Meridian’s Director DAC arrives in a beautiful presentation box, demonstrating the thought that went into the product before connecting a single cable. Modern audio formats–FLAC, MP3, WAV, etc.–are digital, but loudspeakers and human ears remain analog “devices.” So, until we evolve to the point where we all plug into the “The Matrix,” enjoying music means converting those digital 0s and 1s into human-compatible analog. This is important for music lovers because the quality of this digital-to-analog conversion (DAC) process plays a large role in the quality of sound. Where low-quality DACs can sound harsh and brittle, a high-performance DAC delivers smooth and rich audio, full of warm sonic performance and detail.
Meridian Audio has built a name for itself since 1977 by manufacturing outstanding digital audio products, from speakers to processors to transports. For those with the means to afford it, owning Meridian has been a gateway to amazing sound. For the remaining 99 percent of us, Meridian has been a mostly aspirational dream. Fortunately, that dream is closer to becoming a reality for more people, thanks to the introduction of Director, a USB and S/PDIF DAC that includes Meridian technologies like upsampling and an apodizing filter from the company’s renowned flagship Reference Series, at a price that won’t require a second mortgage.
Unboxing gear is usually a soulless experience–cut through the tape, rip open the cardboard, and release the component from its Styrofoam prison. This is far from the case with Director, where it was immediately apparent that I was dealing with something special. Director arrives in a beautiful presentation box, demonstrating the thought that went into the product before connecting a single cable.
According to Ken Forsythe, Meridian’s director of product management, “We wanted the packaging to reflect that something precious and jewel-like is inside–the type of box you would not want to throw away. We gave the packaging serious thought as for many buyers it would be their first ‘Meridian experience,’ and it had to be something special! Welcome to luxury audio!”
Director has a rounded, all-metal case that feels solid and well built, while retaining classic Meridian design elements. The back panel has a mini-jack input that accepts the included Toslink or coaxial digital adapter, a USB B-type connector, and analog outputs to your stereo after Director has worked its magic. Director receives power from a computer or an included USB power supply. The front panel has a push button for selecting between USB and S/PDIF inputs and indicator lights detailing the incoming sampling rate. Director is simple enough that an end-user could install and enjoy it, on his own within minutes.
Director has a rounded, all-metal case that feels solid and well built, while retaining classic Meridian design elements. The back panel has a mini-jack input that accepts the included Toslink or coaxial digital adapter, a USB B-type connector, and analog outputs to your stereo.
To see how it impacted a wide array of audio devices, I auditioned Director on a variety of systems, from an entry-level Denon receiver connected to $400/pair bookshelves to my reference Marantz AV- 8801 pre-pro and Definitive Technology Mythos ST towers, as well as with different sources from CDs ripped to my Kaleidescape to internet streaming from Sonos to high-res HD Tracks from my PC.
On Pandora, the track “Still Light” by Carol Robbins from Jazz Play revealed far more resolution and detail than before, producing defined, individual cymbal brush strokes with more micro details present in the recording. Switching over to the Denon, the track sounded like a mush of metal brushed against cymbals, sounding more like background tape hiss in need of some Dolby NR.
Miles Davis’ “When Lights Are Low” from The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions had much more breath and a more natural, reedy quality to Davis’ trumpet blowing, with Director lending a warmer, richer, more lifelike quality to the audio.
On virtually every system, Director delivered bass with more refinement and depth. The bottom end seemed to tighten up and become more sonically defined, not pumped up or boomy, but like it had been given a little extra TLC during production. On Dave Matthews’ “Proudest Monkey” from Crash, bass notes that had been hazy and unnoticed became individual, distinct notes that I could feel. When switching Director out of the system, bass seemed sloppy in comparison.
Switching between Director’s output and the internal DAC produced a variety of results, depending on the quality of the other processor. But beyond what I noted above, audio from Director also gained width, extending beyond the boundaries of the left and right channels. Especially on the lower end system, switching from Director to the straight signal caused the audio to practically collapse into a phantom center image, instead of the wide sonic wall of sound that Director built.
Director can serve a wide array of applications, from revitalizing older components like CD players to breathing high-end life into modern streamers like Apple TV or Sonos. Additionally, Director could be connected to a housewide system to improve audio quality throughout the entire home. For Meridian dealers, Director is easy to demo and offers a way to introduce the luxury brand and experience to an entirely new range of music lovers.
Terrific packaging/ presentation, wonderful sound and build quality
Gotta be a Meridian dealer to sell it
• Extruded aluminum shell with molded plastic endcaps
• Inputs: 1 USB2 B connector for computer playback (up to 24/192) or power connection; 3.5mm connection accepts coaxial digital (up to 24/192) or Toslink optical digital (up to 24/96) via included adapters; Outputs: Analog audio stereo pair
• Front panel LEDs indicate input (S/PDIF or USB) selectable via pushbutton and sample rate 44.1/48, 88.2/96, 176.4/192 kHz.
• USB audio class compliant 2.0 HS 480Mb/s bandwidth. Asynchronous: device is the clock source for high quality audio
• Dimensions: 3.15 x 5.47 x 1.34-inches (WxDxH); Weight: 9 ounces