Meridian Explorer USB DAC


The Design and Setup

The Meridian Explorer is tiny enough to fit in your hand, or pocket and looks quite unassuming for what it is capable of. There is a Mini-USB input for connecting to your PC with the included cable, and dual 3.5mm outputs. One 3.5mm output is a variable level headphone jack for you to connect your headphones straight to. The other 3.5mm jack serves a dual purpose: With a 3.5mm to RCA adapter it functions as a fixed 2V line output for your stereo, or with a MiniToslink to Toslink optical adapter it turns the Meridian into a USB to Optical converter. While that bypasses a lot of the functionality of the Explorer, it does fill a role for many people.

Having the Explorer connect via a separate USB cable might seem a bit cumbersome at first, but if you use a laptop, having a device stick out several inches from the side is annoying and potentially dangerous to your equipment if accidentally wacked. It also puts stress on the USB port once you add a hefty, high quality analog cable to the mix. Having a cable connection from computer to the Meridian Explorer is clearly the best way to go and, if it makes you feel better, you can then experiment with stupidly expensive USB cables.    

The front of the Explorer has three white LEDs on it to indicate your current sample rate. The first indicates 44.1 or 48 kHz, the second 88.2 or 96 kHz, and the final 176.4 or 192 kHz. There are dual oscillators inside the Explorer to support both 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz based sample rates without adding an extra conversion step, maintaining the most accurate audio as possible. The optical output only supports 96 kHz sample rates, but the analog outputs will do full 24/192 audio.

As a Class 2, Asynchronous USB Audio device, those people using a Macintosh computer need to simply plug it in to start enjoying high-resolution audio. No drivers are necessary and the Explorer is fully powered off the USB bus. Windows users will need to install a driver provided by Meridian which allows for ASIO compatibility, allowing bit-perfect audio from your computer.