Meridian Audio DSP9 Loudspeaker First Look Review
Steve May has his ears caressed by the most advanced speaker ever produced by this high-end British specialist brand…
DSP9 Floorstanding Loudspeaker
When formally unveiled at the Munich High End Show earlier this year, Meridian's new DSP9 flagship active loudspeaker was greeted with a chorus of appreciation. The latest escapee from its Extreme Engineering Programme, this premium performer builds on technologies developed for the towering DSP8000 XE but introduces new industrial design and a bucket load of big audio science.
The thing is, when Meridian pulled the German drapes away, the speaker wasn't quite ready for prime time – the Munich model lacked the final tuning and bass extension of the finished product. So, with both now complete, I was eager to get first dibs on a demo of the finished article. I duly hightailed it to the brand's Huntingdon HQ for a listening session over sandwiches…
Spoiler alert: This loudspeaker sounds sensational. Up close, the DSP9 is surprisingly compact for a megabuck Meridian floorstander. It doesn't dominate like an Easter Island statue, but nor is it a lightweight. Weighing 68kg apiece, this big box is definitely a two-man lift.
The cabinet's careful curvature isn't just cosmetic; it has a purpose. It is claimed to minimise unwanted sonic diffraction so that the best can be had from its next-gen drive units. The curvature also helps break up standing waves inside the cabinet, resulting in a cleaner midrange performance, says Meridian. Unseen inside, a brace separates the bass section from mid and high frequencies to reduce any unwanted interaction. Thanks to its wide dispersion capabilities, the DSP9 doesn't require much of a toe-in.
The speaker utilises a 25mm beryllium dome tweeter with silver voice-coil custom waveguide, 160mm Evo midrange driver and four 200mm subsonic bass units. The tweeter and midrange cones each receive 150W into 4 ohms, while 240 watts go to each of the bridged bass woofers. Using clever signal processing, mid and high frequencies can be delayed so that they all work in concert by the time the bass drivers are moving. This Full Frequency Alignment technique ensures mid and high frequencies leave the speaker simultaneously.
What about the boring practicalities? Well, the new cabinet aesthetic certainly makes the DSP9 more room-friendly, but it still has a fairly generous footprint. Interior designers will still love it, not least because Meridian's Select finishing service can accommodate a veritable rainbow of colours, be they finished in matte or gloss.
While, in all likelihood, the DSP9 will find itself used in a Meridian ecosystem, an analogue input module is available that allows it to be fed from any non-Meridian product or system that features a balanced or unbalanced line-level analogue output.
The speaker's broad axis dispersion is also very room-friendly. There's a novel technology dubbed Image Focus Plus onboard, which lets you take the central image – perhaps the vocal – and steer it to the left or right speaker, which is helpful if the room isn't symmetrical. You can even change the height to better align with your listening position. This may not be a purist approach but it is eminently practical in the real world.
Top-line characteristics include superb resolution, incredible mid/low synchronicity and uncanny bass extension. Bass is phenomenal, tight and fast. The DSP9 can play below 15Hz, even with just 200mm woofers. Hearing Phil Collins sing I Don't Care Anymore, I feel like I'm discovering the dynamics of this classic pop track for the first time. To prove a point about the speaker's extended bass, I cue up Radiohead's sub-bass belter, 15 Step. The beat is physical, and the soundstage huge. Yet, for all this, the speaker remains brilliantly balanced and exhibits amazing delicacy. This is driven home by Anette Askvik's Liberty, which sounds almost three-dimensional. The amount of detail that the big Meridian presents is extraordinary. Eyes shut, it feels like I can reach out and touch this track's signature saxophone.
The DSP9 sounds taller, deeper, and wider than it has any right to. Cowboy Junkies' Mining for Gold, which features a superb female vocal captured in a huge church, has three-dimensional ambience, as does Anna Lapwood's monstrous organ on Chevaliers De Sangreal. Even at high volume, this speaker never sounds stressed; there always seems to be headroom, more room to flex if required. And believe me, I was listening loud at about seventy percent total volume. If you do abuse the speaker, thermal protection is built in. If it gets too hot, it intelligently drops the volume to let things cool down.
Interestingly, the step-up DSP8000 XE doesn't have the bass extension of the DSP9, but only from a software perspective. I'm told that a firmware update will grant it extra bass slam before the year is out. So, am I impressed? You betcha!
With the new DSP9, Meridian has created something seriously special. Should you be fortunate enough to be contemplating purchasing a genuinely high-performance, cost-no-object loudspeaker, then an audition is highly recommended.
Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist. Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, Steve is also the editor of the lifestyle website The Luxe Review and has an unconditional love of glam rock.
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