|Warranty length||2 years standard (5 years on registration)|
USB: Mini type B.
Analogue: 3.5mm line out (2v RMS)
Headphone: 3.5mm jack (0.47Ω)
Material: Extruded Aluminium shell
With: Plastic endcaps + rubber foot
USB: nominal 5V at <500mA.
Dual Tile: XMOS DSP, 1000 MIPS
Three white LEDs: (1x, 2x, 4x)
White: 1x for PCM
Green: MQA playback
Blue: MQA Studio playback
USB Class: 2.0 HS 480Mb/s bandwidth
Asynchronous: Clock source
Firmware: Upgrade via USB
Mac: OS X 10.6.4 or later
Windows: XP SP3, 7 SP1, 8
Linux: kernel 2.6.37, ALSA
Dimensions: 102 x 32 x 18mm
Portable, compact and rugged, the Meridian’s Explorer 2 USB DAC delivers premium grade audio performances. Developed from the highly successful Explorer, it features even more powerful DSP capability allowing the full range of Meridian enhancement technologies to be included, along with decoding and rendering for the ‘Master Quality Authenticated process.
The Explorer 2 includes audiophile-grade components and an elegant all-metal enclosure to deliver an exceptional Meridian audio experience from virtually any computer and a lot more besides. The Explorer 2 embodies Meridian DNA and the design features a complex 6-layer circuit board. Premium components are used throughout, including resistors, sockets and music grade electrolytics along with polypropylene filter capacitors.
High Quality Design
The use of direct-coupled outputs further maximises audio quality. Explorer 2 was designed, and is built, in the UK, in exactly the same way and with the same attention to detail and quality throughout, as any other Meridian product.
Explorer2 includes significantly more DSP power than its predecessor, allowing the full suite of Meridian audio enhancement technologies to be included, which was not previously possible. Thus 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. The Explorer2 also features Meridian’s approach to noise-shaping. This moves noise out of the audio band, increasing the audible signal to noise ratio.
Explorer 2 features full audio performance at sample rates up to 192kHz, 24-bit resolution. It doesn’t down sample 176.4/192 kHz signals to lower levels, delivering instead the full bandwidth of the original. Explorer2 is completely asynchronous – it does not rely on the computer’s clock for timing. Instead, it uses precision on-board low-jitter crystal oscillators for the base sample rates. These were developed from those used in Meridian’s premium home entertainment systems. These oscillators provide the master clocking for the entire playback system, and eliminate all USB interface jitter. ‘Isochronous’ transfer ensures maximum bandwidth and low latency. This is particularly significant, for example, when playing videos on the computer, for which audio and video must remain in sync. The DAC design also offers extremely low modulation noise and distortion for the ultimate in audio performance. The interface is USB Audio Class Compliant 2.0 HS, supporting data rates up to 480Mb/s.
Dual Auto-Sensing Outputs
Two outputs are provided: one for headphones and the other a line output for connection to a hi-fi system. Explorer2 automatically senses which is in use and deactivates the heaphone amplifier when the line output is connected, reducing noise. The 3.5mm headphone socket delivers up to 130mW of high-quality audio – capable of driving plenty of level for even low-efficiency headphones. The volume is controlled from the host computer. The volume control is an advanced design with an extended range of 0 to –100dB. This level of variability suits all kinds of headphones including the most sensitive. The second 3.5mm socket provides a fixed-level analogue (2v RMS) output for connection to an external audio system. This is connected directly to the DAC for bit-precise performance. It delivers a fixed, full-level signal with no volume control. This is exactly what you need for an audio system: driving full level ensures both maximum signal to noise ratio and maximum use of digital resolution right through to the audio system’s own volume control, which controls the level for all sources in the system.
A Higher Class of DAC
Explorer 2 is a USB Class 2 device that works with the newer (2009) USB2 specification. This supports a transmission speed of 480Mb/s – 40 times faster than Class 1 – allowing Explorer2 to play 192kHz audio streams. You can also plug it into any available USB port – including a hub. You’re not required to plug it direct into the computer. Whether replaying an mp3 or a high resolution lossless file, Explorer2 will make any content sound its best. It delivers a level of audio quality essentially limited solely by the source material. Three indicators show the status of the Explorer2. The LED furthest from the headphone socket illuminates white to indicate that the unit is operating (and playing PCM at 1x standard sample rates – 44.1/48kHz). The middle LED (2x standard rate) indicates 88.2/96kHz operation and the third LED 176.4/192kHz operation.
Master Quality Authenticated
Explorer 2 includes a powerful decoder and audio renderer for Meridian’s exclusive ‘Master Quality Authenticated’ system. This ensures that MQA-encoded lossless audio files and streams sound exactly like the source. The 1x LED glows green to indicate that the unit is decoding and playing an MQA stream or file, and that the sound is identical to that of the source material. It glows blue to indicate that the Explorer2 is playing an MQA Studio file – one based on a new, exclusively sourced, artist/producer-approved studio master. In all cases you hear exactly the sound the production team intended.
Explorer 2 connects to the computer via USB mini B connector and a cable. Unlike many other products of its type, Explorer 2 does not plug directly into the PC: it uses a standard USB cable (included). This minimises the risk of damaging the PC motherboard if the product is accidentally knocked or the headphone cord is pulled. Explorer 2 connects to virtually any computer which has a USB port. Drivers are provided for Windows. Macintosh and Linux operating systems do not require drivers, allowing simple plug-in and play operation. On the Macintosh, the Audio MIDI Setup utility is used to set the output sample rate; on Windows, the Sound control panel is used. Explorer 2 requires Macintosh OS X 10.6.4 (Snow Leopard) or later, Linux kernel 2.6.37 or later, or Windows XP SP3, Windows 7 SP1, or Windows 8 or later. Despite its powerful output and performance capability, Explorer2 is entirely USB bus-powered. It is supplied in elegant presentation packaging and includes a short USB cable and a soft carrying pouch that stores both Explorer 2 and cable.