- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 07 July 2014
Design and Setup of the Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier / Prime Power Supply
Upon arrival I was met with elegant packaging that I can only describe as “if Apple went to the Darkside.” The Meridian Prime and its optional power supply come in black boxes wrapped in a thin band of matching blackness, accented by a silver Meridian logo. This careful attention to detail made for a worthwhile unboxing experience.
After getting the prime out of its bed of darkness, the first thing to cross my mind was how small it is. Even with its matching power supply, the Meridian Prime barely takes up more room than a large coffee mug and coaster. It's small enough to fit on any desk no matter how messy it may be. I will say that it is a bit of a relief not having a full size box taking up room on my desk. In fact, I was even able to carry the Prime with me to and from the office. With desktop real estate in high demand, if the Prime delivers performance akin to its price, then its small stature is extremely beneficial.
Those familiar with Meridian products will feel at home with the Prime’s styling. The unit is finished in textured silver to match their G-series with a shiny black face plate. Tiny blue LEDs light up when in standby and white is used for the active state. Two small buttons that feel like ball bearings are used to toggle input mode and Analogue Spatial Processing (ASD) modes. The tapered volume control knob turns smoothly with a bit of resistance. It is a high quality Alps-type control mounted towards the rear of the unit.
Front output consists of two ¼” and one 3.5mm mini jack for the lesser demanding load of in-ears. On the back, output is limited to one volume controlled stereo RCA, that can be disabled for pure headphone listening. For analog input there is one stereo RCA and a 3.5mm mini jack. Digital input is limited to USB and the internal DAC can handle up to 24bit/192kHz. The reason for only having a USB and no coax or optical input is to allow all digital circuitry to be powered off when USB is disconnected. This is because the digital section is powered via USB. It is also another reason having the Prime Power Supply increases fidelity since USB runs through the power supply before entering the Prime.
The DAC has dual oscillators, allowing it to handle 24/96, 24/88.2, 24/176.4, and 24/192. It also utilizes Meridian’s lauded Apodising filter to upsample 44.1 and 48kHz signals to 88.2 and 96kHz before hitting the DAC. The filter is designed to avoid digital pre-ringing, an unpleasant artifact of the digital process.
The Meridian Prime comes standard with a wall wart plug but for increased performance they offer an optional Prime Power supply. The Meridian Prime Power Supply is the exact same dimensions as the Prime and stacks beautifully underneath it. The Prime Power Supply is a high-current design based on the same linear power supplies Meridian developed for their 800 Reference Series. The Power Supply uses a low-profile, high-mass, hand-assembled toroidal transformer, low noise linear regulators on the outputs, and a high-efficiency low-dropout linear regulator with less than 5 μVrms output noise in the range 10 – 100k Hz on the USB supply.