CES 2010 Las Vegas - Meridian Audio will go to International CES to upgrade a wide variety of its high-end audio components with new performance and convenience features.
Select components for the first time, for example, will control a networked Meridian-Sooloos music server via a home's Ethernet network. Upgrades to the Sooloos networked music server add the ability to stream Internet radio stations and the Rhapsody music service for the first time. And the company is expanding its proprietary 96kHz/24-bit SpeakerLink digital connections to more of its electronic components.
SpeakerLink delivers balanced 96kHz/24-bit digital audio and control signals over up to 300 feet over CAT-5e RJ-45-terminated cable to select Meridian active DSP speakers. SpeakerLink also delivers digital control signals in the RS-232, IR and Meridian Comms formats to the DSP speakers. It eliminates signal losses and coloration induced by analog signals riding on a cable, and it simplifies cable connections because Meridian DSP speakers can be daisychained to avoid home-running cable from each speaker to a Meridian component, the company said. Before SpeakerLink was introduced in 2008, Meridian home-runned encrypted 96kHz/24-bit SPDIF digital audio to each speaker from one of its electronics components, while proprietary Meridian Comms analog-control signals were sent over a separate cable home to each speaker, also in home-run configuration.
For the first time, SpeakerLink outputs come to the G68 and G61R surround controllers and to the 861 Reference Surround Controller, which is a multichannel preamp/processor and controller. All get an eight-channel SpeakerLink output.
Other new outputs on the 861 include improved analog outputs on optional cards. New inputs include a proprietary MMHR input, which accepts up to eight channels of copy-protected audio from Meridian's HD621 HDMI audio processor. The HD621 extracts audio from the HDMI data stream of a video source and sends the audio over a separate connection to a surround controller, eliminating the artifacts caused by sending audio and video over the same cable. The 861 also gets an improved analog inputs card and new optional digital input cards.
In the new 808.3 third-generation Reference CD Player with integrated preamplifier, the company is adding higher quality A/D conversion on the analog inputs and adding a SpeakerLink
input. The SpeakerLink input could be used, for example, to more easily connect the audio output of Meridian's Sooloos music server. Currently, the outgoing 808.2 Reference CD Player connects to the server via SP/DIF cable for digital audio and via separate Meridian Comms control cable.
For the 861 Reference Surround Controller and for the 808.3 Reference CD Player, the company is launching an optional Sooloos Solo card, enabling them to render and control music from the company's Sooloos Digital Media System via a simple Ethernet network connection.
For its part, the company's music server system is also getting upgrades. The server systems' components include the $5,500-suggested Meridian-Sooloos Control 10 touchscreen music-server controller. It features 17-inch LCD display and a slot-load CD drive to play and rip discs simultaneously into the FLAC and MP3 formats. The screen connects to one or more separately sold TwinStore hard-drive storage units placed anywhere on a home's standard TCP/IP Ethernet network. The Control 10 touchpanel in turn connects to legacy audio equipment with its SPDIF or Speakerlink audio outputs. The five-output $4,000 Ensemble component can be added to integrate with installed multiroom-audio systems. The TwinStore sells for $2,750, excluding two $180-each 1TB hard drives, one used for backup.
Version 2.1 software, due in January, will upgrade the server system to stream Internet radio stations and the Rhapsody subscription streaming service, improve the Control 10 user interface, add a play count feature that sorts songs by how often they've been played back, and a dedicated iPhone Remote Control Application. The new software will organize Internet radio stations by genre, with stations getting priority based on stream quality and number of listeners. Users can also enter a URL on the Control 10 touchpanel to find a station.
The new software will also integrate the album art and metadata of locally stored songs with the album art and metadata of previously streamed Rhapsody songs designated as favorites by the user. The integrated album-art display will enable consumers to click on the cover art of a Rhapsody-stored song to stream it without having to remotely browse the Rhapsody user interface.
Another Version 2.1 feature, called Zone Link Synchronization, links multiple Control 10 touchpanels together so they play the same song simultaneously in different rooms.
A new Crestron software module speeds up the display of album art and metadata on small Crestron touchpanels.
Like before, the server system can stream music to a networked PC, Mac, or Linux netbook and transfer songs from a networked PC or Mac for centralized local storage.