Meridian Audio Director (Preview)

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter
Input: 1x mini Toslink S/PDIF/Coax S/PDIF, 1x Asynchronous USB 2.0
Output: 1 pair RCA
Dimensions (W x D x H): 80mm (3.15in) x 139mm (5.47in) x 34mm (1.34in)
Weight: 0.25kg (9oz)
Availability: through Authorized Dealers
Price: $699.00

The Director
The Director is Meridian's step up in terms of size and sound quality from their smaller and headphone output-endowed Explorer (see review). Meridian views the aptly named Explorer as a portable player whereas the Director is meant to sit and remain connected to your hi-fi. While I've been living with the DAC-only Director for about a week which is about enough time for first impressions, Meridian has asked us to keep the Director under wraps until 7am EST Monday August 5th. Not one to miss out on a premier, I thought I'd give the Director the red carpet treatment and offer up some basic facts, photos, and first takes.

The sleek anodized black aluminum thin oval that is the Director's body looks like the Explorer's bigger brother and is obviously capable of packing more technology into its small but bigger frame. The Director can handle up to 24/192 data just like its smaller sibling and it introduces itself with an authoritative and well developed musical voice.

The Director employs a 3.5mm hybrid input that can accept either coax S/PDIF (via an included 3.5mm mono jack) or optical S/PDIF (via an included Mini-TOSLINK connector). The coax and Toslink input can handle up to 24/192 data and the Director automatically selects optical or coax based on the input. There's also an asynchronous USB type B input courtesy of an XMOS chip running Meridian's proprietary software that can also handle up to 24/192 data meaning Windows users will need to download and install the Meridian-provided drivers for native playback of resolutions greater than 24/96 while Mac users are plug and play ready.

The Director gets its power from that USB input when connected to your computer via USB or from the included power supply which connects to the same USB input for use with the S/PDIF input. Also on this end are a pair of 2v RMS fixed analog RCA outputs to connect to your hi-fi. Opposite the business end of the Director there are five white LEDs and a single push button input selector switch. Two of the LEDs indicate which input is active while the others illuminate based on the incoming sample rate of the music being played. The far left LED marked "1X" for 44.1/48, "2x" for 88.2/96, and "3x" for 172.4/196.

The Director uses the Crystal Semiconductor multi-bit Delta-Sigma CS4353 DAC and a pair of crystal oscillators for 44.1- and 48kHz-based sample rates (as well as their multiples). Meridian also employed their "resolution-enhancing technologies such as Upsampling and Apodising". Basically all 16–24 bit 44.1/48kHz data is upsampled to 24-bit, 88.2/96kHz respectively.

I connected the Director to my MacBook Pro with an AudioQuest Diamond USB cable and the other side went to my Leben CS-300XS as well as my Pass INT-30A and finally out through my DeVore Fidelity The Nines.

Introductions: Space is the Place
The Director offers up a very natural presentation and what struck me most up front was how well it defines the space of a recording. Instruments sound out from a dimensional place and the Director does a very nice job of avoiding the flatness that some DACs exhibit. I would say that there's also a nicely developed sense of tone, as if voices are portrayed with their harmonic content in tact as sounds ring out and recede in a believable manner. While I wouldn't call the Director's overall presentation fat like the NAD D 1050 (review forthcoming), I would call it rich.

I've also heard more resolution from similarly prices DACs like the Resonessence Labs Concero HD that's here for review but the Director does offer up enough resolution to allow you to grab onto micro-details but not so much as to lessen ones focus on the bigger picture. Again, I would call the Director a very natural sounding DAC and very easy to listen to and enjoy. I've already had a few longish listening nights with the Director directing that were pretty much pure album to album pleasure. Overall, the Director makes a nice entrance.

Alas Only a Preview
But when push comes to shove, one week and a few days isn't enough time for me to get a firm grip on a DAC. After all, music happens in real time. I also don't have the Meridian Explorer here but expect one to arrive within a week or so for what strikes me as an interesting and relevant comparison. What does a bigger body buy you? Stay tuned for a complete review in a few weeks.

Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the Meridian Director review: AudioQuest Dragonfly, NAD D 1050, Resonessence Labs Concero HD

hotsoup's picture

Sorry, this was the first thing I thought of.

Michael Lavorgna's picture