Review: Reference Audio Mods: Meridian G68 CD Player

Category: Digital

This is a review of mods done to my Meridian G68 by Kyle Takenaga of Reference Audio Mods in Riverside, CA.

The G68 is a home theater processor. I use it for both movies and 2 channel music. I know that using a home theater processor for 2 channel music is generally thought of as a good way to get bad sound, but I have persisted in using it for two reasons: bass management and room correction. The G68 does both, and IMO, it does them well. So for 2 channel audio, I use my G68 as a digital crossover, a room correction device, a dac, and a preamp. Hence it plays a large role in my system. My review is for the use of the G68 for 2 channel audio only.

1. Replacement of stock power supply with custom power supply.
2. Replacement of stock clock with Audiocom Superclock 4.
3. Replacement of stock op amps to National Semiconductors LME49990.
4. Addition of analog output buffer from National Semiconductors.
5. Removal of EMI filter on IEC input.
6. Replacement of stock digital RCA input and analog RCA outputs with WBT Nextgen connectors.

COST: $1275 (including CA sales tax)

TIME TO COMPLETE MODS: 20 calendar days.

The mods resulted in significant improvements in at least three areas. In descending order of audibility…

1. Increased resolution. This is quite noticeable. I am sorry for the cliché, but I really am hearing things in familiar recordings that I haven’t heard before. On two or three occasions, I mistook some formerly inaudible detail in a recording as a sound originating somewhere else in the house. The mods have resulted in a considerably more detailed presentation.

2. Decreased glare/shrillness/harshness. Also quite noticeable. The edginess associated digital audio (from jitter, poorly regulated power supplies, etc.) has been reduced considerably, resulting in a more relaxed presentation.

3. Better PRaT. Subtle but significant. Transient response is less smeared, resulting in a more coherent presentation.

Taken together, the presentation is more detailed, relaxed, and coherent. In other words, more musical. The changes are perceptible on all kinds of music, but most noticeable on classical. Martin Zeller’s selection of Bach’s Cello Suites and Chopin According to Fei Ping Hsu (both from MA Recordings) are two good examples. After the RAM mods, the instruments (cello and piano, respectively) sound more lifelike than I have ever heard in my listening room. I am very pleased.

So far, none that I can detect. I will report back after the honeymoon phase has passed. One minor note: I did have to change the interconnects between the G68 and my amp (Pass Labs XA30.5), because after the mods, the interconnects I was using sounded, well, not great. I’m not exactly sure what to attribute that to, other than the generalization that cables are highly system dependent. In any case, the new interconnect (Morrow MA3) is working quite nicely, and so this was a small adjustment to make.

I should add that Kyle at RAM was incredibly easy to work with. He was very patient in answering my questions (which were numerous), and he was prompt in returning messages and emails. He is also a nice guy, which made this inherently anxiety-inducing process quite bearable.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System
Update: After two weeks, the sound of the modded G68, which was excellent to begin with, has improved dramatically. The initial improvements were increased resolution, decreased harshness, and better PRaT. But in the past week or so, the improvements have expanded to include better dynamics, coherence, soundstaging, and harmonic realism.

I am inclined to attribute these recent improvements to the mods breaking in. But there is a confounding variable, which is that, a few days ago, I removed about half the circuitry in the G68, for reasons described here. I removed all the video circuitry, the multizone circuitry, and the tuner, none of which I use. That resulted in an immediate improvement in sound quality.

After I removed the excess circuitry, I got the distinct impression that I was hearing the effects of the RAM mods for the first time, and that the excess circuitry was masking the real improvements. This impression was confirmed by the fact that I have heard incremental improvements each day since, which I believe to be improvements associated with the mods breaking in.

Whatever the cause, I can say that the G68 now sounds like a different machine. Better in every respect. I had a friend over who is very familiar with my system and he was equally impressed with the improvements. Prior to this, the greatest cost-to-improvement ratio I had experienced was when I added a reclocker to my system. The cost-to-improvement ratio of the RAM mods exceed that, and so far exceed cable swapping as to be hardly worth comparing.

Other than lingering concerns about reliability problem with the G68 (problems that preceded, and that are therefore not attributable to, the mods), I am very happy. I am now looking at the rest of my system and wondering what else I can send Kyle to mod.