Meridian is likely best known for being the company that made the first meaningful high end Compact Disc player or perhaps for their upgradeable reference 800 series AV preamp and CD/DVD transport, when other companies failed with their "future-proof" claims. Videophiles note that Meridian now owns the Faroudja brand and makes the best scaling 4K video projector money can buy in the Meridian 810. Today I am here to argue that possibly the most innovative product Meridian makes in their vast audio and videophile lineup is their reference digital, active loudspeaker known as the DSP8000s.
• Read high end audiophile floorstanding speaker reviews from the likes of Meridian, Krell, MartinLogan, Wilson Audio, Magico, YG Acoustics and many more.
• Read a review of the Meridian DSP5200 digital active loudspeakers here.
• Check out this review of the Meridian 808.3 high end Compact Disc player.
Priced at $65,000 a pair, the Meridian DSP8000 speakers are without question an ultimate high-end audiophile product. It is important to note that these speakers being "active" include a host of internal amps, including three 150 Watt power amps for the bass drivers as well as two 100 Watt amps for the mid and high frequency drivers. Internally, there are also four 24 bit digital to analog converters. Each speaker is capable of upconverting lower resolution audio signals to a 24 bit "HD" signal right inside of the speaker cabinet. Much like a Wilson WATT Puppy (a passive or non-amplified speaker), the Meridian comes as a two-part speaker system with a top and bottom component. There are six bass drivers, a six-inch midrange driver and a one-inch dome tweeter to make up the driver compliment. The Meridian DSP8000's are controlled by RS-232 and connect via a CAT 5 digital audio feed.
The aesthetics of the Meridian DSP8000's live up to the expectations you should have for a $40,000 pair of speakers. The curved lines are elegant and even a bit feminine. The footprint is compact for a full-size, full-range loudspeaker of the DSP8000 caliber. Your wife will not divorce you for parking a pair of Meridian DSP8000's next to, say, an August Forster nine foot concert grand piano in your "music" room. However I bet you could find ways to sneak even Meridian's reference speaker into other parts of your house including living rooms, larger bedrooms and most certainly home theater or media rooms. The Meridian DSP8000 speakers look striking in black and silver but also come in a rainbow of additional colors. Matching them to your new Ferrari California in Rosso Corsa is not a problem for Meridian.
Configurations for the Meridian DSP8000s range from incredibly simple to incredibly complex. For audiophiles, you might choose to use only one source such as the touch-pad controlled Meridian-Sooloos media server fed directly into these digital speakers. With a digital feed from the Meridian-Sooloos server, you are set to make beautiful music - it's that simple. For home theater systems, Meridian's 861 V4 AV preamp complete with their HDMI switching component can offer high-resolution multichannel audio from any range of source components right into Meridian DSP8000s.
Sonically, the Meridian DSP8000 is a punchy, powerful yet always-in-control transducer. Working with easy to digest string quartets or jazz ensembles, the Meridian DSP8000's have the finesse to compete with even electrostatic speakers in their ability to resolve musical detail and present a deep, three-dimensional soundstage. Truth be told, all good audiophile speakers sound good with some Miles Davis on (especially when being upsampled to 24 bit audio); however the Meridian DSP8000's can handle much more intense music when pushed. From the most testing moments of the Firebird Suite to the deep kick drum on "Another Brick in the Wall" from Pink Floyd's The Wall - expect the Meridian DSP8000's to keep up with whatever music you might want to play up to ear-splitting yet non-distorted levels as high as 118 dB.
The same power that makes the helicopter effects from Pink Floyd's The Wall sound so impressive translates perfectly to movie soundtracks. In fact in many ways the detail resolution of HD audio tracks from Blu-ray discs using Dolby TrueHD and or DTS Master Audio are even more impressive on the Meridian DSP8000s. While a bit cliché these days, the opening scene of The Dark Knight offers tremendous composure despite moments of total cinematic chaos, like when the Joker drives the school bus into the bank. Most speakers collapse at high levels during this scene, while the Meridian DSP8000s hold tight with their imaging while at the same time providing taught, controlled bass.
• Sonically you can't do better than Meridian's DSP8000s - just different. Reasonably, you can compare the DSP8000s with the likes of B&Ws 802d, Wilson Sasha WP and MartinLogan CLX loudspeakers when paired only with the best of electronics.
• The Meridian DSP8000 loudspeakers can convert music from standard definition to 24 bit resolutions, which makes traditional CD material from a media server or a Compact Disc sound more like an HD source such as DVD-Audio.
• The look and build quality of the Merdican DSP8000 matches its lofty price. There are photos of DSP8000's parked next to a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and I am not sure which product is better looking. That's how gorgeous these speakers look.