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Meridian Audio's MQA technology is the best product at CES so far

Michael Brown | Jan. 8, 2015
Allow me to preface this by saying this is my opinion and not that of TechHive or PCWorld as whole, since I was the only editor there and Tuesday was the first day of the show.

The demo

Chrislu demoed the system for me at the Venetian, where all the high-end audio vendors hawk their wares in large, well-isolated suites. I sat on a couch in front of a pair of very high-end speakers and asked to hear tracks from two of my favorite recording artists: Dire Straits and Steely Dan. I expected to hear more detail and better separation in the guitar, drums (especially the cymbals and high hat), and I did. I heard guitar parts in "Sultans of Swing" that I never knew existed. And the decay in some of the bass lines in "Gaucho" shocked me; I'd never known those notes lasted as long as they did.

But what really knocked me out was the quality of the vocals. I don't know a better way to explain it than to say it was like hearing human beings sing after listening to robots. There was such an emotional aspect to it than when Chrislu asked me what I thought at the end of the demo, I actually got choked up and couldn't answer him for a moment. Yes, you could say I was verklemp.

Okay, I saved the best part for last. DACs with MQA decoders shouldn't cost and a leg. Chrislu showed me Meridian's own Explorer2 USB DAC that will sell for $300. And I have an appointment with Pure (a division of Imagination Technology) to hear a demo of its Caskeid multi-room audio technology. Caskeid is the first multi-channel audio system to support MQA. Meridian Audio chairman and co-founder Bob Stuart says Caskeid "is the only wireless multiroom synchronization technology out there that truly offers a platform for high-quality audio." Pure sells some speakers with Caskeid technology, but the company also licenses Caskeid to other manufacturers.

I wouldn't expect components that cost a few hundred bucks to deliver the same performance as systems that cost 10s of thousands of dollars, but the point of diminishing returns sets in rapidly with audio gear. You can get some very high-quality products these days without spending a ton of money. I'm very much looking forward to hearing what Pure has to offer. And Chrislu said he would sending a Meridian Explorer2 USB DAC for review as well. Stay tuned.


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