� No AV preamp has delivered on the promise of staying current longer and through more AV formats than Meridian's 861. This is the sole example of future-proof in all of home theater electronics.
� Sonically, the Meridian 861 can safely be put up against the best stereo preamps - let alone AV preamps - for audio quality. It is open, resolute, dynamic and three-dimensional-sounding. Even if you used it just for stereo, the Meridian 861 could very well be the best-sounding AV preamp on the planet Earth.
� The card configuration of the 861 allows you to build the preamp you want. Yes, it is expensive, but it is also flexible.
� When connected to Meridian Digital Speakers (including DACs, amps and of course speakers), the Meridian Digital Theater is in effect. Unlike other systems from the likes of B&O and Bose, which are lifestyle driven and all-in-one packages, the Meridian 861 provides as much performance as one can get spending an almighty dollar (or should I say an almighty Pound Sterling?).
� The build quality of the 861, specifically the plastic front plate, isn't up to the standards of other big-dollar AV preamps on the market today. The internal chassis of an 861 is made of metal, but the plastic front and small LCD screen were much more relevant in 1994 than they are today.�
� No HDMI switching in the unit leaves Blu-ray enthusiasts needing an external Meridian 4x1 switcher, which is far less slick a solution than those found on lesser-sounding HDMI switching AV preamps from Denon and Integra. They have the ability to receive HD video and audio in HD formats like Dolby True HD and DTS Master Cinema and switch them with ease. The 861 requires you to send HD video to a video processor or a switcher and will not accept audio in the latest HD formats. One would assume an upgrade card with HDMI inputs cannot be too far away, but to date, nothing has been announced.
The Meridian 861 still might very well be the best AV preamp in the world at any price, despite its lack of HDMI inputs. The consumer-grade preamps that have all of the latest bells and whistles cannot hold a candle to the Meridian 861 in terms of sound quality, digital room correction, stability, attentive customer service and overall value. For those who want the best, Meridian remains at the top of the A list with their 861 AV preamp.