HiFi+ Roy Gregory's Meridian DSP8000 loudspeaker review

Roy Gregory did a nice long review of the big Meridian speakers.

It was a fairly well-balanced review – but he forgot to mention two of the major shortcomings of these speakers (although he does mention that they lack ‘intimacy and immediacy’).

First, the plusses [in my opinion, which more or less agrees with Mr. Gregory – read the review for yourself for details]:

The look nice, they can play loud, are easy to setup [for basic CD/DVD-driven systems], and they minimize cable riot (amp and DAC are inside the speaker).

Then the minuses [also in my opinion]:

They lack the ability to render anything other than simple harmonics and they cannot produce a correctly shaped note in the dynamic domain – which is to say that they sound like they are making a lot of square waves [they also collapse into a wall-of-sound at high volumes].

These speakers are targetted to the Home Theater market, where everyone seems to expect that the sound will likely suck, and if it ‘sucks less’, they got a winner – it is like some kind of nostalgia thing, I don’t know.

Perhaps Mr. Gregory felt that mentioning the ‘intimacy and immediacy’ and publically questioning whether an audiophile would be happy with these (saying yes, probably, particularly if they would otherwise get tangled up in upgrade hell with all the choices other speakers allow their owners) were enough ‘clues’ that these speakers have a certain market, and are not a ‘please everybody’ kind of product.

Personally, we both had Meridian CD players. a long time ago, that were better sounding than the competition because they were warmer(!) sounding – this was in the days of 16bit and 20bit DACs. Then they veered off into Technical Wizardy Over Musicality Land and left us behind.

If only, if only they, or someone else, built some digital active speakers that sounded really, really good to your typical audiophile type listener. In these days of outboard loudspeaker crossovers, most of the lines we carry are going in the other direction- instead of putting everything in the speaker, they are taking more and more of it out and putting it into yet more boxes. 🙂

But seriously, how many people (aka non-audiophiles) are going to want to mess with all the components that are required these days to setup a good sounding system? They have enough trouble just hooking up their new TiVo.

Then again, people who can setup their basic home theater 5.1 or 7.1 system with all of *its* options will think 2-channel is a piece of cake.

Hmmmm… perhaps is the inevitable merging of the two – seemingly what is required to get good sound AND video these days – which is confrontational and daunting.

Then add music servers… stir and bake for several hundred hours on low and take a few asprin.

I guess the point is, which seems to have been lost by this writer during this meandering post, is that the Meridian speaker’s claim to fame, as I see it, is that it is easy to setup and easy on the eyes – i.e. things that have to do with lifestyle and convenience and minimizing day-to-day fuss and bother and NOT much to do with high-end high fidelity audio.

Funny, high-end audio, in general, pays little attention to these lifestyle aspects of product design …. probably to its detriment. Kind of like all of high-end audio these days being like a old 911 Porsche, a very high performance drive – just don’t try to use the radio, or air conditioner, or automatic windows…

I know, I know, a lot of guys and gals LIKE it that way. 🙂

But what if, Lamm for instance, added a remote control for their preamp in a way that was not detrimental to the sound

– and perhaps Nordost made Valhalla 100% transparent VISUALLY [it is close now, but 100%? … we would have to watchout we don’t trip over it…],

– and what if ALL manufacturers hired an Industrrial Design consultant or two to spruce up the looks…

– and what if they also hired Human Interface engineers to make sure their products were very usuable and that the workflows to set them up were easy on the noggin…

…Oh! and what if they were all members of a AAA-like organization that came over if you called them with a ‘system emergency’ and helped you perform major system mods, diagnose problems, Move Heavy Equipment(!), …[Hmmmmm… maybe there should just be a Audio ‘Geeks On Call’?]

The point REALLY is how to make the crown jewels of high-end audio, and our audio passion in general, be more inclusive of those who are not technologically savvy, and who don’t want to be [or who are and don’t want to admit it to anybody :-)]..

