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Meridian Explorer

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #7 in DACs

Posted

Pros: Clear, neutral and engaging sound. Surprisingly capable headphone amp.

Cons: For the price? Not much!

Bought this to use on the go and couldn't be happier. I've compared it to both the Dragonfly and Hegel Super and I can say that it comfortably trumps both those. The Dragonfly is good but music from the Explorer seems a bit more easy going and natural in comparison. And the Hegel Super is sadly disqualified for having a very high noise floor, on high impedance headphones you can't hear it but on everything else a very audible hiss is present.

 

I've also compared the Explorer to my Anedio D1 stationary DAC, and for a $300 portable device it does exceedingly well. As one could expect there is a performance gap here, and in comparison the Explorer comes across as more "mid-fi" rather than "high-fi" in flavor, but that's not always a bad thing depending on what you're after. It wasn't that long ago that this level of performance cost three times as much and only came with a power cord, for a USB powered portable device it is seriously impressive.

 

I also tried to power my HD650's from the Explorer and was very pleasantly surprised, I've heard several wall powed headphone amps that have done far worse! For such a puny device it has a very impressive drive and bass definition. If I was shopping for a entry level headphone setup a Meridian Explorer and HD650 would definitely be on my short list! It is hard to understand how well this little device actually drives these headphone until you've heard it. I suspect they must have used the HD650 as one of the development headphones, the synergy is that good.

 

Meridian has a long standing reputation in the Hi-Fi industry and the Meridian Explorer has been recieving a lot of praise in the press lately, but I'm happy to report that in my opinion all of it is well deserved! The combination of price, performance and form factor is very attractive and as an audio upgrade for a travel laptop it's almost a no-brainer. In short, this little device rocks and I have no problems recommending it.

Posted

Pros: gets the timbre right, gets very close to dedicated component DAC quality, scales well with external USB power quality

Cons: not really suitable as headphone amp

I am mainly using the Meridian Explorer on the road, from laptop.

 

Setup is painless on Mac and Linux.

Note that on Linux, it is worth checking the gain settings in alsamixer (only once is enough):

- run 'alsamixer' from a terminal command line,

- list audio sources with F6,

- select Meridian Explorer, and

- set the clock selectors, depending on your system.

On my Lenovo X230 and X1 Carbon I use -3 dB on both clock selectors (skipping the red range).

 

It makes a considerable improvement over the headphone outputs when I am on the road (which is its main use case).

 

When used as a DAC, and compared to my CD player (with built-in R2R NOS DAC) and my Nuforce home cinema processor DAC, the Explorer comes very, very close, and the difference is probably in the analog output stage: a little less macro- and micro dynamic range, somewhat less very deep bass, and less deep sound stage with speakers. With headphones (007 Mk1) the sound stage is very close to the component DAC's.

 

I compared the Explorer with a bunch of portable DAC's (Fiio, HRT, Herus, etc), and I appreciated its more realistic timbre. There are DAC's that make somewhat better first impression, but the Explorer is more neutral and just sounds more right on the long run with acoustic instruments.

 

It scales very well with a better USB power supply. I tried a 10 Ah battery (EasyAcc) with a USB Y-cable on which I have cut the +5V line of the signal connector. Sounds cleaner and more dynamic (using with the 2A output). I considered the iFi iUSB or the AQVOX USB power supply, but at the moment I don't feel the need. The external battery is much more practical and already provides much of the improvements. My source material is 16/44.1 FLAC or Spotify hi-res streaming, i.e. already a compromise.

 

I assumed that with the external power supply I can use it with an iPad via camera connection kit, but after correctly recognizing the Explorer, it complains the DAC draws too much power, which is obviously a fake message, as there is no physical connection on the +5V line. So no luck running the Explorer from iPad. Edit: looks like it works from a powered USB hub.

 

I tried multiple headphones with it: the flight-king Bose QC15 (with its own amplification), Sennheiser HD598, Grado SR80, Fostex TH600 and TH900. It could drive all of these without too big compromises, but it is not designed to drive full size headphones. The best use is as a DAC, driving an external amp from the fixed output.

 

For the price this is a very well voiced and balanced product.

Posted

Pros: Value,Versatility,Portability

Cons: Higher Power requirements for some applications

I use mine with a OTG cable from my Android Tablet Via Bose QC3's or over my Vehicle AUX input "App: USB Audio Recorder Pro". Also in the house I run it from my Raspberry Pi "Raspyfi" through my Receivers AUX to my ML Vista's and Depth i. Best Bang for the Buck IMO. I auditioned the Dragonfly at the same time and I purchased the Meridian Explorer much warmer sound and doesn't degrade the sound quality as much at high volumes.

 

I am sure you can use other DAC in the similar fashion but for the 300.00 price point and the excellent sound. I am very satisfied with my purchase.

 

About the Cons,

Not all Android devices will self power the DAC over the USB OTG "on the go" cable. In some cases you may need a Powered USB hub.

If you are using your Meridian in a similar way and do not require a Powered USB hub I would be interested to hear what Device you are using.

 

My Samsung Tab 2 and Asus MEMO do not require a Powered Hub.

Posted

Pros: Small, inexpensive for quality

Cons: USB Power issue with a KVM extender

Hey Folks,

I have to say that this is the best quality audio I've heard from my MacBook Pro. I'm listening to iTunes through BitPerfect. Most of my listening is through Sennhelser IE80's and it's magical. The vocals sound more 'real' than through any other DAC. I was comparing tonight to the AK120, which I love for a portable player, and it was clear through the Meridian that the acoustic guitar had a pick-up in it, whereas through the AK120 it could have been mic'd. If you want to hear what the musicians are doing, and how they were recorded, this is the USB DAC for you.

What's even better is that you just stop listening for the sonic footprint and enjoy the music. All of the nuance and fun of your music just comes pouring out. I put on a few of the Beatles 24bit tracks from the Apple USB drive and I just couldn't tear myself away. 

I did try the DAC at work on my mac pro the mac is on a KVM extender. For some reason the system complained about USB power, when plugged into the ports on the extender. So I either have to get a very long headphone extension or a very long USB cable - or a new KVM extender. I'll report back if I find a solution. 

Meridian has been one of the leading audiophile companies for digital to analog conversion. This relatively inexpensive devices opens the doors great Meridian sound for your computer. I'm ecstatic. 

Meridian Explorer
Description:

Digital media form an increasingly popular source of entertainment, with superb ease of access. Now there’s no need to compromise quality to achieve that convenience. Explorer is the size of a USB stick, yet embodies the same style and performance as any other Meridian product. SIMPLY LISTEN Explorer replaces your computer’s sound card with a USB-powered DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) featuring Meridian’s high quality audio circuitry and design derived from Meridian’s award-winning Reference Series components, along with a powerful headphone amplifier with on-board analogue volume control. Whatever your choice of content – iTunes, Spotify®, YouTube® or a High Resolution downloaded file, Explorer makes it sound its best. Simply by plugging it in and listening with it, you’ll experience significantly higher sound quality.

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