Review: Meridian Sooloos Media Core 200 and DSP3200 Page 3

Third is the stunning level of bass the speakers’ 6.5-inch drivers are capable of producing. Granted, they couldn’t plumb the lowest sonic depths like a true subwoofer, but even though they are rated ±3 dB at 45 Hz, tracks containing some real bass, like the Crystal Method’s “High Roller,” from the Deluxe Edition of Vegas, delivered a low end that was startlingly deep and tight. And that was in my great room, which
is easily more than 700 square feet.

The final thing to note about the DSP3200s is how effortless they sound at loud volumes. Whereas other speakers can be brittle and cause listening fatigue at the upper volume limits, the DSP3200s never sounded strained, only louder. There were many times where my wife would come into the room and I was so engrossed in listening that I wouldn’t even hear her shouts of “Turn it down!”

Having reviewed two previous Sooloos offerings, I am very familiar with the company’s amazing control interface. With those systems, the brilliant GUI let you graphically browse your audio collection’s cover art on a gorgeous 17-inch touchscreen, narrow down your listening choices via Focus or Moods options, and quickly build playlists and tag albums. The MC 200, however, eliminates the touchscreen. And even though the Meridian Sooloos software tools — Web browser, ControlPC interface, and iPad control app — are all serviceable, they come up far short in replicating the original Sooloos experience.

Meridian says a revamp to the iPad app is in the works, and it sounds like it will approach the original touchscreen interface. But for now, the MC200 simply doesn’t offer the same thrilling user interface that first made me swoon over Sooloos. Where the original GUI is entirely coverart-based, allowing you to quickly browse and locate music in even the largest of collections, the iPad app is entirely text-based and plain-vanilla in comparison. The touchscreen GUI is also far faster, requiring fewer button presses to get to any desired track or album, which ultimately makes exploring your collection more enjoyable.

Gripes aside, the MC200 allows easy browsing and exploration of your music library, and serves it up flawlessly. I primarily used the iPad interface to navigate my media library and that of the Rhapsody pay service, which lets you add new music to your collection. As with previous touchscreen-based Sooloos systems, the iPad interface still allows you to drill into your collection to explore artists, albums, genres/subgenres, and decades. Search is perfect for times when you know a song name but not the album. The MC200 also supports RadioTime, which provides a full suite of Internet radio options.

With no CD drive on board, all importing is done via another computer on the network running the ControlPC or ControlMac software. Fortunately, the importing process is relatively painless, and Sooloos gives a couple of options, from importing a CD (using your computer’s drive to read and rip) to importing previously ripped files or folders, or files from an iTunes library. Tools are also available for exporting or backing up the contents of the MC200’s hard disk.

Unlike with the DSP3200s, which lack traditional speaker connections and must be used with other Meridian gear, the MC200’s analog and digital outputs make it a candidate for use in standalone systems. Meridian claims that the “apodizing upsampling” filter in the MC200 provides superior, jitter-free audio when upsampling non-high-rez tracks to 88.2 kHz. In my testing, these sounded wonderful. While the results were sonically close on my main system, I preferred the MC200’s analog output to the digital, as it offered a slightly brighter-sounding presentation. Things like trumpet blasts on the title track to Sinéad O’Connor’s “Am I Not Your Girl?” had a little more presence and an energy that I found favorable.

Bottom Line

For high-enders looking to build a minimal yet terrifi csounding audio system, there are few options that compete with this combo. Consisting of little more than a small component and a single pair of speakers, it definitely delivers no-compromise audiophile performance.

If budget allows, my only real suggestion would be to consider stepping up to the Control 15, which offers a large touchpanel featuring Sooloos’s far superior original GUI, as well as built-in storage and a CD drive for PC-free ripping of discs. And for those who already own a Control 15, the MC200 could serve as a wonderful subzone. (This configuration would allow for multiple rooms and shared music libraries, all controlled independently or via the Control 15’s touchpanel.) In any case, this Meridian Sooloos system definitely proves that great things sometimes do come in small packages.

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