Meridian 561 A/V Preamplifier

561

Home Theater Digital Preamp/Processor DD/DTS/DPL/MLP/MPEG

User Reviews (13)

Showing 1-10 of 13  
mark doyle   AudioPhile [Jan 15, 2004]
Strength:

Sound, sound, sound, Programming it on the computer and crossover points.

Weakness:

Right!

This is one very good sounding 2 channel and 5 channel player! I bought this to see how much I was missing on the music side of it and I was missing everything. I was using a Denon 3803 pre outs to my amps and I figured it sounded good but I thought I was missing something (sound quailty). The 561 is amazing sounding even on a $300 dvd player. It is so easy programming it on the computer and the soundstage just blew me away! I will be a Meridian owner for life!

Similar Products Used: Denon, Proceed, Anthem, B&K.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
labi   AudioPhile [Jun 30, 2003]
Strength:

music is awesome. minimalist piece

Weakness:

tricky to set up, not user friendly

UNBELIEVABLE i bpought this product while auditioning a Rotel pro/amp. I still bought the Rotel Amp. The Meridian with the Rotel sounded more musical through M&K than my Arcam/Spendor. In home theatre it was breathtaking. I found it very life like. Im the meridian surround sound mode it was different. i am a 2 ch enthusiast, and i still enjoyed the music in Trifield mode. Best of all free upgrades from meridian. The Krell i listened to required you to pay for future upgrades. i listened to many procesors this was better if not equal for movies, for music it blew them out of the water.

Similar Products Used: Rotel Krell Sunfire Denon pioneer (All home theatre)
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Hanz   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 25, 1999]
Strength:

Maybe it's faceplate.

Weakness:

Everything but it's faceplate.

I really tried to like this product. I really did. I had it and the DC-2 in my home for a week, and I wanted to like it better than the Lexicon, but I just could not. The Lex just revealed so much more than the Meridian. It was clearer, more dynamic, and warm. Simply put, the Lex won hands down. Sure the 561 is a good unit, but it just is not good enough. Before you buy it at least check out the DC-2 or the MC-1, they both outshine this unit.

Similar Products Used: DC-2 Lexicon
OVERALL
RATING
2
VALUE
RATING
2
james   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 26, 1999]
Strength:

Excellent setup flexibility and sound quality.

Weakness:

Cost

I have had my 561 for close to a year and have no regrets choosing this unit. Although I didn't compare the 561 against processors from Lexicon the 561 sounded better then Proceed's AVP and Theta's Casanova IMO. I would still rate these other units highly. The biggest difference between the 561 and the other processors was a perceived smoothness and refinement in the 561 over the others while still retaining dynamics, extension, and detail. While everyone is entitled to their opinion the previous post of 2 stars is totally unfounded. I doubt very much that the DC-2 betters the 561's performance, but will concede that it may be a better value overall.

Similar Products Used: Proceed AVP, Theta Casanova
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Mitch Lasky   Audiophile [Jan 09, 2002]
Strength:

multi-channel audio, pc setup, alternative music modes (trifield, ambisonic, etc.)

Weakness:

audible popping when syncing to digital signal, remote

The 561 is a terrific surround controller. It excels at decoding film soundtracks (Dolby Digital & DTS). Its greatest strength is its subtlety and refinement -- rather than providing "gee whiz" sonic splash the 561 gets the balance of music, dialog and effects just right. As a result, it greatly enhances the emotional impact of films without calling undue attention to itself.

The 561 does a fine job with digital music sources, too. However, it lacks a bit of warmth when working as a DAC with my DVD player as the transport. It's certainly no substitute for a high-end audio preamp, but that's not primarily why you are buying it. While a bit gimmicky, some of the multi-channel music modes are cool (particlularly Trifield mode, which uses the center channel to interesting effect).

I found it a better all-around performer than the comparably-priced Lexicon and Proceed units. The Classe sounded a bit better with 2 channel music.

One major gripe -- the unit makes a lot of noise when it syncs to a new signal. This is not much of an issue when you are playing DVD's, but when you are channel surfing through a digital cable or DirecTV, you have to hit the mute button. It certainly sounds bad enough to do damage to speakers, although my dealer assures me otherwise.

