Dreaming the Not-Impossible Dream HT Labs Measures

HT Labs Measures

McIntosh MX121 A/V Control Center

Analog frequency response in Pure Direct mode:
–0.25 dB at 10 Hz
–0.08 dB at 20 Hz
–0.06 dB at 20 kHz
–0.41 dB at 50 kHz

Analog frequency response with signal processing:
–0.64 dB at 10 Hz
–0.20 dB at 20 Hz
–0.19 dB at 20 kHz
–15.44 dB at 50 kHz

The above chart shows the frequency response of the left (cyan), center (green), LFE (red), and left surround (blue) channels at the preamp outputs of the Dolby Digital decoder. The left channel measures –0.10 decibels at 20 hertz and –0.24 dB at 20 kilohertz. The center channel measures –0.11 dB at 20 Hz and –0.14 dB at 20 kHz, and the left surround channel measures –0.10 dB at 20 Hz and –0.25 dB at 20 kHz. The LFE channel, normalized to the level at 40 Hz, is –0.03 dB at 20 Hz, reaches the upper –3dB point at 118 Hz, and reaches the upper –6dB point at 121 Hz.

Response from the multichannel input to the main output measures –0.19 dB at 10 Hz, –0.05 dB at 20 Hz, –0.00 dB at 20 kHz, and –0.03 dB at 50 kHz. The analog THD+N is less than 0.015 percent at 1 kHz with a 100-millivolt input and the volume control set to 2.5. Crosstalk with a 100-mV input was –88.16 dB left to right and –89.29 dB right to left. The signal-to-noise ratio with “A” weighting was –125.62 dBrA. —MJP

Video Test Bench
The McIntosh pre-pro sailed through our tests almost without a hitch. The only shortcoming was a borderline score on chroma resolution, where visible darkening of the highest-level burst pattern indicated a modest rolloff in the highest video frequencies. This is not uncommon, and previous experience with other products having a similar rolloff suggests that this should not have any negative visible consequences. —TJN

While the MX121 pre-pro turned in a near-perfect score in our video tests, the MVP891 disc player had some issues. The failure on the 2:2 standard definition test is one we see often. In addition, the player clipped both too quickly above white (above a video level of 238; video white is 235 but headroom should extend at least 2 percent above this level, preferably more) and below black (it passed nothing below the video l evel 17; video black is 16). —TJN

McIntosh MC8207 Multichannel Power Amplifier

Two channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 236.2 watts
1% distortion at 271.7 watts

Five channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 210.1 watts
1% distortion at 224.1 watts

Seven channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 201.4 watts
1% distortion at 209.0 watts

Frequency response:
–0.34 dB at 10 Hz
–0.10 dB at 20 Hz
–0.11 dB at 20 kHz
–3.19 dB at 50 kHz

This graph shows that the MC8207’s left amplifier channel, with two channels driving 8-ohm loads, reaches 0.1 percent distortion at 236.2 watts and 1 percent distortion at 271.7 watts. Into 4 ohms, the amplifier reaches 0.1 percent distortion at 415.0 watts and 1 percent distortion at 445.1 watts. An input level of 197.5 millivolts was required to produce an output of 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load, indicating an overall gain of +23.13 decibels.

THD+N from the amplifier was less than 0.005 percent at 1 kilohertz when driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load. Crosstalk at 1 kHz driving 2.83 volts into an 8-ohm load was –106.29 dB left to right and –104.84 dB right to left. The signal-to-noise ratio with an 8-ohm load from 10 hertz to 24 kHz with “A” weighting was –106.90 dBrA. —MJP

McIntosh XR100 loud Speaker System

L/R Sensitivity:
88 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

Center Sensitivity:
86 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

Surround Sensitivity:
83 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz

This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close miking of all woofers) frequency response of the XR100 L/R (purple trace), LCR80 center channel (green trace), and XR50 surround (red trace). All passive loudspeakers were measured with grills at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input and scaled for display purposes.

The XR100’s listening-window response (a five-point average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal and vertical responses) measures +1.71/–2.82 decibels from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. The –3dB point is at 39 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 26 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 3.73 ohms at 8.6 kHz and a phase angle of –86.08 degrees at 59 Hz.

The LCR80’s listening-window response measures +3.02/–6.06 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. An average of axial and +/–15-degree horizontal responses measures +2.99/–5.28 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 89 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 76 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 5.23 ohms at 8.1 kHz and a phase angle of –57.16 degrees at 84 Hz.

The XR50’s listening-window response measures +1.65/–4.15 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The –3dB point is at 40 Hz, and the –6dB point is at 37 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 5.70 ohms at 7.5 kHz and a phase angle of –57.67 degrees at 74 Hz.—MJP

McIntosh Laboratory, Inc
(800) 538-6576

Jarod's picture

Good lord I love this system! Love to demo it actually. I've always drooled over that beautifull green glow. Think ill use this space to comment on how badass the Hi-End issue was! A great issue that i read cover to cover twice, and this review was my favorite review. Only thing is how in the name of mutiple drivers could you not show a pic with the grills off? I wanna see all those drivers! You even had space to do it cause you showed the speaker set on two different pages. All is forgiven though. Let me fetch my drool rag.

willdao's picture

Hi, Michael,

Thanks for a compelling review (as ever).

Can you tell me whether the pre/pro can output 11.2, for simultaneous wides and heights in a "full" Audyssey DSX setup? D & M's Denon currently has the only piece of equipment I know that can output 11.x, as opposed to just 9.x.

