Incredibly Powerful Upgrade of a Bestselling Compact DAC
Meridian's Explorer2 is a portable, compact and rugged USB DAC designed to deliver best-in-class audio performance. Developed from the highly successful and acclaimed Explorer, Explorer2 features a significantly more powerful DSP capability than its predecessor, allowing the full range of Meridian enhancement technologies to be included, along with decoding and rendering for the MQA Master Quality Authentication process.
Explorer2 embodies sophisticated Meridian 'DNA' throughout. The design features a sophisticated six-layer circuit board, and audiophile-grade components are utilized throughout, including resistors, jacks, music grade electrolytics, and polypropylene filter capacitors. The use of direct-coupled outputs further maximizes audio quality.
Explorer2 was designed built in the UK in exactly the same way and with the same attention to detail and quality throughout as any other Meridian product.
Meridian Resolution Enhancement
Explorer2 includes significantly more DSP power than its predecessor, allowing the full suite of Meridian audio enhancement technologies to be included, which was not previously possible. The Explorer2 upsamples all input signal to 176.4/192kHz (4x standard sample rates) and includes Meridian's proprietary Apodising filter, which minimizes pre-ringing for a clearer, more transparent sound, while at the same time removing digital filter artifacts from earlier digital recordings so that they can actually sound better than they did in the studio.
The Explorer2 also features Meridian's approach to noise-shaping, which moves noise out of the audio band, increasing the audible signal to noise ratio.
Explorer2 features full audio performance at sample rates up to 192 kHz, 24-bit resolution. Explorer2 is completely asynchronous, using precision on-board low-jitter crystal oscillators for the base sample rates, developed from those used in Meridian's premium home entertainment systems.
These oscillators provide the master clocking for the entire playback system and eliminate all USB interface jitter. 'Isochronous' transfer ensures maximum bandwidth and low latency, the latter being significant when playing videos on the computer, for which audio and video must be in sync.
The DAC design also offers extremely low modulation noise and distortion for the ultimate in audio performance. The interface is USB Audio Class Compliant 2.0 HS, supporting data rates up to 480Mb/s.
Dual Auto-sensing Outputs
Two outputs are provided. A 3.5mm mini-plug headphone jack delivers up to 130mW of high-quality audio capable of driving even low-efficiency headphones. The volume is controlled from the host computer and is an advanced design with an extended range of 0 to –100dB. This level of variability suits all kinds of headphones, including the most sensitive types.
A second 3.5mm mini-plug jack provides a fixed-level analog (2v RMS) output for connection to an external audio system, connected directly to the DAC for bit-precise performance. This output delivers a fixed, full-level signal with no volume control, as is essential for an audio system where you need to ensure maximum signal to noise ratio and maximum use of digital resolution right through to the audio system's own volume control, which controls the level for all sources in the system.
Explorer2 automatically senses which output is in use and deactivates the headphone amplifier when the line output is connected, reducing noise.
A Higher Class of DAC
Explorer2 is a USB Class 2 device that works with the newer (2009) USB2 specification. This supports a transmission speed of 480Mb/s – 40 times faster than Class 1 – allowing Explorer2 to play 192 kHz audio streams and be tolerant of where it is connected, removing the need for direct or solitary connection to the PC.
Whether playing back as mp3 file or a high-resolution lossless file, Explorer2 will make any content sound its best, delivering a level of audio quality essentially limited only by the source material.
Three indicators show the status of the Explorer2. The LED furthest from the headphone jack illuminates white to indicate that the unit is operating (and playing PCM at 1x standard sample rates – 44.1/48kHz). The middle LED (2x standard rate) indicates 88.2/96kHz operation and the third LED 176.4/192kHz operation (4x).
Meridian Quality Authentication (MQA)
Explorer2 includes a powerful decoder and audio renderer for Meridian's exclusive Master Quality Authentication system, which verifies that MQA lossless audio files and streams sound exactly like the source. The 1x LED glows green to indicate that the unit is decoding and playing an MQA stream or file, and that the sound is identical to that of the source material. It glows blue to indicate that the Explorer2 is playing an MQA Studio file – i.e., one based on an exclusively sourced, artist/producer-approved studio master – with exactly the sound the production team intended.
