Disclaimer: Meridian UK contacted us several months ago to review the Prime. I never had the pleasure to listen to Meridian gear before and so we happily agreed to review their AMP/DAC combo with external power supply. Viertron from the Netherlands was so kind to send us a sample of the Prime on loan for the review.
The UK based company has been around for decades and is known for its high quality products. If you’re not familiar with the Meridian legacy, do check out this page. I personally love how the Meridian gear looks: classy, professional and pricey. The Prime will cost you around 1500€/$2000 and the supplementary PSU will set you back another 1000€/$1250. European or UK quality does come with a price.
The Prime and its PSU are desktop units and so I expected them to be bigger than the 6.3” x 2.0” x 5.9” or 15x5x15cm (WxHxD) they measure and the 0.9kg/2lbs it weighs. The beautiful grey DAC/Amp unit is made of “dual skinned interlocking extrusions that help keep interference on the outside of the Prime”. To open it up there is a magnetic release mechanism, you won’t find any screws here.
It looks simply stunning: on the front you have the power switch with a blue LED that turns white when in headphone only mode and two 6.3mm and one 3.5mm headphone plug. Maximum output is 3V rms off load, THD is below 0.002%. Output impedance < 100mΩ and power output is 250mW up to 42Ω. You will also find the up-sample information, an input selector & indicator (2 analog & 1 USB) and the ASP selector & indicator on the front panel. More on Meridian’s ASP will come later in the article.
On top of the unit you will find the classy Meridian logo. The back has a mini USB input for the DAC together with one analog RCA and one 3.5 analog input (for DAPs). As the Prime can be used as a DAC/Pre Amp it also has RCA outs to connect to your power amplifier, active speakers or dedicate headphone amp.
No Famous DAC Chips
The Prime is capable of doing 24/192kHz and the (asynchronous) USB input automatically upsamples 44.1/48kHz sources to 88.2/96kHz prior to the DAC. Meridian uses its own Apodising filter to do this and exactly that is one of the reasons they are so successful and well-known in the audio world. The downside for some may be that the Prime does not do DSD but that’s just how it is.
In exchange you get Meridian’s ASP feature. ASP stands for Analogue Spatial Processing and it basically tries to simulate listening to speakers (crossfeed) where your left ear also hears the right channel and vice versa. We tested this before when we reviewed the Meier Audio gear and just like back then, I am not the biggest fan. When I did use the ASP feature I used the first setting but I actually like the separated L/R “inside your head” sound of headphones. I have to admit I prefer the Meridian implementation over the famous Meier Audio cross-feed but that is personal preference.
Sound on the next page
“The Prime will cost you around 1500€/$2000 […]. European or UK quality does come
with a price.”
You should consider to try the Micromega MyDac and MyZic combo. Well, it’s two units and not the same build quality but it sounds incredibly nice for the price (<450€) and it's made in France.
The Meridian looks like a lovely product anyway, thanks for the review.
Since the input is 12v DC, it seems you could run it from a heavy-duty battery and get the best possible isolation from mains noise. And save a lot of money.
Thanks for the review, I was planning to get the Prime to pair with my HD650 until I see this.. haha.. I do have a Soloist SL so in your opinion, DAC wise which is better, Prime or Concero HD?
That’s where it gets tough cause I love the sound of both companies DACs very much. About the HD650, me not liking it doesn’t mean you don’t like it. It depends on how you want the HD650 to sound.
I am a proud owner of the Prime. The only thing i don’t agree with here is – the PSU does actually make a terrific difference,to the point where the unit is the only home dac/amp combo i would ever use.
Great review tho
Thanks. We have very clear power here. Brand new house. Difference was limited. I’ve seen people say it changed the sound alot, other said no change. I’m in the last camp
I use HD800 mainly, but it has a difference with iems like Merlin,SE846 and Ref1 too, it is a very obvious one too,but i guess it might be less with a clear power houses, with mine it was night and day.
Also the ASP suddenly started making sense, especially with iem’s, but also the HD800 with its huge soundstage, it works a miracle on some tracks, better, tighter bass and more natural sound altogether. On others its better without it, good to have the option.
Never setting 2 tho, that one is useless imo.
Why not run it from a 12v car battery?
Hi ! I have a audiolab 8200 CDQ and a meridian director DAC. the combo is very nice, but i think may be it’s time to upgrade. At the moment on my consideration list are:
1) meridian prime
2) keep front end, add brytson BHA-1
3) Fostex HP-A8c.
Can you shine some light on to these options? I will be using it with AKG701, Senn Momentum and Denon D7100. Thanks!
I don’t have access to these, but I’d bet money the difference between the Fostex and the Meridian would be much less than the difference you’d hear with either one driving different headphones, due to the load differences. Either way, I prefer a one-box DAC/amp with minimal wiring, which eliminates interconnects plus DAC output wiring and amp input wiring. You just have to be confident that each component is optimal so one doesn’t compromise the other.
All great options. Any possibility to listen to them first?
I would go for option one or 2 if you like the Meridian sound
Thanks for the replies! Let see if i can find a HP-A8c on the second hand market and have a go. I have also read some Grace Design M903 also goes quite well with D7100, but thats clearly outside my budget.
Great review. Owning the meridian explore I already love that sound. I ll certainly try to find one to try out my H6. Maybe in the future up the ante a bit on budget.
Thank you 🙂
Hey L, great review as always! Could you give me some advice regarding the Prime? I might consider it the next step up for my rig and was wondering how it would pair with the Fostex TH900. I for one am a huge fan of Dac/Amp combos so this might interest me in an upgrade.
Hi and thanks. In general I am not a fan of Dac/amp Combos but there are a couple I really like, such as the Prime and the Gemeni.
I haven’t had the pleasure of using the TH900 on the Prime, so it’s hard to say but I have a feeling it will give you a very clean and detailed sound. maybe a little less bass body