Meridian 558 vs. Bryston 6B, Arag 8008x3

I'm looking for a multi-channel solution, eventually to bi-amp B&W N802s. I've eliminated the Krells, ML and Rowlands, thinking that although the Quality is there (Big "Q"), so is the price. All mentioned provide excellent build quality and excellent company reputation. The Meridian is pricey, but deliver 500x2wpc, plus a single 200wpc, when configured bridge: this is attractive. I'd appreciate your thoughts?

It would be helpful to know about your speakers, your listening room (size, distance you will sit from the speakers, etc.), and whether you will be using a subwoofer with the system. I can still offer several things to consider, and if you answer back with the info above, I'm sure other readers will be able to "fine tune" the advice.

1. I have no personal experience with the Meridian, but have extensive listening time with the Aragon, and my HT setup currently includes a Bryston 4B-ST and 5B-ST. It is likely that both the Aragon and the Bryston 6B-ST will do a fine job for you, although this is a bit dependent on your speakers and audio preferences. The Aragon is, in most systems, a smidge warmer than the Brystons, but if your speakers run toward the warm side (like Vandersteens do, for instance), you may prefer the Bryston. The 6B-ST, as you know, is the 3-channel version of the 4B-ST, which I have found to be a fine amp, particularly at the price. (The Brystons also have a great 20-year transferrable warranty, and perhaps the finest customer service in the business.)

2. The power rating on the Brystons tends to be quite conservative. The 4B-ST and 6B-ST amps are rated at 250 wpc, but typically are in the 290-300 wpc range.

3. If your center and/or surround speakers are above average in efficiency (above 89-90 db), you may find that the Bryston 5B-ST will fill your needs. The general consensus on this forum is that surround speakers often do not require as much power as the main front speakers, particularly if the surrounds are smaller, monitor size units that do not have much output below 60-70 hz. However, if your surrounds are floor-standing, full-range speakers, you should provide as much power to them as to the main front speakers.

4. If you decide to go with the Bryston 6B-ST, drop me a personal E-mail and I will send you information about the dealer where I bought my Bryston. He offers a substantial discount, and sells the 4B-ST for about $1650 (vs. $2395 MSRP), and will probably sell the 6B-ST for about $2400.

I hope someone who knows the Meridian line will respond to your post. They make fine gear, and are certainly worthy of serious consideration.
Thanks for the very informative response.

The B&W N802s are transparent, and articulate all upstream (Pre-amp, amp, DVD, CD) equipment: they do run bright, based on their Tweeter (the driver, and its positioning).

My center is the B&W HTM-1: the B&W N804 in a different configuration: it's rated at 91db, as are the N802s. My concern is that DVD-A will assume five or more full-range; therefore the amps should be able to drive all speakers with equal authority and range. The 3 channel set-up is ideal, in that I'll run paired 3x for the fronts (bi-amped), run digital cable to the rear mains, run them in a 2x bi-amped mode.

My room set-up is expansive: 20x30 with cathedral ceilings: the N802s sing with my B&K monoblocks (250wpc each), but they don't have the continuous punch to drive both the normal and dynamic loads into these spaces.

A dual Meridian 558 setup would provide extra power (at extra cost) to the front LF, then a 5B-ST to drive the HFs: this would cost about $7k each for the Fronts and Rears: more than I want to spend on amplification, unless it makes 'sense'.

The Brystons have an excellent rep; as do the Aragons.

I hope this helps, and do appreciate the thoughful comments.

Mike Dorsam
Thanks for the extra info, Mike. The additional info will slightly change a couple of my suggestions.

1. Given your main speakers, the Aragon may prove the better choice, but there is really no way to be sure except an in-home audition. I do not find the Bryston amps to be bright -- they are, however, very transparent and are very revealing of recording balance. Maybe you can find a couple of audiophiles in your area that would let you try their Aragon and Bryston amps. Do you have a audio club in your area that you could contact? (I suggest this rather than a dealer, since borrowing equipment from a dealer sort of obligates you to buy their product.)

2. Your surround speakers are efficient enough that you may be able to get by with the Bryston 5B-ST. The wild care is the size of your room, and its acoustic characteristics. If price is not a huge concern, however, I'd recommend getting the Bryston 6B-ST (or the Aragon), since having some extra headroom in the amp is a good idea with a large room.

3. Your HT processor and/or DVD player should be programmable for either "small" (limited freqency response) or "large" (full-range response) surround and center speakers. If the surrounds are only capable of reproducing frequencies down to 60-70 Hz, the speaker selection on the pre/pro makes no real real difference in terms of amp power, since the speakers will need only enough power to drive them to their low frequency limit.

As a point of illustration, the surround speakers in my HT system are rated at 91-92 db efficiency, and their lower end is about 55Hz. I feed a full-range signal to them from the pre/pro. With their relatively high efficiency, the Bryston 5B-ST provides more than enough power, but my listening room is about half the volume of yours. (Remember that for every 3db increase in speaker efficiency, you halve the amount of amplifier power needed.)

4. The final point which we've not discussed is subwoofers. Given the size of your room, a good subwoofer may be more a necessity than a option. With a good powered sub, you will also relieve your main front speakers of handling the really deep bass and LFE in DVD sound tracks. Given the fine quality of your system, I think you should give serious thought to adding a good subwoofer. There have a number of threads on A-gon over the past several months that will provide ideas for which sub might work best for you.

That pretty much exhausts my ideas. I'm sure you'll get some good input from others.
Thanks for both the comments and the insight.

I'm sleeping on it, my gut will tell me some morning how I really feel.

Take Care.
I did have one final thought: you might also look at the new amps being made by Marsh Sound Designs -- they've gotten very good reviews. Richard Marsh is a well-known electrical engineering type whose expertise is in power systems -- he was also the designer for Monster Cable's power conditioners, the HTS1000, 2000, 3500, and 5000. There are two amps that might do a great job meeting your requirements: the A400S (200 wpc), and the new HT500S (3-channel version of the A400S). The A400S sells for $2000 (MSRP), and I'd guess the HT500S is probably another $750 or so. You can probably find local dealers listed on Marsh's Web site.
Interesting, you mentioning the Marsh. The Absolute Sound magazine continues to sing their praise, as have others. I'll have to look at them seriously.

Thanks, again.