MERIDIAN: Their 101/105 pre power combination

I read your comments about vintage Meridian equipment, very interesting. I have a 101 preamp and twin 105 power amps, and I'm amazed at how they still sound after 25 years. Such wallop - as close to live as I've come across. I recently heard Musical Fidelity's much-praised A5 pre/power combination - very smooth and detailed but no "oomph". Same with a lot of expensive modern stuff. My only criticism of the 101 preamp is it seems a bit edgy, not quite so smooth, and I wonder if this is a consequence of the superb dynamics – I sometimes think punch and smoothness are mutually exclusive! Is there anything one can do with a 101 and 105's to alleviate this?

Best Wishes

Tony

I totally agree with you about the sound, 25 years on. In those days, pioneering days really before all the glass-fronted offices, ranks of secretaries and distractions re 232-ports, surround sound and related nonsense Meridian were at the very forefront of audio design. Not just the timeless aesthetics courtesy of Allen Boothroyd (surely THE man when is comes to audio externals) but the sonic brilliance of a true genius Mr. Bob (now Robert, apparently) Stuart.

You don’t mention which sources you are using that result in a slight edge to the sound. However here are my thoughts. First, if using a CD as indeed I still do through the tuner or tape inputs of my 101B (still into the incomparable Meridian M1 actives} there is overloading. Those inputs were not designed to accept digital inputs. The design was way back in the late 1970s. What you might consider doing is buying a couple of Rothwell inline attenuators. This should do it – for the CD replay at least!

Click HERE for details

Re vinyl input, there was no alternative offered for the standard MM input, the red-spot module. However there were many alternative MC input modules. These were very carefully matched to the specifics of each cartridge family. There was a module for the Fidelity Research family, one for the Supex range, one for the Koetsu range, one for the Entre and so on.

Any MC cartridge would work (to a degree) with any MC module – but strange combinations could sound oddly harsh. Possibly your problem might be incorrect matching? Actually, there is very little you could do about it these days. I guess all MC modules that Meridian had as spares have ended up in a skip somewhere.

As an aside, it started to go a bit pear-shaped when Linn thought they could do a better job than Supex (let alone Koetsu) and brought out their own initially pretty dismal MC offerings. The Asak being pre-eminent. I remember being present in many listening sessions up in Huntingdon as a guest of Meridian with various prototype MC modules being designed in a near frantic attempt to extract an even half-way decent sound out of what was frankly a mediocre Linn cartridge to start with.

Somehow Mr. Russ Andrews, the then self-appointed Linn policeman it seemed to me was never far away with his practical dogma such as the suggestion to shine a light on the Asak to keep it warm, or to shove the LP12 on ever more bizarre supports. Torlyte and other eccentricities like that. For trained and battled-hardened engineers like Mr. Stuart and his colleagues, I guess that this palpable nonsense was the last straw and no wonder they embraced digital with such enthusiasm.

This of course leaves the Series 1 Meridian gear, the 101, 101B, 103, 103D and 105s as the text-book definition of state-of-the-art true classic audio. Right up there with the Spendor BC1, the Mark Levinson ML6a, the Apogee Scintilla, The Pink Triangle Export, and so on. You are indeed a fortunate man to own the 101B/105 combo. Unless you have £6k to spend, you’ll find nothing better today. Different, yes – but not better

And finally, yes I personally do believe that a slight hardness is inextricable interwoven with dynamics and punch. No doubt it. The times I hear the ignorant state with confidence that a recording of a trumpet sounded too harsh. Too harsh to bloody what? It usually turns out that these armchair geniuses with their self-righteous self denial have never heard a trumpet played live. Stand a few feet away from a trumpet in a club and you’ll get an automatic centre-parting in your hair! Try telling a jazz trumpeter or any other trumpeter for that matter to make his/her trumpet a little less harsh! It’s like telling Yehudi Menuhin to add a bit or reverb, Hendrix to play the Moonlight Sonata on an accordion and so on.

I have to say this is a bit of a hobby-horse with me. And thank you for giving me an opportunity to comment. When I was a writer for Hi-Fi News (over now thank goodness) I NEVER used the word ‘accurate’. If a Bosendorfer piano has more edge that say a Steinway, or vice versa for that matter, which is more accurate?

Nuff said. Sermon over. Meanwhile, Mr. Johnny Winter is bawling away in my modest office system. Currently he’s suggesting that I should “Be Careful With A Fool”. And is his guitar edgy? Oh yes indeed – and all the more wonderful for it.

Howard Popeck