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HolidayBuyer's Guide

No photography

Factory

Blank board

P&P

P&P closeup 1

P&P closeup 2

P&P in standby

End result

Optical check

Handmade

Continuity

WIRES!

Performance testing

USB DAC

Speaker cutaway

Anechoic

Listening

Theater

I have a feeling I will not be obeying this sign.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Surprisingly quiet, actually.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here's the base circuit board. Several small ones, actually. Onto this, the P&P machine (next slide) places the components that turn this simple board into something that actually does something.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The P&P (pick-and-place) machine. This is also called an "SMT component placement system." The reels in the foreground hold components like capacitors, resistors, IC chips, and so on that get placed onto a base circuit board.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Multiple little robot arms place the components on the board.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here's an even closer closeup of the Pick-and-Place machine.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
You can't open the protective cover of the P&P without it going into standby (for safety reasons, obviously). With the cover open, and the machine static, it's a lot less creepy. Notice the reels of components on the lower right.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Here you see a completed board (though to be fair, not the same one we started with).
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
This is the first stage of the multistage QC process: an optical check. The big box on the right (with the tray open), is basically just an ordinary optical scanner (or, if you like, a fancy camera). Software checks the image of the board placed in the tray against a stored master image. It compares dozens and dozens of individual points for variation. This could be as simple as a component placed in the right direction, down to actual serial numbers and product names on chips. If it senses a discrepancy, it flags the item for a check by a human.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Even with the complexities of these circuit boards, there are still some parts that are, for various reasons, better for a person to install.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
A additional check is for continuity. The board is placed on this device (this one is a demo, the real one is a machine), and it checks to make sure all the electrical connections are working. Check out the next slide for the bottom, it's really cool. Also, check out this video to see the machine in action.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
This is the underside of the continuity checker you saw in the last slide. So many wires.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The final stage in QC testing is actual performance testing. After running in the board (soaking), for 24 to 72 hours, the performance is checked against a reference.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
The Explorer DAC (digital-to-analog converter), which Steve Guttenberg checked out, is entirely made in this factory.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Meridian makes speakers, too. Here's a cutaway of one of the towers. In addition to incredibly rigid wood layers, you should be able to make out a thin piece of metal in the middle of the sandwich. Solid.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Anechoic chambers are as cool as they are creepy.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
In this beautiful and acoustically excellent listening room, the final testing gets done.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Meridian also sell high-end projectors, including a 4,096x2,400-pixel-resolution, 4,000-lumen monster.
Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
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