Using the headphone output of your computer is OK if you use a lower quality headphone. But if you are used to listening to high end audio, you can also enjoy the best quality through high end headphones. With a DAC/amp like the Meridian Explorer2 you can listen to the best audio files available. The second version of the popular Explorer now supports MQA. Let’s give this small piece of equiptment a run for its money. With 30 years of experience in the world of audio Meridian calls itself ‘The pioneers of Hi-Res Audio’. Designed, engineered and manufactured in England they are capable of making great audio devices.

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Connecting

The looks of this sleek device are tempting. Looking at it makes you want to connect it to your computer and listen to music. Using Tidal to stream MQA and lossless audio files this could turn out to be a great audio experience. With an Apple Macbook the Meridian Explorer2 is easy to use. Just connect the DAC with the supplied USB cable. There is no driver required. For Windows systems the drivers are provided. With the built-in leds it’s easy to recognize the audio input. The setting for Tidal has been put into Master. This way it always plays the best file available. Switching between the streaming quality settings, the difference is immediately noticeble. The Explorer2 lets you enjoy every setting, but the recordings really come to live when you put it into Master.

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Listening

Listening with AKG K271 Studio headphones to different kinds of music is really enjoyable. The detail is great, the staging is wonderful. The headphone output from the Macbook is off limits for now. I start with the Ane Bruns album ‘It all starts with one’ comes to life; a lossless stream. Her voice feels real, her emotions are real. Next up is ‘Perfect Darkness’ from the Album Fink meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. A great artist in collaboration with a great orchestra, recorded in one of the best concerthalls. The live feeling of the orchestra at the beginning of the song is enormous, spacious. The Explorer2 offers you the experience of being there. Just close your eyes, imerge yourself in “perfect darkness” and enjoy every instrument. The music is detailed and natural sounding.

Tidal Master

‘Gold on the Ceiling’ from The Black Keys ‘Tour Rehearsel Tape’ is my third track. The highs of the guitar and cymbals aren’t too sharp, something I was expecting. Maybe it could be a bit sharper. Detail loss during the switch to a LossLess stream is definitely noticeble.

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Change of headphone

Let’s switch to another headphone; the Beyerdynamic T1. Since the Explorer2 doesn’t have a 6.3mm jack, a Grado converter will be used. First up is ‘Elijah’ from Donald Byrds. The placement of the instruments, the detail, it’s all wonderful. The trumpet, the piano, every single instrument has got his own placement. It fills the room and I am enjoying it. Let’s try changing to the High Quality stream. Hmmm, the soundstage collapses, the room seems to be smaller. Finishing up with to some classical music. Dvorak: Symphony NO9 – Smetana: Die Moldau. A great piece to end with. The detail in the softer parts is great, the placement of the instruments and the warmth is very pleasant.

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Review setup

  • AKG K271 Studio headphones
  • Beyerdynamic T1 headphones
  • MacBook Pro
  • TIDAL streaming service
  • Standard USB cable

Tracklist

  • What’s happening with you and him – Ane Brun (It all starts with one)
  • Perfect darkness – Fink (Fink meets RCO)
  • Gold on the Ceiling – The Black Keys (Tour Rehearsel Tape)
  • Elijah – Donald Byrds (A new perspective)
  • Dvorak: Symphony NO9 – Smetana:Die Moldau – Herbert von Karajan

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Technical details

Audio inputs

  • 1 x USB2 B socket

Audio outputs

  • 3.5mm analogue line out, fixed 2v RMS
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with variable-level output, impedance 0.47Ω
  • Asynchronous: device is the clock source for high quality
  • Firmware upgrade via USB
  • Windows drivers provided, no drivers required for Macintosh OS X or Linux.

Dimensions/Weight

  • Height: 18mm [0.7in]
  • Width: 32mm [1.25in]
  • Depth: 102mm [4.0in]
  • Weight: 50g (1.76oz)

Power

  • USB, nominal 5V at <500mA

Price

€295

Meridian Explorer2 pocket USB DAC review
The Meridian Explorer2 does what it needs to do; converting the digital stream into a usable high quality headphone output. It offers detail and makes listening through a computer enjoyable. A musical definition. Would I recommend it, yes. If you want to listen to a high quality stream or higher, with a headphone that is capable of a high end sound reproduction, it would really make the difference. Would I recommend it with its analogue fixed output? Maybe. If you don’t want to spend money on a more dedicated DAC with a powersupply other then USB, then yes.
Performance [60]85%
Features | Functionality [20]75%
Design | Build Quality [10]90%
Price | Performance [10]70%
Positive points
  • 24-bit/192kHz support
  • MQA support
  • sleak and beautiful design
  • able to power high end heaphones
Negative points
  • no battery power
  • no 6.3mm jack output
82%Overall Score