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Meridian Direct DAC

Stereo digital-to-analog converter with asynchronous USB input

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  • Meridian Direct DAC

    Source LEDs, source selector button, and incoming sample rate indicators

  • Meridian Direct DAC

    Connected to a SONOS player (not included)

  • Meridian Direct DAC

    Connected to laptop computer (not included)

  • Meridian Direct DAC

    Interior component view

  • Meridian Direct DAC

    USB input, RCA audio output, and mini optical/coaxial digital input

 

Our take on the Meridian Direct DAC

by Dave Bar
Meridian

Enjoy greater realism from your digital music sources

Meridian Director connected to a laptop computer

Meridian Direct DAC connected to a laptop computer.

Attention music lovers! Meridian has given their superb Director digital-to-analog converter a new name: Direct DAC. But rest assured, the only thing that has changed is the name. You still get the exact same performance and features as the Director. Plug this compact, high-performance DAC in between your computer or digital music player and your hi-fi system, then sit back to experience improved sonic realism. The Direct DAC takes the place of the processor inside your player or PC, and precisely transforms the digital signals into rich, densely layered sound. Instruments gain harmonic complexity and vocals spring to life with the dynamics of a live performance.

Inside the Meridian Director

Audiophile-grade components help give the Direct DAC its impressive sound quality.

Crafted with care for better sound

Renowned for their state-of-the-art audio and video components, Meridian builds each Direct DAC by hand in Britain to the same exacting standards as all of their high-end products. Its elegant, anodized aluminum case comes packed with the highest quality components, including audiophile-grade capacitors, resistors, and gold-plated phono jacks to extract better sound from all your digital sources.

Hear the asynchronous USB difference

Standard USB outputs from most computers pose a serious limitation to sound quality. That's because while you're trying to listen to music, your PC is busy performing virus scans, data backup, and other background tasks that may take priority over your tunes, causing it to alter the data rate to suit its own needs. Unfortunately, this situation results in timing errors within the digital data stream — known as "jitter" — that adversely affect sound quality. Jitter can make your music sound harsh and edgy, and smear subtle details.

The Direct DAC solves this problem by reaching out to your computer through the USB interface, and instructing it to relinquish control of the data stream timing. In its place, this advanced DAC inserts its own separate, or asynchronous, clock to precisely control the timing of the data rate, reducing jitter to the vanishing point. You'll hear a stunning improvement in low-level ambient detail along with a wider, deeper soundstage. And since not all audio content is encoded at the same sample rate, the Direct uses two discrete onboard clocks to optimize itself for different types of audio files or streams, for even greater timing precision.

Praise for the Meridian Director (a.k.a. Direct DAC) from Sound & Vision

"The Director is the best under-$1,000 way to improve computer audio that I've heard so far."

— From Mark Fleischmann's review in Sound & Vision, December, 2013
Read the full review



High-res audio

Enjoy high-resolution audio

Along with all the sonic benefits the Direct DAC provides for your compressed and CD-quality music files, it also has another trick up its sleeve — it decodes high-resolution data streams of up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, so you can enjoy better-than-CD audio quality. (Free USB driver download required for Windows® PCs.) If you download high-res music files from HDtracks and other audiophile sources, this DAC will ensure that you hear them in all their glory. The Direct also upsamples all incoming 16-24bit, 44.1/48kHz digital audio to a 24-bit, 88.1/192kHz signal to resolve finer detail, even from compressed music sources.

Meridian Director inputs and outputs

The Direct DAC offers multiple digital inputs for your sound sources.

Flexible inputs for your gear

The Direct's multiple inputs are ready to take on your digital music sources, such as an Apple TV®, a Sonos® Connect, a game console, or even your old CD/DVD player. A 3.5mm hybrid jack provides input for S/PDIF digital signals, either coax (via a 3.5mm mono jack) or mini-optical. Two adapters are included: one allows standard coaxial S/PDIF RCA cables to be used with the Direct DAC while the other allows standard Toslink optical cables to be used.

A pair of gold-plated RCA outputs lets you connect the Direct to your home audio system's receiver or integrated amp. Or feed a set of powered speakers to create a high-end, compact desktop stereo.

