|Meridian G68 Digital Surround Controller|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Sunday, 01 May 2005|
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I began my listening tests with one of my favorite DVD-Audio discs, Crosby – Nash’s Another Stoney Evening, recorded at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles back in October of 1971. Following the fame generated from their first major public showing at Woodstock in the summer of 1969, as a trio including Stephen Stills, this recording was billed as “the loosest show on Earth.” This is a great pressing full of acoustic guitars and harmonizing vocals. In the opening cut “Déjà Vu,” Graham Nash’s acoustic solo has incredibly realistic impact and decaying sustain. Being a great fan of Martin guitars, the distinct sound of the two guitars is absolutely infectious. Graham’s guitar has solid projection and tone. I found a particular fondness for the sound of his open sting buzz and its ensuing resonance. At the conclusion of this tune leading into “Wooden Ships,” the crowd’s applause remains very well shaped and, although in the distance, very detailed and impactful. In this song, voices are sweet and focused without becoming analytical. The G68 has a relaxed liquidity without sounding dull or soft. I took a liking to the sound immediately. The G68 provides a better sense of live impact than I have heard from a multi-channel preamp while remaining sweet and effortless. As the vocals in the cut start in, there is a nice blend of harmonies while the voices remain distinctively separate, exactly as they would in a live unamplified acoustic performance. In the song “Triad,” the vocals are nicely centered and realistically textured. Nash’s vintage Martin is open and immediate and has a fantastic percussive feel. I next listened to this tune using the stereo PCM track in 24/192 and, although there are areas of improved instrumental focus, overall the MLP version is more live and the vocals better positioned.
Chicago’s first album, released in 1969 under the name Chicago’s Transit Authority, proved to the world that happening horns belonged in a real rock band. This record was one that shaped the earliest years of my life with its powerful ballads comprised of solid guitar and horns. On Chicago’s 2002 CD release, The Very Best of Chicago: Only the Beginning and the song “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” (Rhino), the piano in the intro is well formed and has a nice percussive body, as live piano does. This recording has sounded flat to me on other systems, but through the Meridian G68 via the G98, this recording is more energetic and full of life. Horns are detailed and solid while displaying a sense of ease and effortless attack. Subtle details like the background vocals develop well and are extremely complimentary, rather than a distraction to the music. This is clearly the best I have heard this CD sound on any system.
To best test the G68’s analog inputs, I reached for the incredible, remastered 30th anniversary LP release of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (EMI). This heavy virgin vinyl version is a true masterpiece and one of the best newly mastered LPs I have heard. On “Money,” there is information all over the stage, from the sound of change rattling to chimes; the G68 delineates the information extremely well. Gilmore’s guitar sounds, from his echoed Stratocaster tones to the clean-sounding whah strums, are reproduced to perfection. I was initially skeptical about the analog information being converted to digital, but the G68 does a great job and the information is detailed, presented without any noticeable digital artifacts. The guitar part in this song goes down as one of the better signature leads in rock. The G68 provides vinyl with a rare blend of articulation and detail, without any sign of analog jitter or synthetic overtone.
The movie “Ray” was one of last year’s surprise hits in the theater, one that was recognized solidly by the Academy of Motion Pictures for its heartfelt view into one of the last century’s greatest musical geniuses. In Chapter 19 of the DVD, Ray (Jamie Foxx in his Oscar-winning performance) moves from Atlantic Records, the company that put him on the map, to ABC, which makes him an unprecedented financial offer. Ray then collaborates with a full orchestra for the tune “Georgia on My Mind,” a sonic masterpiece that the G68 provides in full splendor. The emotion in this song is captured incredibly as Ray proceeds to own the audience. The video in this movie was a good test for the Meridian G-Series. The cast’s dark skin tones and jet black hair is displayed with fantastic contrast through my CRT projector. In the review of the Meridian G98, I decisively remarked that the G98 provided the best-looking video I’ve seen. Through the G68, it was a blend of sonic genius and video heaven. This may sound like too much praise, but the Meridian G68/G98 combo is that good. One look at the video representation of this combo and you will be hooked yourself.