One of my top choices for 2012's product of the year was AudioQuest's Dragonfly, a tiny 24/96-capable USB DAC that is about the size of a USB thumb drive. Today, Meridian is releasing what will no doubt be viewed as a Dragonfly competitor with their new Meridian Explorer pocket-sized DAC.
I haven't used the Explorer yet, but at 4.0" x 1.25" x 0.7" it is larger than the Dragonfly--but the Explorer is 24/192-capable, and has two separate outputs (a dedicated 3.5mm combination analog/digital output with 24/96 mini Toslink digital optical output, and a 3.5mm headphone output). (The S/PDIF output downsamples 192 and 176.4 to 96 and 88.2, respectively. Input is via USB (mini type B), and uses an asynchronous USB implementation. The Meridian Explorer is also firmware-upgradeable via USB. It weighs 50 grams (1.76 ounces).
The Meridian Explorer will be priced at $299.00.
A Meridian Explorer will be arriving here soon, and I'll post more about it after I've had a chance to use it.
(Click on the image at right to see the Meridian Explorer in much greater detail.)
- Inputs: USB mini type B
- Outputs: 3.5mm combination analog/digital jack with mini Toslink digital optical <96 kHz output and 2-ch analog line out, fixed 2V RMS; 3.5mm jack with variable-level headphone output, 130mW into 16Ω.
- Construction: Extruded Aluminium shell with moulded plastic endcaps and rubber foot.
- Power: USB, nominal 5V at <500mA.
- Indicators: Three white LEDs show connected state and audio stream rate.
- USB audio class compliant 2.0 HS 480Mb/s bandwidth.
- Asynchronous: device is the clock source for high quality.
- Firmware upgrade via USB.
- Windows drivers provided, no drivers required for Macintosh OS X or Linux.
- Analogue volume control for headphone output, controlled from PC, control law modified to match connected OS.
- S/PDIF output downsamples 4x (192/176.4kHz) to 2x (96/88.2kHz).
- OS Requirements
- Macintosh OS X 10.6.4 (Snow Leopard) or later
- Windows XP SP3, Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8
- Linux kernel 2.6.37 or later and ALSA version 1.0.32 or greater
TTVJ (a Head-Fi sponsor) will be offering the Meridian Explorer right away, so contact Todd (at TTVJ) now, and you may be able to get your Explorer before I do. (And let us know what you think when you do.) Click here to go directly to the Meridian Explorer on TTVJ's site.
To see Meridian--one of the most respected names in digital audio--releasing a product like the Explorer is still another exciting sign that personal audio and headphone audio are growing, with more exciting things to come.