Meridian 598 SACD DVD-A/V Player
One of the most impressive features with the 598 is its proprietary MHR Smart Link connection, allowing the 598 to send multi-channel digital signals to Meridian preamp/processors. This is the first such connection to be officially sanctioned by the music industry for DVD-Audio. This is ultra-cool, as it allows the digital signal to be transferred losslessly directly to the surround processor. Without this link, the music industry forces manufacturers to output digital at either 48 kHz or 44.1 kHz, whereas the 598 can output 24-bit 96 kHz signals directly to Meridian processors. It also avoids an unnecessary level of analog to digital conversion found in all non-digitally connected DVD-Audio systems, which noticeably and negatively affects your sound. Additionally, the benefit of a direct digital connection applies to standard CDs, which the 598 will automatically upsample to 24/96 kHz. This is only the beginning. When paired with either the Meridian 568.2 or 861, the processor will recognize any type of disc that you place in the 598 and will use your programmed defaults in the preamp. If you put in a DTS-encoded disc, it will recognize this and default to the programmed presets that you have selected for playing this format. The same goes for movies and music on any digital disc. The Meridian 568.2 and 861 have Meridian’s unique software, which allows you to program different settings with a PC for each of these formats, including speakers to be used, output levels to the speakers, sub levels, and more. With this link, you can set the processor to play all standard CDs in Trifield, play in a matrix surround or default to two-channel stereo. You simply place a disc in the 598 and push Play, and the system will recognize and set up the rest. The ease of use of this component is nothing short of refreshing.
|Product Name||Meridian 598 SACD DVD-A/V Player|
The Meridian 598 plays seemingly every current digital format, with the notable exception of SACD, the competing format that has been entrenched in an ugly battle with DVD-Audio for the title of “the next CD.” While Meridian is certainly rooting for DVD-Audio to win the format war, they are also in the electronics business and need to sell good amounts of high-dollar gear to grow and thrive. If this ultimately means making an SACD player, then who knows, someday they may. As far as the 598 goes, it is designed to play everything but SACD at the highest possible level possible at this price point.
Some music enthusiasts wonder why Pioneer, Denon and others can make a combo player for under $1,000 that plays both DVD-Audio and SACD. The problem with an ultimate level combo player, and “ultimate level” is certainly where Meridian comes in, is the fact that DSD and PCM are technologies that require basically different signal paths and processing. Some much less expensive combo units convert DSD to PCM as a way to keep costs down and convenience high, but some mixing engineers say that this conversion defeats many of the advantages of SACD. A combo DVD-Audio/SACD player from Meridian would likely cost a fortune at retail, because they would keep the PCM and DSD pure. Meridian has said if they were ever to make an SACD player, it would be its own component, going on to remind us that four of the five major record labels (WEA, EMI, BMG and recently UMG) are at some level publicly supporting DVD-Audio and that DVD-Audio is going to win. I guess everyone plays their politics when they get the chance.