Looks like Meridian fixed the output Z issue: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/meridian-explorer-case-study-effects-output-impedance
Somehow, this little Meridian Explorer (ME) thing-a-ma-jig landed on my desk for an audition. I don't know why people send me crap (stuff), but I guess they want a second opinion. Also, I presume people know if I really think a something sucks, I will clearly state so. This is all my personal opinion of course. We all have difference preferences and references for what is good and what is not good. The Meridian Explorer plainly sucks. Listening to it pisses me off.
To understand why I think it sucks, let's rewind a little bit. I've had the pleasure of listening to that Audioquest Dragonfly doodad (DFDD) thing-a-ma-jig a few months ago. Given how heavily the Dragonfly appeared (at least from my cynical point-of-view) to be so heavily shilled here on HF, I had very poor expectations of it. Indeed, when I was finally afforded the chance to hear the DF, I was somewhat surprised at the DFDD's competence. Not bad at all! Surprisingly decent. And this was even directly driving the T50RP (Paradox mod) and HE500, both difficult to drive headphones. I never did examine the DFDD more in-depth, i.e. isolate the DAC section, since I figured the point of this device was size and portability without extraneous odd stuff dangling from it.
Now fast forward in time to a few days ago. My initial listen with the ME was with the HE500. Again, somewhat difficult to drive, something I was cognizant of, but I wanted to give it a go for a challenge. In any event, I am familiar with the HE500's characteristics when poorly driven, so I know when to let things slide when it's warranted. With highly compressed semi-poorly recorded tracks from Alanis' JLP album, I actually kind of liked the ME. Euphonic. Smooth. Warm. Definitely colored. Not too bad really. But that's only one of my test tracks. (As an FYI, I use several test tracks, some well recorded, and some not so well recorded. If I consider a piece of gear to significantly fail with any of one them, then I consider it a poor product overall. My view is that a decent product must survive all tests tracks. I don't like to collect gear and I don't use special equipment for special recordings on special occasions.)
So the next track I grabbed was one of my favorites which audio engineer Steve Albini worked on: the Pixies' Brick is Red. The particular recording I have is very dynamic with a lot of snaps to drums and bite to guitars. This is definitely not night time relaxing mood or Driving Miss Lazy music. Pressed play. OMFG? WTF is this. Something is very very wrong. Basically, the ME rendered a Steve Albini Pixies recording with the dynamic sensibilities of Muzak piped through limited bandwidth (rolled off treble) commercial ceiling speakers.
OK. OK. Not fair. HE500 is hard to drive. Let's try my UERMs. I use the UERMs 50% of the time straight out portable sources. I plug in the UERMs. So now I'm thinking fugg, I don't want to blow out my ears. The ME's got no volume control and is reliant on the application's or Windows volume control. This does not please me. One errant click, and I go deaf. Turn down JRiver volume to zero. Increase upward with precision mouse clicks. In JRiver, usable volume levels for the UERMs are 3%,4%,5%,6%, and 7%. Awesome - I get the granularity of a bad stepper.
So anyways, I'm sure the UERMs will do much better than the HE500. Same pixies track. Pressed play. Nope. Same as with HE500. Gawd this thing sucks. I guess it's probably good for classical*, but I'm not going to bother trying.
* This has become sort of a insider joke which is hard to explain. BTW I am well versed in classical, as long as its before or after the romantic era.
- Overly warm
- Excessively polite and forgiving
- Rolled off in the upper mids
- No air
- Severely lacking dynamics and impact
- Lacks power for harder to drive headphones
- Extremely poor resolving capability
- No low bass
- Slightly slow transient response
- Slightly veiled
- Did I mention excessively polite and forgiving?
- Best paired with headphones with nasty sounding treble characteristics
- Get a AudioQuest Dragonfly or CEntrance DACport instead if you want honesty
- Laptop out is better (at least with the HE-500 and UERM from my VAIO)
- I haven't heard anything so terrifyingly bad in a long time
- I suspect many will be seduced by its charms, but probably get sick of it over time
- Advocates of the Meridian sound will love it, and if you love it, you'll know what to buy next when you decide to move up, sideways, or down
- FR measurement with UERM: http://www.head-fi.org/t/652910/meridian-explorer-dac-amp-stream-of-consciousness-review-warning-not-good#post_9202935
- Meridian Explorer output impedance measuring comparing with OBJ2 and Leckerton UHA-6: http://www.head-fi.org/t/652910/meridian-explorer-dac-amp-stream-of-consciousness-review-warning-not-good/30#post_9205254
Edited by purrin - 3/19/13 at 8:30am