Lexicon LX-7 Seven-Channel Amplifier
I suppose that I'm starting to sound like a broken record when I talk about the concept of matching in home theater, but how else can I call attention to one of the most important aspects of creating a successful system? After all, matching audio/video equipment is not unlike matching in other areas of our lives. The proper combination of amps, speakers, room characteristics, and, well, everything else can create an exciting, dynamic, and highly satisfying experience for all involved. The wrong combination is usually mundane, lifeless, and, if you will, impotent. Sparks in the listening room come about in a similar way as sparks in other rooms of the house—they require experience and effort. A little bit of passion never hurts, either.
Lexicon knows that the relationship between a preamp and amp is a critical one and has thus set about trying to develop a world-class amplifier to mate with their world-class MC-12 pre/pro. Now, Lexicon would probably be as quick as I would to point out that successful electronics combinations are hardly exclusive to pairings that come from the same manufacturer. Buying gear from the same electronics clan usually never hurts, can certainly help, and (as Lexicon is well aware) still maintains the perception in many people's minds of being the proper way to go about things, especially in the high-end realm. While amplifiers aren't new to Lexicon's lineup, the LX Series amps are. There's a lot more Lexicon in these amps than in the company's prior offerings—and a lot more is riding on their success.
Right out of the box, the seven-channel LX-7's front and rear panels match up nicely with the MC-12. In front, the slick, silver faceplate is as much an aesthetic improvement over its predecessors as the MC-12 is over the MC-1 (whose look I always liked, but apparently I'm in the minority). In back, the balanced (XLR) inputs call for an MC-12B. (If you're already spending nine grand for the MC-12, why not buck up the extra thousand for the balanced version?) There's also unbalanced RCA inputs, five-way binding posts, and a 12-volt trigger. The THX Ultra-certified LX-7 is rated at a healthy 200 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and you can bridge adjacent channels for 400 watts of juice. There's a massive single toroidal transformer (a departure from Lexicon's previous monoblocks-on-one-chassis approach) and an interesting thermal protection system (Junction Temperature Simulation) that allows the LX-7 to use only four output transistors per channel by attempting to maximize their effectiveness through internal temperature prediction. There's also thermal protection for the transformer, and DC protection on all channels blocks direct current and all signals below 10 hertz.
As for the LX-7's running mates, a balanced MC-12 was in order, along with Krell's DVD Standard DVD player. For speakers, I primarily used the MartinLogan Odyssey electrostats (always a good amp-power barometer) and the Canton Karat system, which has seen a lot of reference time around here lately because of its distinct characteristics. I mixed in other pre/pros and source units here and there, as well.
It didn't take me long to determine that the LX-7 does a lot of things that I like to hear an amplifier do. First off, when paired with this amp, the MC-12 sounded exactly like the MC-12—or, more specifically, I should say that the Krell DVD player sounded exactly like the Krell DVD player. As the MC-12 is so masterful at doing, the LX-7 offers only the slightest audible evidence that it's there. You have to specifically listen for what evidence there is—and it's positive at that. Obviously, this isn't to say that the amp doesn't have its effects. The immense stage and sense of power that it drew out of the Cantons—as much as I've heard out of them, frankly—and the excellent control it exhibited over the Canton M 80 DC's occasionally overzealous woofer were clear indicators of its presence. Like the MC-12, the LX-7 is virtually free of coloration and any attempts to make your sources sound different than they're supposed to sound—and that's exactly what I look for in my electronics.
My fond opinion of the MC-12 is well documented in these pages, so I switched over to the McIntosh MX132 pre/pro (hardly chopped liver, I know) just to see how the LX-7 would fare outside the family. Expectedly, it was no less impressive. Knowing how clean the MX132 is, I made the utmost effort to discern any new sense of coloration and again came up empty. With both pre/pros, the midrange was as flawless as the source material allowed it to be. With the LX-7/MC-12 combo and the MartinLogans, high-resolution material was flat-out magical. Robert Jr. Lockwood's covers of his immortal stepfather's "32-20 Blues" and "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" from the Delta Crossroads SACD were hauntingly true—and about as close as you can probably get these days to hearing Robert Johnson for yourself. Bass performance was simply at another level. This amp doesn't lack for brute strength to complement its delicacy and dexterity. It drove the intoxicating bass line of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It on Home" with an undeniable physical presence and cleanliness, as well as an impeccable sense of timing. The bass-drum kicks hit with authority but decayed naturally without any image-smearing overhang or excess energy.
Having properly introduced ourselves, it was time for me and the LX-7 to enter the steel cage. So it was over to movie soundtracks and an additional set of surrounds for some Dolby EX and LOGIC7 torture tests with the not-so-impedance-friendly MartinLogan electrostats. Phantom Menace can make anyone's head spin—and I'm not just talking about the scary writing and directing. To really give the amp a workout, I let the Odysseys play full-range, and the LX-7 answered with bass that singed the hairs on my legs and a sense of immediacy from the top of the frequency range to the bottom that was absolutely enveloping and engaging. Even in our newer, cozier listening room, the stage seemed limitless, and even the densest material played at high volumes did little to rein it in. While I'm usually successful at finding some sense of compression or fatigue in an amp—even if it's at a level most people would never subject themselves or their amps to—I never did here. My compatriots tried to reason with me, but I was determined to find a chink in the armor or bring the building down trying. Calmer heads finally prevailed, and my ears will be forever grateful. The LX-7 clearly emerged as the winner of this no-holds-barred affair.
There's no doubt that $5,995 is on the more-expensive side for a multichannel amplifier, but you have to pay for the best—and this is clearly one of the best seven-channel amps I've ever come across. It's got seemingly limitless power, balanced inputs, bridgeable architecture, and a sound that is tough to find fault with. My only complaint would have to be the occasionally noisy fan (as amp fans go); however, unlike a projector, this fan won't be sitting right above your head. Lexicon is apparently already working on the fan issue.
As for the LX-7's match with the MC-12, I think it's pretty clear what I thought about that. This may not be the cheapest electronics combo you can buy, but put these two components together, and you may never have to go electronics shopping for your home theater system again.
• Power to burn
• Balanced inputs and bridgeable channels
• Top-shelf sound with any source material