Meridian G68ADV Surround Processor & G98DH DVD Player Manufacturer's Reply
We would like to thank Fred for his very positive and thoughtful review of our new G-Series combination. Of course, we are delighted that he loved the sound and picture and that he found the audio and video processing and room correction to be so positive to the experience.
Since the review was started, we have introduced a fifth variant of G68 – the G68J. G68J omits the Tuner and Zone cards for those who do not need them. Video switching is also omitted, allowing G68J to be the least expensive variant.
Although not really covered in the review, the G98 provides high-quality video switching and it can integrate the video of an installation by offering the player's first-rate video processing for external sources, a single connection to the display device and seamless automatic control of aspect ratio across sources.
One more point, worthy of mention, is that we would not normally recommend using 1080i to feed a plasma or any matrix progressive display device. The reason is that this may provoke video processing to be turned on in the display device. In these cases, the highest quality picture will normally result from keeping the display device in 'pixel-for-pixel' mode, i.e. in this case 720p, and letting the superb video processor in G98 do all the 'heavy lifting'. Obviously in this case Fred preferred 1080i, but this would not be a general rule.
Fred mentioned some issues in his postscript and we were fortunate to be able to check out the review equipment after returning it to the UK. The player and processor as returned to us were set up perfectly and passed our QA tests. We have been running them extensively in an attempt to reproduce either a glitching or centre-channel problem, but we have not been able to reproduce either fault.
On the G98 + G68 combination the audio behaves perfectly; the centre channel level was fine on our copies of 'Farscape' and 'Wonderfalls'. The dialogue was (regrettably) very intelligible! We are wondering whether, because Fred had these issues after the review period, the problem was something as simple as a faulty cable.
We are aware of four possible reasons that a player like G98 may 'hesitate' in streaming, namely:
1) Surface damage to the disc
2) A layer change
3) Key exchange
4) Faulty external HDMI switch box.
The last two can only arise if the player is digitally connected (e.g. DVI or HDMI) and a copy-protection event occurs. It is not uncommon, right after a disc is loaded, for the player and projector to exchange an HDCP key and that can cause a momentary hesitation. It is not something that should happen in the middle of a movie unless you were to switch inputs on the display. We have however had reports that at least one model of external HDMI switch can erroneously provoke key exchanges at rare and random times and lead to this effect; maybe this provides an explanation.
Normally of course any issues like this would be dealt with by the dealer and Meridian dealers are not only fully trained, but they are backed by our first-class service and commitment to 100% customer satisfaction.
We obviously regret that there were some hiccups with this review; it is not the normal experience with Meridian – as hundreds of happy G-Series owners would attest.
Meridian has a first-class reputation for quality and customer service and we are always prepared to work extra hard to ensure complete satisfaction. We actively support our owners through the lifetime of the product, our service department cheerfully keeping items running at peak condition that are more than 25 years old.
Finally, we can't argue with the conclusion! 'The G68ADV processor is, without a doubt, the finest-sounding I've used, and the G98DH player has the best picture I've seen in my house.'
J. Robert Stuart
I sent Meridian my sample of Anacondas: The Curse of the Blood Orchid for their analysis. Their response follows.—TJN
We have not found a player that can successfully play this disc in its entirety. Players we tried included three different computer players using Pioneer, Toshiba and NEC drives and some Meridian models. These all pointed to a problem on the disc and so we investigated it using a diagnostic build of our video navigator with a number of different makes of drive in a Meridian diagnostic player platform.
The disc is dual layer and parallel path; that is, both layers 1 and 2 start at the centre of the disc and play outwards. The disc has eight titles and is physically laid out as follows:
Title 1: Movie in widescreen. Most of layer 1, LBN* 10133–1766243.
Title 2: Logos, etc. Near end of layer 1, LBN 1766272–1771080.
Title 3: Deleted Scenes. Near end of layer 1, LBN 1771104–1900619.
Title 4: Preview. Near end of layer 1, LBN 1900640–1950696.
Title 5: Movie in 4:3. Most of layer 2, LBN 1950720-3717889.
Title 6: Special Effects. Near end of layer 2, LBN 3717920–3717921.
Title 7: Preview. Near end of layer 2, LBN 3874720–3923080.
Title 8: Preview. Near end of layer 2, LBN 3923104–3932584.
* LBN = Logical Block Number, equivalent to the sector number on the disc. A sector contains a 2048 byte payload.
Presumably because it presents the movie in two different aspect ratios, this disc does not have a menu in VMGM (Video Manager), instead the menus exist as Title Menus.
The disc starts by trying to play the previews and logos – which often fail, and these failures tend to cause the players to stop because navigation information is lost. Pressing 'Menu' or 'Play' at that point will cause the disc to continue.
Analysis of the disc shows a high probability of severe reading errors towards the end of both layers, including logos, previews etc and in the movie itself from Chapter 26 onwards. This behaviour is symptomatic of the disc being well outside the DVD specification for radial eccentricity. While not common, this is a well-recognised manufacturing defect and can be caused by either the information layer being distorted in the pressing process, or the hole not being exactly central with respect to the information layers.
Eccentricity leads to high radial acceleration of the pickup, particularly towards the outside of the disc. Our interim finding is that this is a faulty pressing and we have ordered a new copy of the disc for confirmation. Assuming there is not a systematic manufacturing defect another copy should just work fine.
When a disc is outside specification, some drives will do better than others at playing it. However, in our view, it is not an overall advantage to be able to track very eccentric discs because it makes the drive too 'twitchy' on more common manufacturing or surface defects like inclusions, bubbles or scratches. The design of drive tracking for minimising errors in the whole is an arcane topic. It has been our experience through both CD and DVD that balanced radial servos design is critical to a well-rounded playability envelope.
Inevitably, because some players will go further with a certain class of defect, confusion may arise. What is less obvious of course with a player like the G98 is the countless times it effortlessly delivers the goods on discs which would trip up lesser machines.
J. Robert Stuart
TJN adds: I was able to try a second sample of this DVD on yet another G98 (the original disc and player had by then gone to Meridian for evaluation) just before deadline.. With a component connection, this combination played through the menus just fine. But it remains a puzzle that the first sample of this DVD had played all the way through without a hitch on my Marantz DV8400 DVD player