Meridian Sooloos System Reviewed (Audio Core 200, Control 15 and DSP3200 Digital Active Loudspeakers)

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Meridian_Sooloos_System_Review_DSP3200_bookshelf_speaker_on_stands.jpgSearching can be done directly or you can use the focus feature to narrow down your music collection. The focus allows you to sort by number of plays, resolution of recordings, when they were recorded, genres, composers, credits, labels - you can even tag your albums and focus on the different tags you've assigned. While this might sound confusing, it really isn't as the menu structure is well set up and intuitive to use, allowing you to narrow down a large collection easily and quickly. You can even sort by the moods of the music so when you want something calm you can easily get your music with that feel.

The 'Swimming' feature of the Sooloos uses your guidelines to randomly select appropriate music for your mood. Say I want to rock out to some Black Sabbath - I can cue up my favorite album, set the Sooloos to focus on similar albums and start swimming. Thanks to all that mood data,
the Sooloos does a really good job picking tracks that fit your mood. This can even be further tailored to suit narrower tastes if desired. Suffice to say the swimming function works well and the more I used the system, the better it selected music that matched my tastes at the time,
be they loud and aggressive or calm and mellow. The Sooloos would stray just enough to keep my interest yet always keep the vibe I wanted.

I started off listening to Annie Lennox's Medusa (Arista), listening to "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and was surprised at how smooth and spacious the sound was at a relatively low volume. The vocals were lush and well placed with the bass just a tad punchy. I assumed it would fall to
pieces at higher volumes but to my surprise it didn't. The bass actually filled in and the upper registers stayed as smooth and lush as at low volume. I adjusted with the width control on what was already a very spacious track and the soundstage opened up as I increased width
without altering the sound in any negative way that I could discern. I tried placing the speakers just two feet apart and expanded the width control and was quite pleased with how well it did compensating for the poor placement I induced.



Audiophile tracks like "'S Wonderful" from Diana Krall's The Look of Love (Verve) came across well, with a surprising rendition of the standup bass for such a small speaker, all the while maintaining Krall's sultry vocals accompanied by subtle strings. I was impressed by how the DSP compensated for different listening levels, keeping it all together up to some pretty loud
volumes. The bass could have been deeper but these are bookshelf speakers so I really didn't expect even what I got from them. "Cry Me A River" gave me a huge soundstage and portrayed every aspect from the brushes on the cymbals to the standup bass with a liquid sound that made the song so enjoyable.

For aggressive music, I played an old favorite with Filter's Short Bus (Warner Brothers) and while the opening of "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was lively, though the bass was a little soft. Those who crave the visceral impact of music like this will need to add a subwoofer or move up the
line of Meridian's speakers for more low-end punch. While the DSP3200s seemed ever so slightly laid back on audiophile recordings, they can rock as well when given the chance. "Take Another" has slightly less depth to the bass notes which suited the DSP3200s better, giving a solid punch to the bottom end even at high levels while giving a forward placement to the guitars and vocals.

Competition and Comparisons
In this day and age it is impossible to not compare the Sooloos system to the ubiquitous iTunes most of us use on our home computers. While iTunes is a relatively straightforward interface, Sooloos has so much more flexibility and metadata that allows for smart searching and swimming that are simply beyond what iTunes is capable of. Kaleidescape is another media server system, and Kaleidescape can even distribute Blu-ray in uncompressed formats throughout your home, but again the intelligence inherent in the Sooloos system makes it a better music interface and the search features of Sooloos are far easier and more efficient to use. Sonos and Olive are two other makers of music servers but again, they simply do not have the data and smart features, nor ease of control, of the Sooloos system, though their systems are far less expensive.

For more on Sooloos and other audiophile media servers please visit Home Theater Review's Media Server page.


Meridian_Sooloos_System_Review_DSP3200_bookshelf_speaker_in_bookshelf.jpgThe Downside
While the Meridian digital system allows maximum performance from a small speaker, it does tie you into a proprietary system and limits your freedom to expand to anything but other Meridian products. However, you can use the Control 15 with a separate digital to analog converter in a more typical system. It is also possible to use the Media Core 200 as a pre-amp to connect other audio sources to the DSP3200s.

The DSP3200's digital management allows Meridian to maximize the bass performance as well as compensate for placement of the speakers - but they are still bookshelf speakers. Those wanting deep, powerful bass will be better served by larger speakers or by adding a subwoofer.

The Sooloos interface is simply amazing and has so much flexibility you could spend months
working on your library. While I don't really consider this a downside, it can get complicated and in its own way could be viewed as a downside for low-level users. Fortunately you or your dealer can close down the system options if you like to make it less complicated to use.

Conclusion
This is a great system for those where space comes at a premium, as it gives a large sound in a very small space. The Meridian's DSP processing produces a huge sound with plenty of low-end even from these small bookshelf speakers, while the Audio Core 200 allows you to tailor the sound in the digital domain to compensate for poor placement or to suit your tastes.

The Sooloos music server interface is simply the best made, period. The Sooloos's smart features and extensive meta-data make the system amazingly easy to use and function in a way that is hard to believe until you live with it for a while. Once you do, no other music server will do.

Additional Resources
• Read more media server reviews by Home Theater Review's staff.
• Learn what we need for a disc-less future.
• Find a subwoofer to boost the bass of this system in our Subwoofer Review section.
• See more reviews in our Bookshelf Speaker Review section.
• Explore more products in our Remotes and System Control Review section.

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HTR Product Rating for Meridian Sooloos System (Audio Core 200, Control 15 and DSP3200 Digital Active Loudspeakers)

Criteria Rating

Performance

4.5

Value

2.5

Overall

3.5

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


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