508 18 bit upgrade or just add a dac, benchmark?

Just got a Meridian 508 18 bit. I got it as an upgrade from my vernerable NAD 540. I was hoping that the Meridian would be a warmer, fuller, richer sound with more bass. Although it is a bit warmer than the NAD it is still not as full and warm as my uncle's Meridian 506 16 bit.

My system is a bit on the bright side (I think it may have more to do with the room acoustics than the components...hardwood floors). Some of my favorite punk rock sounds a little compressed without much seperation. While the Meridian is a little more relaxed than the NAD It needs to be more smooth to make long listening enjoyable. And the bass doesn't seem to be much better than the NAD...I thought Meridian were supposed to have great bass?

My system is the 508 cd player, Musical Fidelity 300A 150watt integrated amp, and Vienna Acoustics 2way Bachs speakers. The speaker wires are the audioquest CV-4 and the interconnects are the audioquest Corals.

I guess my question is, do I go for the Meridian 24 bit DAC upgrade (still $750 through Meridian) or do I go with an outboard DAC, possibly the new Benchmark or Meridian 566. Maybe I chuck the Meridian all together and get something completely different.

Any bit of input would be great...I just want to be able to listen to my music for more than an hour without being irritated.

-thanks, sean
If you can run balanced connectors it will fatten up some and show you more definition. My friend has a 508.20 that was updated to a .24 and the update was night and day difference.

Either get a good single box, do the upgrade for that money.

My Integrated doesn't take balanced connectors. Can you get and adapter? Or would that just defeat the purpose?

Cytocycle? how did the sound change on your friend's Meridian? Better bass, smoother, more detail?

I run my 508.24 through a suite of Monarchy Audio equipment (DIP-Upsampler-DAC). I found much better air & imaging and while I wouldn't call it more bass, the bass was much tighter & more focused.

As cytocyle says, I am holding out for a strong single box (after I finish building out my Rives-designed room).

Happy listening,
There are some great deals on Gamut CD1R's sometime on agon for $1500-$1800 and the player is amazing... Just make sure it's not the original CD1... get a CD1R, CD1S or the MKII, this player will blow your mind... just make sure your preamp can handle 4volts out (similar to wadia and makes an excellent match for passive preamps because of the high gain).. versus the typical 2volts most players output.

I own a Gamut CD1R and looked at players up 16k and I am still happy with what I have.. it's so musical! Balanced Cables make it even better as it is fully balanced design.
I called meridian about the upgrade. The guy I talked admitted to not knowing too much about the upgrade other than the model I have can be upgraded to the 24 bit version.

Does anyone know exactly what the upgrade includes. And how would an upgraded 508 differ from an original 508.24? I've searched the archives and all the info regarding the upgrade seems rather vague. Any bits of detail would be great.

-sean baik
I used to own Monarchy33 in the days of old(I'm not too old afterall),listening to music on the heavier side. Yes, I was a fans of anti nowhere league and Sex Pistol too, my music liking back then also encompassed a great variety of other materials from female vocalists to grind metals. The 33 handled them very well.It brought back that studio feeling I used to have jamming with my mates. Does it sound warm? I don't really remember hearing anything warm in to studio but the feeling certainly make your blood warmer when the music play. I don't think what you want is something warm or cold but something that give you back music. The 33 may not be the best but considering using it as a Pre/DAC with one extra layer removed from your system, it just make sense that it will be easier for you to fine tune the sound. It has got clean sound but not too clinical. Infact there is no electrical instrument produce sound by itself. All gone thru mixer and other layers of recording equipments, the monarchy gave U just that, not electric guitar sound so clean like an accoustic one without amplification. Accurate but not to the point of unfriendliness to domestic use. If you can get to listen to this, perhaps you already did. Do give it some attention. Sometimes higher the bit doesn't promise smoothness. For heavier music you need something smooth with attack. Yes, these 2 do come hand in hand. It's the matter of degree. Benchmark should be a good machine as well but you pay much more than a used 33. Both can be use as Pre/DAC. BTW, what's your setup.

I'll look into the Monarchy. I think you're right about the "warm" thing. You're exactly right about the sound I'm looking for- "smooth with attack". To be fair, I'm sure my current set-up is doing the best it can trying to make some really awfully recorded material sound alive (sex pistols, Pil, Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain...I'm sure these bands placed sound quality of their recording somewhere on the bottom of their list of priorities.)

