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Meridian fires up its CES party with Sooloos whole-home audio

Steven Kim

It's been about a year since Meridian picked up Sooloos, and the fruits of the acquisition are coming at you, whole-home style. The new ID40 Sooloos Card can be dropped into select Meridian 800-series components to open up network audio streaming and play queue control. The new 808.3 Signature Reference CD player gets an ID40 bundled, and it's an option on the 861 Reference Digital Surround Controller (now in its sixth version and ready to gobble up 8-channels of audio from a HD621 HDMI Audio Processor). Just in case a $9,900 $5,000 Control 10 qualifies as a handy remote to you, there's also an iPhone / iPod touch app as well. Full details in the press releases, but those with mortal budgets might feel more at home with something like Sonos or Logitech.

EDIT: The $9,900 Control 10 package includes an Ensemble server unit.

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International CES, Las Vegas, January 4, 2010, Venetian Tower, Suites 235 and 236-For over 10 years, Meridian's 800 Series products have offered the highest quality in audio and video reproduction. At the same time, their unique modular architecture offers a truly custom experience-individually specified and manufactured for its owner. The unique architecture also protects the customer's investment, allowing simple upgrade paths as technology standards advance and new features are developed.

Meridian continues its path to simply and seamlessly integrate the Sooloos Media System with the power of the impressive Reference Class 800 Series electronics. The ID40 Sooloos Card is available in the latest generation of 800 Series products, offered as a standard feature in the 808.3 Signature Reference CD Player, and as an option in the 861 V6 Reference Digital Surround Controller. The Sooloos card connects the host product directly to a Sooloos system enabling it to render audio streamed across the network and provide control of an active Play Queue. Now, with the ID40 Sooloos Card, Meridian's 800 Series offers the highest quality audio delivery from a Sooloos Digital Media System.

The card offers simple connection to the same network as a Sooloos system through its RJ45 style Ethernet port, eliminating the need for unsightly cables and extra boxes. Once connected, the ID40 Sooloos Card renders audio streamed across the network. The host 800 Series product is then able to use its own powerful DSP capabilities to perform advanced audio enhancement processing, using triple FIFO buffering and upsampling lower sample rate audio streams to 88.2 or 96kHz using Meridian's world renowned 'apodising' upsampling technology, and in the case of 861 apply other processing, such as Trifield, for improved presentation on a multi-channel system.

The same network connection also allows the host 800 Series product to easily send basic control commands back to the Sooloos Digital Media System. Using the supplied MSR+ remote handset (or Meridian Comms or Serial connection to the host
Product), the user has instant control over the active Play Queue.

The ID40 Sooloos Card allows for the highest audio quality integration of Sooloos in to a Meridian Digital Theatre system through simple yet elegant connection type, while delivering the level of reference performance Meridian customers have come to expect.

The ID40 Sooloos Card can be specified as an option when ordering a new 861 V6. Alternatively it can be retrofitted to existing 861 V6 products. More comprehensive upgrades are available for older 861 and 808 models, which enable both to host the ID40 Sooloos Card, please contact Meridian directly for details.

International CES, Las Vegas, January 4, 2010, Venetian Tower, Suites 235 and 236-As part of a series of innovative new product launches to herald 2010, Meridian Audio has announced the introduction of the 808.3 Signature Reference CD Player, an audiophile CD player using a host of Meridian technologies, which collectively deliver the best possible sound quality from CD – the music format with the richest catalogue available. Combined, these features help CDs sound as if replay is at a high-resolution, and can even fix errors in the original recording.

For the past 25-years, Meridian has been making some of the world's finest audiophile CD players, and since the introduction of the first 808 Signature Reference CD Player in 2004, Bob Stuart and Allen Boothroyd, the company's founders, have hand-signed each one as testament to their pride in the company's ongoing achievements in the field of CD audio reproduction.