See more info on this item

Highlights:

  • supports sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz for listening to high-resolution digital music sources
  • asynchronous USB technology for reduced timing jitter and better sound with computer audio sources
  • Meridian Resolution Enhancement technologies including up-sampling and apodizing filter
  • separate crystal oscillators for 44.1- and 48kHz-based sample rates offer minimal jitter and improved performance
  • incoming LED sampling rate indicators helps verify source quality
  • durable anodized aluminum case
  • 3.5mm S/PDIF digital audio input jack accepts mini coaxial or mini-optical connections (full-to-mini coax and optical adapters included)
  • USB (Type B) input for connection to a computer
  • powered by USB connection — no need for external power supply when connected to a USB source (using optical/coaxial input requires using the included AC USB power adapter)
  • supported sample rates:
    • USB: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192kHz
    • optical: 44.1/48/88.2/96kHz
    • coaxial: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192kHz
  • operating system requirements: Windows® XP (SP3), 7, 8, and Mac® OS X® 10.6.4 (Snow Leopard) or later
  • Meridian USB audio driver required for Windows computers (free USB driver download available from Meridian Audio website)
  • plug-and-play USB operation with Apple Macintosh computers
  • external AC USB power supply included
  • 3-3/16"W x 1-7/16"H x 6-3/4"D
  • weight: 9 ounces (without power supply)
  • warranty: 2 years
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
  • If connecting to a TV, please make sure you can select "PCM" output in its audio menu. This DAC is not compatible with Dolby® Digital signals.

Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Product Research
What's in the box?

Download owner's manual

  • External DAC
  • AC power adapter (w/ attached 6' DC cord)
  • 4 AC plug inserts (US/AU/EU/UK)
  • Mini-to-RCA adapter
  • Mini-to-Toslink adapter
  • User Guide

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Features

External DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter): The Meridian Direct DAC is a high-quality DAC designed to deliver superior audio quality from today's digital sources, including computers media players, as well as legacy digital sources such as CD players, when listened to on an analog audio system.  The Direct DAC out performs the inferior DACs found inside your computer, laptop, network player, music server, or CD player. The Direct DAC will breathe new life into all your digital audio sources.

Premium Audiophile-Grade Components: Audiophile-grade components are utilized throughout the Meridian Direct DAC. The Direct DAC is enclosed in a sturdy, durable anodized aluminum extrusion case with molded end-caps. The external DAC features a sophisticated 4-layer PC board and direct-coupled to minimize noise and improve audio performance. The Direct DAC incorporates the highest quality components throughout, including audiophile grade capacitors, resistors. and gold-plated RCA sockets.

High Resolution Audio: The Direct DAC supports sample rates up to 24-bit, 192kHz and incorporates Meridian Resolution Enhancement technologies, including Meridian Upsampling and the Apodising filter, which audibly improves audio quality. The proprietary Apodising filter can actually improve the sound of some digital recordings by fixing recording faults. Standard sample rate signals (16-24 bit, 44.1/48kHz) are automatically upsampled to 24-bit/88.2kHz or 96kHz, allowing filtering to be carried out far above the range of human hearing.

Asynchronous + Low Jitter: The Direct DAC operates asynchronously using on-board, high-quality, discrete audio clocks for the USB and S/PDIF input, rather than low-quality audio clocks derived via USB from your computer. The Direct DAC's master clocking is done by separate precision reference oscillators for base sample rates (44.1 kHz/48 kHz) to minimize jitter and distortion.

USB Port (MAC/Windows Compatible): The Meridian Direct DAC connects to your desktop computer or laptop's USB (type-A) port via the DAC's USB (type-B) port; USB cable sold separately. The USB (type-B) socket allows the Direct DaC to be connected to your computer for playback of computer-based sources such as network audio and music server files, far exceeding the audio performance of a standard computer sound card. The Direct DAC can connect to virtually any computer with a USB port. Drivers for Windows; Macintosh, and Linux operating systems allow simple plug & play operation. The interface is USB Audio Class Compliant 2.0 HS, supporting 24-bit/192kHz resolution and data rates up to 480Mb/s.

Note: The Direct DAC supports Macintosh OS X 10.6.4 (Snow Leopard) or later; no additional drivers are needed. The Direct DAC is also compatible with Windows XP SP3, Windows 7 SP1, or Windows 8; additional drivers are required and can be downloaded from the Meridian Support Site.

