Glass, Class, and Two Rooms of Home Entertainment

Is it the seductively cool blueness of the analog-style wattmeters on the amplifiers or the allure of the full-front impervious-to-wear glass panels? Maybe it's the classic, great sound quality. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for gear from American-born-and-bred McIntosh Laboratory, Inc. So it's no surprise that the unveiling of a trio of new home theater components from the Binghamton, NY-based company would cause the drool to start forming at the edges of my mouth.

McIntosh's MX135 is an update of the previous MX134 pre/pro we reviewed (along with the MC206 amplifier) in 2002. The new model adds Pro Logic IIx processing, three additional component video inputs (for a total of five), balanced XLR stereo inputs, balanced XLR outputs for all eight channels, a phono/aux input (with phono pre-amp stage), PC setup with custom input naming, and front-panel Zone-A/Zone-B control. In addition, the resolution of the analog audio input DACs is now 24-bit/192kHz. The MX135 relies on Texas Instruments' new Aureus digital processing chip - capable of 1,200 million floating point operations per second - to provide exceptional audio output when it comes to digital signals, and a full-featured two-channel pre-amp embedded within the MX135 ensures flawless analog performance. As with the MX134, the new pre/pro includes an input for the optional TM-1 AM/FM tuner module. The MX135, like it's predecessor, is also a 2-zone pre-amp. Last, but certainly not least, McIntosh includes a preprogrammed Harmony remote control (a definite improvement over the previous model's HR44 remote). The suggested retail price is $7,600.

The MC207 brings together seven 200-watt amplifier channels that uses 48 of the latest generation of output transistors. McIntosh says that "this transistor is 30% smaller than the normal version yet is rated at 200 watts per device as opposed to the usual 150 watts." The MC207 is McIntosh's first amplifier to use their new Dynamic Power Manager (DPM) circuitry that allows the amp to deliver 200 watts x 7 channels into either 4- or 8-ohm loudspeakers. The DPM circuitry automatically senses the load presented to the amp and adjusts its output accordingly for maximum dynamics and least distortion. On the back are both balanced and unbalanced inputs for all channels plus a DB25 multichannel input for single-cable connection (for all audio and power control signals) to similarly equipped pre-amps (such as the MX135). In addition to 6.1- and 7.1-channel home theater applications, McIntosh also envisions the MC207 being used with the MX135 to create a 1,000-watt total (5 x 200) 5.1-channel home theater with a 200-watt stereo second zone. Coming in at a little over $72/pound, the 83-pound amp retails for $6,000.

Rounding out the system is the newest addition to the McIntosh line, the MVP861 Audio Video Player. McIntosh' fourth generation DVD player, the MVP861 is also their first universal player capable of handling CD, SACD, DVD-Video, and DVD-Audio. Bass management for two-channel and multichannel sources is built in, as are Dolby Digital and DTS decoders. There are both coaxial and optical digital audio outputs plus XLR outputs for analog stereo. For DVD-Video discs, the MVP861 uses a 12-bit high-speed video DAC and has selectable component video 480p or 480i outputs plus S- and composite video. An RS-232 port supports AMX, Crestron, and other control systems. Scheduled to begin shipping in October, the MVP861's suggested retail price is $4,000.