The third generation of 808 – the 808.3 Signature Reference CD Player – offers CD playback from a specially built custom CD-ROM based drive, which allows for data recovery and error correction many times better than that employed in standard CD systems. It also offers triple FIFO buffering and, like the 808.2 before it, 808.3 employs Meridian's proprietary DSP based 'apodising' up-sampling system.

All 808.3s benefit from an array of audio inputs – analogue, digital, and a new balanced digital audio SpeakerLink input – as well as a sophisticated volume control. These inputs allow the connection of additional audio sources, which can be selected and processed using the same powerful audio enhancing DSP as the internal CD source. This integrated pre-amplifier functionality means that systems built around 808.3 are simpler and easier to use than traditional hi-fi systems with separate pre-amplifiers.

Updates to 808.3's analogue input card provide superior analogue to digital conversion compared to previous models of 808i/808.2i. This improvement in conversion technology enables superior audio performance for all analogue connected sources making 808.3 a better, more valuable pre-amplifier.

In addition to its standard audio inputs, the 808.3 Signature Reference CD Player features an ID40 Sooloos Card allowing it to be directly connected to the same network as a Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System. When connected the 808.3 is seen as a zone within the system and it renders audio streamed across the network. The same connection allows infra-red control of the Sooloos' current Play Queue from the supplied MSR+ remote control handset or product front panel, while 808.3's DSP based audio enhancement tools and triple FIFO buffering system process audio streamed over the Sooloos network, making 808.3 the highest performance network playback device.

At the output, Meridian's SpeakerLink connection system delivers the highest quality digital signals to Meridian's DSP Loudspeakers on discrete, low-cost cables with simple connectors. The 808.3 Signature Reference CD Player has new twin SpeakerLink outputs which mean left and right DSP Loudspeakers can both be connected directly to the 808.3, further simplifying wiring structure and making cables even easier to hide.

The 808.3 Signature Reference CD Player will be offered in three standard 800 Series colors; Graphite, Silver and Black as well as the full range of Meridian Select color options.

The Meridian 808.3 Signature Reference CD Player is expected to be available in February at a suggested retail price of $19,995 (including the ID40 Card).

International CES, Las Vegas, January 4, 2010, Venetian Tower, Suites 235 and 236-Since its first appearance in 1998, the Meridian 861 Reference Digital Surround Controller has consistently offered the industry's highest standard in surround processing and system control. Its modular architecture allows each unit to be individually specified and manufactured. Modular architecture also means that as technology standards advance and new features are developed existing 861s can be upgraded – adding new processing features and connectivity - a service that maintains the value of the customer's original investment.

Now, Meridian Audio is proud to unveil its sixth version of the 861 Reference Digital Surround Controller – the 861 V6. This new model incorporates SpeakerLink output connectivity for up to eight channels of Meridian DSP Loudspeakers and an eight-channel MMHR input as standard features. The 861 V6 also includes a number of other connectivity and performance updates, which makes it arguably the most advanced and user friendly high-end Digital Surround Controller available.

At the heart of the ultimate movie system, 861 V6 links all audio sources with flexible switching and control, provides advanced audio processing to ensure all sources deliver the highest quality sounds, and manages the system's loudspeakers to ensure perfect performance in the chosen listening environment. SpeakerLink output connectivity makes specifying and installing a Meridian Digital Theatre system easier than ever before and at the same time lifts performance to an even higher level. The inclusion of a digital output card (OE14) as part of the 861 V6 core means all 861 V6 Surround Controllers will be available as standard with sufficient output connectivity for a full Meridian Digital Theatre. The Meridian Multi-channel High-Resolution (MMHR) input on the IE44 card allows a simple single-wire connection to be made between 861 V6 and a Meridian HD621. This link functions at up to eight-channels and allows a system combining 861 V6 and HD621 to deliver the full multi-channel experience from Blu-ray Discs with the latest soundtracks.

