I ended with a quick spot of comparison, to the excellent, if more squared off, HRT microStreamer, which performs almost identical functions. In great fairness, the two are very close, and the differences are more horse-trading than one being dominant. In comparison, playing ‘Trouble’ by Ray LaMontagne, the HRT had a more precise and clearer bass line, while the Meridian was better at bringing out the sweetness and sonority of his voice. The former made me want to nod my head along to the music more, but the latter better brought out the emotion dripping from his voice and backing. There really isn’t much in it, but I found myself returning to the Meridian slightly more as a result of that richness of tone. But the great thing about both is they are ‘locally grown’; the Meridian designed and built on my side of the Atlantic, while the HRT can proudly run up the Stars and Stripes.
The Explorer does several things. It’s made in the UK, reinforcing the concept that not everything at this kind of price must be made in the Far East. It’s absolutely a Meridian product, in build, outlook and performance, and as such it potentially welcomes new blood into the world of top-quality audio. It also answers the question of what Meridian owners do for sound quality when they aren’t sitting in front of their main Meridian system (don’t discount this, Meridian Audio’s customer base is one of the most loyal out there). And best of all, it sounds excellent.
Explorer USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier: