Meridian Explorer USB DAC


In Use

My first test of the Meridian Explorer is with the new Sennheiser Momentum headphones connected directly into the headphone output.  The low noise floor is immediately apparent as cranking up the volume on a 24/96 recording of the Goldberg Variations revealed nothing more than the piano solo.  Each note has body and dimension through the Sennheisers.  On the 24/96, 2012 remaster of Smashing Pumpkin's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness the sounds is as rich and smooth as butter, a quality I never heard in the CD release.  The Meridian Explorer injects lovely, analog-like warmth to the digital files stored on a hard disk that I found hard to argue with.  

The Meridian Explorer may be entry level priced, but I wanted to see how it performed with some higher end gear.  To do so, I fed the fixed line level out to a Burson Soloist headphone amp and listened through Audeze LCD3 headphones.  The analog signal produced by the Meridian Explorer immediately makes me giddy with excitement.  Tracks from the live concert album Inni by Sigur Ros only sounded better as I cranked the Burson Soloist louder and louder.  Jonsi's voice can be harsh on poor equipment, but the Meridian shows no signs of that. R&B music can often sound heavy at the bottom and hot at the top, with the entire midrange being forgotten about.  A few tracks from Alicia Keys and Kanye leave that notion at the door.  Lyrics are clear and balanced with barely a hint of sibilance.  The aggressive low end is energetic and controlled.      

Lossless ripped CD audio, something we all have a large abundance of in our collections, is given new life on the Meridian Explorer.   I simply let Foobar shuffle through my entire collection and every song from Norah Jones to Sufjan Stevens sounds lively, open, and welcoming.

Soundstaging on the 24/192 version of Norah Jones' Not Too Late is wide open in all directions.  A guitar is not flat and neither is the sound that emanates in all directions from it.  The added resolution does wonders for the dimensionality of music, adding depth to both the placement of instruments, as well as the sound they create.  The 16/44.1 version has less dynamic range, but it is especially notable in Norah's voice, which struggled to feel free at peak crescendos.  I look forward to the day my entire music collection is stored in a high resolution format.