The Short Form
|Price $8,495 / meridian-audio.com / 404-344-7111|
|A powerfully high-end, intelligently simplified (and regally priced) single-component A/V system.|
|•Nompact, high-power, one-box solution
•Superb sound. Superb picture
•1080p scaling to HDMI of all video
•Gorgeous elegance, both formal and functional
|•No HDMI input or analog multichannel input for high-def disc or audio playback
•Limited surround-mode choices
•Limited DVD fast-search speeds
|•100 watts x 5
•Integral slot-load DVD player
•1 component-, 2 composite-, 3 S-video inputs; 4 digital audio, 3 stereo analog audio inputs; 5.1-channel analog audio outputs
•1080p scaling on HDMI output (1080i on component video)
•AM/FM RDS tuner with 30 nameable presets
•IR in, 12-volt trigger, RS-232 serial, Meridian COMMS ports
•9-component, programmed/learning tabletop remote
•17.4 x 3.5 x 13.75 in; 30 lb
|The G95 measured excellently in every test. Power was nearly spot-on its 100-watt spec, though it fell a bare 0.8 dB short with 5 channels driven. Its Class D amps remained at virtually the same temperature (warm, but not hot) whether idling all day or driven to the verge of clipping for long periods. The unit also measured better than theoretically perfect on our dithered-silence S/N test; I've no explanation, though it may have to do with how the G95 oversamples and otherwise manipulates signals in the digital domain.
Full Lab Results
Still, these are minor points. At its best, Trifield can do glorious work. Feeling that a bit of English music was in order, I cued up a CD of William Walton's great oratorio Belshazzar's Feast. The choral Section 5 ("Praise ye ...") is Very Big Music, and the G95 produced truly big sonics, with a broad, sweeping, seamless soundstage and impressively natural depth. The sweetness of the massed sopranos, even in full cry, was only one of the factors that confirmed this to be indisputably high-end playback, from the CD drive right through to the amplifier outputs.
As noted, the G95's Cinema mode is automatically fixed onto most Dolby Digital or DTS multichannel bitstreams, whether from the internal DVD transport or an external source. (The sole exception was DTS 5.1 music CDs, which invoked Meridian Discrete mode.) Cinema appears to pass Dolby Digital or DTS multichannel with little modification. However, I found that 5.1 material tended to be reproduced with slightly stronger surround channels than expected, so I ended up rolling these back 1.5 dB from their calibrated settings.
A DVD soundtrack like the one on Flags of Our Fathers - the American half of Clint Eastwood's bicultural Iwo Jima diptych and possibly the most sonically intense World War II pic ever - demands plenty from a surround system. The G95 re-created both its tough-to-take carnage and its clueless home-front with great impact and elegiac sweep. In Chapter 4, a flight of F4U Corsairs buzzes the flotilla, with roaring engines sweeping past cheering soldiers and plunging prows. On the Meridian, the effects were perfectly cohesive, totally spatial, and eminently powerful in placing the viewer right there on deck - precisely the filmmakers' intent, I'd warrant.
The G95's upscaled 1080p looked spectacular on my Samsung LCD TV. Meridian says it uses both its own processing and Faroudja's, which was good enough to make the CGI enhancement of Eastwood's long-shot invasion sequences perfectly obvious. The Meridian empowers you to adjust basic video settings for each source (including the internal DVD), though only when viewed on its HDMI output. Still, this is a potentially useful and high-quality extra.
With few exceptions, using the G95 was a pure pleasure. The stylish tabletop controller (designated "MSR+" for Meridian System Remote) is generously laid out and logically grouped, with nicely readable black-on-silver lettering. Its full key illumination is very slick (only the lettering lights up), but I found the blue lighting rather poor in contrast. Also, the controller emits a faint but annoying whine while its illumination is lit: 5 seconds, every time you touch a key.
Meridian has also clung to the original Philips logic for CD track advancement, which takes a bit of getting used to even for those of us who remember it. For example, to skip forward one track you press > while playing. Fortunately, the G95 transport controls behave conventionally with a DVD loaded, so movie playback will be more intuitive. While there are four different DVD slo-mo choices, only 2x and 8x fast-search options are offered, which I found a bit paltry. But again, I pick nits.
I would recommend Meridian's G95 unreservedly to those for whom money is simply not an issue - and those who choose one-touch simplicity and impeccable A/V performance over complexity or bleeding-edge compatibility. Meridian's one-box is a fully audio/videophile-grade solution whose elegance of form and function will be very hard to better.
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