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Meridian M60 vs. DSP5000 - an audition

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by VirusKiller, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. VirusKiller


    Mar 15, 2003
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    For those of you who don't hang out around Hitchhikers, I thought I'd reproduce an edited version of my recent Meridian speaker audition. Even if you're not interested in Meridian speakers, if this post gives you an idea as to how to audition speakers, job done!

    I went in specifically to demo a pair of used M60s, which are 3-way active floorstanding speakers with a -3dB point of 30Hz, but I also had the opportunity to perform a direct comparison with a pair of used DSP5000 MkI's costing one and a half times the price.

    For those not in the know, the D5Ks have the same enclosure and drivers as the M60s but are a 2.5 way design with a -3dB point of 35Hz, contain their own DACs, and perform the crossovers digitally with, theoretically at least, huge advantages in crossover linearity and driver integration. However, several have commented here and elsewhere that the D5Ks are the weak link in Meridian's DSP speaker line up. Further, others have felt that the differences between them and the M60s are very small, especially given the fact that the M60s are significantly cheaper than the D5Ks. This was going to be an interesting audition...

    The demo was performed at Technosound in Milton Keynes. I made sure I hadn't eaten beforehand - hearing is dulled after a main meal. The shape of the demo room wasn't ideal (say 12' front-to-back and 18' wide) as it doubled as an HT demo room lengthways. The source was a Red Book CD 16-bit/44kHz feed from the coaxial output of a Meridian G08. I brought in my trusty Meridian 518 for control and de-jittering and my 566/24-bit DAC. The 518 was configured in emphasis mode with "High Pass" dither, the recommended configuration for a step-up in dynamic resolution. The demoed systems were therefore:

    G08 --16-bit--> 518 --24-bit--> 566 --> M60 (.2 apparently)
    G08 --16-bit--> 518 --18-bit--> DSP5000 Mk1 (no 96/24 upgrade).

    Both sets of speakers were set 2' or so out from the walls and the D5K's bass boundary condition was set for "Free" which with hindsight was questionable. I didn't realize this until after the audition.

    I had two hours of playing time during which I used a single demo CD. The individual tracks were ripped from the original CDs using EAC and saved as uncompressed WAVs before burning to a CD-R. I'm not going to apologize for my mainstream and/or 80's taste! The main thing is that I know all of the tracks very well and chose them all for specific reasons, outlined below:

    Eric Clapton/Unplugged/Layla
    Acoustic guitar / vocals

    David A. Stewart Featuring Candy Dulfer/Lily Was Here
    Acoustic guitar / saxophone.

    John Lennon/The John Lennon Collection/Imagine
    Awful recording, but the piano chords in the opening bars will show up any shortcomings in amplifier grip (as distortion).

    The Sisters Of Mercy/Floodland/1959
    Lovely clean piano coupled with seriously gravelly vocals.

    George Michael/Listen Without Prejudice/Cowboys and Angels
    GM's songs have always been dodgily produced IMO. Lots of low bass on this - electric on the intro and acoustic in the main.

    George Michael/Faith/Kissing A Fool
    One of his finest IMO. A beautiful ballad, again with lots of acoustic bass.

    Robbie Williams/Swing When You're Winning/It Was A Very Good Year
    A clean recording with Mr. Williams proving that he can sing. Then Sinatra's multi-textured voice kicks in. I've never heard anything like it.

    Sting/The Soul Cages/Mad About You
    Nice song, produced in "Q-Sound" whatever that is ;) I've always used it for demo'ing.

    Suzanne Vega/Solitude Standing/Luka
    Female vocals.

    Tracy Chapman/Tracy Chapman/Talkin' Bout A Revolution
    Female vocals + bass kicks in after 30 secs or so. A perennial demo song.

    Tracy Chapman/Tracy Chapman/Across The Lines
    Chapman's vocals are particularly strong here.

    Various Artists/Perfect Day '97
    A great opportunity to here many familiar voices quickly.

    U2/Achtung Baby/One
    Bono's vocals on show. Do they cut the mustard?

    Bruce Springsteen/Greatest Hits (Bruce Springsteen)/Born To Run
    Will the Meridians rock?

    Kylie Minogue/Can't Get You Out Of My Head
    Will the Meridians party?

    Beethoven/Barenboim/Moonlight Sonata 3rd movement.
    Dynamic piano.

    First up, the M60s.