I guess what I'm missing is a bit of presence. The current system sounds a little lean and I'm just trying figure out where the culprit would be. I've long suspected the CD player when I had my NAD. But I'm not quite so sure now.

-Musical Fidelity A300 integrated
-Vienna Bach Speakers
-Meridian 508.18 bit
-Audioquest CV-4 Speaker wires
-Audioquest Coral interconnects
Everybody steps into the recording studio wish to attain the highest standard. Atleast that is their initial motive before they get too drunk and too drugged.

I really see no trace of underpower in your system. The 508 should have enough gain behind it. I personally witness the A300 sounded more vivic than the Plinius SA100MK2 which is a Class A 100 watter. As for the VA Bach, I really hope that I'm wrong, is not the tightest and fastest speakers I've heard. To appreciate music on the heavier side you need these 2 characters.

Tightness is important. No tightness no attack. I say this not because it wasn't named after the S Bach from Skid Row.
Tightness doesn't apply only to bass but also the low mid and mid where most of the guitar chords were played in this region. You need punchy guitar, it may sounds strange but I know I'm using the right word. You may call it attack but in the studio, you can feel or hear the rhythm guitar sound punching out from the amp.

To find that out,it is easy if you have Green Day's "When I come around". Play the opening passage of the guitar intro before the drums and the rest kick in. Chords in this passage were played on the lower frets of the guitar, if your speakers are too mellow or loose for high current music,you'll hear some "low-mid boom" or close miking effect. This range is between high fret bass and low fret guitar. you'll thus have problem telling whether the sound is of a guitar or a bass.

Speed needs to be determined by low bass. Highs are always fast. Listen to the basslines of Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik from RHCP. If you can hear the bass drum and the fast bass guitar in clear seperation, you'll really love this song. And your speakers are doing a fine jod. Remember, bass guitar decay slower than the bass kick drum, be sure you can tell which is which. Than move to Iron Maiden and enjoy Steve Harris. For Highs, check out drummers who love to hit high knobs, Cozy Powell of Rainbow is one of them and most of the rock fans have one of 2 album of them. Listen and identify the difference between high knobs and the rim of the cymbal, high knobs shouldn't sound splashy. The rim should fade in zzzzziiiing rather then shhhhh. Don't get too excited with all the ting ting ting, these are all percussing pieces, be sure that they are hit but not like wind chimes. Listen to Time(Pink Floyd). Listen to the alarm clocks. See if any one of these alarm clock hurt your ears, not one of them should if your set up is accurate.

For Vocal, check out Scorpions, Klaus Meiner sounds really bright if your system is thin sounding and Meatloaf will sound too young for his age(he needs to sound tight and a bit congested). Listen to Bruce Dickinson for the punch, again vocal too have punch, BD has got powerful lung, his voice is not too high but very punchy and shouting on your face . Forward, gore but never metalic and Zing Zing. Female, If you know Stevie Nick, use her. Her voice is the easiest to remember. Or your wife if you have a cassette deck.I'm serious, you do the recording and the listening. Ask her to sing and talk. If the voice is accurate during playback, than the vocal department should be alright.

Check out the tightness of your speakers first. By GreenDay and RHCP if you have them. Not that I trust the Meridian or MF more than VA, they all are good stuffs and from Europe. Just becuase the speakers, the "vocalist" of your set-up have to be the right guy. Don't ask Nat King Cole to sing SUM41.

Sorry for this long one, I just wish that rock materials can be appreciated more in the audiophile circle. Good Luck.
In your original post, you say that the room acoustics might be part of the problem. I agree. Carpeting, furniture, etc play a large role. When I re-decorated, or should say decorated, I almost didn't recognize my system. It became much warmer.

I'd also suggest ERS paper in the CDP. It helps to cut down digital glare. Be careful, it is possible to use too much which would over dampen the signal. Also, try warmer cables. Good luck.

Great info. I just do happen to have the Green Day stuff. But man, the Iron Maiden and Scorpions stuff I haven't heard or even thought about them since Junior High. I'll have to revisit a bit of my youth.

The last few days I've found some improvement with speaker placement. The VA Bachs seem extremely sensitive, but with a tuned port design I shouldn't be surprised.

