Mul­ti­room Am­pli­fier of the Year

Mul­ti­room Am­pli­fier of the Year

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It might be con­sid­ered brave to come to market with a new mul­ti­room plat­form when so many ri­vals are now in the market. But then Merid­ian is no new­comer. It had Sooloos as an app-like con­trol sys­tem be­fore there were re­ally such things as apps. The won­der­ful Roon soft­ware plat­form (see p86) be­gan as a de­vel­op­ment right out of Sooloos. So the com­pany’s new 200 Se­ries is more a case of de­liv­er­ing smaller and in­stal­la­tion-friendly ‘zone’-based de­vices which can eas­ily spread Merid­ian’s ex­ist­ing ex­per­tise into mul­ti­room zone-based au­dio. And it has the sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage of hav­ing high-qual­ity and high-res­o­lu­tion em­bed­ded into its DNA, as it were.

The $2679 ‘251’ is a zone con­troller with am­pli­fiers; also avail­able is the 218, es­sen­tially the same but with­out am­pli­fiers, so you can plug it into an ex­ist­ing sys­tem or a pair of ac­tive speak­ers. They’re both small, half rack-width, so that two can be mounted as shown be­low. From one point of view the 251 is a stereo am­pli­fier with some con­ven­tional in­puts, both ana­logue and dig­i­tal, with a high-qual­ity switch­ing pream­pli­fier, DAC, and two chan­nels of Class-D am­pli­fi­ca­tion. But from the point of view of a Merid­ian sys­tem, it’s also an end­point for the com­pany’s Sooloos mu­sic man­age­ment plat­form. Sooloos, which can run on an iPhone or iPad, PC or Mac, pro­vides a beau­ti­ful and clever in­ter­face with which to con­trol play­back of a file-based mu­sic col­lec­tion, and of Tidal, which in­te­grates seam­lessly into the Sooloos in­ter­face. So con­trol is en­tirely vir­tual — there’s no phys­i­cal re­mote pro­vided, though you could choose to add Merid­ian’s new MSR2 hand­held sys­tem con­trol for $499. The units themelves can be hid­den away.

The 251 proves it­self a pint-sized power pack loaded with stream­ing good­ness, and in many ways is quite bril­liant, a dream to use both in terms of re­li­a­bil­ity of op­er­a­tion and dis­cov­ery of mu­sic on­line or in your own col­lec­tion. Tidal and MQA files are its bread and but­ter. As a tra­di­tional am­pli­fier its in­puts are some­what lim­ited, and we’re not fans of the bare-wire Phoenix screw­clamp con­nec­tor blocks in a hi-fi con­text. But the 251 proves its point many times over. More info: www.cog­works.io

JUDGES’ COM­MENT “This is mul­ti­room done smaller, neater, and in sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant ways, bet­ter.”

Cog­works’ Paul McLean col­lects the Award.

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