Meridian Prime: English Excellence

Does The Prime Live Up To The Meridian Name?

First I tried the Prime as an Amp/Dac combo (with PSU) and I immediately loved the sound from this demo unit: Enormous Clarity, great detail retrieval from bass to treble, top precision and dynamic sound. All presented with just the right amount of air between the instruments. Musical and detailed sound with a superb flow. The Prime sounds fast and is neutrally tuned but the best solid state kind there is. Maybe it is just slightly forward sounding, but not that much.

Bass is tight, goes deep, is well layered and has a lot of detail but doesn’t have the big body of say the Beyerdynamic A20 amplifier (but it has far better quality). The Prime is a linear tuned unit and I find the bass to be perfect (and that’s an understatement) with the Audeze and Hifiman headphones but more on those later.

The Prime’s mids are slightly more forward sounding, especially the vocals, but they are not bright. Don’t get me wrong on that because they sound incredibly good: perfect separation, great timbre, heaps of detail but never over-analytical and always musical and dynamic.

Treble is extended and detailed but never harsh sounding. I do like my treble and the Prime does a splendid job for my taste. Treble is on the same level as the mids and bass: clarity, detail and sparkle.

The Prime’s sound stage is wide and deep with a perfect balance and 3-dimensionality. I fell in love with the Prime’s sound as a DAC/Amp unit. For me this is top audiophile sound.

As I briefly touched before, the Audeze LCD-2, Hifiman HE-560 (review next week) and Audeze LCD-XC work incredibly well with the Prime. The Prime, as a solid state desktop amp(/dac), is one of the best sounding amps I have heard the Orthos with. You wouldn’t have expected it when looking at the output numbers but it actually has more than enough power to drive two units together at the same time. The clarity, spaciousness and detail are enormous. I’m very selective when it comes to SS amps and orthodynamic headphones but the Prime certainly goes on my wall of fame (together with the Violectric V200 and Bakoon HPA-21 using the Current Out and the portable CypherLabs Theorem). The Prime makes the Planar Technology headphones shine. Period.

So it is clear the Prime likes the low impedance orthos but does it also likes the low impedance dynamic headphones? The answer is yes. 32Ohm Beyers like the DT770, T51P or the NAD VISO HP50 simply sound awesome. The only headphones I don’t enjoy as much are the higher impedance dynamics like the HD600 and HD650. Those sound so much better on a full bodied OTL tube amp resulting in thicker mids and bigger bass. The bass on the HD650 when using the Prime didn’t have a lot of body or impact and that’s exactly what’s so great about the HD650. That does mean that people who find the HD650 too dark and bassy might find this AMP/DAC to be the perfect solution. 250Ohm headphones like the Beyerdynamic Tesla T70 and T90 are sounding good but they, as most of you who have read my previous reviews know, sound so much better on an OTL tube amp in my opinion.

The Prime comes with a dedicated 3.5mm out for IEMs and I have to say it works its magic with my Cosmic Ears CE6E. The output is dead silent with all my (C)IEMs to begin with. Actually this is the best I have heard the CE6E and 1964Ears V6S sound. Yes, I can honestly say this is my favorite desktop amp so far for my IEM collection.

The Prime can also be used as a DAC and Pre Amp in combination with a power amp, headphone amp or active speakers. Go to the next page to read all about that setup

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

16 Comments

  • Reply August 7, 2014

    gerard bouchard

    “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.

  • Reply August 7, 2014

    dalethorn

    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.

  • Reply August 8, 2014

    BlurRhino

    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?

    • Reply August 8, 2014

      L.

      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.

  • Reply August 8, 2014

    soundblast

    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

    • Reply August 8, 2014

      L.

      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

      • Reply August 8, 2014

        soundblast

        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.

    • Reply August 8, 2014

      dalethorn

      Why not run it from a 12v car battery?

  • Reply August 31, 2014

    WorkonSunday

    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!

    • Reply August 31, 2014

      dalethorn

      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.

    • Reply August 31, 2014

      L.

      All great options. Any possibility to listen to them first?
      I would go for option one or 2 if you like the Meridian sound

    • Reply September 1, 2014

      WorkonSunday

      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.

  • Reply September 15, 2014

    Nickjan Glas

    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.

  • Reply November 28, 2014

    Eu Jin

    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.

    • Reply November 28, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      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

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