Meeting Topic: AES UK Section visit to Meridian
Moderator Name: Mike Turner
Speaker Name: Stephen Oxnard, Des Ford, Barry Sheldrick, Ethan Stanhope & Chris Cotton - Meridian Audio
Meeting Location: Stukeley Meadows, Huntingdon, UK
Founded in 1977, Meridian has an impressive track record of pushing boundaries and pioneering new technologies, including active loudspeakers, CD players, surround-sound, the MLP lossless packing system, wireless earbuds, high-end headphones and automotive sound systems. The company has 80 staff, and invests ~15% of its total revenue in R&D. See https://www.youtube.com/user/MeridianAudio1977.
Our day began in Meridian's "museum" with Des Ford, who also introduced Meridian's "EbM" (Engineered by Meridian) business unit, offering consultancy and licensing of Meridian technology, and "DbM" (Distributed by Meridian) which distributes not only Meridian product but also a range of other complementary high-end AV products such as Barco (projectors), Trinnov (surround-sound decoders) and LG (displays).
From an extensive tour of the factory floor, it was clear that Meridian continues to invest strongly in electronic PCB assembly, inspection and test capabilities, driven not least by the need to produce small batches with consistently high quality. Loudspeaker cabinets are designed in-house but outsourced to a small number of trusted suppliers; similarly drive units are bought in, though often customised to Meridian requirements — notably the top-of-the-range beryllium dome tweeters.
Impressive demonstrations followed, both of Meridian's stand-alone loudspeakers and their remarkably shallow in-wall AV systems, which were capable of producing impressive levels of bass despite housing just three slim ten-inch drive units. "High Power Array" processing allows multiple loudspeaker systems to be combined for high SPL whilst minimising destructive interference effects.
In their Automotive Lab, Meridian is not only developing active loudspeaker technology for in-vehicle use, but also investigating the use of "haptics" — in which low frequency components of the audio signal (typically 40-500Hz) are extracted, processed and fed to actuators which impart vibrations to the listener's seat. We were able to switch between different modes of haptic operation, one of which provided reinforcement of LF transient events (such as bass drum), the other based on envelope modulation of a fixed LF tone. Which method was preferred varied depending on the "listener" and also the type of music being played.
The day concluded with the R&D team presenting recent research, including work on modal room correction (Meridian "R-EQ"), quantifying apparent source width, and the "haptics" work demonstrated in the car.
All in all, a very full and enjoyable day — our sincere thanks again to Steve and all the Meridian staff for their time and hospitality.
Written By: Mike Turner