Digital Input: The digital input lets you connect your CD player, Blu-ray player, or music player with a digital output. This 3.5mm hybrid socket provides input for S/PDIF digital signals (2ch PCM only) via a 3.5mm mono jack. Two adaptors are included; one allows standard coaxial S/PDIF RCA cables to be used with Direct DAC, while the other allows standard Toslink optical cables to be used. The Direct DAC supports 24-bit/192kHz via the coax adapter and 24-bit/96kHz via the toslink adapter.

Analog Outputs: The Meridian Direct DAC is designed for connection to an analog audio system via its fixed-level stereo RCA outputs (2v RMS). The RCA outputs include anti-thump circuitry for trouble-free performance at switch-on.

LED Indicators: Three LEDs indicated the DAC's source input (Analog/SPIDF/USB). Three other LEDs indicate the input sample rate. When the 1x LED is illuminated, the Direct DAC is receiving a signal at 44.1 or 48kHz sampling: (upsampled to 88.2/96kHz). When the 2x LED is illuminated, the unit is receiving 88.2/96kHz. When the 4x LED is lit, 176.4/192kHz is being received.

Power Requirements: The Meridian Direct DaC can operate off of standard household current using the supplied AC power adapter. The Direct DAC can also be powered by a free USB (type-A) port on your computer.

Firmware Updates: Firmware updates can be downloaded from the Meridian Support Site to your computer and the connected Direct DAC.

 
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Meridian Direct DAC Reviews

Average Customer Review:

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Filter by rating:
5 out of 5

Meridian DIrect DAC

Written By Michael K, E.Cliffs, NJ on Monday, May 12, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I had reviewed and tried out a couple of other DACs in the market to see if I can improve sonic quality of my old CD player. Finally bought a Meridian DAC and listened to the same CDs that I have heard for long time and could hear much more transparent and detailed notes that I might have missed. Meridian sounds elegant with a tighter bass.
Was this review helpful?    Yes | No
 
5 out of 5

Impressive with a Sonos

Written By BradB, Somerville, MA on Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
DACs are peculiar things to review. They generally are only of interest to those who are trying to wring the last bit of improvement out of their sound quality. How good they work out, also depends on what type of system they are being used in. In my case, I've been looking for a DAC to improve the sound quality of my Sonos connect into a pretty decent stereo system (PSB t-2 speakers, Rogue Sphinx integrated amp, Oppo 105 disk player).

The challenge is that some DACs only show real improvements if you are already dealing with high resolution (CD or better) files. In the past I have tried the Sonolink and the Rega DAC with my system. Since I mostly use the Sonos to stream normal iTunes and Internet radio that ranges from 64k to 340k, they never provided much improvement.

This DAC, one the other hand, has been an excellent upgrade. No matter what signal I feed into it, the sound has better imaging, firmer base, and just sounds more musical. Everything sounds better, especially after a fifty hour break in. I won't claim miracles for internet radio that is streaming at 64k, but from 128k and above, I'm a very happy camper with this DAC.
Pros:
Its a rare file that won't be improved by this DAC from a Sonos. If you connect it in that fashion, it just stays on, and you don't have to worry about turning it on and off. Its small, discrete, and attractive. Dead simple to set up with a Sonos connect. It took me about 2 minutes.
Cons:
While you can have it connected to a PC and one other source at the same time, because of its Toslink/coax shared port arrangement, there is no easy way to have more than one stereo component hooked up at a time (other than a PC through USB). One potentially could use a toslink switch, but that makes things a lot less simple, and coax sounds a bit better. LED lights are a bit bright, so I covered them with dimming tape. Some may consider it pricey, but for me it is worth it.
1 out of 1 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

A GREAT DAC!