    • Layla - sounded excellent, the guitar really coming across crystal. This is a good recording so I'd have been surprised if it hadn't. Clapton's voice was very clear.
    • Lily Was Here - confirmed what I already knew about the recording - the guitar sounds clear enough, but the sax sounds a little smoothed over - not as sharp as I'd like.
    • Imagine - very very impressed with the driver control during those opening chords. These speakers have superb bass.
    • 1959 - piano and vocals considerably better than my existing system. The extra bass ambiance really makes a difference.
    • Cowboys And Angels - Bass excellent.
    • Kissing A Fool - Bass excellent. The very final note of the song was about as realisic a plucked double bass note as I've heard from a loudspeaker.
    • It Was A Very Good Year - Robbie sounds good. Frank sounds, um, not as velvety as I thought he should. Hmm.
    • Mad About You - Nothing special vs. my existing system.
    • Luka - Hmm. Suzanne Vega sounds a little shut in.
    • Talkin' Bout A Revolution - Ditto Tracy Chapman. Her voice is just not as sharp as I'm used to. Bass great. These speakers can really play a bass tune.
    • Across The Lines - Ditto.
    • Perfect Day '97 - Alarm bells. Bowie sounded muddled. Muddled to the point that despite the bass, I have concerns.
    • One - Nothing special.
    • Born To Run - I know this is a slightly muddled/dulled recording, but I wasn't moved. Uninspiring.
    • Can't Get You Out Of My Head - Really concerned now. The techno-beat should sound really punchy and it's not. This is a song I really enjoy, but it's just not happening.
    • Moonlight Sonata - Good dynamics, but the piano just doesn't have the attack and immediacy that I think it should (and that I'm used to).

    Summary: After 75 minutes of listening, these are impressive speakers. Such an elegant package, great dynamics and oodles of real tight tuneful bass. BUT. There's something not quite right in the presence band. Voices are not as clear and crisp as I think they should and want them to be. They seem to be softened somehow; not sharp enough. Could I live with this? I doubt it.

    Now the DSP5000s

    • Moonlight Sonata - OK. This is good. Very good. Much more attack.
    • Layla - Good, though I'm not sure better than the M60s. Clapton's voice does sound clearer though.
    • Lily Was Here - OK. I'm not hearing things. The sax is definitely a little more "raw". Clearly still a smooth sax/mouthpiece combination though.
    • Imagine - Hmm. The D5Ks are not as impressive as the M60s in terms of driver grip in the bass. It's not bad and I wouldn't say that the drivers are out of control. Just not as in control as the M60s.
    • 1959 - Better than the M60 in every department. Clearer piano and vocals.
    • Cowboys And Angels - Bass very good, if maybe not quite as good as the M60s.
    • Kissing A Fool - Ditto. That final bass note didn't seem quite as crisp. It wasn't at all bad though. Note: tried again with bass set at -2dB and sounded better.
    • It Was A Very Good Year - Oh my. There will never be another Sinatra!
    • Mad About You - Fine.
    • Luka - Much better. Voice much crisper.
    • Talkin' Bout A Revolution - Ditto.
    • Across The Lines - Ditto.
    • Perfect Day '97 - Phew. Bowie's back to his textured normal voice. Elton sounds pretty good too as do the rest of the cast...
    • One - Bono can sing. This is the best I've ever heard "One".
    • Born To Run - Bruce rocks.
    • Can't Get You Out Of My Head - Yeah!

    Summary: I'd have to admit that, on the basis of the demo and in this demo room, the M60s are better in the bass than the D5Ks, although I found no evidence that the M60s actually went lower - "Cowboys and Angels" would have demonstrated that. But, in my opinion, the M60s have weaknesses at the mid/treble crossover that I could not live with. On the other hand, the D5Ks have the best mid/treble I have heard, coupled with more than adequate bass - bass I could live with.


    Well here was a turn-up for the books! Everything I'd read suggested that the M60s would be "the ones" and that the D5Ks would be an over-priced disappointment. My ears heard otherwise and the differences to me were clear and unambiguous. More to the point, the D5Ks sounded "right" to me and I have no doubt that the differences were due to a "perfect" digital crossover between the tweeter and the mid/bass driver producing a crisp, even, linear and non-recessed presence band.

    What is interesting is that if you add the cost of my DAC to the cost of the M60s, you come to the same cost as the D5Ks. So they're not actually more expensive in this like-for-like comparison. It was a no brainer. I am now the proud owner of those DSP5000s.


    They sound even better at home now that I've set them up properly from scratch. The bass is far tighter in my larger listening room with the boundary condition set for "Boundary". Absolutely the right buy. Fantastic! ;)

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