I don't mind long responses when the quality of the content is good. I particularly like the tip about taping my wife's voice. I think that's brilliant! Thanks again Rainchild.

And I agree with you about Rock's lack of appreciation. It seems to me, great music is great music whether its Motorhead or Mozart. And all good music deserves to be reproduced faithfully.
No Problem, also test the polarity of your speakers connection. Revise the +/- and see what you get. Scorpions and Iron Maiden are the materials we listen for years and we usually remember things better back in high-school days don't we.
Yes, but there's quite a few things about high school many of us would like to forget.

There's also quite a lot about high school that many of us can't remember, no matter how much Iron Maiden and Scorpions we listen to.

I'll play around with polarity tonight. Rainchild, what speaker wires and interconnects are you using?
One thing that I wanted to point out was that a lot of the above bands mentioned produced better sounding music than various CD issues would have us believe. Joy Division LP's sound fine as do the first couple PIL records. In fact if you have Metal Box by PIL(3 x 45 RPM records) then you have one heaping pile o' sonic goodness! However, with many of these bands the CD issues have been terrible transfers. I find it too bad that so much energy is spent into transferring what I consider inferior music because it's "audiophile" approved. There is a ton of horrid jazz and boring classical that make any audio show you go to a truly pain giving experience.
I think it's great that the Clash have gotten enough "classic" status to have gotten remastered into better sounding CD's. It sure would be nice if there were more activity like that happening. Things like the Amphetamine Reptile catalog(Cows, Helmet, God Bullies etc) have never been well represented digitally. Again, some of the LP's sound great so it ain't the low budget recordings. There have been some decently recorded music with cheap equipment. See Steve Albini's comments concerning this.

It's the quality of the CD's mastering that make so many of us go around in circles trying to wring more sound out of them.

While I got into punk to escape the sort of music Rainchild is recommending above, it's actually pleasing to me to hear him recommending various rock music and not the usual "audiofool" suspects except for that Floyd. Man, I lived through that in the 70's and while I won't diss the utter genius of that record, I can't hear it without my sphincter clenching. Still I'd rather hear someone talking about listening to the Chili Peppers or Scorpion's than Belafonte or the ugh, Weavers.

My test discs include Boredoms "Super Roots 7" and "Pop Tatari", Spiritualized's "Ladies and Gentleman", Can "Monster Movie", Butthole Surfers "Locust Abortion Technician" (talk about wringing a lot of sound out of recording on 8 tracks in your kitchen), Pere Ubu's "Modern Dance", Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" (a real test of resolution in your system), and Nurse with Wound's "Sylvie and Babs" and Radiohead's "Kid A". There's plenty of other underground discs that have various well recorded sounds to hear since some had good masters or have been remastered decently.

Like you Seanbaik, I have some long in the tooth digital that I'm in the process of researching to upgrade. Do I get a DAC? And like you I want a sound that's not too harsh in the upper registers(like I said those digital punk masters can be less than steller) but capturing the necessary dynamics and attack.

Of course my system is all tubes except for the CD Player. My system was solid state but that has changed over time. And I ain't never looking back.
I'm thinking of taking steaksters advice and trying some ERS paper in my CDP (Micromega Stage).
I just want to be able to listen to my music for more than an hour without being irritated. That's what you said.

My friend, you need not to switch your equipment, but your musical preference! Try Smooth Jazz at moderate volume! No Headaches! ;)
Smooth jazz may equal no headaches, but for me it would probably also equal no head, mostly because of the 9mm I'd to blow brains out if I had to listen to that for an hour.

What exactly is ERS paper...I guess I'll do a search.

Fetch, maybe that's the way to go- analogue. It's true, my friend has a lot of the music I like on vinyl and they sound pretty good on his very long into tooth technics+sony set-up. Didn't realize they could screw it up so much in the transfer to digital. Great test choices by the way. Personally, I like to use some of my worst discs to test equipment. There's a few tracks on Pixies Dolittle that do the trick (Debaser). And basically all of Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy. As bad as that disc sounds I still have it on frequent rotation...good music trumps bad sound. Wish it wasn't quite so awful. Good to find some punk rock loving fools out there in the audiophile world!
Mogami 2804 Speaker Cables.
Mogami 2803 I/C(It's indeed AU24).
Order from Japan.

