Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier

General Information

With a new chassis design instantly identifiable as Meridian DNA, Meridian Prime delivers lifelike performance from any headphone and is designed to appeal to audio enthusiasts who seek the highest possible performance from conventional analogue audio sources.

Despite its diminutive size, Meridian Prime echoes the design elements of any other Meridian product, including a double skinned, bead blasted metal chassis found on Meridian's full size components. This ensures that noise is kept away from critical audio components for lifelike details that are critical for headphone listening.

The Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier can be powered by the wall- mounted supply provided, or by the similarly sized, and styled, Meridian Prime Power Supply for even higher audio quality. The use of an external power supply means that AC noise is kept well away from the pure analogue stages of the Headphone Amplifier.

Virtually all the active audio components are at the rear of the unit, as close to
 the connectors as possible to minimise 
the audio path length, and are essentially remote-controlled from the front panel. This is even true of the volume potentiometer, a high-quality Alps-type mounted near the rear of the unit, which controls the level
 of all outputs. A special flexible shaft coupling is employed to avoid microphony, resulting from operation of the volume knob.

An analogue output is also provided so the product can be connected to an active loudspeaker, or conventional amplifier and loudspeaker system for a high-performance simple system.

Latest reviews


New Head-Fier
Pros: No Battery (for desktop), Runs Cool, True Line In and Line Out, Supports MQA
Cons: Mojo Sounds better (even against MQA), Mojo Cheaper, Off the shelf DAC Chip, Not Class-A amp
I very much wanted the Meridian Prime to be great. But there is a lot of strong competition out there. I started with the Explorer 2 and compared that with the iFi iDSD Black Label and a Chord Mojo (See my Mojo Review). The Chord Mojo won my ears over. The iFi iDSD Black Label was a close 2nd. Both beat the Explorer 2 (with or without MQA firing on 2L samples and Tidal and yes Blue Light was on). I kept the Mojo and returned the others. These were all tested with a BeyerDynamic T1.2 Headphones. But it was haunting me that it was unfair to label Meridian's solution using the $200 Explorer 2 while driving 600 Ohm Headphones (that it just can't handle).
So, I gave Meridian (and MQA) one more shot and purchased the Meridian Prime. I now have HiFiMan X V2 Headphones that are low impedance and sensitive (very easy to drive). And I still have the Chord Mojo to compare with.
The Meridian is a VERY nice package. And I hate having a battery in the Chord Mojo that is not user replaceable or needed as I use it strictly on the desk top.
I have Foobar2000 (mostly FLAC) using WASAPI or ASIO and Tidal.
The Meridian Prime sounds good, don't get me wrong. I tried and tried to find MQA Samples that gave even a hint of improvement. I could not find any. I tried many free samples from the infamous "2L" site. I bought some from a private label and I signed up for Tidal. I could not find anything that made me, say wow MQA is better in any way shape or form. Compared to the same track on Tidal’s "CD Quality". Never mind the claims that MQA is supposed to be "better" than other HiRes formats.
Finally, I asked on this forum for a track they felt showed the difference. Search for “Crosby Holding on to Nothing” (not my cup of tea but a good recording). One track will be MQA the other won't be MQA (hide the blue light and test yourself). Who knows what the "won't be MQA” is. But the MQA sounded slightly "crisper" (best way to describe) without being more forward. Finally, I have something. Oh wait, how does the Chord Mojo Sound? I go back to the Chord Mojo and wow. The Non MQA Sounded better than both MQA and Non MQA on the Prime. I had spent a good while on the Prime so was getting used to the sound. I think the MQA version sounded worse on the Mojo, but very slight.
In it's hard to describe audio that feels better to your brain but the Chord Mojo feels richer, deeper, fuller and sweeter sounding. It is not more forward, brighter or fatiguing while accomplishing that either.
