Ever since I bought my first pair of Meyer Sound MM-4XPs, I’ve been a fan of Meyer. Their products are held to a high standard, they’re used in some of my favorite shows, and they sound consistently great.
Since I purchased the cubes, I’ve amassed a small collection of Meyer Sound products for home use. Yes, I know these products aren’t designed for consumer use. My reasoning? If they’re built to withstand the rigors of touring, they’re surely able to withstand a temperature-controlled home. Plus, most consumer speakers – in my opinion – are crap. Professional grade equipment can’t always hide behind marketing buzz words. Once they’re in the field, customers can very quickly realize whether or not the hype matches the product, and given the number of very competent competitors, manufacturers can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
Enter the UPA-2P.
So far, I’ve always wanted to build two systems: one system for the bedroom, and the other for the living room. I’ve already built my bedroom system with two MM-4XPs, a MM-10ACX and a UMS-1P, and for the last few months, I’ve only partially built my living room system with the purchase of a 500-HP. In terms of tops, I had been looking at two MINAs, M’elodies, UPJs and lastly, UPAs as possible options for a stereo configuration.
A line array element on either side of the living room isn’t ideal since they won’t exhibit line array behavior, but my goal was to aim them downward from a high position towards the listener. Their horizontal form factor was very appealing, and their narrow vertical coverage meant that they should theoretically direct sound towards the listening position without creating unnecessary reflections. My living room is highly reflective, so it’s best that I’m not aiming sound where it doesn’t need to be heard. With that in mind, M’elodie is now a legacy product, and MINA is will likely be on that list soon with the introduction of LINA. In addition, these are line array elements. Enough said.
My ideal solution would have been a pair of UPJ-1Ps. There is no indication that they’re going to be phased out anytime soon, and they’re small and easy to move. More importantly, they sound great, and I believed – at the time – that they would be better suited for a smaller living room environment given their size-to-power ratio. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be many out there on the used market.
Finally, we have the venerable UPA. I’ll have to admit that the UPA isn’t my first or second choice for two reasons. One, they’re relatively large and heavy at 77 lbs, and two, they have the highest output in the group. I was after sound quality, not output, and for a residential environment, I wasn’t sure how the horns would interact in such a small space. If Meyer’s notion of linearity should be believed, they should sound fine at all volumes, but even then, I was skeptical. They could simply be too much. On top of that, the version I was looking at – the 2P iteration – had a narrow 45° by 45° conical horn. These are meant to be arrayed and they’re usually not used in singles.
After talking with a few friends (both in the industry and out), I took the bait and purchased two. Most assured me that their narrow dispersion horns could actually be helpful in a highly reflective environment, and given proper positioning, could actually serve as an asset rather than a detriment in my specific application. As for the horns, well, we’ll find out. No one I spoke to had ever used them in a residential environment.
Upon arrival, I was immediately struck by the UPA’s weight. Light, they are not. After unwrapping both boxes, I proceeded to place them 14 feet apart in my living room. With ear protection firmly planted in my ears, I turned both boxes on. It’s one thing if a MM-4XP malfunctions and buzzes; it’s another if you have a cranky UPA in your living room blaring the devil incarnate in your face. These aren’t low-volume speakers.
After listening to a few recorded tracks, I was immediately struck by their dry sound. Without a subwoofer, the UPAs sound very sterile. On top of that, I began to experience ear fatigue – my worse fear. Now, at the time, they had been connected to a MacBook Air with a very noisy headphone jack. Without thinking, I attributed the ear fatigue to the horns and began to accept this as side effect of using a high-output professional speaker at home. Expensive lesson learned. However, when I connected a cleaner source to both UPAs (in this case, a MacBook Pro), my ear fatigue vanished.
Of course. Garbage in, garbage out.
The UPAs had simply been amplifying the signal noise caused by the MacBook Air. It was subtle, but you could certainly hear it in the background of every track. While my previous instances of ear fatigue had been caused by speaker distortion (regardless of what was being fed), this specific case was caused by a poor source. With a significantly cleaner source and some low frequency help, the UPAs began to truly shine. Indeed, all my fears about the UPA had vanished with this simple – but important – change.
Like with many other Meyer products, the UPAs are transparent and neutral. In my listening tests, the UPAs reminded me of everything I liked about Meyer. While you can hear a smidgen of horn at some frequency levels, these are few and far between. Simply put, they don’t sound like a typical PA speaker. In addition, like the MM-4XPs, you’ll want to use a subwoofer to produce full-range sound. They’ll do fine for vocals, but for satisfying playback, you’ll need an adequate subwoofer to fill in some low frequency gaps. Without them, the UPA sound very dry and flat.
In another surprising twist, the UPAs also did very well at low volume levels. While they’re relatively compact for professional use, they’re very big in a consumer environment. Despite this and their high SPL capabilities, you don’t need to turn them up to hear nuance and detail. They simply don’t sound like a large speaker, and that’s a great thing. You’re not going to hear the box. As evidenced by my initial listening experience, these speakers will reveal anything and everything in your source, so be sure to feed them with something very clean. They are relentlessly unforgiving in that regard.
Finally, the UPA-2P horns are precise. Very precise. Careful aiming is especially important, and a minor change in positioning can change your soundscape. Would the 1Ps exhibit the same type of behavior? Probably not, but I don’t have any 1Ps to try out at home and the 2Ps seem to cover my space well.
In closing, the UPA-2Ps proved to be a great choice to complete the system. While they’ve yet to be paired up with the 500-HP, they do sound great with a UMS-1P and MM-10ACX in the interim while I continue to rearrange my system. While you’ll certainly run out of subwoofer with the UMS-1P and MM-10ACX combined, I’ve been told a 500-HP/UPA setup is a perfect combination. We’ll see how all three speakers perform once they’re integrated.
For now, I’ve been very happy with the UPA-2P. Sound quality wise, all my concerns have vanished after bringing them home. They’re truly remarkable speakers.