Meridian 586.2 DVD Player Reviewed

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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.

HTR Product Rating for Meridian 586.2 DVD Player

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

4.5

Overall

4.5

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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Once up and running, I used the 586.2 to access the Banderas bullet-fest in Dolby Digital, Delos' excellent demo disc, five 96kHz audio-only DVDs from Classic Records (which played back at 48kHz through the 861 - still better than conventional CD) and the Beatles' , and . What's absolutely certain is that DVD is improving in leaps and bounds, and maybe we're better off because the DVD makers have been treating us like lepers.

What the Meridian DVD player demonstrated, beyond a relative freedom from Stuartian operational quirks, were pictures which had me wondering if I'd ever buy another laserdisc. Yes, kids, the blacks were even blacker, the frame freezes rock solid. But then there came a scene full of leaping flames, and it looked like crude computer video of four years ago - vague, jerky and unconvincing. And this, I hasten to add, is not Meridian's fault, but DVD's.

Far more revealing were comparisons of the Beatles' films, which I own in nearly every video format known to man, bar actual 35mm prints. And whatever the rumours that these DVDs - especially -- were taken from new re-masterings, they sucked. At first, I was thrown by a message at the opening which said that was taken from the familiar mid-1980s release; I expected better. Yet word on the street suggested that they were made from the state-of-the-art re-releases for American cable TV a couple of years back. If so, then why was it no better than the damned CD-ROM, and certainly not as crisp as the Criterion laserdisc? Clearly, there's something afoot with DVD video, and I'd advise waiting until we have Zone Two discs and machines of fourth or fifth generation pedigree. But what cannot be denied is the musical delight to be had from the Classic Records 96kHz/24-bit offerings, even stepped down to 48kHz playback.Both the Meridian man and I were puzzled when the 861's diagnostics told us the machine defaulted to 48kHz, but who cares? The sound was glorious: crystal clear, lush, almost analogue in its textures. High frequency sounds were liquid and sibilant-free, and the bass had a wonderfully rounded sound and feel. Much of this was experienced using the 586.2 with conventional CDs, pointing to Meridian's excellent audio stages finding their way out of a CD player and into a DVD, but equally I suspect that the Classic Records discs stood out because the 96kHz brigade ain't foolin'. So, after all that, am I envious of Yanks who can actually buy the Meridian? Yes no. 'Yes', because I don't feel we should be deprived of a new format because some cigar-smoking execu-prats in Hollywood decided we don't yet deserve it; hopefully the schmucks causing all these delays will have fatal heart attacks real soon. But 'No' because I think DVD still has a long way to go before it warrants relegating your VCR or laserdisc player to the cupboard where you'll dump your non-digital camera.

Additional Resources
• Read
more source component reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a receiver to pair with this source.
• See more about the audiophile world at AudiophileReview.com.
• Discuss all kinds of gear at hometheaterequipment.com.


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