For the true music enthusiast, the Meridian 800 can be configured to be a very capable DVD-Audio player, an ultra-audiophile CD player and a very good preamp all in one unit. For full Meridian digital theaters (or audio-only Meridian all-digital systems), this configuration of the Meridian 800 can feed right into a pair of Meridian's digital speakers and you have an amazingly high-performance audiophile system, complete with powered speakers and an all-in-one preamp that can serve as your system control. For audiophiles who like to mix and match a little more, the Meridian 800 can be used as a CD/DVD-Audio player, as well as a preamp that feeds any of the world's finest tube or solid state amplifiers, along with the speakers of your choice. For home theater enthusiasts, the Meridian 800 has been shown for years as a nearly HD-quality DVD player with up-conversion the likes not found on many other DVD players.
Sonically, the 800 is at its best in an all-Meridian digital system, or at least feeding a Meridian preamp like the reference 861 via Meridian's proprietary digital connection. Here the less-is-more theory is proven, as there is an openness and a quiet to the sound that you don't get when you mix and match even the best audiophile components. The Meridian 800 has an almost liquid sound to it, which makes listening addictive. Think I am making this up? Simply swap out a Meridian 800 for another source on the same material and do the A-B test yourself. It's easy to hear what you are missing. For DVD-Video reproduction, the 800 has been demonstrated at tradeshows like CEDIA and CES, using DVD-Video discs like Pixar's Cars to provide a nearly HD image from a mere DVD. Considering everything isn't out on Blu-ray yet, the ability to make your legacy collection of compact discs and DVD-Video titles look and sound as good as they can is of great value. DVD-Audio discs, if you have any left, are about the best musical fuel you can feed a Meridian 800. If you can find it, look to get the Japanese version of Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section in 24/192 stereo. While recorded in 1957, it sounds ten times better than any jazz CD you might have in your collection when played through the Meridian 800 player. It's just jaw-droppingly good. Don't ask me why more music isn't available at this resolution.
• The sound of the Meridian 800 player is its true draw. Even the most opinionated audiophile who reads the most oddball of audiophile journals would be hard-pressed to suggest a player at any price from any company in the world better than the Meridian 800. Likely, those players are not upgradeable, don't do video, don't have a direct connection to preamps and so on.
• The upgrade history on Meridian's 800 series is the absolute standard for the AV industry. Yes, they are expensive, but the company takes care of your investment. You could have bought a Meridian 800 or 861 in the mid-1990s and have it current through factory upgrades as we approach 2010.
• The configurability of the Meridian 800 only adds to its value. It can be a preamp, a CD player, a DVD-Video player, a DVD-Audio player and beyond.
• Ever since the introduction of the Meridian 800, there has been room for a second drive in the player, yet no other formats have been supported, including SACD and Blu-ray. With audiophile discs in such short supply, to say you need another player for SACD, no matter what the political implications, is hard to accept at these prices.
• While built very well internally, the plastic exterior finish and antiquated read-out on the 800 isn't up to current luxury standards.
• The included remote is nicely made, but requires two hands to use.
The Meridian 800 is the king of audio-video disc players in terms of performance, room for multiple configurations and ultimate value. The upgrade path Meridian has provided has been meaningful, as their competition simply gave up on the idea of being future-proof, while Meridian made it happen. For your legacy collection of DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and compact disc source material, there might not be a better player on the market at any price.