Review: Meridian Sooloos Media Core 200 and DSP3200

Wikipedia says minimalism “describes movements in various forms of art and design . . . where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features.” At Sound+Vision, we generally preach the exact opposite: a “go big or go home” view toward TVs, speakers, and subwoofers. Why settle for 5.1 and a 42-inch screen when 9.2 and a 100-inch screen would be so much better?

But sometimes a minimal approach can be the best solution, especially when it is done well. After several weeks of living with the Meridian Sooloos Media Core 200 Digital Media System connected to the company’s new DSP3200 Digital Active Loudspeakers, I had that exact thought.

Experiencing high-quality audio often requires multiple components: CD transport, preamplifi er, amplifier, and speakers. This configuration has certainly provided a terrific solution for many years, but several technological advancements have recently combined to produce alternatives like this Meridian Sooloos system. The MC200/DSP3200 combo is perhaps the ultimate minimalist high-end music-listening rig: With just these two components, an iPad, and the Internet, you’ll have all the tools needed to enjoy amazing sound and a virtually unlimited music library. And the system’s networking capability means you can expand it to serve other rooms in your home.

Setup

For all intents, this is a third-generation Sooloos system. Like other evolving technology, the actual product has gotten smaller, more streamlined, and more affordable. Whereas the original Sooloos system ($11,600) was made up of three components, the MC200 costs $4,000 and consists of a single, dictionary-size component. At roughly half the price of the company’s Control 15 system (read the review here) and resembling a NAS drive, the MC200 is essentially a “headless” Sooloos piece. It offers no onboard controls or CD ripping, but includes 500 gigs of internal storage to hold approximately 1,000 lossless-quality FLAC albums.

The MC200’s analog and coaxial digital outputs make it compatible with any audio system. However, when used in an existing Meridian system or with Meridian digital speakers, these outputs are eschewed in favor of the company’s proprietary SpeakerLink connection. A LAN port connects the MC200 to your home network. Two USB ports, labeled “Expansion,” can be used for connecting a Wi-Fi receiver or a Microsoft Media Center-compatible IR receiver for use with the company’s MSR+ controller. (Though I can’t imagine what use an IR receiver would be with no video display.)

To eliminate noise in the listening environment, the MC200 incorporates a fanless design, using convection cooling to remain within safe operating temperatures. Because of this, it installs vertically, which certainly adds to the NAS drive appearance. The MC200 can also assimilate itself into an existing Meridian Sooloos system, sharing any other music libraries found on the same network.

As I unboxed the DSP3200 speakers, their quality was apparent before I’d fully removed them. They exude high-end. The DSP3200s weigh 20 pounds each and definitely feel solid. Not only are they packed well for transport, but as soon as you pull back the protective cloth surrounding them, their high-polish fit and finish is immediately noticeable. The cabinet features the classic tapered/pyramid Meridian profile and has a very clean aesthetic that’s entirely devoid of connections or seams. While I received the gloss black models, I’ve seen the gloss white finish in person and can say they are also awfully sexy.

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