Headphone Amplifiers

Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier / Prime Power Supply Review


The Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier / Prime Power Supply In Use

Can the Meridian Prime handle the heavy loads of today’s star headphones? It most certainly can. While overall I found the pairing of Audeze LCD-X headphones with the Meridian best, the Prime was able to handle the HiFiMAN HE-6. Halfway on the Meridian Prime with the LCD-X headphones and your ears might be complaining later. It is loud, punchy, and dynamic.

Overall I would characterize the Meridian Prime as neutral, detailed, and prim and proper, like a perfectly executed Viennese waltz. The tonality is wonderful, especially on piano recordings. When listening to 24bit content via the Prime, the only thing left to criticize is the recording itself. The increased resolution leaves little for the recording engineers to hide behind and the Meridian Prime has enough transparency to expose those lousy recordings.

On Buena Vista Social Club, the various hand drums surround my head and emanate from an entirely different plane than the vocals and guitars. When the trumpet solo begins it cuts through with clarity and presence. Terrific dynamic range on the Meridian Prime, as vocals on “La Bayamesa” flow from delicate to boisterous with ease.

The romantic compositions of Ennio Morricone came alive on the HE-6 planar magnetics. Cinema Paradiso’s strings sounded like lush velvety chocolate mousse. The Meridian Prime is capable of producing wonderful depth like the piano on The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. It easily could have been all the way behind the stage, with myself listening from the nosebleeds. The flute solo on the theme to The Mission retained an incredible airiness over the horns, harp and string background accompaniment.

The Meridian Prime includes a feature called ASP, or Analogue Spatial Processing, that seeks to bring the performance outside of your head. My experience was quite the opposite as I felt turning the ASP on actually brought the music more inside my head. I prefer a wide as possible soundstage and the ASP tended to shrink this along with removing some of the bass response. Some will prefer the effect and some will not, but since it’s purely an option the user is free to make their own decision.

In terms of functionality I do have one complaint that could be easily solved. Make USB the default input. If you power the Meridian Power supply off, this shuts down the Prime and it forgets what input you were set at. Therefore, every time I turned it on I had to first select USB, which seems odd since the ideal way to connect music to the Prime is via USB.

As a preamp, the Prime does a wonderful job. The problem I see is that users won’t want to move the unit from one setup to another. Unless your headphone listening is in the same area as your main stereo, this isn’t a feature that will be heavily utilized. That said, it is there and performs very well, just be prepared to get up and walk over to the equipment rack in order to adjust the volume.

The performance of the Prime without the optional power supply is very good and adding it did not make a huge difference. By routing USB first though the Prime Power Supply, it also reduces any possible noise in the USB signal running from a computer. I did hear less noise at high volume levels with the Prime Power Supply, just not enough to warrant the extra cash. I say, if money is no object, then go ahead and purchase the full bundle.

Go to Page 4: On The Bench