One test I found worked good. Very often I like a tunes "intro". It often might start with a nice Solo or perhaps a Solo and a Guitar. By the end of the tune it's a full choir, cymbals, full volume and an orchestra (Pink Floyd "Mother" is a good example). So, sometimes, I just loop the first part. What sometimes happens is I'll turn the "intro" up to totally immerse myself into it. But then when they kick it into 2nd gear I have to turn it down. Because it's overloading my senses or some systems might even distort (I'm talking very loud). With the Mojo I didn't feel an urgent need to turn it down. This still sounds GOOD. I can handle this !! But with the Prime I HAD to IMMEDIATELY turn it down. It fell apart. Warning you can play the Chord Mojo louder without knowing it could be damaging your ears. You'll know it on the prime.
Another thing that happened. I tend to listen while "coding" at work. I often like to random play my library and then I latch on to an Artist or Album or a Track and play that, often for the day. Quite often I latch on to a tune. Could be a tune I've heard many times but something suddenly latched on. Since I am "working" it takes less brain work for my brain to keep processing the same tune. So, I might loop the same tune a LOT. Sometimes for hours. I enjoy it more every time through. This is never one of those tunes that has a loud busy finale. I chose one of these tunes I was “stuck” on the next day to compare the Prime and the Mojo, since it was fresh and I was zoned in on it. Often the next day I’m burned out on the tune and move on to something else. I played it on the Prime first and I thought, why was I hooked on this tune the day before, I assumed I was just burned out on it. What’s so good about it. Then I played it on the Mojo, oh now I see why I got hooked. And I didn’t want to go back to the Prime for further testing. I just wanted to loop the tune over and over on the Mojo again.
One other "test" I stumbled on. I had Foobar2000 working with some MQA files. I had bought a few MQA's and I downloaded a bunch from 2L. With Tidal you're never 100% sure what you are comparing with MQA and non MQA (same Master and what quality the Non MQA is). But due to a glitch in FooBar2000 setup, MQA would only decode on ASIO but would not decode at all on WASAPI (no 1x, 2x or blue light). Even though DSD worked on both ASIO and WASAPI on the Mojo with FooBar2000. But this glitch was a convenient test. I could not hear any difference when MQA fired up and didn't fire up by just switching the ASIO vs WASAPI. And the glitch was in MQA's favor. Because when it was not Decoding MQA that meant something wasn't bit perfect. But it still sounded identical to my ears.
One other reason I considered the Meridian Prime was the ASP Modes. I didn’t find it useful on anything. It just felt like everything collapsed. And I didn’t find much difference between ii and iii.
Sad to say the Meridian Prime is going back and I feel a legend in my eyes (and ears) has died.
This is from someone that owns a Meridian Preamp G61RSL (with Linear PS), HD621, G92 and 13 Meridian DSP Speakers (which I still love).
I think the Meridian Prime sounds about as good as the iFi iDSD Black Label (now #1 on Head-Fi as I write this). I did not compare it side by side though, only from memory.
So, I knock the Meridian Prime down 1 Star for it not sounding as good as the much cheaper Chord Mojo.
And I knock it down another Star for still being 2.5x more expensive than iDSD iFi Black Label (I got mine on sale for $400 at Adorama) and 2x more than Mojo ($529 Amazon).
Now perhaps with the Meridian Prime Power the Prime Headphone Amp might compete better but I have read conflicting reviews on how much that improves the sound. Some say a lot some say not worth it. And the total price of the pair would be $1625? Now you are in Chord Hugo (2) territory.
Note 1: Both Prime and Chord were both running "Bit-Perfect". Prime had Blue Light on MQA and Mojo had DSD color light up on DSF Files.
Note 2: No exotic cables, all stock cables used.
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Reactions: Jimmyblues1959
Great review, good work. Something does not seem right when the list price is $2000 but yu can get it for $1000, but you have to pay more if you want a proper power supply... 
Meridian cut the price in half for last xmas season and then decided to keep it there for both the Prime Headphone and Prime Power. They also reduced price on Explorer 2 for $199.00 If you see the old prices the dealer has not caught up with the new pricing. So I paid the new list price on Amazon.


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