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