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861V8 Reference Digital Surround Sound Controller

Here you will find all of the information that you require to get the most out of your 861V8 Reference Digital Surround Sound Controller.

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No. The 861V8 is built to operate with a specific mains voltage range. This means that, for example, a unit built for use in Europe cannot be used in the USA without internal modification.

If the 861V8 is combined with a Meridian HD621 processor, then the full benefits of these lossless formats can be realised. However, the 861V8 cannot decode the streams on its own.

To realise the full potential of the lossless formats supported by Blu-Ray, the player needs to be connected to the 861V8 via the Meridian HD621 processor. However, in the absence of an HD621, the player can be connected using a digital interconnect lead or by using a TOSLINK optical cable. These connections will allow access to the lossy 5.1 formats (Dolby Digital and DTS) and to any two-channel audio output from the player. If the player supports it, a multichannel analogue audio connection can be used, but this is sub-optimal due to the multiple conversions between the digital and analogue domains to which the audio signals will be subjected.

Up to eight-channels. Therefore, when an HD621 is used to feed the 861V8, it should be configured to output eight channels. This is done under the “Audio” tab within “Properties” of the HD621, the setting “Linear PCM” should be set to “8 Ch.” This is the default setting within the program, so it should not need to be changed.

The amount of configuration that can be carried out without the use of a computer is very limited. The unit can be set to one of the standard default configurations programmed within the unit – known as “Factory Types” - but that’s all. No adjustment can be made to the number of loudspeakers, the type of speakers, how the inputs are assigned, which loudspeaker is defined as “Master” or the myriad other options without the use of a computer.

A. The PC set-up program, MConfig, is available for download from the Meridian website. The product  is set-up via a “null modem” (crossover) lead connected to the RS232 socket on the back panel. On many computers, the lack of an RS232 port will necessitate the use of a serial-to-USB adapter.

There is no Mac version of MConfig, the PC set-up program. However, the program has been used successfully within PC-emulation environments installed on Apple Mac computers. Due to the added layer of variables such a set-up includes, it is strongly advised that the process is tried in advance of any time-critical installation tasks.

Yes. Any combination of analogue or DSP loudspeakers can be used as front, side, rears, centre and subwoofer with the natural caveat that both loudspeakers in any pair are of the same type. That is, the front pair must both be analogue or they must both be DSP loudspeakers, the side pair must be the same as each other and the rear pair and must match each other.

If the loudspeaker is set as Large, the potential exists to send that loudspeaker full-range bass. Conversely, any loudspeaker set to Small will be bass-limited and its bass will be sent to other loudspeakers and/or the subwoofer in the system. The frequency at which the bass diverts away from the Small loudspeakers is determined by the setting “Crossover” in bass-management.

Not necessarily. If any loudspeaker is capable of full-range bass at the full volume level required, then it can be set to Large. However, if a loudspeaker is not so capable, it may reach its limit in bass output at a volume level which is lower than that available from the rest of the system. In such cases, it may be better to set the loudspeaker to Small and choose the “Crossover” frequency to suit. This can allow the system overall to reach higher bass output levels because the bass will be directed to loudspeakers which are more capable of handling it.

Within this context, the terms Large and Small are relative rather than absolute. If the system features front left and right loudspeakers which are full-range, floor-standing models while the centre-channel is a small horizontally opposed unit and the surround loudspeakers are small passive in-ceiling loudspeakers, then the sensible starting point would be to set the front loudspeakers as Large with the centre-channel and surrounds set as Small. If the differences in size are less marked, then it may prove worthwhile experimenting with differing set-ups.

Typical multichannel music and movie material contains a high proportion of the sound within the centre-channel of the recording. In addition to the bulk sound making up the vocals or dialogue, the sound present can extend down to low bass frequencies. Even some loudspeakers which are physically quite large are hard-pressed to reproduce this amount of information without compromise. Therefore, optimum performance may be achieved by setting even a physically large centre-channel loudspeaker to Small within the bass-management settings. This will cause the bass frequencies to be sent to the more capable channels leaving the centre-channel to reproduce vocals and dialogue with improved clarity as well as allowing the overall bass output of the system to be maximised.

When a system plays in “Bass-heavy” mode, bass which is played by the “Large” loudspeakers is duplicated and sent to the subwoofer as well. This has the potential to play bass at a much higher level than originally intended when the recording was made. However, its effect – especially with movie soundtracks - can be extremely impressive.

