Firmware updates for Explorer² and Prime Headphone Amplifier can be accessed directly by customers from the support section of the main website:
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An excellent headphone amp and DAC!
Personal listening, on headphones of one type or another, from simple earbuds
to sophisticated over-ear designs, is now one of the most common ways in which
we experience music. Whether it’s to enjoy music on the move or to listen without
disturbing others, headphone listening can put you in closer touch with your music
–if it is done properly.
Meridian’s Prime Headphone Amplifier represents headphone listening done right.
Connect your personal player, phone or other device via the 3.5mm stereo jack input,
or a high-quality analogue source via the phono connectors. Or connect a computer
or tablet via the USB input and enjoy digital and online sources with similar fidelity to
the award-winning Meridian Director DAC.
Whether you choose to listen on headphones because using loudspeakers is
impossible, or simply because you prefer it, Meridian’s new Prime Headphone
Amplifier is the answer. In addition to an extremely high quality analogue path that
is essentially remote-controlled from the front-panel for the shortest possible signal
path, and the ability to use almost any kind of headphones including separatelywired
types, the Prime Headphone Amplifier also includes unique Analogue Spatial
Processing to make headphone listening – sometimes criticised for sounding “in your
head” – into an experience much more like listening on loudspeakers
Meridian’s Prime Headphone Amplifier is a reference-quality analogue headphone
amplifier for almost all types of headphone, which replays audio from both analogue
and USB-based sources. Built into an elegant and compact new Allen Boothroyddesigned
metal case, Meridian’s Prime Headphone Amplifier also provides a
preamplifier output to drive an external audio system or analogue active loudspeakers.
The Prime Headphone Amplifier is designed to appeal to audio enthusiasts who
seek the highest possible performance from conventional analogue audio sources
including personal stereo players, or from a computer or tablet via USB, listening on
headphones, a conventional audio system or analogue active loudspeakers.
Plug in, turn on
Power the Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier with the wall-mounted supply
provided or, for even higher audio quality, use the Meridian Prime Power Supply. The
external power supply keeps AC noise well away from the pure analogue stages of the
Headphone Amplifier. The power button glows blue in standby, white when active.
Use the front-panel 3.5mm analogue jack socket for headphones fitted
with this connector. This provides a signal with an impedance (about
2Ω) suitable for the majority of this type of headphone – generally
in-ear types. If you have headphones fitted with a 1/4in jack, use one of
the two sockets indicated with a headphone icon (both can be used
simultaneously if desired). The impedance presented here is significantly lower (about
3mΩ) and is ideally suited to high-quality on- and over-ear headphone types.
In addition, if you have headphones wired with separate cords to left and right
earpieces to minimize crosstalk, use both 1/4in sockets. Standard stereo jacks are
required, with the left-hand channel connected to the tip of the connector and the
right-hand channel to the ring.
Connecting to an audio system
The rear-panel output phono sockets are designed to drive a power
amplifier or a pair of analogue active loudspeakers directly. As is the
case with all the outputs on the Prime Headphone Amplifier, the level
is adjusted with the front-panel potentiometer.
“Outside the Head” Analogue Spatial Processing
Most commercial recordings are made with loudspeaker listening in mind, where both
ears hear both loudspeakers with differing timing, levels and frequency response.
When listening on headphones, however, the left ear only hears the signal on the left
channel, and the right ear only the right.
The Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier includes two unique ‘Analogue Spatial
Processing’ (‘ASP’) modes that emulate the conditions of loudspeaker listening on
headphones, removing the familiar “in the head” effect many people experience with
headphone listening. This processing is carried out entirely in the analogue domain.
Which of the two settings, i or ii, you choose will be a matter of personal preference,
and may depend on the type of music or recording to which you’re listening. Binaural
recordings (made with a dummy head or similar technology) should be enjoyed with
processing off, and you may find that some types of recording, for example those
made with coincident microphones, sound better this way too.
You can turn off the preamplifier output when you are using the Headphone Amplifier
solely for headphone listening. Just hold down the power button until it glows green.
The Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier includes a USB mini-B type connector for
the replay of computer-based music sources.
True Asynchronous Class 2 USB audio device
The Prime Headphone Amplifier has extended digital bandwidth, playing audio up
to 192kHz sampling. You can plug it anywhere in your system – into a USB hub for
example – not only direct into the computer. The Headphone Amplifier includes dual
high-quality oscillators, based on those found in Meridian’s top-of-the-line Reference
Series components, so it can handle any standard sample rate up to 192kHz with
minimal jitter and thus improved clarity and stereo imaging.
Meridian Resolution Enhancement
Like Meridian’s Director, the Prime Headphone Amplifier’s USB input upsamples
44.1/48kHz sources to 88.2/96kHz prior to the DAC, using Meridian’s special
Apodising filter that audibly increases the quality of digital signals. You’ll find it
particularly noticeable on older digital recordings, where Apodising can clean up
artefacts resulting from earlier digital filters used in the recording process.
Powered only when you want it
The USB section of the Prime Headphone Amplifier is a true Class 2 USB audio device
and is powered entirely from the interface, with no additional power supply required.
Simply plug it in to any USB port. The USB conversion system is powered from the
interface, so that when it is disconnected, all digital circuitry in the unit is deactivated,
ensuring that no digital noise is introduced into the analogue circuitry.
Installation and digital operation
Please check the included User Guide for installation instructions. The installation
procedure is similar to other Meridian DAC products such as the Explorer and
Director. For Macintosh, no drivers are required. For Windows, you’ll need to
download a driver and follow the installation instructions – this is the same driver as
used by the Explorer and Director. After installation, you’ll need to select the device
in your computer’s sound preferences, and to listen to USB sources choose “USB” on
the Headphone Amplifier’s front-panel source selector.
You can increase the system’s replay quality still further by taking some simple
additional steps. See the following “For even better results” section for details.
Enjoying Digital Sources
Simply listening with the Prime Headphone Amplifier’s USB input, you’ll enjoy
improved quality from your computer-based media. But with a little additional
configuration, you can get even better results.
Use your internal audio for system sounds
Your computer makes various beeps and other sounds during operation. These are
mixed into the main audio signal, reducing its quality. In your Sound preferences,
either turn system sounds off or route them to a different output, such as your
internal computer loudspeakers.
Use your computer’s “Exclusive Mode”
“Exclusive Mode” bypasses the operating system’s audio processing, and connects
your media player direct to the Prime Headphone Amplifier. Look for it in your
player’s Preferences (you may have to adjust system audio preferences too).
Try a player that provides the highest quality
On Windows, look at the JRiver player: http://jriver.com/
On the Macintosh, try BitPerfect, a small app that runs alongside iTunes and provides
capabilities to improve its playback of audio files. You can get it from the App Store.