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NEWS: Meridian Releases The Explorer Pocket-Sized USB DAC - Page 11

post #151 of 999

Just got my Explorer a few hours ago (from Audio Salon in Santa Monica; highly recommended). I've had a Dragonfly for a week or so. One thing I confirmed immediately is that you can feed headphones and an amp/powered speakers simultaneously via the two output jacks. That's an awfully nice feature for a desktop rig with both headphones and speakers, for example. You don't have to swap between one 3.5 mm connection (as with the Dragonfly), not to mention RCA jacks (as with a Modi). You can even listen to both at the same time, not that you'd want to, but it makes it really easy to toggle listening between 'phones and speakers. The iDAC, for instance, has both headphone and RCA output ports, but you can't run them simultaneously, at least not correctly, I think. Of course, to actually implement this on the Explorer, you'll have to rely on the Explorer's built-in amp and do without a stand-alone headamp, since the headamp would require the use of the same analog out as the powered speakers. Otherwise you're back to swapping cables connecting with the non-headphone out. Even if you assume that DACs are hard to pick apart on sound, this functionality seems to distinguish the Explorer. 

 

The other early observation is that the Explorer holds up better than the Dragonfly at high volume. By my calculations and listening, the Dragonfly delivers a bit more output power into my HD-650s. But the Dragonfly sound falls apart on most recordings below max volume, and can be fatiguing even modestly above 50%, even though the loudness level is otherwise reasonable between 50% and 75%. The Dragonfly sound gets unpleasantly harsh just before I reach the threshold of discomfort induced by volume alone. The Explorer doesn't go quite as loud, but seems to remain listenable louder than the Dragonfly, closer to my maximum loudness threshold, and I can reach that threshold on many recordings. On other recordings, I could see the merit in an external headamp to get up to eleven, so to speak. Running each DAC through an amp may level this playing field, of course, but part of the value proposition here is that you're getting a headamp in the package, and in the case of the Explorer, one you can use alongside the line out. Accordingly, listening at milder levels also narrows the performance gap, but the Explorer has yet to induce any fatigue. 

 

Any comparative evaluation beyond that at this early stage (and probably at later stages) I'd attribute almost entirely to expectation bias. What I hear so far does confirm those expectations, that the Dragonfly is lighter and leaner than the Explorer, that the Explorer delivers more of the musical whole than the sum of the parts, whereas the Dragonfly picks them apart. I even detect better imaging through the Explorer, which is not something I recall reading about beforehand. I'd probably like something fat and rich like the iDAC even better, but don't feel compelled to go there while listening to the Explorer. And I tend to believe that you want the DAC and amp to be neutral and transparent, whilst seeking sonic character via speakers (or even EQ, if necessary).

 

Thanks to shuffle, I've cycled through choral, opera, and string ensemble while writing this, and it's just gorgeous. Not that the Public Enemy and indie/classic rock crush tests beforehand weren't. It's very early, but I don't see the Dragonfly winning this battle for my listening. 

post #152 of 999

I just tried the headphone out and I get no noise.  I even turned the volume in windows (which I think is the correct way to set the volume) up to 75 and still nothing.  Anything over 50 really kills my ears this little thing can certainly feed the 8a's directly.  Up over 60 was really punishing my ear drums they are still ringing.

post #153 of 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Poimandres View Post

I just tried the headphone out and I get no noise.  I even turned the volume in windows (which I think is the correct way to set the volume) up to 75 and still nothing.  Anything over 50 really kills my ears this little thing can certainly feed the 8a's directly.  Up over 60 was really punishing my ear drums they are still ringing.


Anyone try the headphone out with really sensitive IEMs like the se530/535 or ES3X and can detect any hiss?

post #154 of 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Poimandres View Post

And the amp turned up beyond normal listening levels?  Have you tried directly into an amp from the lineout?  I hear no noise but only use the lineout not the headphone jack.

 

Well, I'm using the line out on the Explorer, of course. Why would anyone want to connect the amped headphone output on this device to an amp? wink.gif You must have missed my first post on the subject.


Edited by swmtnbiker - 2/15/13 at 2:21pm
post #155 of 999

Indeed I must have I thought you were referring to the amp within the explorer on the headphone out.

post #156 of 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Poimandres View Post

Indeed I must have I thought you were referring to the amp within the explorer on the headphone out.

