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Processers - Arcam vs Meridian vs Chord

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by Tacitus, Oct 20, 2004.

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  1. Tacitus

    Tacitus
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    Hi guys, I am looking for advice about whether or not to splash out and upgrade my Arcam AV8 processor to either a Chord DSP8000 or the Meridian 861. The new Chord version is the old 8000 effectively reduced in price to £6k and would provide balanced connections to the new Chord 1200E I am getting to drive my front two speakers (B&W Signature 805's) and I hoped a better pre-amplifier for music. The same goes for the Meridian, which according reviews and peoples views appears to be the best on the market right now. The question I have though is whether the extra cash is really worth it. It is going to be almost impossible to try out the Meridian with my system - although the Chord is possible. Does anybody have any experience with these processors, thoughts, or advice. Thanks for your help.

    Cheers
    Michael
     
  2. ianh64

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    You may like to tender responses for the Meridian 861 on the unofficial Meridian web site. Whilst most forum members are Meridian owners, you should get an honest selection of answers.

    You mention about the extra cash of the Meridian. Are you aware that this unit is configurable and that additional cards are likely to require to be factored into the base unit price? Members of the above web site can also give decent advice on configuration and what versions of 861 offer what - it is currently at V4 but the base unit remains the same.

    -Ian
     
  3. marck

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    Have you also considered the Krell Showcase processor, or even the more expensive HTS unit.
     
  4. Knightshade

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    Linn Kisto may also be worth a look.
     
  5. Tacitus

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    Thanks for the replies - I am still thinking about the Krell HTS, and have not totally discounted it, do you think its in the same league as the Meridian? Obviously Krell has a good name, but that doesn't necessarily mean they produce good digital processors. I have not heard of the Linn Kisto though, I will check it out. Also thanks ianH4 for the Meridian link I will follow up with them as well. I talked to a guy tonight who has the Chord processor, and although he said it was very good, I didn't get the impression that he was excited about it, perhaps it was typical British understatement. He was using it more for its analogue capabilities with respect to vinyl, and told me he would have opted for Meridian if he was into CD - which I am.
     
  6. marck

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    The Krell HTS is an amazing processor - the preamp for pure two channel is superb too. The only processor I have heard that is better is the Theta Casablanca - but then that is £12k basic build!!
     
  7. hilljd

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    Hi Tacitus,

    I should be picking up my new Chord 8000 R either Friday or Monday. Never even seen one in the flesh, let alone heard one, bough it mainly because I'm hoping the analog bypass will be really good. Plus, of course, it's just sooo sexy, ver high WAF in my case ;) . I've rather lost faith in the 'all digital' approach typified by Meridian, just how good can the DACs in a HT processor be? As far as I'm aware only the Theta offers the option of truly excellent stereo DACs, and at a way high price, and no Theta dealer over here.

    Can't comment on the 861, but I have had a G68 at home. Nice machine, though the box is a bit cheapo (composite, not metal). Sonically it was significanly better than my current AV32R SP, but to me at least it still sounded rather digital, a bit light, and shouty at high volume. The reference for what I'm after was a chord DAC / 3200 analog pre combination I borrowed for a month. A different league entirely.

    BTW I too have a 1200E and Nautilus speakers... :smashin:

    Jeremy
     
  8. jacovn

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    I own a 861v4 so if i you have any questions i can try to answer them.
    I have never compared it chord products.

    I think it also depends on what you want.
    For multi channel movie and DVD-A the Meridian products are very good. If you play a CD it is also very good.
    But if you plan to play SACD, you are forced to A/D the signal since there is no analogue passthrough. There is 96/24 A/D (also 6 channel) with high quality A/D converters, and people on the Meridian forum have tested it against a complete analogue path and did feel there is (almost) no difference. (you gain time alignment and bass management if the SACD player does not do that for you)

    Since you seem to use a 2 channel setup you perhaps better off spending less money for 2 channel gear have the same the quality (perhaps better if you play LP's)

    I own the unit for 5 years now and am still happy with it. Have upgraded it from 2.5 to 3 to 4 (hardware upgrades) and have seen a number of software only upgrades that brought EX/EZ/PL2/PL2x
    Meridian is not the quickest with bringing you the upgrades, but the are free (my feeling is you paid already for them with the original purchase...)

