Big Sound in a Compact Package: Meridian M80

Big Sound in a Compact Package: Meridian M80

Product: Meridian M80
Price: $3,000
Rating: Strong Recommend*
What makes a compact audio system worth $3,000? This was the question that was burning in our minds when we saw the price of the Meridian M80. Eager to discover what makes this device so special, we took it for a spin in the Test Lab.

We first learned about the new compact system from Meridian back in August of last year and eagerly awaited our review unit. After several months of waiting the M80 arrived nicely packaged in its black case. Why did we have to wait so long? The primary reason for the long wait is that a huge amount of care goes into the assembly of each device. In the Meridian facility in the UK, four hours of skilled work and over 800 individual components are used in each M80. It takes time to make an M80. Inside of the box we found the i80 iPod/iPhone dock as well as a rather cute little remote. The first thing we noticed once we removed the M80 from the soft case was just how heavy it is. This is one solid little system and bears virtually no DNA resemblance to the plastic alarm clock & dock that formerly adorned our desk.

Design: Being the sucker for handcrafts that we are, we love that the British leather used in the M80 is hand stitched in Northampton by IM Kelly. The leather on the outer case reminds us of the interior of a luxury saloon vehicle, and it is highly likely that the vehicle we are thinking of was worked on by the same artisan. In case you are wondering, Meridian tells us that the stitching of the outer case takes a skilled craftsperson over an hour to complete. In addition to the Ivory leather that our review unit came in, Obsidian Black and Chestnut aka black and brown are also available.

The M80 has a simple design that looks a bit like something from the past. Between the shape and the leather, thoughts of classic cars, retro radios, and aviation all spring to mind when we look at the device. The M80 looks and feels like a luxury product, as it should for the price tag. Every piece of the device is carefully thought out and does not seem to be out of place. From the soft clicks of the dial to the feedback when a button is pushed, the craftsmanship is evident.

It's also easy to see the quality in the i80 dock. This glossy black device looks great next to the M80 and is possibly the heaviest dock we have ever touched. Both our iPhone and classic iPod fit well in the dock and although they are two differently sized devices, neither felt loose. The i80 tethers to the M80 with a special connection which provides power to the dock and sends data from the dock to the compact system.

The fact that the M80 sounds fantastic is a shock to no one. The 80 watt 2.1 Digital Signal Processing stereo system with a built in rear-mounted subwoofer offers superior acoustic performance and is unlike anything else this size that we have heard. We were pleasantly surprised with just how big the sound coming from this hefty little device was. Since our apartment is only 600 square feet, the M80 had zero difficulty filling our entire home with sweet sweet music. The M80 has an organic light emitting diode display and has an automatic brightness control so that it can adjust to the light changes that happen in the environment. We did not have any difficult reading the display and loved that it would pick up the data from our iPhone so well, including the titles of the podcasts loaded on our device. The small remote is easy to use and navigating through the M80 menus is quite simple and painless. The M80 is equally easy to use whether you are playing a DVD or listening to a track on your iPod.

- amazing sound
- small, compact design
- plays DVDs
- i80 dock charges and provides data to M80
- high quality, solid construction

- price
- black speaker grill might not be a perfect decor match
- heavy, not easily portable

Tech Specs:
M80 Compact Entertainment System
- 80W 2.1 DSP-based stereo system with dedicated left, right, and sub drivers
- LF/MF (AM) and FM stereo reception
- Band III DAB Digital Radio (certain models)
- Built-in antenna for local stations
- Two assignable antenna sockets
- 3.5mm digital optical/analogue headphone out
- 3.5mm aux analogue input (Aux 1)
- 3.5mm analogue/digital optical input (Aux 2)
- Mini-DIN input (Aux 3) for docking station
- CD/DVD drive accepts CD-DA, CD-R/RW, MP3, WMA, DualDisc, DVD-V, DVD±R/RW
- S-Video and composite outputs (PAL/NTSC)
- Radio/tone alarm function
- Compact infrared remote control
- Weight: 14.3lb
- Dimensions: 16 x 9 x 7 1/4 in W x H x D

The Bottom Line (& Who Should Buy):
Anyone in the market for a high quality compact system should consider the M80. Another fantastic thing about this device is that it also plays DVDs, making it great for small apartments where space is a premium. The sound coming out of this little device rivals many home theater systems we've heard and we love the idea of replacing several speakers with one compact unit. This device has been a pleasure to use in our home and has replaced our existing sound systems. We have used it every day since it has arrived for everything from watching a movie, to a Skype call. The M80 has become an integral part of our home and is one of the finest products we have ever reviewed.

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend*
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.

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