Similar Products Used: Lexicon, Proceed, Classe
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
George G Mills   an Audio Enthusiast [Mar 06, 1999]

Sorry for the duplicate review, things are behaving a bit strange.
When I did the first review, it never showed up (even the next day with a reload).

When I visited a week later I saw someone elses review and the review count only said 1.

So I submitted again, and the count still says 1 after a reload. But now I see my original review was there, sorry.

Note that I did add a few updates to my later review.


OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
George Mills   an Audio Enthusiast [Mar 06, 1999]

Reference System:
Krell KAV-250 Amp (L,R)
Kenwood 6x100 THX Amp (C,LS,RS)
B&W 803's, HTM, SCM-8
Pioneer DVL-700 DVD/LD player
Rotel Tuner
Yamaha HiFi VCR.
39 year old ears.
Mostly various monster cable with Radio Shack connectors.
All in home.

AC-3 (THX) *****
DTS (THX) ****
DPL (THX) *****
DPL (Stereo rear) ***** (not tested on heavy dialog films yet)
7.1 Processing Not tested (requires 2 digital speakers)
RF-Demodulator Not tested (expensive, see below Yamaha ADP-1 is ***)
Music (Bypass) ****
Music (Surround) ****
Usability **** (Almost *****)
Build **** (Probably a tad under ****)
Bass *****
Documentation ****
Recording Analog *** (it can't do digital to analog)
Recording Digital Not tested

The information here is based on 7 days of ownership.

The cabinet is about on par with the DC-1 but the jacks are a step up. Not up to the level of like a krell which bolts the jack to the back plate. The 561 jacks have a thick wall vs the thin stamped sheet metal used on cheaper jacks. They also have a flange the gets some strength from the rear plate. Some jacks are mounted differently than others and one is slightly out of square.

The unit looks richer than it actually is. The from panel switches work perfectly fine but they certainly don't give a warm feeling of richness.

For music it sounds spectacular, it's effects are as effective as the DC-1 (but different) and they don't loose any bass in the process. They are less aggressive than the DC-1 and tend to make less mistakes.

For DTS it did not strike the nerve that the AVP did but that may of been a spur of the moment thing. It sounded similar to the DC-1. Again not calibrated to Video Essentials for careful comparison.

For AC-3 the first full movie I tested was a movie I rented "City Of Angels" LD. One of the best sounding sound tracks I have ever heard. Was it the 561? Was it a coincidence that one of the best movies I've ever heard was the first one on the 561, was this the start of a new trend?. I don't know yet.

Make sure you get the version 1.3 or later firmware released around 10/18/98. It fixes some AC-3 dropout problems I ran into.

The unit is designed for experimentation (unlike the DC-1 and less applicable on the AVP). You can make all the effect changes you like without loosing your original settings. Just select the device again and they are reset. If you like your new settings then you can save them back to the effect your on or to a new effect (up to 36 of them).

When setting up the system, you have to tell it a huge amount of information compared to any other system I've seen. Room aspect ratio, the relative strength of each speaker (includes a calculator on the PC to help you determine that number). Does it really use all this information?

At first I thought setting up via the PC was a gimmick. It's not, it's intuitive, it's fun and very functional. Try it at http://www.meridian-audio.com/lib_soft2.htm

When I first hooked the system up I could not get any on screen menus to work. Turns out you have to have a video source signal to lock onto before you can use the on screen display. Meridian says most other companies use "overlays", we don't because it degrades the picture. Our scheme however requires a source Video signal to lock onto.

Another interesting thing on Video is something about direct video passthrough. S-Video-1 is specially linked to S-Video Out and Composite Video-1 is specially linked to Composite Video out. I'm not sure what this means, but if the unit is off (standby) it passes the S-Video straight through.

The Remote is nice and a shame it's not learning since it can run an entire system. You actually had to remove 4 screws to put in the battery. I actually think that's a plus because you won't loose those silly snap on covers. The Battery mounted kind of crooked which gave a little difficulty replacing the cover.

