Myryad MDP 500 preamplifier-processor Page 2

Next, you adjust the output level of each channel in the speaker array (Level Setup) by means of a pink-noise–like test signal that is switched among the available channels.

Finally, using Delay Setup, you calculate and set the time delays for the center and surround channels to compensate for each speaker's distance from the listener. Only a tape measure is required for this. These speaker settings affect only those signals that pass through the digital processing of the MDP 500, not the signals from the "7.1" inputs. As you'll see when I talk about multichannel SACD and DVD-A, below, this is a critical problem.

Other setups are available: Tone Controls (bass and treble settings that affect all channels), Display Setup (NTSC/PAL, how menus are displayed, composite/S-video, etc.), and Trigger Setup (permits occurrence or selection of events to control relay outputs). There is also an RS-232 input for computer control, and My-Link input/output for daisy-chaining Myryad components. I leave these to the A/V-committed; I found no need to change any of the default settings.

Setup was long and arduous; it was an hour (!) before I could get to the music. And you thought stereo setup was tough!

But barely two weeks after the MDP 500 went into service, it went out. No noise, no flash—it just sat there, ignoring the front-panel controls and the remote. The good news was that Myryad's distributor, Artech Electronics, will authorize dealers to make an on-site swap for a new unit if any MDP 500 fails in the first year. Thus, real-world users won't have to have their systems down for any significant time. The second MDP worked, and continues to work, flawlessly. (The second time around, setup took no longer than 15 minutes.)

The MDP 500 performed all of its complex functions with no software errors, or any untoward noises from the chassis or outputs. In fact, I soon forgot about the box entirely, as the remote and onscreen menus personified it all. I used the Myryad as my preamp, controller, and processor for audio and video.

Meat and Potatoes
For a long time to come, most of my listening will still be plain, ordinary stereo—the vast majority of my library and the music I get over cable is in two channels. The Myryad preamp-processor replaced the Meridian 203 preamp and the MSB Link-DAC quite ably. The general impression given by the MDP 500 was one of clarity without glare or brightness. With the California Audio Lab CL-20 DVD-V player's analog signals feeding the MDP 500's regular analog inputs, the sound was significantly warmer and richer than with the venerable Meridian, even though the Myryad subjects these signals to additional rounds of conversion from analog to digital and back to analog.

However, the MDP 500 has another card up its sleeve: It can also accept digital signals, bypassing its own A/D and the CAL's D/A. This elevated it into an entirely glorious realm of transparency and openness. There was never a question in my mind that using the digital inputs in the Myryad was preferable to using the Link or the CL-20's own DACs. Was this preference merely the result of eliminating additional A/D and D/A stages, or were the MDP 500's DACs that good?

They were that good. I confirmed this by using the "7.1"-channel analog inputs, which bypass all digital processing in the MDP. When I fed the CL-20 simultaneously to a digital input and A/B'd them, it was a tough choice between the CAL's 20-bit/96kHz DACs and the MDP's 20/48 DACs. The CL-20's DACs seemed to endow the low end with a bit more slam, but that was noticeable on only a few discs. Conversely, going digital into the MDP 500 seemed to result in a quieter background and livelier dynamics. Sonically, I could live with either, but in practice my preference was for a direct digital feed with bass management and tone controls. For plain old stereo from CDs and DMX, the MDP 500 simply eliminates the need for external DACs, unless you insist on jitter boxes or upsampling. For 24/96 DADs, on the other hand, you can realize a full-resolution signal only with the "7.1" inputs fed by a 24/96 DAC—at present, the digital input accepts no more than 20/48.

On the other hand, if you have an SACD or DVD-A player, you can't always expect a full-resolution signal from the digital output jack, and in some cases you can expect nothing. For example, the Philips SACD1000 player (see my Follow-Up in this issue) provides no PCM audio from its digital jack. With such a player, you must use its analog outputs. However, it's not obvious whether you should choose the MDP 500's regular analog inputs (which are digitally processed) or its "7.1" input. In the former case, bass management is accomplished by the Myryad; in the latter, by the player. Unfortunately, most players' bass-management facilities are mediocre at best, and not available at all with the MDP's "7.1" inputs, which bypass digital processing. My advice is to use the "7.1" inputs for stereo only if you have two full-range front speakers—as, of course, you should. Otherwise, let the MDP 500 manage the bass and make available other processing modes. This silly situation is foisted on us by the lack of a useful digital output from DVD-A and SACD players.

DTS, AC-3, and all that jazz
The Myryad MDP 500 is capable of decoding a multichannel signal from DTS and Dolby Digital sources, and did so quite ably for me. Again, the issue of bass management will be the primary determinant of whether or not to use the digital or the "7.1" input; for the reasons cited above, I generally preferred the digital input. With DTS or Dolby Digital CDs and DVDs, the Myryad's decoding was stable and clean. It also offered consistent power and warmth from all the players I tried (CAL CL-20, Philips SACD1000, Technics DVD-A10), even though each of these had more "personality" when fed to the MDP's "7.1" input via their own processors and DACs. Perhaps it's the same as with regular CD transports and DACs: the DACs usually vary, affecting the sound more than do the transports.

I've played the DVD of Roy Orbison's A Black and White Night (Image ID88260BDVD) a lot lately. Both the DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks are excellent, despite the placement of some voices and instruments in the rear and a couple of left/right anomalies between what is heard and what is seen. But because I rarely pay much attention to the screen, the latter is of no consequence. What's great is the exciting and infectious presence of Orbison and his all-star group in a realistic club setting. I got the impression of more subtle detail and space with DTS than with Dolby Digital, but both were more dynamic and less brash using the MDP's decoding than, say, the decoders in the DVD-A10.

Myryad Systems Ltd.
US distributor: Artech Electronics, Ltd.
P.O. Box 455
Williston, VT 05495
(514) 631-6448