Meridian DSP5200 Digital Active Loudspeaker

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Meridian is well known among audiophiles and music lovers as a company offering audio components and loudspeakers that aspire to the highest of high-end performance. The company created something of a sensation in the audiophile world with the introduction of its flagship DSP8000 Digital Active Loudspeaker--and the DSP5200 Digital Active Loudspeaker (SRP: $13,995 per pair) shares much of the DSP8000's technology and performance in a smaller sized design.

Additional Resources
Read a review of the Meridian DSP8000 digital loudspeakers from
Read a review of the Meridian 861 v4 AV preamp here.

The DSP5200, like other speakers in Meridian's Digital Active Loudspeaker range, incorporates built-in amplification and sophisticated digital signal processing electronics in the quest to deliver more accurate audio reproduction. Each of its three custom drivers--two 160 millimeter (6-1/2-inch) long-throw polypropylene woofers and a 25 millimeter (1-inch) aluminum dome tweeter--has its own separate 75 Watt amplifier that is matched to, and optimized for, the driver. The built-in active amplification is designed to compensate for any frequency response deviations in the individual drivers, in the goal of achieving a flatter frequency response for each driver than is possible with a passive loudspeaker.

The speaker's DSP electronics include dual 192kHz, 24-bit D/A converters for the bass/midrange and high frequencies, digital crossovers, a proprietary apodizing digital upsampling filter, and on-board digital computers running proprietary software at 150 MIPS. Bob Stuart, co-founder of Meridian, and his team developed the apodizing filter, which, without getting technical, is designed to eliminate sonic problems caused by conventional digital filtering (signal processing) of digital musical signals. (There's plenty of information online if you want to dig deeply into this subject.) Meridian claims that the upsampling filter "is so effective that it can correct problems further up the chain including fixing faults in the original recording."

The use of a digital rather than an analog crossover network also facilitates a smoother sonic blend between the drivers. The DSP5200 features a "2-1/2-way" crossover design, meaning that each woofer operates in a different frequency range to achieve a more seamless on- and off-axis frequency blend from bass to treble. The DSP circuitry enables adjustment (via an included remote control) of bass, treble, driver time-alignment, absolute phase and other parameters; the remote control also provides input selection. The front of the DSP5200 has a status display that can be dimmed if desired.
The DSP5200's frequency response is listed at 35Hz to over 20kHz, plus or minus 3dB. It is capable of greater than 108dB SPL (at 1 meter).

Measuring 903 mm (36 inches) high by 300 mm (12 inches) wide by 356 mm (14-1/4) deep, the DSP5200's curved and tapered enclosure is simple and understated in design--if you're turned on by speakers that look like they walked into your listening room from a Transformers movie or sport radical-looking appurtenances, look elsewhere. The DSP5200 is available in graphite, black or silver high-gloss lacquer finishes. The 77-pound enclosure is made from 19 mm (3/4-inch) multilayer materials including veneered plywood and poured resin, for rigidity and damping of internal resonances. In addition to the floorstanding configuration I listened to, the DSP5200 is available in a horizontal center-channel version.

The Meridian DSP5200 incorporates the company's SpeakerLink technology, which enables the DSP5200 to be connected to a Meridian preamp or Sooloos media server (Sooloos is now owned by Meridian) via a single SpeakerLink cable with standard RJ45 connectors. The back of the DSP5200 has SpeakerLink inputs and outputs, a coaxial digital input and a BNC connector that connects to other Meridian or Sooloos components.

I listened to the Meridian DSP5200 with a Sooloos Control 10/Ensemble media server system. (A brief aside: I didn't set the system up personally so I can't talk about the particulars of getting the Sooloos up and running, but I can tell you that with no training whatsoever, I and others were able to pretty much immediately grok the interface and use it effortlessly as a digital jukebox.)

My first listening impression was one of tonal neutrality. The speaker didn't strike me as either too bright and forward, nor too "warm" and "euphonic," but rather, smooth and accurate from bass through treble. With a stated frequency response of 35Hz, the speaker is able to reproduce the low "E" fundamental (around 41Hz) of an electric or acoustic bass, and the bass is taut and well defined. The midrange and treble were clear and clean. Meridian touts the DSP5200 as a speaker that's "ideal for spacious as well as smaller rooms," and I would agree--although it's the smaller brother to the top-of-the-line (and far more expensive at $65,000 per pair) DSP8000, it has more than enough volume, dynamic authority, presence, scale and depth to suit my listening tastes.

At the risk of being called a Luddite or an evolutionary throwback by the publisher, I will confess that I like the sound of analog and LPs--and have an aversion to digital done wrong. So, considering its considerable implementation of digital signal processing technology, going into this I was intrigued by what the DSP5200 (and the DSP8000, which I've also heard) was going to sound like. Bottom line: although no speaker (or any audio component or source material for that matter) is perfect, while listening to the DSP5200, I did not feel like I was listening to a "digital speaker" and sound that was overly processed, canned, enhanced or hyped up. On the contrary--I just felt like I was listening to music. Color me impressed.

Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2

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