    Jaco
     
  9. cameronl

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    what is wrong with the AV8? if its only the music side then why not keep the AV8 for movies and invest in a high end preamp?

    CaM
     
  10. lowrider

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    I have the Krell Showcase, great for music, surprised many audiophile friends who came and listened... :cool:
     
  11. Kenny Glasgow

    Kenny Glasgow
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    ..........and not forgetting the TAG AV192R............ :thumbsup:
     
  12. Peter Baker

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    Not to mention the Bryston, or parasound, or indeed my own choice the Proceed. All of these have a great rep for music
     
  13. Tacitus

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    Once again thanks for the great replies. It is all so confusing, but fun to play around with. Today I visited a shop in London and had a demo of the new Classe range with the 805 signature speakers and a decent sub. It is really beautiful looking stuff - it will definitly pass the wife test! I was very very impressed with the sound. Diana Krall was on CD playing a piano, and I swore I was in the room with her (I wish!). They have released a new processor and also a new universal transport that does CD, SACD, and DVD video. Judging by what I heard today these new toys will be really high quality. Apparently the second in command at Mark Levinson had a falling out and joined Classe and is behind the design of this new kit. Jeremy can you let us know what you think of the Chord processor when you've had a chance to play around with it. I am really eager to know your views. Jacovn thanks for the information about the Meridian. I know its terrific gear and know its up there with the best.

    Cheers
    Michael
     
  14. Njål

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    Where did you get that idea? Lyric HiFi in Torggata in Oslo sell Theta (and are the outlet of T.A. Import, the official importer of Theta in Norway).
    While the owner is a good friend, and I would probably get a good price if I bought Theta gear, I must still say I prefer the sound of Meridian processors.
     
  15. hilljd

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    Hi Njål,

    So Lyric do still sell Theta. AZ thought he had dropped them, and with no prices listed on the web pages I assumed it was true. Oh well, too late now!

    Interesting that you prefer Meridian, I always assumed that the Casablanca was the last word in AV processors. At that price it should be...

    Still no 8000, hopefully today.
     
  16. stormyuklondon1

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    .... or lexicon mc8. the most impressive processor ive ever heard:thumbsup:
     
  17. Peter Baker

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    ... but not all that great for music, IMHO
     
  18. hilljd

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    The 8000 finally arrived yesterday. One short evening with it is obviously not enough for any kind of review, so this is just first impressions.

    Build quality is just what you would expect from Chord, a stunning box. But it's quite big, and very deep with the connector panel extension at the back. Only just fits in my rack (time for a new one methinks :) ). The display is very legible, but a bit basic, and not a patch on the sooo sexy G68 panel. Lack of a volume knob is a minor pain, but that's the tradeoff with the R version. Also you don't get the alloy remote with the R, just a plastic version. This is my first touchscreen job, and it's none too impressive, quite fiddly in fact. Perhaps it just takes some getting used to.

    Setup was not a simple as it could have been, mostly because of my remote fumbling. Just set speaker distances and levels, and ignored the source setup. Turns out it wasn't really necessary anyway, the processor automatically detects when one of the inputs becomes active, and figures out what the bitstream format is. Nice.

    CD replay via the processor DACs was a surprise. Compared to an original 2001 AV32R SP the 8000 has far superior bass and high definition, better midrange detail, and is generally much more even and coherent. In this respect it is comparable to what I remember of the G68; refined and detailed, as a result I guess of much better DA conversion. But that's where the comparison ends, as the two are very different in the overall tonality of their presentation. The G68 is rather 'up front' and direct, lively but somewhat forwards. The 8000 is positively relaxed in comparison, with a fuller sound, almost a touch of midrange 'bloom'. The detail is all there, it just doesn't stick out quite so much, making it sound less digital. As it happens that's what I'm after, so for me at least I think this was the right choice.

    Didn't really get around to testing DD/DTS properly, but voices were exceptionally clear. Didn't test the bypass at all. If anyone is interested I can do a proper review after a couple of weeks use. Hope that much was of some use.

