As some of you may know, a couple of weeks ago I picked up a stonking bargain - a black Tag McLaren AV32R (96khz dacs with PLII), for £675. This was to replace my Pioneer VSX-D2011 receiver, which I was using purely for processing. However, on Friday I stumbled across a Meridian 568.1 for such a silly price, that it would've been rude not to buy it. I've got in on a 2 week sale or return basis, but I thought it was worth doing a comparison, bearing in mind the .1 can be upgraded to the .2 spec (which is a juicy prospect with the new beta firmware). So how do they compare? Well, I must admit I love the Tag. It's a noticeable improvement over the pioneer (even with MCACC, which I rate very highly), with an incredibly detailed, precise and neutral sound. Perfect for cinema soundtracks in every way, this has had me grinning I've tried a number of discs, notably Terminator 3 (R1, DD) and Return of The King (R2, DD). The Oliphant battle scene in ROTK can be described as busy at best, but the Tag handles everything with aplomb. Separation is fantastic, and there is a real fizz and sparkle to the sound...it's a sound that I really like. You can really hear the snap of the bows being fired, and arrows whizzing, and the LFE delivery is wonderfully tight (a touch better than the Pioneer but not as much in it as I was expecting) which runs in a low growl throughout the entire battle scene. If anything, the Tag combined with my Blueskies - which have a bright edge to the treble - can get a little edgy at high volumes, but it's a sound I'm used to and since becoming an M&K convert many many moons ago, it's a sound that I've grown to love. Lovers of "warm" hi-fiish combinations though, might find it a little tiring. The other things which are worth noting are that the aesthetics of the Tag are great (I don't find the same of the silver version strangely, I think it looks a bit cheap?), the interface is superb and the setup comprehensive. I only wonder what improvements the 192khz dacs would make, and the upgrade to the DP spec? (TMREQ looks to be the biggest bonus, I'd love to hear a DP Tag). So onto the Meridian. How does it compare? Well for movies (the main source of comparison), it's fantastic. I've previously owned a Meridian 565 which lasted all of a week before I sent it away unhappy. The 565 I found to be lacking for AV, though my perception of this is undoubtedly coloured by the fact that I had some issues with the unit in my setup, with a horrible faint ringing to DTS soundtracks and some horrible burst-noise incidents which I found grating - Fraggle from the forums borrowed this unit for a few days and strangely didn't have the same problems though. Anyway...back to the 568. It impressed me. It possesses a wonderfully detailed sound, and surprisingly I found it clean and crisp too (I was just expecting that with the Tag). The differences were actually a little more difficult to spot than I was expecting too; it's a poor description but I'd say that the Meridian is just a little more refined than the Tag, which some people would certainly prefer. For music, in my limited testing here, the Meridian trounces the Tag - a more open, smoother sound....I dunno, it sounds less "forced" if that makes sense? The only issues I have with the Meridian is that I can't stand the interface (I left my laptop at work so I had to use the front panel to set it up), despite the fact that it's a tweakers delight (so I'm told ), and I really don't like the look of it! So what am I going to do? Well, I'm keeping the Tag: movies are my top priority, and coupled with the interface and aesthetics, for me it's a winner. It's cheaper certainly than the Meridian, and if I DID keep the 568, I wouldn't be able to resist paying the £700 odd upgrade charge Was a fun comparison though, glad to say I'm happy with the original purchase cheers Matt Rags is borrowing the 568 for a week while his Parasound C2 is being repaired (cheap American rubbish eh? ), will be interesting to hear his thoughts partnered with the A52 power amp and B+W nautilus set.