The Reviewer's Preferences

[Neli wants me to verify that everyone understands these descriptions are, necessarily, characerchers, very short descriptions of what are real people – real people who cannot be described by one sentence, or a million. OK. Now I can tell Neli that everyone understands this, ….right? 🙂 ]

Each reviewer has preferences.

Because they have limited funds they only have limited access to a wide variety of equipment which arrives serially – i.e. they may have had both Lamm amplifiers and Wilson speakers in their listening room – but probably not at the same time. And it would be difficult for them to consciously schedule to have them both at the same time in order to hear them at the same time. So they kind of just hear a lot of components in a hodge-podge random order. One or two at a time. In their existing system, whatever that may be.

So what this means is that although reviewers have access over time to a lot of equipment – their system building is often a long and somewhat random winding road, and they typically do not have a lot of experience with consciously building a system that suits their taste, living with it for awhile, then making a better system, living with THAT for awhile, etc..

[This is unlike the dew dealers who collect best of breed equipment and can freely mix and match to create their Wonder Systems – and unlike many audiophiles who also try lots of various pieces of equipment, although most audiophiles still focus on ONE PIECE of equipment that will finally DO IT – instead of a SYSTEM that will do it – probably because they read too many reviews… which rarely focus on the fact that it TAKE A SYSTEM to sound good].

They also, almost across the board, stay in whatever house they have lived in since they were a child (kidding) and whatever compromised listening room they found pre-existing in that house.

Mike Fremer – Stereophile

MF has reputedly a very small room with severe bass resonance issues. He prefers a very detailed and very neutral sound with tight, detailed bass. His system consists of permanent residences the Musical Fidelity electronics and Wilson Maxx II speakers.
This is all one needs to know in order to predict what Mike will like or not like. He gravitates between preferring of-a-kind equipment (like SME turntables, Rockport speakers) and equipment way over on the other side that balances his system (like Zanden digital and Sonus Faber speakers). He probably will only BUY of-a-kind equipment: neutral to cold, very detailed sounding gear.

Srajan Ebean – 6moons

Srajan just moved – and I believe he has his pick of several rooms to put music in. So his rooms do not suck. He prefers equipment that is reasonably priced, first and foremost, which is fairly dynamic, and eschews sophistication – prefers real but puts up with an ‘affected’ sound – a sound that entertains him. Enjoyable.

His system at one time consisted of Avantgarde Duo horns and, to balance these very forward, harmonic-free speakers and laid back, somewhat dull sounding front end. Equipment he reviewed went into this system with very predictable outcomes [Speakers had to be quite dynamic and not too revealing of the flaws upstream. Components had to be warm and not too detailed or neutral or the speakers would show off their inherent coolness and over-aggressiveness].

He now has the more or less reasonably priced Zu Audio speakers, last I checked – which are a heart pure Enjoyment with some good dynamic capability. These speakers do not like a sophisticated front end (shows off their flaws) and their owner will probably prefer a tube amp or a laid back solid-state amplification.

Srajan will prefer equipment with good value that is enjoyable, and has decent dynamic capabilities, or is interesting intellectually. He will pan equipment that is seemingly too expensive, or detailed, Sophisticated, or boring (from a reviewer’s point of view).
HP – Absolute Sound

HP has quite small rooms at Sea Cliff – ones that he has learned to make the most of.

HP likes a BIG SOUND. His systems are somewhat of a balancing act, much like Srajan. Big, open sounding, dynamic, not very sophisticated speakers (ALON/NOLA, Pipedreams, Wisdom way back when) are paired with amps that are excellent (ASL, Edge), but do not intrude on the overall character of the speaker, with cables that are neutral and not used as tuning devices (Nordost Valhalla), and a very high-quality source (the old Burmester $60K transport and DAC pair, Emmlabs CDSD and DCC2, and the best turntables when he can get them – ignore the Clearaudio, it is just a stand-in).

