The Meridian Exlorer is a tiny US DAC for upgrading your audio, but is it worth your cash? T3 took a closer look to find out
The Meridian Explorer is a Mac styled USB sized dongle - an audiophile upgrade for your Mac or PC, desktop or laptop.
Seizing music files from your hard drive via USB, it puts them through a digital to analogue converter that is so superior to the one in your computer, it's embarrassing.
First, you'll need a pair of headphones that cost at least as much as the Meridian Explorer, say Philips Fideilo X1s or Sennheiser Momentums.
You'll also need some decent Apple Lossless CD rips and 24 bit Flac files to hear the benefit in the most obvious way too. There's many programs which deal with Flac files on a Mac (iTunes doesn't) which are good and relatively cheap from £3 app Golden Ear to 59 Euros for Audirvana.
Meridian Explorer: Setup
Mac set up is easy but you'll need a driver on a PC. Once the short set-up is complete, however, this is a neat desktop hi-fi system. The next best solution starts at three times the price for a streaming amplifier so while the price looks expensive for the size, there's real quality in the dinky stick.
Meridian Explorer: Sound quality
The real bonus of the Explorer is all about detail and clarity. A 24 bit Flac file of Little Acorns by The White Stripes reveals every nuance of piano and spoken word intro and, similarly, tracks the strutting distortion and feedback alongside the power chords.
Without the Explorer, such complex production is a single, untextured wall of sound through a laptop headphones socket. The jerky pop punk posturing of Still Into You by Paramore offers thumping pace and clear percussion, from bells to digital loops of computer noise.
A hi-fi system equivalent starts at three times the price of the Explorer, which makes the price tag an impressive achievement. There'a an optical out for feeding your digital music to a hi-fi too which is a unique and valuable extra for home office audiophiles on a budget.
Meridian Explorer: Verdict
You're selling your music short if you use decent headphones and don't have an Explorer on your desk. If you want to get hi-fi sound without the expense or bulk of an amp, this is the easiest solution.
Old school audiophiles may wince at the lack of a full size amp but for a home office desktop audiophile compromise, you can't argue with the Explorer against lesser audio from your iPhone or Android smartphone.
Meridian Explorer release date: Out now
Meridian Explorer price: £249