I have owned the Meridian 508.24, Wadia 860x and Audio Aero Capitole Mk 2. Meridian does not have the volume control so it's a bit hard to directly compare but my thoughts are Wadia is the driest and most sterile and could also be considered the most detailed of the bunch, personally my least favorite. The Audio Aero is more tublike and full sounding but also on the hollow dry side with a looser bass than the Wadia. The Meridian is the most well rounded sound just natural and easy to listen to. I never got to hear the Meridian with a world class preamp but I suspect my opinion might even be better of it had I had a truly great preamp at the time I owned it. I was always a sucker for the CD players that let you skip on the preamp and use volume control since the cost of a good preamp is as much or more than the cost of the player. I found that a great preamp for me made more of a difference than anything else in my system, so ultimately I found that I had the best sound with a MHDT Paradisea DAC running into a great preamp than I did with a CD player with volume control running right into an amp. So I would personally rather have one of the hot new sub 1K DACs and spend all the rest of the budget on a preamp. I have not been able to achieve really satisfying sound without a preamp in my systems. Even just recently I tried running a Benchmark DAC into a set of Quad powered monitors and I got a recollection of why I don't care for the sound of the DAC running straight to the amp. The preamp is where the heart and soul of the music comes from.
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