.
Meridian DSP 3200 technical highlights:
• Drivers: 165mm polypropylene bass driver, 85mm aluminum full-range driver. The full range driver in particular allows the, “DSP crossover frequency to be outside the speech band, for an effortless sound that remains clear, open and spacious, even at high listening levels.”
• Onboard Amplifiers: 2 x 75 Wpc, one for each driver, distortion < 0.02% “at any frequency or drive level.”
• Onboard DSP system:
o Provides electronic crossover functions.
o Provides dynamic bass protection functions that deliver “very accurate transients,” while also providing, “clear, accurate, quality sound even at high levels and for prolonged periods.”
o Provides loudness compensation functions said to deliver “ bigger sound that remains balanced even at low listening levels.”
Meridian Audio Core technical highlights:
o Meridian SpeakerLink (RJ45).
o 2 x S/PDIF coax (phono).
o 2 x mini-optical (3.5mm jack).
o USB for use as external computer sound card.
o i80 connector (Mini-DIN).
o 2 x Stereo Analog (phono).
o 2 x Stereo Analog (3.5mm jack) (same connectors as optical digital).
o Twin Meridian SpeakerLink (Master & Slave, RJ45) with MHR.
o 3.5mm Stereo Headphone out (optionally mutes speakers).
o Upsampling to 2xfs (88.2/96 kHz). (Output is always high resolution).
o Meridian ‘Apodising’ filter cleans up muddiness in digital recordings.
o Allows access to DSP speaker functions such as Treble, Bass, Stereo Width, Loudness, etc.
o Nine front-panel keys, five of which are context-defined.
o Large knob for volume control and muting.
o IR remote control (included).
o USB connector for serial control and maintenance.
o OLED (Organic LED) display with automatic brightness feature (can also be dimmed/brightened/disabled manually)
Meridian has long been unique among audio manufacturers because they make an enthusiast product that masquerades as a lifestyle product. Designed so it can be used easily by anyone with opposable thumbs, the Audio Core 200 system also attempts to deliver the best sound possible from its small speakers. In the right sized (i.e., not too big) room the DSP 3200 speakers can produce surprisingly high sound pressure levels without signs of audible distress. But if full bass extension is important you will have to augment them with a subwoofer.
Over the last 20 years I’ve used and owned many Meridian products, and while I wouldn’t say that all Meridian audio gear has a similar “house sound” I would note that every Meridian product I’ve tried has been both musical and non-fatiguing. The Audio Core 200 system follows that model. Whether I used low-rez MP3 files streamed from Internet radio or my own 96/24 recordings the Audio Core system never failed to deliver more than merely listenable results. Even on streaming sources the system was enjoyable and musically involving.
Meridian has tried to maintain easy to understand nomenclature for their audio components. But with the Audio Core 200 system Meridian has embarked on a slightly murkier name plan. By naming it Audio Core 200, when Meridian also makes a Media Core 200 is confusing. The Media Core 200 is a stripped-down Sooloos control and hard drive system. It was designed to augment an existing Sooloos system, not as a stand-alone controller/speaker system like the Audio Core 200. But, the Media Core 200 can be used with the DSP 3200 speakers (or any other current Meridian/Sooloos component), although it lacks the ergonomics of the Audio Core 200.