For decades the British manufacturer Meridian has been a pioneer in digital audio. Led by co-founders Bob Stuart and Allen Boothroyd, the company has established itself as a benchmark brand that has developed many technologies that have separated its products from a competitive field.
Unfortunately for many consumers, the company’s innovations came at a price — one that limited potential ownership. Over the past few years this has changed through products like Meridian’s Explorer and Direct DACs, which came into the market at affordable prices without sacrificing performance.
Building on this approach, Meridian has revamped its Sooloos streaming service to make it more cost effective and more versatile to better fit today’s digital audio consumer.
Setup & Installation
The company sent me a system that included its Media Source 200 (MS 200) Meridian Digital Media System single-zone source, a preloaded QNAP two-bay network attached storage (NAS) drive with 4TBs of storage, and an HP Envy touchscreen PC that served as an interface.
It couldn’t have been any more turnkey. I plugged in the QNAP drive’s power supply and ran an Ethernet cable to place it on my network; plugged in the MS 200; ran another Ethernet cable from my Luxul network switch to the MS 200; and completed the physical connections by running an AudioQuest 3.5mm mini pin-to-RCA cable from the unit’s audio out to the input of my Bryston preamp (connected to a Bryston amp driving Paradigm Prestige speakers).
Setting up the PC was as simple as placing it on my network. I will note that Meridian preloaded the HP with its Sooloos software and the QNAP NAS with music; these are functions dealers can also do in their shops prior to an install. (Meridian also offers dealers an option in which it will preconfigure QNAP drives of their choice to minimize the problems many have with the configuration of NAS drives.)
After downloading Meridian’s Sooloos iOS control app for my iPad I was done with the system installation. The app automatically discovered the MS 200 and the contents of the NAS.
Performance & Conclusions
This system won me over on a couple of fronts. First, I found its control options to really support my music listening habits. All dealers need to do is plop clients into their seats, hand them an iOS device, touchpanel control or touchscreen PC and they have a complete and colorful digital music library at their fingertips. No flipping LPs, no searching through piles of CDs.
Users can build playlists/queues by browsing their libraries by artists, genres, tags, and more. I used the PC for the majority of my interface needs, but I did try Meridian’s iOS control app and the results similarly easy.
Using the HP touchscreen as the “sonic hub” of the system also added a wow factor; I astounded family members during a holiday dinner with the interface and control capabilities the Sooloos system delivers. Plus the system can integrate content from services like Tidal into the navigation as if songs are part of your own library.
As for the sound quality, it delivers the Meridian quality I’ve experienced time and again with the company’s products. I listened to everything from Iron Maiden to the Beatles and was thoroughly impressed. What immediately struck me about the Sooloos is that it seemed to extract every bit of dynamics that were available from a recording without coloring the sound. Compressed records from Maiden, Rush and Van Halen had more impact and much more transparency.
I thought Rush songs like “Natural Science” and the instrumental “La Villa Strangiato” sounded as close to the studio experience as one could expect from a home system. Alex Lifeson’s guitar and naturalness of his Marshall amp and thick analog chorus effect was nirvana to this guitar nerd. On “Natural Science” the Sooloos really allowed me to hear the artistic use of reverb on Geddy Lee’s vocals that created a sense of depth and space.
Listening to Beatles content, I never heard “Help” deliver so much bottom end. It wasn’t mushy, the midrange was clear and articulate, and the top end was fully extended without any shrillness.
Perhaps the only aspect of Sooloos that will make users hesitant is the transfer of their CD collections to NAS drives. Ripping services appear to be a thing of the past so homeowners may question this potentially time-consuming aspect. If installers can devise ripping services that are complementary to Sooloos sales, this could be a nice way to augment system sales.
It’s pretty clear I am a fan of Meridian, and its revamped Sooloos products. The highest compliment I can give Sooloos is that a MS 200 and QNAP drive are on my wish list, and unlike most of my wish list it won’t cost me much more than what an “audiophile” CD player or turntable.
CE Pro Verdict
It really makes music listening fun by facilitating instant and complete library access; various possible configurations; scalable in price points and application for single and multizone.
Budgets can rise depending on needs; that said, anyone contracting custom installers should be able to financially “get” into this system and be completely satisfied.
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