“Bass-heavy” requires the presence of a subwoofer. The option is offered in the bass-management settings only when the centre-channel is set as “Small” and the front left and right are set as “Large”.

Simple “balanced-to-unbalanced” adapters can be used to convert the outputs for use with amplifiers with unbalanced RCA phono connections. Be sure to obtain adapters of the correct gender for the job. The outputs on the 861V8 are “male” with three pins within the recess of each socket.

The choice of preset is a matter of personal taste, but “Trifield” has proved to be the most commonly used method of playing back two-channel music in a multichannel Meridian system. Trifield provides an excellent soundstage with great depth across the front of the room while sending carefully filtered sounds at relatively low levels to the surround loudspeakers. The result is a sound which subtly envelops the listener without resorting to excessive reverb or other falsified effects.

The 861V8 can be fitted with a card which adds a Sooloos end-point. Two incarnations of the card exist; the original ID40 was superseded by the ID41 card. These cards provide the highest quality of Sooloos playback available from the 861V8, with the performance of the ID41 improving slightly on the earlier ID40 card. Without a Sooloos card fitted, the 861V8 features input options suitable for connecting any separate Sooloos end-point.

The design details of the two outputs make this question impossible to answer for certain for every source product which may be encountered. However, in general the best performance is more likely to be available from the co-axial output rather than the optical connection.

Yes. The 861V8 has a full command set for RS232. In addition to the obvious commands for on, Off, source and volume, all user-adjustable settings can be accessed directly. Control parameters can be scrolled through their available range of settings or any particular parameter can be set to a given value with a single command string. For example, the bass control can be slid up or down to taste or a single command can take it to a preselected level.

Yes. The 861V8 features an option to switch off the display when the unit is in use. Perhaps surprisingly, for product–approval reasons the unit must indicate when it is powered but not in use. Hence, a very dim green LED is lit on the front-panel when the unit is in Standby mode. 

Calibration is the process whereby compensation at the listening position is made for the following:
• The relative volume levels of the loudspeakers at the listening position.
• The relative distances of the loudspeakers to the listening position.
• The effect on bass reproduction at the listening position of reversing the phase of the signal sent to each speaker.
• The maximum levels of bass which can handled by any subwoofers and “Large” analogue loudspeakers within the system.

It is strongly recommended that an SPL (sound pressure level) meter is used to carry out Calibration. Most installers can quite accurately adjust by ear the relative levels of the main speakers in a system so they match in volume at the listening position. However, human hearing is non-linear at lower frequencies and this interferes with our ability to balance the output of any subwoofers with the rest of the system. The SPL meter should be set to “C-weighting” to negate this non-linearity of human hearing (as applied to “A-weighting”). If available, a suitable tripod or microphone stand on which to mount the SPL meter can be useful as it saves having to hold the meter in the listening position for long periods of time.

Room Correction can be thought of as the final stage of Calibration. However, as it is carried out as a separate process, it is often considered on its own. Room Correction should be carried out only after the rest of the Calibration process has been completed. If changes to the Calibrated settings are made, Room Correction – at least for the loudspeakers affected by the changes – should be carried out once again.

When the Room Correction measurement process is run on a computer connected to the 861V8, known signals are sent to each loudspeaker in turn. A microphone is used to capture the resultant sounds at the listening position. The microphone is connected to the 861V8 and the measurements are fed via the product to the computer. The computer compares what was sent out with what it received back to generate audio filters which are designed to null out some of the negative effects the room is having on the sound. The filters created by the measurement process are bundled together in what is known as a “Profile“. This Profile can then be selected (often by default) on the 861V8 in normal use so that the filters are applied to the sound so what is heard at the listening position has fewer of the negative influences of the room acoustics.

By its nature, having EBA enabled on a loudspeaker introduces a considerable delay to the sound produced by that loudspeaker. If no compensation is made for this delay, sound quality will suffer. On the 861V8, the problem is overcome by the use of the Meridian set-up program, Mconfig. As long as the correct loudspeaker types are selected on the “Products” page of the program, an appropriate delay will be added to the audio fed to the loudspeakers which are not EBA-capable. 


In a system featuring Meridian DSP loudspeakers, one of the Meridian speakers performs the role of “Master” speaker while the other are “Slaves”. The cable feeding the Master Speaker must be plugged into a socket in this row. The socket used must be the one appropriate for the position of the Master speaker (Left, Right, Centre etc.) The cables for the Slave speakers can be plugged into either of the sockets appropriate to their position.


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