Thanks, again for a great review...back in the early '90s, I saw/heard a demo with a Vidikron PJ (and Faroudja line-doubler) and a full McIntosh system, including speakers. I'll never forget it; it's what compelled me to dive more deeply into HT--albeit at a more modest investment level (although I did grab a Vidikron Crystal One back in the day).


P.S I agree with Jarod--let's see those "spider eyes!"

Nuz1's picture

I enjoyed the read and have been specifically waiting for reviews of the mx121 & mc8207. But I was really hoping for more description of the amplifier and how it compares to others in and around it's price range. Two paragraphs in how many pages?!?

Obviously it's a top pick so that gives it credibility--but compared to what? What equipment does the reviewer feel to be a direct competitor. Is it worth more 6 times the cost over an emotiva with a similar specs?

It makes me wonder if there there was just too much great equipment to be under review for one article?

michaelc's picture

I really enjoy reading your articles. McIntosh certainly produces some very good equipment. I have some questions about the MX121.

You mention the functional similarities between the MX121 and the Marantz AV7005. Would you please comment on the sonic differences between the two processors (especially wrt movie dialog/soundtracks)?

Does the increase in price reflect an equal increase in the sonic performance?

Does the MX121 processor have balanced circuitry throughout the signal path (or is the balanced input just a connector as I understand it is on the AV7005).


FlyhiG's picture

Well not quite for the masses perhaps. But one can dream. Great review are some fan static gear. Having a Mac integrated amp that I find to be awesome, would go with these Mac AV units in a heartbeat for home theater.
Always thought McIntosh could not really build great speakers just because their amps are so very great. When finally had a chance to audition a pair used for the back surround in this system. Incredible.

Expensive yes,but as is said, "The Quality Is Remembered Long After The Price Is Forgotten".

Really enjoyed the background history of Radio Days.

sfdoddsy's picture

I was reminded whilst reading this press release of the recent Lexicon/Oppo brouhaha.

Do you really expect us to believe that a prepro the same size as a Marantz Av7005, from the holding company of the AV7005, with a remote that is the same as the AV7005, with the same connections as an AV7005, and the same menu, and the same features, is not in fact an AV7005 with a cooler faceplate?

Since the 'reviewer' has an AV7005, could he resolve my cynicism and pop the lid on both and show us the innards?

Michael Fremer's picture
First of all, for the 'reader' to put quotes around the word reviewer is indicative of his attitude towards me. It's offensive but after all, this is the "Internets" and if you're not going to be offensive, why bother being on it?

If you'd spent any time reading my reviews here or in Stereophile you'd know that I'm hardly one of those all too common elsewhere "publicist/reviewers." So rather than calling you a cynic, I'll just say you're misinformed and move on.

It was easy to see just from looking into the top cover openings that these units did not look the same inside and I don't think you read all that carefully if you use the phrase "same connections".

Only the video connections were the same and in the same location and that's because it was the same video board, which McIntosh admitted to me upfront. And yes, the two units share the same basic operating system and it's a very good one, but the two were not identical in every way.

I drive a Saab 9-3 Turbo-X XWD automobile. It's a fantastic, fast car. It uses the same RADIO head unit that GM uses in Chevies, but otherwise there's no performance connection i can assure you. This is similar. So McIntosh uses a very good video board also used in the 7005. So what?

The Marantz 7005 is a better value for sure. I own one. But the McIntosh is a better sounding and more highly refined product. McIntosh maintained control of what it does best, which is in the analog signal processing and pre-amplification and the overall design of signal paths, layouts, etc. not to mention the overall construction quality that's certainly more important to some than it is to others.

mars2k's picture

McIntosh has always been over priced and frankly I have never been a fan of their equipment or clunky design vocabulary. And then there is the sound,…ehhh…eeesh does this junk come with earplugs?

Across the board if you took the same money and bought a collection of brands you could put together a far superior system. Look to Bryston (a 9BSST2) or Classe for amplification. Look to Oppo for a truly well respected universal player (how about a good comparison test BDP-95 with the Mac?)

Any number of speaker choices Dynaudio, Monitor, Focal, Revel , etc, etc., etc would offer better sound.

For me, McIntosh is an old retail brand that made its name when there was less competition. It’s an expensive choice for those who do not know any better but have heard the brand name mentioned by others of the unwashed.

Today there are so many other choices and for the same investment the selection is so much more exciting

For processors choose Anthem, Lexicon or even Onkyo would be better choices because you’re correct in saying the processor space is moving so fast. With Onkyo you could replace the proc every couple of years as formats evolve. By the way this will continue to happen with new disk and diplay technologies continue a’pace. The same goes for DACs, constant improvement, spend less, upgrade often.

On the other hand you can spend a fortune on this big old clunky bullet proof McIntosh gear and be stuck in the 50’s forever.

hyfynut's picture

Really ? A dream system article with GRILL ON speaker pics ? Really? Let's see some interior pics of the amp and pre-amp while we're at it. Those are the things that we'd all like to see in our dream system , build quality and design topology.

mikicasellas's picture

Hello Michael,

I am looking for a processor to upgrade my Anthem MRX 700,

This MX 121 is interesting in deed, and i dont know why but the D2V it has been always my goal to achieve...now i'm considering this unit, how do they compare?

Some dealers said to me that the MX 121 is better sound wise and better scalable. Some other said to me the D2V is clear the winner and better build...

Could you please give me a hint on this?

Miguel Casellas

ckrescho's picture

Nice. Marantz sourced parts. I may as well just buy Marantz and save thousands.

cheat coc's picture

Not only is UHD on the horizon, which I feel only matters because of HDR, but for a mere $1400 less you can get an OPPO 103D. The OPPO at least duplicates or possibly surpasses this player's performance.
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