HP more than any reviewer, consciously builds a system around speakers he likes. Just like we do, and maybe one or two other dealers, and a lot of the audiophiles who consciously build their systems to achieve the sound they want. [Even if you do not have, cannot afford, the speakers you want today – you can think ahead and improve your current system, today, with less expensive equipment – like powercords, vibration control, cables – with a eye on how it will work with your system tomorrow, when you CAN put the speakers you want into your system].

JV – Absolute Sound

JV’s room is kind of unbalanced, last picture I saw, with a door in the front wall. Not aware of any other particular problems.

As mentioned last post – for many years JV’s system sucked, like most reviewer’s systems, but then he got a Walker and then, after the ridiculous underpowered Tenor amp / Rockport speaker love affair, heard the Tenor OTL on the Kharma 3.2 speaker. This is one of those GREAT systems. Finally, a reviewer with a real state-of-the-art system – and one that will fit in ordinary sized rooms to boot.

JV prefers – interesting sounds. Of all reviewers, I think he gets bored the easiest. This is why I think he kind of careens from one relatively good sounding piece of equipment to another, perhaps not as good sounding piece of equipment – because the new piece sounds interesting and DIFFERENT and is entertaining.

So, JV will like things that do not suck and that are interesting sonically. Otherwise he is hard to predict.


All of these reviewers must publish in order to put food on the table. They will in general say good things about something in order to not ruffle feathers.

None of these reviewers pays any attention to vibration control, except perhaps JV who has a Walker Audio rack and Srajan who has a Grand Prix Monaco rack.

I think only MF pays attention to powercords. HP just experienced his first diamond tweeter a few months ago.

Most reviewers, and these are no exception, are quite a bit behind the experience curve of most network-savvy audiophiles who have some extra cash to burn.

But I like these guys and we will follow closely and comment on what they have to say.

Reviewing the Reviewers

We are going to start another category…

In this category we are going to discuss some of the reviews that are being published, and discuss them in the context of the reviewer’s tastes, systems, and rooms.

This will not be critical, or nasty, or flame ridden…

It will try to put some of what many people read into a larger context, as we see it anyway.

Since I am the one writing this (I try to talk Neli into posting on the Blog until she starts waving divorce papers in my face [not really – but I bet you know EXACTLY what I mean]) I am going to limit this proess to just a few of MY favorite reviewers:

HP, Jonathan Valin, Mike Fremer, and Srajan at 6moons.

Why are these guys my favorites?

Maybe because they are so powerful they can say what they want (but not so powerful they can say it the way they want to – a steady paycheck [how nice it is!] is a difficult thing to throw away).

MF buys his own equipment and, although erratic and idiosyncratic, he does let the truth slip out once in awhile.

JV has seen the light after the Walker Tenor Kharma experience and now knows what good sound is. What willllllll he do?

HP because he is HP.

Srajan because he is tryoing so hard to do the right thing.

However, none of these people put their reviews into the context of what the rest of their system is doing to color their interpretation of what they hear. Their bright sounding amp on a revealing speaker? That speaker is too bright. A reasonably priced laid back system on a revealing speaker – what do you know: that speaker is too laid back.

We’ll ignore Art Dudley – mostly because I think he is very open about his likes and dislikes – is probably the best reviewer because of it – and, well, there isn’t much to explain about his reviews.

Marja & Henk at 6moons have done some good reviews, IMHO – but I have read too little of their stuff…

Danny Kaye has retired… or graduated… or escaped… whatever you want to call it.

What a good reviewer SHOULD do is be self-conscious [well, first they have to be conscious, but let’s say that is a given], they should keep wondering if they have it right, keep wondering if they have the gist of what is going on with the component, the system, the music. They should keep trying to explore what it is that makes people like music – what makes them like some sounds and not others – what causes cyclical pressure waves to somehow communicate the great ideas and the nature of the human condition to all peoples of all generations.

Just like a good dealer.

If they start talking about how it “has a flux capacitor and therefore has to sound great”, or “it has 6.5 gigawatts of charm, these measurments can’t be beat, this is and will always be the best” then turn the page, hop into your Delorian, and try out the sequel.