Explorer2 connects to the computer via USB mini B connector and a cable – it does not plug directly into the PC like many other products. The use of a cable (included) instead of plugging direct into the PC minimizes the risk of damaging the PC motherboard if the product is accidentally knocked or the headphone cord is pulled.
Explorer2 connects to virtually any computer with a USB port. Drivers are provided for Windows. Macintosh and Linux operating systems allow simple plug-in and play operation. On the Macintosh, the Audio MIDI Setup utility is used to set the output sample rate. With Windows, the Sound control panel is used. Explorer2 requires Macintosh OS X 10.6.4 (Snow Leopard) or later, Linux kernel 2.6.37 or later, or Windows XP SP3, Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.
Despite its powerful output and performance capability, Explorer2 is entirely USB-bus powered. It is supplied in elegant presentation packaging and includes a short USB cable (longer cables may also be used) and a soft carrying pouch that stores both Explorer2 and cable.
Praise for the Original Model Meridian Explorer
"Very Highly Recommended"- Stereophile
"A remarkably good addition to a burgeoning field -- and an excellent value. Very highly recommended."
"The first serious listening I did with the Explorer was to the classic bluegrass album Appalachian Swing!, by the Kentucky Colonels, featuring Clarence and Roland White on guitar and mandolin, respectively (AIFF ripped from CD, Rounder SS31). The Meridian was instantly impressive, with a sense of scale that was pleasantly big but still appropriate to the ensemble and their setting. The original recording is a bit light, but the Meridian Explorer retrieved from it almost as much timbral color as one might hope for. The same was true with the weight and color of Roger Bush's double bass -- the Explorer was clear and unambiguous in portraying the pitches of individual bass notes, down to being coldly candid about Bush's dodgy intonation."
- Art Dudley, Stereophile, September 1, 2013
"Five Stars" from What Hi-fi? Magazine
"We’d highly recommend giving the Explorer an audition – it’s absolutely worth it."
- What Hi-fi? Magazine, February 2013
"The Explorer is a marvel of miniaturization and a shining example of design elegance, from its clean circuit-board layout to its machined-aluminum outer shell."
- TONEAudio magazine, February 2013
"In the grand scheme of all things digital in our world, Meridian Audio has long been at the forefront."
- HiFi+ magazine, February 2013
"This kind of even-handed presentation is usually reserved for more costly components in my experience and makes the Explorer a very reasonably priced over-achiever."
- AudioStream.com, February 2013
"Terms like all-metal enclosure, analog and hand-made may conjure up thoughts of exorbitant price tags (most often you’d be right) but Meridian proves that occasionally pigs do fly."
- Eric Yang, GearPatrol.com, February 2013
"It’s the performance we have come to expect from Meridian at an astonishing price. A visit to your Meridian dealer is in order. Decidedly brilliant."
- Frank Berryman, UltraHighEndReview.com, February 11, 2013
"Listening to the Cobb Quartet FLAC track, I heard excellent delineation of instruments in space, and there was a sense of an actual body blowing into a trumpet. Plucked strings during the guitar solo also had a rich, appealing texture. To sum up, the Explorer’s rendering of this track was nothing short of gorgeous."
- Al Griffin, Sound+Vision magazine, April 5, 2013
"Meridian has outdone itself… Functionally the Explorer does it all. A pocket-sized DAC capable of high resolution playback up through 24 bit / 192 kHz, user switchable firmware for customized feature sets, and great sound quality. The hat trick of external elegance, internal sophistication, and superior sonics put this product head and shoulders above the competition and places it on the CASH List."
- The Computer Audiophile, February 10, 2013
"Besides noticeably improving the sound of even compressed audio, the simple, portable design is beautiful and satisfying in a way that sometimes high-fidelity audio products aren't."
- Mario Aguilar, Gizmodo.com, February 2, 2013
|Write Your Own Review|
Initial impression; this is my first Meridian product and it initially appears to fully meet their stratospheric reputation. First class all the way from packaging to that most important metric: sound. Even Pandora Plus sounds good. Looking forward to Hi-Res and MQA...
|- Geoffrey D, FL|