Generally when I write a review, I do so from the perspective of trying to help dealers to decide whether or not to offer a product for sale. I describe the setup, performance, how it interfaces with other gear, etc. in an effort to give integrators the best sense of whether the product is right for them or not. I have no such pretenses with this review. No Meridian dealer will decide to sell these speakers because of my review, and no dealer will decide to sign on with Meridian because of this, either. Meridian’s tremendous reputation precedes itself and certainly doesn’t need any commentary on the quality of its products from me.
I don’t, however, often get the opportunity to experience truly world-class speakers in my own home for any length of time, and I’m guessing you don’t either. So when MAI (Meridian America Inc.), the exclusive distributor for Meridian offered me the chance to audition the new DSP5200 Special Edition DSP loudspeakers, along with the Sooloos Media Source 200, I eagerly accepted. So, enjoy my “review” as more of a shared experience of what it is like to live with and experience a $20,000 pair of loudspeakers in your own house. And, if you happen to be on the fence about Meridian, then maybe this will be the nudge you needed.
While the DSP5200s have been around for some time, the SE version was created to mark the 25th anniversary of Meridian’s first digital loudspeaker, the D600. The SEs introduce several advancements, including a newly designed, short-horn-loaded beryllium dome tweeter that is not only lightning fast but also significantly extends the frequency range up to 32 kHz. The mid and bass drivers feature mechanical clamp rings that provide superior stability and further reduce coloration. The SEs also benefit from new extended-bandwidth analog electronics that have been optimized for high-resolution recordings. The speakers also feature a new DSP that provides several performance enhancements along with the latest iteration of Meridian’s Enhance Bass Alignment, ensuring that signals are time delayed so that all frequencies reach your ears at the same time to eliminate any smearing or “boomy” lowend.
These changes would be analogous to replacing the entire signal chain of a traditional passive audio system. The SE series also supports the new Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) audio process. In a wonderful show of customer appreciation, Meridian makes the Special Edition upgrade available to any DSP5200, DSP7200, and DSP8000 owners.
New equipment generally arrives at our home with little fanfare or even much notice by my wife, and I unpacked the speakers and set them up while she was away. When she got home I received a text that said, “Wow! These new speakers are sexy!” That is unprecedented. But so true.
The speakers are gorgeous and look like works of art. And through the Meridian Select program, these speakers–and most others offered by Meridian–are available in any color. My pair arrived with multiple coats of hand-finished piano lacquer in stunning RAL5025 Pearl Gentian Blue. The fit and finish on the high-gloss piano lacquer was impeccable and it isn’t difficult to see why Meridian products are used as lifestyle props in so many films. The striking design has a very modern aesthetic that I could definitely see being purchased by wealthy consumers strictly to fit the perfect look in their Manhattan penthouse.
Setup is startlingly simple. Because my only source was the Meridian Media Source 200, a small, tube-shaped component that streams high-resolution audio files across the network, I connected the MS200 to my network and connected its SpeakerLink output to the In on the left (master) speaker and ran the left speaker’s SpeakerLink Out to the In on the right (slave) speaker. Plug in power to both speakers and installation is complete.
The MS200 receives power from the SpeakerLink connection, and the system sends Meridian Comms and balanced digital audio over this connection. This means virtually zero wire clutter while still having access to an unlimited amount of music. You could also directly connect a coaxial digital audio source. Going beyond two-channel requires stepping up to a Meridian controller, such as the G65 of 861V8.
I’ll tell on myself and admit that as simple as this setup was, I somehow managed to configure both speakers as Left channel. After several hours of listening where I was shocked over how narrow the listening sweetspot was–moving my head centimeters out of dead center caused audio to collapse to one speaker–I put on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and the opening of “Money” told my ears something was clearly amiss. A quick call to Ken Forsythe, VP of MAI, walked me through re-typing the speakers into their correct left/right arrangement and, well, the angels sang.
Classical music lovers will find much to love with the DSP5200SEs, as violins, cellos, and piano strings resonate, reverberate, and sing with every bit of aching detail they crave. The beryllium tweeter does a magnificent job of just oozing detail, space, and air into the room, allowing notes to hang and linger like smoke in a pool hall. In fact, I think it was the space and what happened around and after the note that is part of what makes these speakers sound so wonderful.
I’ve actually been in Mix A at Skywalker Ranch, and listening to the opening delicate flute notes from “Rey’s Theme” from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Original Soundtrack) really transports you right to that space. The notes flutter gently in the air, floating and hanging in the free space, perfectly captured and presented. In those opening seconds of the song, the speakers reveal the cavernous recording area where the recording was made.
The final cut from Miles Davis’ seminal Kind of Blue, “Flamenco Sketches,” is a slower, less boppy cut, really letting the musicians wind down and focus on solos. The precision of the Meridians lets you completely focus on each instrument. Bill Evans’ piano work clearly positioned left of center; Jimmy Cobb gently striking the cymbals to the right, his brush work distinct as he adjusts to the modal changes; Paul Chambers double bass set back off center; and the sonic details of Cannonball Adderley’s alto sax compared to John Coltrane’s tenor sax. The detail almost allows a forensic level examination of each musician’s performance.
I was repeatedly struck with the depth and dimension of the presentation, almost as if the Meridians opened a hole in the wall behind them and pushed a drum kit several feet back behind the lead singer. Audio is also lifted in vertical space, playing well above and outside the confines of the speaker cabinet.
Chesky’s Binaural+ Series recordings are all made with a special Binaural head fitted with specially calibrated microphones where a human’s ears would be. The result is terrific, spacious depth and dimensionality. Alexis Cole’s Dazzling Blue, downloaded in 192/24-bit from HD Tracks, contains reinterpretations of a dozen Paul Simon tracks. This terrific recording lets you close your eyes and clearly picture the musicians spread out before you, the reverberation of the acoustic space of the church where the recording was made beautifully preserved and wonderfully recreated by the Meridians.
Don’t think that the 6-inch drivers can’t deliver serious, tangible low end, as they produce a ton of rich bass with resolution and detail. Throughout “Acknowledgement” from John Coltrane’s Love Supreme, Jimmy Garrison’s four-note bass theme produced four clearly different notes, never getting muddy or blurring into a monosyllabic bass note.
With all that jazz and classical, don’t think the speakers can’t get down and rock when you want. Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do” puts Plant and Page in the room with you, coaxing you to push the volume louder and louder. And John Mayer’s excellent cover of Jimmy Hendrix’s “Bold as Love” off Continuum pumps out big, fat, bass lines that you’ll feel in your soul while Mayer’s steady, driving electric guitar work and frenetic and soulful vocals take center stage.
The Meridian DSP5200SEs are either a music lover’s piece of art or an artist’s musical muse. Either way, they sound every bit as terrific as they look and will be magnificent additions to any home lucky enough to have them.
Gorgeous looking cabinet; terrific, effortless sound quality; wonderfully simple setup
Pricey; going beyond stereo requires suite of Meridian electronics
► Includes two 6-inch custom polypropylene bass drive and 1-inch beryllium dome tweeter; 3 x 75-watt power amplification
► Frequency response 35Hz-32Hz +/- 3dB; >108dB SPL
► Two Freescale 56367 DSPs running at 150 MHz;
► Two 24-bit Multi-bit delta sigma DAC with 128x oversampling
► Connections: Meridian SpeakerLink (RJ-45) input/ output, coaxial digital audio input/output, Meridian BNC comms input/output; detachable power cable
► High-gloss piano lacquer available in any color through Meridian Select
► Dimensions: 35.6 x 11.8 x 14 inches (HxWxD); Weight 77 pounds (each)