We increasingly carry music around with us. Music follows us wherever we go and wherever it doesn’t follow it’s increasingly easy for us to bring it along. Although, saying that, the vast majority of music is still consumed whilst sat at a desk, working. I know that’s typically the case here at Audio Affair HQ! There are problems inherent with listening in the office, mind you. Unless you’re happy to have a full hi-fi separates system (or a very effective and expensive one-box solution) in your office (something we wouldn’t put past some of you!), chances are you’re listening directly through your laptop and PC.
The problem with that, particularly when using headphones too, is laptops and PCs aren’t equipped to deal with anything high-fidelity, and sound quality is poor at best. This is why you need a separate DAC or, preferably, a DAC headphone amp designed for use with laptops and PCs.
The Meridian Explorer 2 USB DAC (or the Explorer²) is the second in the Meridian Explorer line and is an advanced high-res DAC (digital to analogue converter) which allows you to “live out the experience” in full. It’s a tiny yet powerful gadget that will take up very little room in your workspace, whilst maintaining its presence with powerful DSP decoding and rendering, capable of playing 192khz natively.
In terms of design, it’s both elegant and rugged, supplied with a simple USB-USB cable to get you started. It builds upon everything the extremely well-received Meridian Explorer accomplished, but with !significantly” more DSP power than its predecessor. This is due to the full suite of Meridian audio enhancement technologies now being included, and feat that wasn’t previously possible.
“The Explorer² up samples all input signal to 176.4/192kHz (4x standard sample rates) – 4x streams are played at full resolution with no down sampling. It includes Meridian’s proprietary Apodising up sampling filter, which minimises pre-ringing for a clearer, more transparent sound, while at the same time removing digital filter artefacts from earlier digital recordings, audibly improving overall smoothness of sound and stereo imaging.” ~ Meridian
As it’s the same size and weight as a large USB pen, it’s very easy to transport too. With Mac, it’s plug and play. With Windows, you will need to install drivers to get it working, but this is very quick and easy to do. It’s regarded as a USB Class 2 device which means it supports a transmission speed of 480Mb/s – 40 times faster than Class 1. This means the ensures the Explorer2 can play 192kHz audio streams, a new level of DAC-capability. This is combined with a powerful decoder, called the ‘Master Quality Authenticated’ system. This ensures it will sound as close to the source, if not exactly like the source, as possible.
Alternatives worth your consideration include the Audioquest Dragonfly which is slightly smaller, however while this plugs directly into USB port, the Explorer sits at the end of a short USB cable, allowing you to keep it to the side of your Mac or laptop without any chance of it being knocked. There are quite a few other options on the market for this, but having listened to a majority of them, we think the Explorer 2 is the best sounding of the bunch and has the edge on sound quality. Whether used with headphones or used directly with active speakers, it’s refined, with excellent levels of detail and most importantly is able to drive demanding headphones properly and really does do everything it promises.
Like what you hear? Take a closer look at the full listing (plus detailed tech specs) by clicking here.