I looked at carrying both brands, but in the end I ended up hosting the Brystons in house. To me Bryston offered the best in real-world performance in their amplifiers. As for the SP2, it sounds so natural. I would go Bryston, live with their 20 year warranty, and never look back or regret.
Depends. In analog, the fully analog circuitry of the SP-2 is the hands-down winner as it is clean and avoids the A/D-D/A of the Meridian. If the source is digital, then the palm is awarded to the Meridian which is still, imho, the most outstanding digital machine in sound quality and control.
The reality is the Bryston is a two channel preamp with a rudimentary surround package bolted on. So it is designed to do well in this area, an area where it pretty much equals the 861. The Bryston after that is a basic surround processor, with little software sophistication.
It is designed specifically for people who would be inclined to use their surround sound system for two channel, which a great deal of people on this forum would qualify. I am surprised that almost everyone doesn't own one, for many it integrates without compromise, if you're stuck in 2 channel world. :)
Using the 861 as a two channel analog preamp is dubious at best and not reccomended. Not because it is a poor performer but you're not using it for what it was intended. The reason the 861 costs so much is exactly why Ttowntony bought the Bryston. he Meridian is very sophisticated (the Bryston is the opposite) and complex in its software, most people in the audio business (ie dealers) do not understand a fraction of what the unit is capable of, some have even been compelled to call it a toy. This sort of reasoning based on gross misunderstanding means only a smaller fraction of audio consumers understand what the 861/G68 is all about.
The 861 stands alone as the very best surround sound processor on the market, nothing is close for a purely surround perspective. Yeah there are some pretenders disguised as surround processors when all their design team knows is two channel, so you get the equivalent of a dual processor Pentium V machine and then they run Word Perfect for Dos as their software on their advanced machine if you get my meaning. Mo' betta' Hardware is not the answer in surround design mo' betta' software is.
using an 861 as an analog 2 channel preamp, is like having a 2 speed automatic transmission with Overdrive installed in your 456 Ferrari.
The reason for my asking is that I would prefer having 1 preamp that does both music and movies. Yet I am an audiophile at heart, wanting to extract that extra drop of sound out of a musical piece. I can have separate components for music and for movies if I reluctantly must.
So does this mean the 861 is a mediocre music preamp? Or perhaps the SP2 is not close to the best music preamp out there either.
At the other extreme, is the SP2 a rather lousy surround sound processor that you should not consider it for watching movies.
I can go either analog or digital. It's the ultimate sound realism of a musical piece, and the stereo separation/clarity for a surround sound that I am after. Thank you.
Do you have analog sources that you must use? Such might be an SACD player, a turntable, an FM tuner? If not, then I'd go with the Meridian.
My current CD/DVD player is the Meridian 596 which can be plugged into the 861 nicely to produce some kind of a musical performance and the expected excellent surround sound quality. Or its 192-khz analog output can be plugged into an analog preamp such as the SP2, while its digital output would go into the digital surround sound of the SP2. However I am think of the long term, which is CD-quality music stored on a hard drive. So eventually I would have to buy a DAC capable of wirelessly receiving the musical signal. I am not going to buy any wireless equipment nor any DAC until the technology can achieve "that" level of audiophile performance. But you know the technology is only a few years away. In short, any analog preamp is still needed, unless I don't think straight here.
So, you don't need an analog input, right? So?
Not thinking straight :), the wireless interface can be plugged into the 861 digitally!!!!, you can do this now! The great thing about ones and zeroes is if you don't lose any then the quality is there already any jitter will be removed by the 861's fifo buffers.....
Might be 5 years from now your speakers will be digital too, so their will be no need for a "DAC" till the speaker drivers.
My speakers are not digital. So are you saying that the DAC inside the 861 would produce analog signal for the amplifier at the 2-channel music performance level better than the straight analog route through the SP2? Basically you can skip a high-quality external DAC/SP2 combo because the 861 DAC would be better sound-wise anyway?
Absolutely, the 861 is Meridians best 2 channel DAC, it just comes standard with bonus channels.
I know your speakers are not digital yet, one day soon they may be. My new ones have a digital crossover, so my signal is digital through my Meridian all the way to the speakers crossover.
"So are you saying that the DAC inside the 861 would produce analog signal for the amplifier at the 2-channel music performance level better than the straight analog route through the SP2?"
Yes!, shorter analog signal path = BETTER!!!!, no interconnects and minimum 8 extra contact points eliminated and op amps and impedance matching stages eliminated etc= BETTER.
Why do audiophiles ignore the fact that most companies like Meridian, bryston, Theta, Burmester and Halcro for example put their best DAC technology in their Prepros! and everyone wants to skip the efficient proper route and run an analog signal into a DIGITAL PROCESSOR. Instead of using the prepro how it is designed to be used! To me if you don't have a tt, worrying about an analog pass thru is like not buying a computer because it doesn't have a 5 1/4" floppy drive. What's the point to split valuable funds simply to buy 2 DACs? I cannot make sense of this other than it is a habit or conditioning based on ritualistic system design based in the two channel tradition. Maybe you could tell me where the disconnect is for you?
Basically you can skip a high-quality external DAC/SP2 combo because the 861 DAC would be better sound-wise anyway?
Let me tell you an even more relevant story, you'd be hard pressed to find an external DAC that run analog through the SP2 would sound better than the SP2 used a s a two channel dac! The 861 would sound better yes, easily.
I'll speak for myself, 2 channel is a joke compared to surround, with the 861 2 channel CD's surpass the best LP has to offer with an ease that is downright frightening to the analog protagonists who often believe multichannel is incapable of high fidelity. I will tell you that the 861 playing two channel is not as good as LP has to offer. Interesting no?
I have the 861 in my home theater and the AudioNote M10 (tube preamp) and EMMlabe DCC2 (DAC and SS preamp) in my 2ch system. I am consistently amazed at the excellent musicality of the Meridian (I use a Denon 5901ci for digital source in the HT ) compared to my other preamps. If I had one system for HT and music, and no analog sources as stated above, I would, without a doubt, buy the Meridian.
If your main player is the 596 than go for the Meridian. The DAC's in the 861 and G68 are the same if not better.
I had a G68 which was the best sounding digital pre-amp for music I have ever owned. Movies were also the best with the G68.
D_Edwards can answer this better than me but I believe the G68 sounds very close to the 861 but will save you a ton of money.
I recently sold my G68 but not to upgrade but rather downgrade. There is just not enough time in the day to fully enjoy it and felt it was going to waste as a glorified football watching sound system.
If I had more time to spend watching movies and listening to music I would have kept the G68 without question.
Hope this helps.
This is probably a silly question, considering that Meridian is known for digital technology, and the price difference between the 861 and SP2 has to speak for something. But I just have to ask. Has anybody compared the SP2 and 861 when a digital source (preferably a CD player) is plugged into their respective digital input. I am still talking about 2-channel music listening. However we are now using a digital source and the direct comparison between the 2 pieces of equipment.
Apparently Stereophile praises the digital side of SP2 so much that I am wondering if the 861 is really worth the money. The remainder of my system is the Ayre V5xe driving the Infinity Prelude MTS on the stereo side. So from the absolute sense, does 861 really outperform SP2 on 2-channel digital? And from the relative sense, in order to hear the difference between 861 and SP2 digitally, does it take much better equipment than what I have?
I prefer the sound of the 861 to the SP2 with digital input but I rarely listened to either in stereo. I suspect it's the same as with MCH. However, the 861 has MRC and the SP2 doesn't so that may make some difference.