I'm with you man! I'd get a shotgun and pull a Kurt Cobain if I had to listen to smooth jazz! I remember some old audiophile who had me over to show off his system and he played the GRP All-Stars (don't ask just be very afraid) and it nearly killed me. I had a pasted on smile and yes, the system sounded great but I couldn't concentrate because the music was so bad! Owcha! And my tastes run far and wide and I'm a classical aficionado as well. I used to be a classical buyer for Tower records. But for me the music is always first and the recording quality just is what it is. I've never bought a record for good sound and never will.

As for your digital woes, believe me, a cheap turntable will take you far away from the land of digititis. I lived quite happily for with a Dual 505 turntable that had a Denon 165 cartridge on it(total cost was $250 for both) for quite awhile. It made a lot of music and even though I have upgraded to an Oracle I never felt that old combo was embarassed. There is still tons of vinyl out there to be had cheap and those old punk records sound great. So many memories, like the time I *sniff* blew out one of my cheap speakers playing The Stooges "Funhouse" at maximum volume while utterly intoxicated. Those were the days!

ERS paper is some magnetically damping something or other that they apply inside of components to make 'em sound better. It's supposed to work pretty well.

Get a cheap table and spin away! That'll cure those digital blues! I have the 12" of Jesus and Mary Chain's "Never Understand" and that thing is sonic bliss! Great stuff. I lost interest in that band when they lost interest in giant walls of feedback and distortion. So I moved on to Spaceman 3.

Let us know if you decide to get a 'table.

It is really too bad about JMC. The genius of mating waves of distortion to catchy old school rock riffs and dark lyrics somehow degenerated to just catchy pop tunes.

What's a good cheap turntable? Gonna try the ers sheets before I give up on the digital.

Its funny you should mention Cobain, I live 5minutes away from where he took his life. I'm telling you, just say "NO!" to smooth jazz.

are you saying that the Mogamis are the same as the AU24?
Yes, 2803 = or very close to AU24. I don't spend a lot on cables. I think Rod Elliot of Elliot Sound Project has his point about cables. You can check it out.

I'm not saying give up on digital. I think that there's no way around owning a ton of CD's(I have 2-3 thousand). I just think that my best sounds have always come through my turntables. If want to check out some tables in Seattle there is Experience Audio in the U-Dist. Tim there is a great guy and can probably work out something within your budget. If your looking to get something dirt cheap I recommend Dual turntables since you can get one used anywhere from $50-$100. I still have a Dual 505 that I keep as a back-up table. Bang and Olufsen RX or TX series can sometimes be found cheap. They are easy to use tables and automatic. You press a button they play and shut off at the end of a side. A feature that I miss with my fancy hi-end table. The Dual shuts off too. I have owned B&O tables in the past. Of course you're not going to get the higher resolution that you would with a higher end table but you will be enjoying vinyl and the sounds are fine.
As a final note, Sumiko's Pro-Ject makes the Debut tables for $299 that come with arm cartridge and in groovy colors too.
Then you could be heading to Singles Going Steady on 2nd Ave(2 blocks from where I live)in Belltown or Wall of Sound on Capitol Hill to get some great records, both used and new! I hate Easy Street in Queen Anne because they are always blaring rap or Bee Gees at Motorhead like volumes in the store which means that I can only stand to be in there for about 15 minutes, but they have lots of vinyl. The U-Dist and Jive Time is way too full of beat up vinyl for my tastes. I don't know who's buying this garbage but it's either hipsters who want vinyl in their collection for street cred and are sitting at home spinning CD's all the time or clueless people who will probably get out of vinyl because of all the surface noise from the crappy records they've bought at these places.
Still it's amazing at all the vinyl reissues coming out and Experience Audio has reissues of Stooges and MC5 records and all the stores I've recommended have lots of new stuff.
I'm looking at various DAC's to upgrade my digital cheaply. Like I said, you've gotta have a digital front end but I think you're missing out if you don't have a turntable.

There are a few DACs in the used market you can consider. Besides the Monarchy 33 which I'd mentioned earlier, DACs like EAD DSP-7000, Wadia 12 or PS Audio SuperLink etc.