 

I haven't yet tried the Explorer's on-board amp, but that's on my troubleshooting list for sure.

post #157 of 999

In my case, switching from cheapo USB and mini-RCA solutions to AudioQuest Evergreen (both the USB A to mini-B and 3.5mm to RCA) cleaned things right up.  Low level noise is gone gone gone....

post #158 of 999

I'm using comparable cables and the Arcam rDAC is exhibiting none of the USB noise I'm hearing in the Explorer. Granted I'm using different USB cables, but I've tried a half-dozen different ones with the Meridian from crap to great with zero effect on the noise issue. I'm really beginning to believe that I simply have a lemon.

post #159 of 999

No noise here on headphone or line out.

I run a Logitech Touch USB out ==> Explorer ==> Pico Slim ==> Etymotic er4

No PC involved here at all and no noise I can ascertain.

post #160 of 999

Really hope the low level noise isn't an issue, I want to like this dac and buy one for my active desktop speakers. 

post #161 of 999
No noise on mine via directly connected HD-650s or via cheap Logitech powered desktop speakers. Sounds like Pippel got a bad specimen. Bummer.
post #162 of 999

Could very well be. Just tested the headphone out with some Senn Momentums and it's dead quiet. It appears that only the line out is as issue with mine. Bummer indeed. mad.gif

post #163 of 999

Unboxing video is now live. Take a look. 

 

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post #164 of 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by wfranklin View Post

It is independent of music volume; with no music playing (but preamp volume at listening level), there is noise on the line.  I tried playing with cable positioning a bit, but was constrained by cable length.  The ME was located just behind the screen of my laptop, and just in front of the tube preamp.  Amazon sent me the wrong damn cable (ordered A to mini-B, Amazon stock label on box indicated A to mini-B; cable is A to B.  Time to head to BestBuy to see what they've got in stock (if anything). I think the noise issue can be handled by using better cables and keeping the routing away from the laptop.  Note that I don't have this problem at all when listening to headphones; this is strictly when multiple cables are being used between the laptop and the preamp (laptop - USB - ME - mini phone plug to mini phone plug cable - mini phone socket to RCA - preamp).  As I mentioned earlier, these were cheap (not audiophile grade) cables.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dpippel View Post

Quote:

Quote:

 

The noise is constant, dirty background static that is most apparent with no music playing and the volume pot on the amp turned up beyond normal listening levels. Yes, it does increase with volume. I currently have an Arcam rDAC (USB) and CIAudio VDA1 (Toslink) on my desk as well and neither of them exhibit the problem. Two different well-made 3.5mm to stereo cables between the DAC and the amp do not change the situation and neither does switching USB cables or USB ports. I even plugged the Meridian into a powered USB hub. Same result. It's possible that I have a defective unit, but as I mentioned earlier I haven't had the time to thoroughly test the situation. That happens tomorrow.

 

Have you eliminated the possibility that it may be a ground loop problem?

 

Connected to my tube amp, with no music playing and the volume right up beyond normal listening levels, I can hear mains noise - a nasty kind of humming buzzing hash. It disappears immediately if I disconnect the mains power supply from the laptop or if I use the headphone out, so I'm pretty sure it's caused by a ground loop issue. It could also just be the dirty source power supply, in my case to the laptop, but I think it more likely a ground loop is to blame. In my case it isn't audible at normal listening levels but it may have a subtle impact on the sound - the blackness of the background for example.

 

Sadly my tube amp is particularly good at picking up this effect. With my Audio GD Reference 5.2 DAC it is even worse, but that's ac powered so you'd probably expect that. With the Audio GD, if I use the XLR out to a different amp, again there's no hum - pretty much exactly as you'd expect with a ground loop. Obviously with the ME you don't have that option.

 

I doubt the Meridian is more susceptible than other equipment to this effect, and it's possible that it will show itself in some rigs but not others, for no immediately apparent reason.

post #165 of 999

For those of you that have desktop rigs too, how well does the Explorer stack up?

 

I'm strongly considering buying one, but I have been disappointed with portable DACs before, i.e. the original Algorhythm Solo, which while not bad just fell short of my expected standards after having had a good turntable setup for a very long time. The Algorythm just didn't quite get the timing and rhythm correct.

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