|Industry||Audio/Visual Consumer electronics equipment manufacturing and distribution|
|Founder||Bob Stuart, Allen Boothroyd|
|Products||High-end loudspeakers, home theatre equipment|
Based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, Meridian Audio was founded by John Robert (Bob) Stuart and Allen Boothroyd in 1977. Stuart continues to lead the company and heads all technological developments; Boothroyd - who has his own design consultancy on the outskirts of Cambridge - is still actively involved in many aspects of product design. Since the company's inception, all Meridian products have been conceived, engineered and built in the UK.
The company was the first to introduce active loudspeakers (loudspeakers with power amplifiers inside the cabinet) designed for the domestic market, and was the first British company to manufacture a CD player in 1983. The Meridian MCD, launched in 1985, was the first audiophile CD player. In his review of the MCD, audio engineer and Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt wrote, "For the first time, the sound of the best CDs (Telarcs, RealTimes and Sheffields) is truly liquid and transparent, with an effortlessness that I have not previously heard except from the better analog sources... To date, then, this is the best-sounding CD player I've encountered." Meridian also created the first digital surround-sound processor and the first DSP-based digital active loudspeakers.
The flagship DSP8000 active loudspeakers were released in the late 1990s as part of the company's new 800 series. Subsequent loudspeaker models (DSP7000, DSP5200) employed the styling that contributed to the success of the DSP8000.
2006 saw the retirement of both Sales & Marketing Director Colin Aldridge and managing director Douglas Watson, long-term employees of the company. Robert Haefling, previous MD of Faroudja, was brought in as acting managing director and given a mandate to find external investment for the brand. Despite Meridian's excellent reputation within the audiophile community, the company was only modestly profitable and many major investments (e.g. the move to the new premises previously occupied by the ill-fated Tag McLaren brand) were predominately funded by the Taylor family – Bob Stuart's family-in-law (who had originally founded the Boston Globe newspaper).
In 2007 just under 50% of the company's shareholding was sold to the Muse Group, a consortium of the Swiss-based luxury goods group Richemont and U.S. film company New Regency. Muse is now a majority shareholder and is 100 percent owned by Reinet Investments, a sister company of Richemont. Robert Haefling departed soon after and was replaced by Tim Ireland, the previous COO of Mission Loudspeakers. Following the acquisition, and perhaps under the influence of Muse and Richemont, Meridian began to reposition itself as more of a luxury goods manufacturer and opened a series of flagship stores. Performance suffered and almost 20% of the company's workforce was laid off in late 2008. The decade since has seen many changes in the board of directors and business profitability has remained modest compared with the ambitions of the company when it was acquired by Muse. The majority of the company's revenue now comes not from hi-fi products but from the contract to supply Jaguar Land Rover with audio systems for its vehicles (these systems are actually manufactured in China by a contract partner rather than by Meridian in the UK) and MQA – Bob Stuart's audio file compression technology.
Meridian Audio has been in the home theatre market since 1994 with the launch of the Meridian Digital Theatre. In 2005, The New York Times profiled Meridian's $20,000 Model 800 DVD player. According to The Times, "The Model 800 represents what some believe to be the pinnacle in audio and video processing technologies."
Technologies developed by Meridian include Digital Signal Processing (DSP) Loudspeakers, and the Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) audio codecs. MLP is used in DVD-Audio and Blu-ray Disc as part of Dolby TrueHD and MQA is used by the Tidal music streaming service.
Partnerships and acquisitions
Since 2005, Meridian Audio has been the manufacturer and distributor of Faroudja video processor systems, now marketed solely under the Meridian name. In December 2008, Meridian acquired media server manufacturer Sooloos to create Meridian's range of streaming systems.
Meridian has also engaged in partnerships with several luxury companies:
- Meridian and Ferrari developed the F80 compact system.
- Meridian and Alfred Dunhill partnered to develop the Alfred Dunhill AD88 Entertainment System.
- Meridian has developed high-end in-car audio systems in collaboration with McLaren, Land Rover and Jaguar.
- Imagination Technologies (IMG.L) and Meridian Audio have entered into an agreement to collaborate on the next generation of multi-channel high resolution wireless audio streaming systems.
Meridian runs several boutiques in major cities across the world. Boutiques are located in London, Oxford, Kuwait City, Bangkok, Mexico City, Santiago, Moscow, Bangalore and Singapore. Retailers also sell Meridian products worldwide.
Awards and recognition
Meridian products have received several awards, including:
- 2011 Robb Report Best of the Best, Audio: Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System
- 2010 CEA Human Interface Product of the Year: Meridian Sooloos
- 2009 Robb Report Best of the Best, Home Video: Meridian 810 Reference Video System
- 2009 CEA Innovations Design and Engineering Award in the Integrated Home Systems: Meridian Sooloos
- 1988 British Design Council Award: Meridian 200 Series
- 1982 British Design Council Award: Meridian Modular Amplifier System
- "The Meridian Story". Meridian Audio.
- "Time warp: Meridian's MCD, the first audiophile CD player". Gadget Guy. 15 June 2009.
- J. Gordon Holt (4 February 1985). "Meridian MCD & MCD Pro CD players". Stereophile.
- "Tim Ireland, CEO, Meridian Audio". Luxury Society. 30 March 2011.
- "Milchan high on tech buy". Variety. 4 December 2007.
- "Electronics That Enhance an Image (Yours)". The New York Times. 22 March 2004.
- "The great sound of Britain". The Daily Telegraph. 21 April 2012.
- "Lookin' Good, Soundin' Good". Popular Mechanics. June 2001.
- "Meridian DSP8000 digital active loudspeaker". Stereophile. 23 November 2001.
- "New Meridian M6 Loudspeaker delivers contemporary design and outstanding sound performance". Luxurious Magazine. 13 January 2012.
- "The Meridian Audio Group: A short history" (PDF). Meridian Audio.
- "In Judging DVD Players, Performance Is in Details". The New York Times. 8 December 2005.
- "Cool stuff for chilling". San Francisco Chronicle. 1 December 2009.
- "Meridian 810 Reference Video System 2,400p Three-Chip D-ILA Front Projector Reviewed". Home Theater Review. 21 August 2008.
- "Meridian Technologies". Meridian Audio.
- "Tidal Masters (with MQA) review". What Hi-Fi?. 9 February 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
at CES 2017, Tidal launched ‘Tidal Masters’: hi-res MQA streams
- "Meridian Audio Group – Short History" (PDF). Meridian.
- "Meridian Acquires Sooloos". Stereophile. 5 December 2008.
- "Meridian Streaming". Meridian Audio.
- "Meridian F80 CD Receiver System". Stereophile. 22 April 2008.
- "Alfred Dunhill AD88 Entertainment System Announced". eCoustics. 4 November 2008.
- "Meridian Automotive Systems". Meridian Audio.
- "Imagination Technologies Collaboration". Meridian Audio.
- "Meridian Boutiques". Meridian Audio.
- "Retailers". Meridian Audio.
- "Best of the Best 2011: Audio: Meridian Sooloos Digital Media System". Robb Report. 1 June 2011.
- "CEA Announces Winners of 2010 Mark of Excellence Awards". Business Wire. 29 March 2010.
- "Meridian 810 Reference Video System". Robb Report. 1 June 2009.
- "Innovation 2009: Design and Engineering Awards". CE.org. 6 February 2009.
- "Meridian". Gramophone. May 1999. p. 193.
- "Design award for Meridian". Gramophone. July 1982. p. 90.
- "Meridian at the Movies". Meridian Audio.