I recently was given the opportunity to test the exclusive Alfred Dunhill Meridian audio system, boasting impressive design and quality sound. Having not heard of Meridian and not particularly paying attention to Dunhill at all, I decided not to do any research into the product, and wait for the arrival of the unit to judge for myself on how impressed it made me feel. I have to say I'm worried, because usually I revel in expensive equipment.
The box looks impressive, everything is packaged neatly and separately, cloth bags and thick foam protective packing screamed luxury at me. Piano black detailing, high shine materials and weighty boxes of 'stuff'. Brilliant, I thought. What I pulled out from this impressive package was giant black square box with rounded corners, a basic, simple design with not much to look at, other than a wheel on top of the unit. I put it onto my desk and dove back into the box. Before the demo arrived, the iPod dock was mentioned a lot, so that was the next piece I pulled out. In a black cloth bag, was the heaviest black dome I've ever known for a docking station, and out of it, a lead that was to be attached to the Square box I'd just pulled out.
Turning the system on, I expected a nice display with touch screen at least, but what i was greeted with was less buttons than my £70 Sony DAB radio, and a difficult manual to follow about how to change settings, scrolling through menu's and guessing which button to press most of the time (I don't normally need a manual at all). The remote control also seemed a little obsolete in this situation also. However the blue glow compliments the black and wood finish on the system, and does add a little something. After the settings saga, I managed to actually play around with different tracks on my iPod, testing the bass and treble adjusting it to achieve the perfect blend. This is what Meridian clearly do best. The speakers are crystal clear and the bass has a nice consistency to it that is smooth. Turning the system up doesn't affect the quality either, no harsh reverb from the speakers and no crackling either. I could now understand why this unit was so interesting to potential buyers.
Overall, I wasn't overly impressed with the Alfred Dunhill audio system, and the biggest problem I have with it, has to be the design. An acquired taste I'm sure, but to me a stereo has to look like furniture in my home. Bang and Olufsen is the perfect example for this, and I would hold Meridian as competition for them as a premium audio company. Unfortunately for Meridian, they have been obliged to stamp 'Alfred Dunhill' in white across the front, making this piece more of an eyesore. The simple square design is ruined by the buttons and the wheel on top, which is a shame because without it all, it would look very neat. Lastly the iPod dock is separate, whether that is because it was easier to integrate over from their other products, I wouldn't know, but it would have ben nice to have it inset or even on top of the unit especially after parting with the £1995 price tag. Finally, I have to say the AD88 is just not my cup of tea. But perhaps a product that should be heard and not seen.