|Meridian 300 Series In-wall Loudspeaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers In-wall Loudspeakers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Wednesday, 01 August 2007|
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Movies And Television
I kicked things off with a little two-channel demo starting with the Harry Connick Jr. album Star Turtle (Sony). Star Turtle is one of my all-time favorite Harry Connick Jr. albums, largely because of its lightheartedness and overall upbeat vibe, which compared to some of his previous love-song-only albums, comes as a breath of fresh air. On the track “Hear Me in the Harmony,” the 300s were quite impressive right off the bat. For starters, in stereo, without the aid of a subwoofer, the P350s are capable of generating a very big yet extremely nimble sound from top to bottom. The bass was surprisingly deep and very taut, with tremendous resolution. While the track would’ve benefited from a sub, what the P350s were able to shell out was quite impressive, especially given the speakers’ overall dimensions, placement and lack of a real bass driver. These are two-way speakers, remember. The midrange was pure and natural-sounding, especially throughout the vocals, with surprising extension front to back within the soundstage. Speaking of soundstage, the P350s not only had one, but it was as defined and spacious as that of any floor-standing speakers in the Meridian’s class. While this all sounds great, and it is, the P350’s greatest attribute is its ribbon tweeter. My long-standing reference when it comes to tweeters and high-frequency reproduction has always been the mighty Magnepan 3.6. I’ve held the 3.6 in such high regard for so long that it was a bit unnerving to realize that, while exceptionally good, the 3.6’s ribbon tweeter is bested handily by the ribbon tweeters inside the Meridian 300 Series speakers. While the 300s lacked that last ounce of extension and air you’ll get from the 3.6s, their sheer purity, speed, musicality and ease are by far the best I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t get them to act up or fizzle; they just sing with such effortless abandon, it sent shivers down my spine.
I decided to dispense with the pleasantries, shifted gears to something a bit more funky and threw in some Dynamite from Jamiroquai (Sony). On the track “Feels Just Like It Should,” I went ahead and set my Meridian G68 to Trifield, which is Meridian’s own multi-channel DSP for two channel-recorded music. I love Trifield and find that because of it, I do very little two-channel listening anymore. The track opens with a very synthesized bass line that gives way to a more traditional three-piece trap set. The wavy bass notes were very well-defined and had a good sense of rhythm and snap. The bass continued throughout the song and, one by one, other musical elements began to pile on. The 300 Series didn’t break their already stellar composure, keeping each individual element free from the next, literally overwhelming my room with sound. It was like an aural O.D. and I wanted more. The various laser sounds shot through the soundstage from left to right, right to left and front to back, as though the boundaries of my room itself were of little importance. Once again, the high frequencies were the 300s’ party piece, lending their magic to nearly every element of the music, giving it that last ounce of snap and sparkle. Even when pushed to the ragged edge, the 300s showed no signs of stress. I simply couldn’t fluster these speakers.
I switched over from music demos and popped in the recently released Matrix Trilogy on HD DVD (Warner Home Video). I spun up the final chapter of the trilogy, Matrix Revolutions, and skipped ahead to the scene just before the climatic battle where Neo (Keanu Reeves) journeys to the Machine City. The metal on metal sound of literally hundreds upon hundreds of robots that make up the “face” was chilling and even a bit startling through the Meridian 300s. Never before, and I’ve seen this film many times, have I been able to clearly and easily define the various robotic sounds, such as drills, clamps, springs, etc., amid the chaos. Dynamically, both in the micro and macro realm, the Meridian 300s have few rivals, even fewer when you shorten that list to in-walls only. When the “face” spoke, the various layers of its deep voice were clearly present and existed independent of one another, spreading boldly front to back within the soundstage. Neo’s own vocals, while in stark contrast to his surroundings, were not upstaged and sounded incredibly natural with terrific presence. The 300s really do paint a vivid aural canvas and draw you into whatever you’re listening to, be it music or movies, and do it more convincingly than the competition because of the fact that they are hidden from view. Once jacked into the Matrix, the final battle between Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and Neo was absolutely stunning. The sound of the rain alone was worth the price of admission. It sounded literally wet, falling fell from every corner of my room and seemingly beyond. The tweeter never failed to amaze as it easily distinguished not only between the various droplets of water, but also the surfaces they were hitting. The swooshing sounds of Neo and Agent Smith’s movements were as distinct as the characters themselves, likewise when fist and foot finally did meet flesh. The resolving prowess of the 300s was in full affect when the characters spoke, allowing them to remain remarkably intelligible, even in the face of driving rain and crashing thunder.
I ended my evaluation with Mission: Impossible 3 (Paramount Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray disc. The opening scene where Tom Cruise is being interrogated/tortured by Phillip Seymour Hoffman was bone-chilling. The sizzling sounds that accompanied the darkness were jarring, raw and loaded with painful detail. The ribbon tweeters injected a greater sense of sizzle to the sound that made it all the more difficult to sit through, which is a good thing and something you’re bound to miss with lesser, more traditional dome tweeters. The dialogue was very crisp and stood out in stark contrast to the ambient noise of the room, which only added to the tension. Speaking of ambient room tones, all too often, lesser speakers present these subtle cues more or less as noise, whereas through the 300 Series in-walls, I could clearly hear not only the characters’ voices reverberating off the metallic walls, but also the sounds of scattered machinery, some of which had to have been located in other rooms. The surround sound presentation throughout the film was as balanced and seamless as I’ve heard at any price. When the action kicked into high gear, especially during the bridge sequence, the 300s opened up the taps and let loose the fury. The screaming sounds of the drone aircraft were so vividly real, a few of my guests actually flinched as it moved from the back of my room to the front. The explosions and gunfire didn’t tax the mighty in-walls even when played back at true cinema-like levels.
Overall, be it music or movies, or even badly recorded MP3s, for that matter, the Meridian 300 Series in-wall speakers are just awe-inspiring. They are extremely musical, detailed yet easy on both the ears and on source material. They are among the most natural-sounding speakers I’ve heard, regardless of make or price, and present everything dealt to them with equal fervor.