Prime Meridian

Last week Meridian Audio held a reception in Los Angeles, one of many across the country for the U.S. launch of its new special edition, digital loudspeakers, the DSP 5200SE, DSP7200SE, and DSP8000SE. (For others yet to be held, go to meridian.com.)

This year is the 25th anniversary of Meridian’s first digital loudspeaker, so it’s no surprise that all three of these designs are powered by their own internal amplifiers and accept only digital inputs. In most installations such inputs will come from Meridian’s own electronics, but other digital sources, such as a music server, may also be used to feed the speakers’ inputs.

When the source arrives at the speaker, it is subjected to extensive digital signal processing for frequency compensation and driver time alignment, active crossover implementation (each driver or group of drivers is driven by its own amp), and D/A conversion prior to the amplification stage. All DSP is performed in high-resolution.

The top of the line DSP8000SE (shown on the photo) is the only one of the three SE models to incorporate two separate cabinets. The smaller enclosure, perched on top, is for midrange unit and a newly-designed waveguide-loaded, pure (not vapor deposited) beryllium-dome tweeter. The six woofers are mounted on either side of the bottom bass cabinet in opposing pairs to minimize cabinet vibrations. While all six of these bass drivers handle the extreme bottom end, the response of each pair is tapered to provide a smooth transition to the midrange driver in the upper cabinet.

There are five 150W amplifiers in each DSP8000SE, one each for the tweeter and midrange and one each for each pair of woofers. While 150W doesn’t sound like a lot of amplifier power these days, the use of electronic crossovers means that more of each amp’s output actually gets to the driver(s), eliminating the power that’s usually eaten up in a passive crossover.

The shape of the speaker, and its radiation pattern, is said to deliberately emulate the human form (though at 200 lbs. each, a somewhat chunky, pear-shaped human). User controls include Bass, Tilt (presumably a control that raises or lowers the bottom end response with a complementary change to the top end) and Axis (to compensate for differences between the listener’s ear height and the height of the midrange and tweeter). There will be complementary SE center channel models (not yet shown). These will also have Center Elevation controls (to raise the subjective position of the speaker’s output with a non-perforated screen so the sound appears to come from closer to the center of the screen rather than below it).

The cabinets are formed from a layered combination of birch plywood and aluminum (Meridian calls this…ahh… Meridium) together with extensive dampening. All of Meridian’s SE models are available in over 200 colors and are produced in Meridian’s facilities in the U.K.

The venue chosen for the LA launch was not conducive to a useful listening setup, so no audition was possible. I hope to hear them at a local dealer soon. The only downside here is that the SE models’ technology and home market manufacturing doesn’t come cheap. The DSP8000SE will set you back $80,000/pair, the DSP 7200SE $46,000/pair, and the DSP5200SE $20,000/pair. The two smaller models aren’t quite as complex as the DSP8000SE and have fewer (though equally sophisticated) drive units, but incorporate similar cabinet construction (though with all the drivers in one cabinet rather than two), DSP, electronic crossovers, and multiple amplifiers.

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