Hands On: Meridian Director DAC
The Director delivers a new price point for high-performance digital audio.
November 08, 2013 by Robert Archer

Earlier in 2013 British high-performance A/V company Meridian shocked the consumer electronics market with its introduction of an entry-level $300 level DAC (digital-to-analog converter) called Explorer.

Following the release of the Explorer, Meridian released a second DAC called the Director. This latest DAC costs slightly more than double the original Explorer (read our Hands On with that device), but according to Meridian, this larger, more versatile $699 DAC incorporates more audiophile-grade parts and design elements, including asynchronous USB, and it provides the ability to work with computer and legacy types of audio sources.

The most noticeable difference between the Explorer and Director DACs beyond size is the analog output sections. The Explorer offers a 3.5mm output that can be used with either a set of headphones or a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable. The Director incorporates a set of RCA outputs.

I don’t smoke cigars, but I would estimate the Director comes in a box approximately the size of a cigar box. Unpacking and setting it up was easy. In a computer-based system I used it with a MacBook Pro and a set of Adam Audio Artist5 active near-field monitors. Having my Mac setup to run external DACs like the Explorer, as well as AudioQuest’s Dragonfly, I simply needed to verify my computer’s operational parameters.


I started by going into the audio settings to make sure the Director appears in my list of output devices and a er that I went into the utilities folder to open the Audio MIDI folder to check to see if it was set to output 24-bit/96kHz. With the computer setup verified, my last step of the setup was to run a set of Transparent RCA cables from the DAC to the Adam speakers.

I’m not a believer in external software programs to run on top of iTunes or any other program so I listened to content straight from iTunes, as well as raw tracks from GarageBand. What I heard was a level of impact, detail and transparency that stunned me. Pop tunes downloaded from the iTunes store had texture and weight that I had never heard before. Raw tracks in GarageBand that I had just recorded sounded polished and airy. My experience with the haphazardly recorded GarageBand tracks was not something I expected given the fact that I really never took the time to even position my Blue Yeti USB microphone to get the best sound quality from my guitar rig.

Moving on to the other setup in which I used the Director, I placed the DAC in between an Apple TV and a Bryston preamp in a two-channel system. This setup was also simple. Using the supplied USB power supply I plugged the Director into a Transparent power conditioner and connected the same Transparent RCA cables to the preamp. To connect the Apple TV to the DAC I ran a mini optical-to-optical cable with the mini optical end plugging into the Director.

This setup blew me away. The combination of the Director, the Apple TV, Bryston electronics and Thiel CS1.7 speakers filled my listening space with “awesomeness” to paraphrase Kung Fu Panda (Jack Black). The Director with the Apple TV and Remote app serves perfectly well as a “poor man’s” Sooloos system given the fact that I don’t live and die with having high resolution or lossless files as part of my computer audio existence.

To say I was thoroughly disappointed to send the Director back to Meridian was an understatement. I was heartbroken. Given its price, versatility and overall value, I think the Director may be the best product to hit the consumer audio market this year.

I just may ask for it as a Christmas gift come holiday season.

Specs
1 x USB2 B socket for computer playback
1 x 3.5mm socket offering S/PDIF coax or S/PDIF Optical
1 x analogue stereo pair (gold- plated phono) outputs, 2v RMS fixed
Extruded Aluminium shell with moulded plastic endcaps and rubber foot
3 x Sample rate LEDs: 44.1/48, 88.2/96, 176.4/192 kHz
80mm (3.15in) x 139mm (5.47in) x 34mm (1.34in) (WxDxH)
0.25kg (9oz)
$699
meridian-audio.com

See Also:
Hands On: AudioQuest DragonFly DAC
DACs: The Missing Link In Today’s Music Systems
Audio Electronics Strikes with Lightning DAC

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Robert Archer - Senior Editor, CE Pro
Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.

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