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Meridian Explorer DAC/Amp Stream of Consciousness Review (WARNING: Not Good)

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by purrin, Feb 25, 2013.
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  1. purrin
    5 ohms is probably good enough, even with my UERMs which their really screwy impedance characteristics. 5 ohms about as low as you can go with the USB design.
  2. bcwang
    Would you explain?  Isn't the dragonfly 0.5 ohm and also a USB design?
  3. purrin
    Probably engineering considerations on the part of Meridian in terms of latitude or margin for error on USB power suckage (not all USB outlets provide the same current capability), or perhaps even voicing. The still highish output Z or relatively low damping factor does impart qualities on to the sound which would consistent with how Meridian likes to voice their DACs - from what I understand.  After all, Meridian does seem to indicate so in their statement:
    "Our target was for precise but natural sound. Rather than rely on arbitrary references, we made extensive listening tests in recording and mastering studios..."
    Key words are "natural" and "arbitrary references"
    Tyll's article also explained that some output Z helps in protecting the output devices from the momentary short circuits when the headphone is plugged in and removed. Some output devices are more sensitive than others to short circuits, so there may be engineering issues I am not aware of: different output devices will have different characteristics. I could only assume AQ engineers were less conservative, used output devices more immune to temporary short circuits, or wanted a more "accurate" rather than "natural" sound. In any event, I'm not sure if anyone has actually measured the AQ DF output Z to confirm if it's really 0.5 ohms.
  4. lithium1085
    Tyll did mention in his article about some people preferring the higher output impedance for its lush sound......thanks for the explanation Purrin
  5. netdog
    This has really been an interesting thread.  Thank you purrin and to all who contributed. I've learned a lot.
  6. vrln
    The HRT MicroStreamer is confirmed as 0.5 ohms out of USB in the official specifications. The DragonFly´s less than 1 ohm output impedance is confirmed by the designer on the Computer Audiophile forums. I still wouldn´t use the Explorer with IEMs. It´s not a disaster anymore, but still far from optimal. For IEM users there are still more suitable products in the market, but indeed maybe the output impedance of 5 is an intentional coloration choice to create a softer more mid-emphasized sound. No way I´d run the 8 ohm XBA-40 or 10 ohm TDK-IE800 on this though.
    Vladimir_F1 likes this.
  7. Questhate
    5 ohms is way better than ~50 ohms that it was previously, but considering 8:1 damping factor is the rough guideline, there still should be interactions with IEMs and headphones with high sensitivity that the Explorer is likely to be paired up with. 
    Purrin did some measurements to simulate interactions at ~5 output impedence. There is lots of info
  8. lithium1085
    Tyll's recent articles on inner fidelity have also been very instructive....thanks for the link....it was great reading
  9. utdeep
    I got an updated Meridian Explorer after ordering it last week (checked with Todd on this).  I tried pairing it with the FitEar ToGo 334s and I was pretty disappointed in the outcome.  In fact, I found that my feedback closely matched Purrin's on this gorgeous little DAC/amp even after their update. 
    The parts of his review that really hit home for me was the presence of a "veil" and an exaggerated treble response.  I compared it to the headphone out of my Macbook Retina and the iPhone 4S and in both cases, they felt better than the Meridian.  While the Macbook Retina had a higher noise floor, it seemed to have more energy with the FitEar.  The iPhone 4S had excellent synergy with the FitEar as well and I really couldn't go back to the Meridian after a round of A/B testing.  I find the treble of the FitEar to be its greatest asset and the pairing with the Meridian took this away.  The bass never seemed to extend very low either.
    I bought this for the combo DAC/amp, so I have not planned to test the DAC alone.  Your mileage may vary.
  10. purrin
    Thanks for sharing. The DAC alone (when used with other amps) still has similar characteristics with the head-out. It's a colored presentation which is not to my preference. I am curious if the new output Z is actually 5 ohms or perhaps a bit higher.
  11. vrln
    utdeep: What impedance does the FitEar To Go 334 have? The Meridian Explorer´s output impedance (5) even in the new updated version is still too much for sensitive IEMs. You need an output impedance closer to 1 for those. The Explorer impedance upgrade did make it usable for more headphones, but I still wouldn´t seriously consider it for IEM use.
    Most Apple products have a fantastic headphone out for IEM use. The iPhone 4S is by itself a good source already, as are iPads.
  12. utdeep
    I can't actually find any details on their (FitEar ToGo 334) impedance on any of the websites selling them.  It seems to be under 50.
  13. JakeJack_2008
    How about the ODAC (dac only) under $150? No one has mentioned the ODAC and the O2 in this thread.
    I own the ODAC and the O2 as two separates from JDS Labs (the total cost is under $290, i.e cheaper than the Explorer)
    and am super happy with the sound they deliver.
  14. utdeep
    There is also the HiFiMeDiy DAC for $50 which I tried out the other day.  It blew me away and sounded much better than my Centrance DacPort LX.  DACs are getting cheaper and significantly better every year!
  15. bobeau
    I believe it was measured to be ~42.
    It appears in Rin's review a 100 ohm resistor actually evens out the frequency response quite a bit: http://rinchoi.blogspot.com/2012/12/fit-ear-to-go-334.html (look at chart above On second thought #1 to see it no resistance and 33 ohm and 100 ohm, then notes under On second thought #4).  As well people are talking about synergy with some fairly high output impedance players such as the AK100.  It may have been tuned with this in mind.
    Personally, I think the 47 ohm ME sounds quite good with the 334, at least with the 000 cable.  A tad thin but much preferred for most things compared to my MBA's headphone out.  So far the 001/Microstreamer is my fav and I look forward to hearing it w/ the 5 ohm ME revision.
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