meridian 861 for stereo vs dedicated 2ch preamp

I have heard the 861/800 combo with transparent cables, wilson wp7, and classe cam 350 monoblocks in a treated room. THis is the best I have heard. I had at that point started to save my money for wilson speakers, figuring I could find a 2 channel preamp for cheaper.

I have listened recently to halcro preamp (the one without the phono) and vtl 7.5 with a wadia cd player ( am not familiar with the line, so don't know which one), valhalla interconnects and transparent speaker cable (not sure which one, but it was very thick) in a not so treated room with wp7s as well as Alexandrias. Neither sounded as good to me as the first system listed above.

Was it the meridian gear that I was taken with all along instead of the wilsons? Was it the room? How do the meridian combo fare against other brands.

If one buys meridian 861 or 800 used, how do the various versions compare to the latest?
First, the 800 is a player, although it might function as a preamp/controller with the right board but without the flexibility of the 861 or of any topline preamp.

Second, the 861 is a digital device and all analog inputs are digitized for processing before D/A for output. The various versions differ in the sophistication of the DSP operations but the sound quality is more dependant on the input/output cards. For example, there are now 24/192 analog inputs but older 861s may have A/D of lesser resolution which may or may not be subjectively significant. So, you should find out exactly what you were listening to.

Finally, the latest 861s, version 4, have room EQ ability and that could have been a real factor in auditions.

So, no easy answers but I loved the older version and have just had mine updated to v4 and 24/192 input!

So for the 861, the digital signal from the transport is converted to analog by the DAC and then back to digital as it goes into the 861? Does this degrade the signal at all? I know if you use a meridian player also, there is a direct digital proprietary connection, which would seem to give a distinct advantage to using a meridian cd player with it.

Sonically, how does this unit compare to high quality 2 channel units?
In theory, it is worse than not using an additional A/D + D/A stage. In practice, it makes little or no subjective difference.