Protestations about the availability of Meridian products, about the company's optimistic release dates and decided lack of concern for the home market really don't apply to the firm's DVD player. After all, it's not Meridian's fault that DVD hasn't been launched outside of Japan and the USA, that Europe has become the third-class citizen which, in the eyes of the consumer electronics industry, exists only to subsidise Zone One. But I spent a week with the latest 586.2 DVD spinner, and it would be remiss of me not to exploit this purely accidental occurrence. After all, it's you, the British public which put Meridian on the map two decades ago. And for that alone you deserve to know about the 586.2.
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Sporting classic 500-Series styling, the 586.2 is black, glossy and uncluttered. If you didn't see the letters 'DVD' below the logo, you'd mistake this for a CD player. Hell, you could mistake a Toshiba, a Sony or Panasonic DVD player for a CD player because they all spin 5in discs and the manufacturers have opted for hardware which exploits DVD's intrinsic familiarity rather than its newness. Which is an odd way to market a new format, but then the assholes which have kept DVD from us for over a year think they know best.
Across the front are a robust front-loading tray, Meridian eschewing the latest 'skinny' trays for something more substantial. Also in this sub-section, the front panel's lower half, are absolutely straightforward transport controls identical to those found on a CD player: open, play, stop, pause, display, previous, next and a switch which takes the 586.2 out of standby or back into standby; the display button allows you to choose between title, chapter, track and time. Primary on/off is at the back, above the IEC mains input, along with are a few connectors which you won't find on a CD player but which will be instantly familiar to laserdisc aficionados.
In addition to conventional analogue audio and coaxial digital outputs, and an RS232 computer socket and a brace of DIN-like sockets for inter-Meridian communications are three video output options. The first and - by videophile standards, most important -- are the three phono sockets for 'component' video connection, academic in the Kessler household as our two-year-old Panasonic set doesn't sport component video inputs. Next is composite, but I opted for the third, which is S-Video. Given that the 586.2 I borrowed is a Zone One, NTSC player and that the only way I can get my set to play back NTSC signals is via the S-Video socketry, I didn't have much choice. Playback was through both the Meridian 861 and the Lexicon DC-1 surround controller/pre-amps, the inputs were set up for Dolby Digital.
As my only other hands-on experience with DVD was with a Toshiba player, it was convenient that Meridian used the top Toshiba mechanism and decoder PCB as the basis for the 586.2. But from there on it's a Meridian production, with the aforementioned tray mechanism, the D/A converter, the video circuitry and the audio circuitry being Huntingdon-born. Which is why Americans are willing to spend $4000 (circa £2500) for this high-end variant.
Aside from communication with other Meridian components - switching on the 586.2, for example, automatically switches on an associated Meridian pre-amp or surround decoder-pre-amp - operational behaviour is conventional DVD. This includes pages of on-screen set-up information and a range of viewing options, but I learned quickly that the novelty elements of DVD soon wear off and you will probably leave your DVD player alone, set up to suit your requirements, after no more than an hour dicking about with screen ratios, language options and karaoke settings. And given that DVD players run warm, it's probably not advisable to mess around with the automatic fan settings.Read more about the 586.2 DVD player on Page 2.