|Meridian G98 DVD/CD Transport|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Friday, 01 April 2005|
Page 1 of 3
Some look at music and movies as a way to pass time and fill their otherwise silent world with time-consuming chatter. Others look upon them as two of the world’s more precious forms of art. If you have found this review, we know which camp you’re in. For nearly 30 years, Meridian has been dedicated to creating products that excite the senses of those who crave the aural perfection of a live musical performance or a home theater experience that rivals the look of film. The G Series is the newest and most affordable line of products from Meridian that leverages state-of-the-art technology from Meridian’s flagship line, the reference-level 800 series, into smaller and more affordable gear that is more within the reach of many music and home theater enthusiasts. The G98 is an ultra-high-performance CD/DVD transport, complete with a powerful video processor and scaler capable of displaying broadcast quality video at a retail price of $5,995 to $6,495, depending on player configuration.
The G Series comes with a bold new look that is, in my eyes, a huge improvement over its predecessor, the 500 Series. Although I never disliked the traditional black face of Meridian gear of the past, the G series comes dressed in silver with a dark glass top reminiscent of the 500 series. Gone are the thin vertical bar-like buttons, replaced with larger paddle-style buttons. The interface of the G series is all new, with a bigger and bolder vacuum fluorescent display that can be read from quite far away. The overall feel is solid and the fit and finish is amongst the very best this industry has to offer. The transport tray is smooth and silent and the buttons have a silky touch.
The remote is similar to the large Meridian remotes of the past, which I have always loved. However, the new remotes are covered in metal, nicely backlit and have superb infrared reach. I found that I could push a button from anywhere in my room, with the remote facing any direction, and the unit picked up the signal. The new Meridian remote is the best factory remote in the industry.
In this price range, there are few competitors for the Meridian G98 – in fact, with some of the features on this unit, there are almost no equals, let alone superiors. The G98 comes in two basic configurations, the G98DH and G98AH. The difference between the two is that the G98DH has Meridian’s MHR Digital SmartLink, which allows it to speak to a capable Meridian Surround Controller in the digital domain, eliminating a level of D/A and A/D conversion. This connection is made using encrypted data for a higher level of decoding and reproduction. The SmartLink also provides the Meridian Preamp/Controller with signal source information, so it can switch processing modes automatically. What this means is that you can set up different configurations for DVD-Audio and DTS Music playback, just to name a few possibilities. When you play the disc, the controller can sense the format and default to your preferred settings. Since I currently have the G98DH connected to the G68 surround processor, I can decide that I want more sub with DTS and no sub with CDs, so when I push play, the system automatically knows the format and provides me with my desired output. The G98AH is designed without the digital SmartLink connection and provides analog outputs for use in any surround processor.
Having used the Meridian 598 and 568 as my reference source and preamp for more than two years now, I am quite familiar with Meridian’s strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps the biggest weakness for me was the limited width of the 500 series, which left me short of the necessary connections to maximize my system options. To remedy this, Meridian sold an outboard chassis that provided the additional connections. All new with the G series is a wider rack-mountable chassis measuring 17.32 wide, 13.78 deep and a 2U rack height of 3.5 inches. The new wider chassis is complete with all the connections that you could desire. These include three digital coax outputs for the MHR SmartLink feature, a digital 15 Pin D-Sub connector output, a digital coax auxiliary output and HDMI out. Since the G98 has an internal video processor/scaler, complete with Faroudja DCDi de-interlacing technology, it provides inputs for outboard components such as TV, games, etc. Included are two composite inputs, one component input and three S-Video inputs, along with a HDMI output that supports 480P, 576P, 720P and 1080i.
The G98 supports most current digital formats, including DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, DVD-R, VCD, CVCD, CD/DVD-AV (Dual Disc). The only format notably missing is SACD. Conspiracy theorists have rumored that its omission was political, yet the facts are much more simple than that. With a few audiophile record labels as exceptions, the audiophile cult has moved on from SACD to DualDisc, so that they can add video to their offerings, as well as migrate their discs from the audiophile section of the record store to the more traditional CD bins.