Meridian Prime: English Excellence

There is no disappointment here, the Meridian DAC delivers a stunning performance in combination with my desktop sized solid state and tube amps. I love a clear, detailed and neutral DAC with a huge sound stage. Who wouldn’t? Well this is one of those DACs I could live happily ever after with. It ads nothing to the sound, in a good way that is, and using it as a pre amp boosts the performance of your amplifier. Using the Prime in combination with an external amplifier also allows you to adjust the sound to your liking. If you prefer more bass or warmth all you have to do is combine it with an amplifier or active speakers with these characteristics. My favorite combo was with my custom built 300B amp which resulted in a perfect mix of clarity and tube smoothness.

Personally I find the DAC to be very good and very enjoyable. Of course you might feel completely different, some people find the DAC to be inferior to the amp section in the Prime, but I can’t agree with that.

If you do agree however, you can even use the Prime as an “Amplifier only” but like I said, I can’t directly see why anyone would do that. I find the internal DAC really good and it shines as a combo, so the only other reason I can see is that you have an even better DAC lying around that you absolutely want to combine with the Prime AMP section. From what I read on the other hand there are quite a few audio lovers out there who actually use the Prime in this way. That being said, the amp section is very good indeed (especially with the orthodynamics).

Wow that makes me happy!

In general I’m not a fan of most DAC/Amp combos as I often find the amp sections below level. Most of the time the DAC sections are quite good to very good but the amp section doesn’t always manage to live up to the same expectation and that’s a shame. That’s where it is different with the Meridian, it has a very well executed AMP section and all that in a tiny frame. Sure it isn’t cheap but you really get great quality and beautiful sound in return.

The Meridian Prime is a very versatile unit that can be used as a DAC/Pre AMP, a DAC/AMP or just as an AMP. It works incredibly good for the Planar Magnetic headphones and IEMs and if those are your main headphones you really owe it to yourself to try out the Meridian Prime.

Of course I also tested the Prime without the optional PSU and to my ears it does not make a lot of difference, I would be just as happy with “only” the Prime and its stock wall power-supply.

The Meridian Prime can be bought directly from the Meridian website but you can of course demo it at one of their dealers. Thanks again to Viertron for sending us the sample.

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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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