    Jeremy.
     
  19. danny daniell

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    Jeremy,
    the chord sounds like it would suit my speakers down to the ground.I have found them to be a bit lacking in the upper bass,& the midrange "bloom" of the Chord could possibly counteract that.By the way,what is the rest of the kit you are using? Look forward to your review. :)

    Regards Dan
     
  20. hilljd

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    Quick update for those interested.

    The 'midrange bloom' turned out to be 'Bass Enhancement'. :blush: A nifty little feature, seems to have been left on after testing. Don't think I'll be enabling that again.

    Now it sounds generally very neutral, perhaps still slightly on the warm side but not much. It's very sweet at normal DVD volumes, around -12 to -8, not at all aggressive, just detailed and involving. I think for film it's as good as one could need, and I suspect most of the latest generation players have similar performance. I actually wonder if the new processors are getting so good that we are reaching the limits of what the AC3 audio bitstream is capable of.

    But as always CD is a different matter. Again, very good at normal to loud listening levels, though that obviously varies from disc to disc. Crank it up and, no surprise, it begins to lose the plot and symbols start to splash and the midrange spits a bit. Still, it is good for about 4db more that the TAG was capable of, which is quite a lot. Most CDs will play fine up to -12 or so, and I managed to get Rush up to -2 and Garbarek to 0 without any digital nasties, so it ain't bad at all.

    Very noticeable improvement with poor source material; the radio via satellite sound _much_ better. Also the video switching circuits seem more transparent, as the satellite picture seems better.

    Then, finally, I got the analogue bypass working. Turns out it only works on the one pair of balanced inputs and the balanced outputs. Manual doesn't mention the latter, and does say the 7.1 RCA inputs can also be bypassed, but I can't see how. Whatever, it works now. With a DSC 900 DAC in bypass mode there was an improvement with CD, but only just. Not quite what I was hoping for. But, have to reserve judgement for now and do some proper testing the coming weekend. Hopefully I can loan a DAC 64 and Blu transport, then test it in Chord's 'recommended configuration'. I'll also try and compare it directly with a 3200 pre.

    So, a nice processor, but verdict remains open for CD in bypass. Danny, rest of the system is TAG DVD32R transport, Chord SPM 1200E/1200C/603 powers and Nautilus 802/804/HTM1/HTM2 speakers.

    Jeremy
     
  21. Knightshade

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    Hi Jeremy,
    My money would be on the 3200 for direct CD. Be interested to hear your results though. Let me know if you find you use the buffer on the DAC 64 when it's hooked up to the Blu.
    Cheers

    Knight
     
  22. hilljd

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    Hi,

    My money was also on the 3200, but in the end it was too close to call. In a couple of tests I thought the 3200 just had it, but it was nothing repeatable.

    What's interesting was how close it all was. Blu/DAC64 on bypass is clearly better than the processed signal, but it's no quantum leap. Still not sure what to make of this, maybe it just shows how good the 8000 is, or maybe some other part of the system is the limiting factor now. But, the Choral stuff was brand new, and I'm not sure 36 hours was enough to really run it in. Looks like I'll get to keep them for a few more days at least so things could change.

    As for the Choral pair, out of the box on the BNC input the DAC was quite sharp, and it didn't improve much during the first day. Using max buffering helped a lot on this input, but it was still nowhere near as good as the optical connection. With optical the buffer setting seemed to make no difference.

    They are gorgeous little boxes though, more like jewelry than electronics. Pictures just don't do them justice.

    Jeremy
     
  23. akwatters

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    If it helps, or maybe just increases the confusion, I have auditioned the Chord DSP8000 (had one at home for about 2 months), Lexicon MC-8 (had one at home for about 3 months), Bryston SP 1.7 (1.5 hours at a dealers) and a Krell Showcase (2 hours at a dealers) before choosing a TacT RCS 2.2x (I plan on upgrading to the TCS when I can afford some more speakers!). They all had great qualities, my second favourite being the Chord; the TacT won out on clarity, detail, control and great soundstage.
     

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