These bunch have pretty low jitter and low cost because they are advance in age and not the latest in technology. However the circuitry design of these D/As are very intellegently time prove and it is one of the major factor that contribute to good sound and are less jitter prompt. Much better than many of the lastest ones.

If you're not a die-hard fans of 24/96 or 192, these will give you very good result. Always check the jitter level of the D/A. Then move on the explore the character and how good it rocks. Low jitter first.

Great info on getting my hands on some vinyl. You should write a vinyl buying guide...possibly in the "Stranger"? Get more people into analogue. With the popularity of MP3 players, even the CD player is becoming obsolete for the general public. Maybe its time for everything to come full circle. People could just buy vinyl and download their music onto mp3...vinyl for home and mp3 for the road.

What a small world. My new place is a block away from "Hi-Fi Row" on Roosevelt. I think I'll stop by Experience Audio. Its funny how I drive up and down the "Ave" and I've never seen the place. I've been to the Audio Connection on the "Ave" and I've met with the near-sighted guy there, not sure if he's still around.

I'm guessing you live pretty close to a couple of sushi places my wife and I frequent, Shiro's and Wasabi Bistro on 2nd ave ("sushi row"). We should go for a couple of beers sometime...shoot the shit.

I stopped by Hawthorne Stereo to see if they have some turntables there. But their selection was pretty limited. I've had a couple a so-so experiences with them. Fetch, you know of some other places that sell used hi-fi?
Sorry Letch...I just realized I've been typing "Fetch" the whole time. Didn't mean anything by it, must be some Freudian slip. Maybe I should take it up with my analyst...possible post traumatic stress from when my dog ran away from home when I was 6.

Great info on getting my hands on some vinyl. You should write a vinyl buying guide...possibly in the "Stranger"? Get more people into analogue. With the popularity of MP3 players, even the CD player is becoming obsolete for the general public. Maybe its time for everything to come full circle. People could just buy vinyl and download their music onto mp3...vinyl for home and mp3 for the road.

What a small world. My new place is a block away from "Hi-Fi Row" on Roosevelt. I think I'll stop by Experience Audio. Its funny how I drive up and down the "Ave" and I've never seen the place. I've been to the Audio Connection on the "Ave" and I've met with the near-sighted guy there, not sure if he's still around.

I'm guessing you live pretty close to a couple of sushi places my wife and I frequent, Shiro's and Wasabi Bistro on 2nd ave ("sushi row"). We should go for a couple of beers sometime...shoot the shit.

I stopped by Hawthorne Stereo to see if they have some turntables there. But their selection was pretty limited. I've had a couple a so-so experiences with them. Fetch, you know of some other places that sell used hi-fi?

No problem on the name. I thought it was kind of amusing since I'm the one who took your dog and I've trained him to clean my records, it costs me a Milk Bone dog biscuit per side but it's worth it. Kidding.....
Yeah, I had a bad experience with Hawthorne where I auditioned a preamp overnight and they dinged my card for the full amount and took nearly three weeks and countless phone calls to credit me back. I haven't been back since. They acted like total jerks about the whole deal and I talked to three different people there. Very unpleasant. Experience Audio is just down the street from Audio Connection on the other side near 51st and has much more equipment on view.
I used to write music reviews for The Stranger back when Everett True was the editor but after he left they dropped me from the freelance list because I wasn't part of the in-crowd.

As for mp3's, well I didn't like the bad sound quality of 8-tracks back in the 70's and I don't like the equivalent sounding mp3 now. Of course I'm not big on music on the go. Being a fan of John Cage means that I view the sounds around me as interesting enough to not have to inundate myself with headphones. This also means that I don't get hit by a bus because I didn't hear it while crossing the street. But yeah, I have a friend who burns his LP's to CD and then listens to those in his car.

If you want to hang out sometime, I'm game. You can email me at cletche@hotmail.com and we can exchange numbers and talk off list. I can spin you some killer vinyl and convert you to the big black discs. Also, the best sushi is at Maneki in the International District at 6th and Jackson. Seattle's oldest and best sushi restaurant. The only reason I ever go to Shiro's is for the Spanish Mackarel. They're the only place in town that carries it consistently though I Love Sushi's is better, they only have it flown in once or twice a week. It goes quick though.
As for used equipment, I don't know anywhere other than Audio Connection and Hawthorne. I use Audiogon.