I do hear small snaps and crackles when starting, stopping and pausing and turning things on and off. The DC-1 did a better job in this regard. None of the 561 snaps and crackles are loud, sharp or make you uneasy about damaging equipment.

Regarding DTS "Pssssst" startups on unpausing and track skipping. The 561 gives you every choice available. You can choose that you have a smart player that sends the correct information about the format, you can choose 30ms delay or choose to lock that device onto DTS. However, it is not wise to use the 30ms delay for devices that do Video since it will throw off the lip sync by 30ms.

There is an optional cooling fan that is supposed to be available. And you can see a chrome wire grill on the bottom the unit where it goes. You can program the fan to be thermal, off, or on when the unit is on.

The display is a bit small but pretty easy to read. You can choose THX Ref or dB Level like the AVP. But the 561 seems to like to revert back now and then to dB level based on other things you do (might be because of frequent configuration downloads from the PC).

The volume is remembered for each device even when you turn the unit off. I wish it had a setting to reset the volume to a specific level on each device in case you forget and leave it very loud. I don't know if there is some options regarding this since it does have a "Level" to set each device to (no, it's not input gain). Perhaps it times out and resets, I'm not sure yet. This is fixed on version 1.4 firmware and now resets volume out of standby.

The unit is capable of 7.1 but you have to have 2 meridian digital speakers for this (main or rear) an external DAC is not sufficient.

It's digital outputs are 24/96 and Meridian claims they will support DVD Audio on this unit and will likely be MLP which it already has (demonstrated as CES 99). Currently it can decode 3 channels of MLP and the next major software release will be 5 channels.

Meridian has a track record of keeping their boxes current for reasonable prices. The 565/562 for example was announced in 93 and is still current and will likely be upgraded to above the 561 features. The 561 is supposedly somewhat modular inside and will maybe upgraded some day if meridian wants to.
Note if you have your heart set on 7.1 analog channels or 96/24 DACs check out the upcoming 565/562 Mark II.

It also has extensive tests to make sure your timing and crossovers are optimal. Sine wave generator, phase tests etc.

Triggers, the triggers may be standard for the UK but they are not for the US. The most common in the US is 12v mini mono headphone jacks. But the meridian uses 9v DC jacks (like those use on transformers you plug into the wall). Using the DC Jacks makes sense since it's harder to short the end of cable. The book says a "3.5mm". But you need two measurements to define this style jack (inner and outer diameter). When I went to radio shack 3.5mm did not seem right for either dimension. I think I used a 5.0mm O.D. and 2.1mm I.D. (that might not be correct email me if you want to know exactly). It fit a little loose but seems to work. I took my chances and tried to trigger my 12v input on the krell amp and the krell seems quite happy with the 9v's. I measured the output of the 561 which was 10.5v (with no load).

You have a choice of when to use the sub or not for different modes of operation. Music (Yes, No, LFE), Movies (Yes, No, LFE) and Logic (Yes, No, LFE). I'm not sure what Logic means yet but I assume it means DSP modes.

One thing I never expected in the Meridian given its compact size was real relays doing some of the switching. You usually only see relays in larger units with true analog paths.

The remote is having a tough time blasting through some smoked glass. Pronto has no problem so it was not the receiver.

The 519 rf-demodulator is way over priced but has a feature that saves you one digital input on the 561 and allows more seamless usage. B&K also makes one with similar functionality for less money but is now discontinued. The Yamaha $99.95 unit works perfectly well but you use an extra input and you have to map it to another device input.

Compared to the DC-1 most of all the music surround modes are much less aggressive.

Ambsonic mode is actually a decoding scheme and there is quite a bit of information on it on the web. But it appears to be a dying format and most recordings encoded with it are on LP's. However it does turn a few tricks on some non ambsonic recordings such as Enya.

The input gain for analog devices seems like a rather course range compared to the AVP or the DC-1. It only has 4 levels.

It can also be a bit confusing at times that the preamp will call something one thing but the PC software will call it something else. For example the gain levels are 0, 6, 9, 12 on the preamp. But they are 0.7, 1.0, 1.7 and 2.0 Volts (or something like that) on the PC.