Written By Anonymous, DC on Friday, January 17, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I'm not sure how a dac could be any better. I owned a meridian 508.24 CD player and it was one of the best CD Player I had ever head. The Explorer Dac has the same sound quality of that CD player. What this dac does, is get out of the way of the music. It does not add anything or take anything away from the music. With that said, it is, without fault as far a music is concern. If there is a problem with your music, then there something wrong with another part of your system. If you want neutral, this is it.
Pros:
What comes in, goes out
Cons:
Balanced outputs would be nice, but then the unit would have to cost more
1 out of 1 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Great sounding DAC

Written By Coppy, Annapolis, Md on Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
An audiophile quality DAC with just the right features. This no frills product from Meridian is built like a tank and just sounds great. If you need to impress them with a big fancy box look elsewhere... and pay more for the exterior. This DAC does it's thing and is still quite portable. I have it on vacation with me right now. It plays my high res downloads from and music streaming from the computer, drives my headphone amp and hooks up to any handy stereo. At home it drives the big rig.
Pros:
Sound quality, construction, Meridian design and service, portability.
Cons:
No controls other than input selection but they're not needed.
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5 out of 5

Correction to Watch Collector Review

Written By The Watch Collector, Westerville, OH on Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
The previous review mistakenly indicated that the Meridian Director was used with a McIntosh amp. It should have indicated that a McCormack DNA -0.5 amp is connected to the Meridian DAC. Sorry for the error.
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5 out of 5

Meridian Director

Written By The Watch Collector, Westerville, OH on Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I replaced my Audioengine D1 with the Meridian Director powered by a McIntosh DNA 0.5 and a pair of Thiel 2.3 speakers. In short, UNBELIEVABLE. The clarity is unsurpassed and the left to right and front to back imaging is something I have never experienced. Pricey but well worth it if you want to brighten your sound experience from the flat sounding digital music stored on your computer. The vocals will stand out and you appreciate the piano like never before.
Pros:
Makes music sound like it is live and in your listening room.
Cons:
Expensive
2 out of 2 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Expectations Exceeded

Written By LonestarDallas, Dallas, TX on Monday, September 30, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
The key to sound purity with digital files is using a best of breed Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). I have experimented with onboard receiver DACs in Denon, Yamaha, and Rotel components. I have also tried the Wadia i170 transport for iPods and Marantz's well reviewed NA-7004 network audio player.

Although these are all very high quality and exceptional options, The Meridian Director moved my 2 Channel music experience to a whole new level that I believe can rival any analog or vinyl alternative. I stream 192Mhz / 24 Bit FLAC files from a MAC Mini through the Meridian Director connected to an amplifier driving 2, and only 2, B&W Floor Speakers. The first listen literally gave me goose bumps producing sounds and clarity never before heard. The Director fills the entire room with music as if you are sitting in the middle of the performers, and imaging was noticeable from almost all front listening positions.
Pros:
Clarity, Imaging, Full Sound Stage. Size and portability.
Cons:
A little pricey for what is essentially a single purpose stereo audio device
5 out of 5 people found this helpful
Was this review helpful?    Yes | No
 

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For a more in-depth review and enhanced detailed information on the Meridian Direct DAC, please visit the Crutchfield website product page (/ISEO-rccbcspd/p_795DIRECT/Meridian-Direct-DAC.html ).

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Compare with other Meridian models

  • Meridian Direct DAC
  • Get more inputs and higher performance
  • 5 out of 5: In Stock
  • The Meridian Direct DAC includes:
    • S/PDIF optical and coaxial inputs as well as USB input for connection to more digital music sources
    • high-quality gold-plated RCA outputs for easy connection to home audio systems
    • Meridian Resolution Enhancement technologies, including Meridian Upsampling for better sound
    • the Director does not include a headphone amplifier
  • Add To Cart
    $699.99
  • Meridian Explorer
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  • 5 out of 5: In Stock
    • The Meridian Explorer offers:
      • compact, high-performance DAC supports sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz for listening to high-resolution digital music sources
      • asynchronous USB technology for reduced timing jitter and better sound with computer audio sources
      • USB (mini Type B) input; headphone minijack, stereo RCA, mini-optical digital audio output
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  • Meridian Direct DAC
  • 5 out of 5: In Stock
    • The Meridian Direct DAC offers:
      • compact, high-performance DAC supports sample rates up to 24-bit/192kHz for listening to high-resolution digital music sources
      • asynchronous USB technology for reduced timing jitter and better sound with computer audio sources
      • optical, coaxial, and USB (Type B) inputs; RCA audio output
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    $699.99
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