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NEWS: Meridian Releases The Explorer Pocket-Sized USB DAC - Page 20

post #286 of 1072

Hello there, I'm something of a short-term lurker, used this site to get a lot of useful info the past couple of weeks, given I'm fairly new to quality headphones. Considering how much I enjoy my music, I'm surprised I haven't invested sooner, but my £5 Phillips earbuds were really beginning to show their weaknesses.


Anyway, I picked up a pair of Grado SR325is and one of these Meridian Explorers. Today is the first time I've been able to try it all together, certainly been very impressed so far, even if the best is yet to come from the burn-in period. Just a few questions though, if anyone would be able to put my mind at rest:


a.) I'm familiar with the LEDs on the Meridian lightning up depending on the audio-rate of the music being played. I'm using Foobar2000 for my playing needs, and I've followed the instructions on the sheet included with the DAC for installing. The thing is, in the Speaker Properties, I've set the Default Format to 24-bit, 192000Hz, given I have FLAC files of that quality in my library. Sure enough, the 3 LEDs light up when playing them. Though when I play 44.1KHz files, the 3 LEDs stay on. If I set the Audio Properties to the 44.1KHz, then it still only shows 1 LED when playing 192KHz files. Shouldn't it be altering the LEDs lit up depending on the music being played? Should I have the audio properties set to a different value? Both the 'Allow applications to take control of this device' and 'give exclusive mode applications priority' are ticked.


b.) Going through a laptop, I'm just wondering how "loud" 100% on the PC volume would generally be through such headphones, rather than cheapo £5 earbuds. I had visions of these things being deafeningly loud, at such a setting. Obviously it depends on the music, my Punk Rock music is generally fairly loud at 50% PC volume, perhaps 60-75% tops before it's uncomfortable, 80-90% on Rock/Metal, then a lot of my classical stuff is quite comfortable at 100%. My hearing is probably not as good as others, but I was getting the impression from some of the personal reviews, that people were generally staying around 50-60% system volume. And the music software is at 100% anyway. (Think is mostly varying volumes of music library, majority of rock music is below 50% volume)


Problems solved :)

Edited by simon83uk - 2/21/13 at 1:17pm
post #287 of 1072

how is the volume with the meridian for people?

^^^ playing at 100% volume with not hard to drive grados are not that great, but it may be your hearing

post #288 of 1072

Actually I think the varying volumes of the files is playing quite a part. I mean the latest Bad Religion (punk rock) album is fine at 35-45%. Mostly the classical pieces are the ones at higher volumes, but I guess that's to be expected, depending on whether it's solo guitar or such like.

Edited by simon83uk - 2/21/13 at 1:00pm
post #289 of 1072

its your foobar settings that govern the bitrate. Set it to Wasapi event for the meridian device and 16 bits or 24 if you want and listen to FLACs, and you're good to go!

post #290 of 1072

Ah yeah found it, that's sorted it thanks, the joys of getting to grips with new software.

post #291 of 1072

the ME has blacker blacks than DF if that makes any sense.

post #292 of 1072

 As I wait for FedEx to get their **** together... Can anyone compare the DAC sections of the Bifrost and the Explorer? I have a Lyr and would love to add the Bifrost and use the Explorer as a portable DAC, but don't want to waste the money on the Bifrost if the Explorer is comparable.

post #293 of 1072

(responding to fuzzyash) Not a problem with AKG K701's.  Listening comfortably right now to symphonic music (Janacek) with volume setting at about 4.5 (out of 10).  Can crank all the way to 10, but this becomes uncomfortable (acoustically).

Edited by wfranklin - 2/22/13 at 5:27am
post #294 of 1072

Well I'm now the proud new owner of an Explorer. It will be with me in 3 to 7 days says the Website.  I figure if it disappoints as a dedicated DAC, I'll just turn it into a great portable for my laptop.

post #295 of 1072
Originally Posted by HiFiGuy528 View Post

the ME has blacker blacks than DF if that makes any sense.


Makes perfect sense.  smile.gif   You should be able to hear some micro-details that you wouldn't be able to discern in the Dragonfly.   Maybe the Explorer's power management is handling noise from your PC better than the Dragonfly does.   


Again, I'm compelled to address the subject of how important it is to have clean power.  All of these USB-powered DACs are vulnerable to PC noise - it's a classic trade off between quality of experience and convenience.