SpeakerLink inputs on IE44 and optional ID26 cards allow simple high-quality connections to be made between Meridian Sooloos products (e.g. Control 10) and the 861 V6. The SpeakerLink input carries digital audio at up to 96 kHz, 24-bit resolution as well as Meridian Comms. SpeakerLink provides a simpler and more robust method of connection than legacy digital audio and Comms connections, especially over long distances, making installations quicker and more reliable.

The optional ID40 Sooloos Card enables 861 V6 to connect directly to a Sooloos network. It allows the 861 to render audio from the Sooloos system and for control commands sent through the 861 (IR, Comms, and Serial) to be used to control the Sooloos current Play List. 861 V6 can upsample and process (for example using Trifield) the audio stream from Sooloos to enhance sound quality and presentation on a multi-channel system. ID40 Sooloos Card and 861 V6 allow for the highest audio quality integration of Sooloos in to a Meridian Digital Theatre system. Analogue inputs provided by IA04 offer superior audio performance compared to analogue inputs on older versions of 861. IA04 can be configured to provide up to six stereo inputs or up to two six-channel inputs. This level of performance and flexibility minimizes the need for additional analogue input cards to be specified, reducing complexity and 861 configuration prices for many customers.

861 V6 will be offered in three standard 800 Series colors; Graphite, Silver and Black as well as the full range of Meridian Select color options. An upgrade program will be offered so that owners of existing 861s can upgrade to this latest specification where appropriate.

The Meridian 861 V6 Reference Digital Surround Controller is expected to be available in February at a suggested retail price of $25,995.

International CES, Las Vegas, January 4, 2010, Venetian Tower, Suites 235 and 236-As Britain's leading specialist manufacturer of reference quality audio and video entertainment systems, Meridian consistently refines the user experience for its customers. The latest evolution of Meridian Sooloos incorporates key components clearly defining it as the leader in the reference digital media system category.

With the world's fastest, most powerful touch-screen interface, the Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System offers the power to browse hundreds of thousands of files with unrivalled speed, allowing instant access to one's entire music collection in a simple yet sophisticated package. Luxury shoppers should not have to sacrifice mainstream features for reference quality performance. Meridian believes its customers should have it all at their fingertips.

Now with the power of Rhapsody ($13 USD per month), the Meridian Sooloos system offers access to the incredible options of the massive Rhapsody collection. Albums from Rhapsody can be added to the user's Cover Browser and then browsed, searched, and played as if they are stored locally-with the power, speed, and elegance of the Meridian Sooloos interface. Since there is no limit to the number of Rhapsody albums the user can add to their Cover Browser, a Meridian customer can build the collection they've always desired, experienced with the award-winning Meridian Sooloos interface. (*Rhapsody is presently only available in the US.)

Finding new music or finding music once forgotten is an important part of listening, so Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System also offers Internet Radio-delivering class-leading navigation and a listening experience of the huge number of stations available globally. The Internet Radio function is organised and "curated" to identify and present the highest quality and most-respected stations in all genres, helping customers find stations they like without wasting time.

Among the other key features in the latest update, users will find a dedicated iPhone application--providing handheld control of the Sooloos system from anywhere in the home. With no configuration or set-up, just download the Meridian Sooloos iPhone application from the Apple App store, install it on an iPhone or iPod touch, and have handheld wireless control of the system throughout one's home.

Additional support for third-party control services such as Crestron allow even better integration with the industry's leading control companies. New interface enhancements create a cleaner, more elegant approach to browsing and displaying the music library, - all part of Meridian Sooloos'ongoing commitment to leading the industry in refining the user interface. And added sorting features organise the collection according to how often you listen to albums, and also allow sorting by audio quality to separates mp3s from full quality files.

The focus on a system rather than an individual product is in line with Meridian Audio's ethos to provide customers with complete audio and video solutions throughout its offering. In this way, a Meridian Sooloos system perfectly suited to one's needs can be created from any combination of its three core requirements: Control, Storage and Playback.

An entry system with a Control 10 Touchscreen and Ensemble is available for $9,900 (USD).

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