It would be a nice bonus if QSound, Circle Surround and HDCD was added to the list of choices.

I have not tested digital output recording yet.

I have tested analog recording and analog to analog is fine but digital to analog is non-existent (this may apply to second zone as well), it's simply an analog to analog switcher. What this means is that you can't even record DTS CD or send a DTS CD to another room. You have to rely on your analog outputs of your DVD/CD/LD player for any analog recording. This will work generally well for AC-3 LD or DVD and DTS LD or DVD but it won't work for DTS CD's. The DC-1 could mix any digital source (PCM, AC-3 or DTS) down to 2 channels and send it out the analog outputs. You could not listen in 5.1 and record in 2.0 when you did this.

There is an optional card that adds a second tape out. I'm not completely sure what it does. It cost something like $200.00.

Although the documentation is fairly good and there is a lot of it, it does not go into detail how things work to best tune your system. Your "installer" is supposed to be trained by Meridian.

If I select the CD player before turning the CD Player on the CD will not always lock. You have to select the device after it's powered up. This may be intentionally this way; to mute the channel if it sees nothing is there or something (perhaps to prevent a pop on power up).

For some reason my analog tuner has acted strange and I was not around when it occurred (my daughter said it just went away and she tried multiple stations and suddenly it returned).

Warranty is only 2 years.

List $5000.00
List $5800.00 (With 519 RF-Demodulator)
Street 10-20% off depending on dealer

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Daniele   an Audiophile [Jul 20, 1999]

As the other folks i wanted a Pre-dac-processor that sounded well with Music, both Stereo and Multichannel, and the 561 was the answer.I don't want to repeat what George & Thomas have already said about the functional flexibility of 561, but i want to spend some words on Meridian : The difference 'til now from the other company as EAD - Proceed - Lexicon is that Meridian don't 'scream' upgradable they really give to this word a real sense.I can't forget, looking at the past that the 565 is the only processor made 5 years ago that still is ready for the new format that has came.. if i compare to Proceed PAV user that were 'forced' to buy another product (PDSD costing serious money) or the 2 realese (different) of the EAD TM series (i cant still understand why...), i just can say that Meridian is a more serious company.
Talking about the sound ...Just two Words : Neutral & Informative. summed up with the balanced and focused 'dinamic contrast' the result is : NATURAL ...that means that everything sound as the has to do, and you'll never feel that you have 'pumped up' the volume too much and the sound is never too aggressive or forced, and at the same time full of information.
For sound quality in absolute terms i'll give a 4 and an half score, for flexibility and function a plain 5 (It decode everything and has 8 channel digital output) there are slightly better sounding machine but not in his price range.
In Italy it cost the equivalent of 5000 Box (including 20% taxes..sigh) considering that i bought a 4 months 'used' machine (a lucky guy that bought a 861..) and the distributor give me a new warranty considering it new.. all that for 2500 box ... what can i say more ... :-)

Ciao
Daniele

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Bryant Trew   an Audiophile [Jul 25, 1999]

Just buy one. I've not heard another processor that is as natural and 3 dimensional as the 561. With soundtracks you begin to realise that those aren't just soundtracks, there is an actual symphony in the background. On Super Speedway, the race cars move seamlessly in and out, left and right, round and round. With Music, Trifield kills stereo playback. You won't want to use plain old stereo ever again. Resolution is again, the best I have heard. Low level sounds that couldn't be heard, or were obscured on my previous unit, come to life on the 561.
Just buy one and save yourself the grief of spending 5k on some overhyped, multimoded unit.

Meridian is a refined reference unit for music and home theatre.

Bryant

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Mario   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 03, 2001]
Strength:

Computer setup, sound, and flexiblity

Weakness:

No balanced output

I tried all the different units in this price range and simply put this is the most natural real sounding processor of the bunch. I still think that you need a true two channel pre-amp because the unit digitizes all signals, but it still is very good in two channel. Definitly give it a try you will be pleasently suprised.

Similar Products Used: Lex. MC-1 Krell HTS, Theta Casanova, EAD Ovation
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 13  

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