Meitner's Music Machines

When we finished the recent redesign of SoundStage! Global, we realized something important: we had created not only a better site for our show reports and factory tours but also an ideal place for blogging about audio. This would allow us to provide additional content that we knew our readers would enjoy, and that wouldn't fit well anywhere else. As a result, a few of us are now blogging. I'm obviously one of them, and Jeff Fritz and Garrett Hongo are the other two. In time there will probably be more.

I can't speak for the other guys, but I can say that I'm going to mainly use this space to give a behind-the-scenes look at the products I review. I'll also include some visits to NRC, since I get there quite often to measure loudspeakers, and from time to time I might generate some reports on the places I travel to, particularly if I'm doing a company visit but not a full-fledged factory tour.

Meitner MA-1 and EMM Labs PRE2

This first installment has to do with some equipment that I recently received -- the EMM Labs PRE2 preamplifier and the Meitner MA-1 DAC. Both brands fall under the same corporate umbrella, and all of their products are designed by Ed Meitner, who is also the president and more or less a legend in the Canadian hi-fi industry. Ed's factory is in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

This all started after I sat down for an hour-long talk with Ed at CES 2013. I'd never met Ed before and, frankly, I'm not sure what he thought about me when we first started talking. He seemed a little bit suspicious, since I was asking so many questions. Was I an audio spy? But after he figured out that I was pretty earnest about hearing what he had to say, he let loose with his thoughts on audio. And not just a little loose -- Ed was unchained, exhibiting a rare candor that I greatly appreciated, as it gave me such insight into what he and his products are about.

I'm sure that if I reiterated some of the things Ed said to me, many would find some of the stuff pretty "out there," if not downright controversial, but I will say that a number of his comments hit home with me and gave me pause for thought. They also caused me to rethink certain things, particularly about digital audio. What's more, what he said compelled me to want to listen to some of his products in my own system to hear, firsthand, whether what he said was all hot air or would translate into good sound. I figured that the best place to start would be his lowest-priced product, the Meitner MA-1 DAC ($7000 USD), which Uday Reddy reviewed for us in SoundStage! Hi-Fi and ended up buying because he liked it so much. So I asked the folks at Meitner if they'd lend me one for a short time and, lo and behold, they agreed to do it.

The MA-1 landed here a little over a month ago, and now that I have been listening for quite a bit of time I can say not only that I wholeheartedly agree with what Uday said in his review, but also that Meitner is certainly not all talk. Then, get this: a week or so after the MA-1 arrived, I received an e-mail asking if I'd like to hear their PRE2 preamplifier with the MA-1. Meitner released the PRE2 a couple of years ago, and it carries a retail price of $15,000. This time I was the one who was suspicious. Did they want me to review it? I've got loads of stuff here already, and I wasn't about to commit to anything! No, they just wanted me to hear it, so I told them to send it along. But that doesn't mean I won't review it, since it's never been reviewed for any of our publications. I just have to see how my review queue clears out before I decide whether I will.

Child with Meitner

Below is a gallery of photos showing the PRE2's arrival at my front door on March 26, 2013, until it ended up in my listening room. As you'll see, any new gear creates quite a stir around my place, since audio is a family affair, with everyone, including my two-year-old son, able to turn on most of our systems (we have four). And stay tuned to the pages of SoundStage! Hi-Fi to find out if the PRE2's arrival translates to anything more -- like a review.

Doug Schneider
Founder and publisher, The SoundStage! Network