Even this $675.00 Bel Canto uLink USB to S/PDIF converter was improved by using clean, external 5V power:


Quoting another Audiostream review by Michael Lavorgna:




Since the uLink gets its power from the USB bus whereas the more expensive REFLink gets its power from its own AC power supply, I figured it would be interesting to try the iFi iUSBPower ($199) with the uLink and see if it offered any improvement. The iUSBPower [see review] is a clever device that sits in between your computer and DAC or USB-S/PDIF converter and provides 5V of clean power while also helping to remove any USB-based noise upstream. With the iUSBPower in my system, I noticed a lowering of the noise floor. Most striking were the more delicate sounds like brushes on cymbals, better defined spatial queues, and more dynamic impact. Again we're not talking night and day differences rather comparative differences but if you are looking to squeeze every last drop of musical goodness from your uLink, you may want to give the iFi iUSBPower a try.


Michael Lavorgna uses the Dragonfly powered by the iFi iUSBpower at his personal computer desk.  


Again, I've never used the iFi iUSBPower myself, but I trust Michael Lavorgna's reviews and I know how much lower the noise floor is when comparing my USB-powered CEntrance DACport LX to my CEntrance DACmini CX, which literally re-manufactures the power coming in from its switch-mode AC adapter.


I'm just suggesting that, within reason, we should be forgiving of any PC noise issues experienced with the Meridian Explorer and every other USB-powered DAC.  Convenience nearly always comes at a cost.  


If you're going to use one of these meant-to-be-portable USB-powered DACs as a dedicated desktop DAC, you might want to try using clean, external 5V power.   I think the iFi iUSBPower is reasonably priced at $199. 


Here's a $329 5-Volt external power supply (evidence that some people are willing to pay a lot more for clean power):  The Channel Islands VDC•5 MKII


Hint:  If using a laptop instead of a desktop PC, try comparing the noise floor of your USB-powered DAC as heard when running the laptop on battery power vs. when the laptop is plugged into an AC outlet.  When I owned a USB-powered Stoner Acoustics UD100 (an ESS9023 DAC), one of my laptops, a Toshiba L505, exhibited a dramatic reduction in noise heard at the headphones when I ran the laptop on battery power.




Edited by zilch0md - 2/22/13 at 7:34am
post #296 of 1072

People describe the DragonFly as cool and dry?  Hm...  That's not at all how mine sounds to me...  But then again, the headphones with which I use it the most are known for being smooth and musical, not clarity-focused.

Even then, I would like to contradict those who say the DragonFly sounds "cool."


If you are indeed looking for a warmer sound than you've been getting, my advice might be to rebuild your rig (or build another one) this way: get the best DAC/headphone amp your budget allows (if it allows for the Meridian, consensus seems to be that is the best ultraportable DAC at the moment) and, once you've saved up again and figured out the sound of your new DAC, get the headphones or earphones that finally give you that signature you want.  After all, it is generally the signature of the transducer that more greatly affects the sound you hear, as much as ancillary electronics might indeed have an impact... Maybe some Sony XBAs or one of the newer JVCs that have been coming out, to suggest some in-ears.


So: If you can afford the Meridian comfortably, get it, and live with it for awhile.  Then get the headphones that give you the final sound you want.  That's what I believe, anyways; I'm sure there are many who think you should go the opposite direction...

post #297 of 1072
Originally Posted by ScuderiaHeadFi View Post

Even then, I would like to contradict those who say the DragonFly sounds "cool."



I'm of the same mind.  I'd *like* to say the ME has more in common with my old ODAC/O2 combo than the latter had with my DF, but I can't as I got rid of it months ago.  The DF and ME have a very different sound, at least with the FXZ-200s I'm running out of them the DF is certainly a warmer presentation. 

post #298 of 1072

Another interesting feature about the Explorer, I can use at the same time the headphone and the line outputs without any problem.


Also the line out is about 30% more powerful than the ODAC output.

post #299 of 1072

Explorer with OTL Lafigaro 339 mod tube amp sound terrific!! I'm having a blast! The DAC in the explorer is very very very good.

Edited by telecaster - 2/22/13 at 3:58pm
post #300 of 1072
Originally Posted by Aerocraft67 View Post

If you're experiencing Explorer availability problems, here is a good source. I got my Explorer here and had a very positive experience. 


No international orders - fantastic business model  ;)

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