Processors

McIntosh MX150 7.1 A/V Surround Sound Processor (SSP)

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

For my listening tests, I was using a 7.1 speaker configuration from Definitive Technology, including a pair of BP-3000TL speakers with powered subwoofers for the front mains, a CLR 2002 speaker for the center channel, and four Definitive Technology UIW 94/A speakers for the surrounds and rear channels. Amplifiers included a Rotel RB-1080 and RMB-1095. Cables and interconnects were from Cardas, Monster and Emotiva. I used a variety of source devices, including an Oppo BDP-95 as my reference media player. I was really looking forward to hearing how RoomPerfect performed on the MX150.

I started off with some of my standard listening tests. For as many times as I've watched clips from Gladiator, what jumped out to me was a noticeable difference in focus and clarity in the front sound stage. The dialog between the actors was exceptionally well placed and movement across the sound stage was more perceptible. The MX150 easily reproduced the combat scenes and the noise of the crowds and chariots in the coliseum. I also was wowed at the video. Since the MX150 does not process the HDMI video, I was watching a direct feed from the Oppo BDP-95 to my display and it looked stunning. In Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the MX150 drew me into the movie. I was noticing more detail in the sound and was amazed at subtle differences. For example, while I've watched Gandalf's staff get shattered by the Witch-king many times, this time it seemed to explode and travel just over my right shoulder.

In Battle: Los Angeles, the marines take on alien invaders and in the process destroy Santa Monica. This movie is non-stop warfare and the sound of the explosions and the destruction of buildings and aliens were immersive. The MX150 recreated the amazing sound effects in this film and made it seem like I was sitting inside the battle zone surrounded by all the mayhem. In Country Strong, the dialog between the actors was exceptionally detailed and well placed in the center of the soundstage. The MX150 preserved the auditorium quality of the on-screen performances which made it seem like I was listening to a live concert. In the Oxford Murders, there is an outdoor concert scene which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. The MX150 did a superb job of recreating this portion of the movie. The concert sounded amazing, with clear separation between the instruments. The MX150 recreated the intensity of this scene as the actors searched for the suspected villain in this otherwise mediocre movie.

McIntosh MX150 A/V Processor

McIntosh MX150 A/V Processor

McIntosh MX150 A/V Processor

On the music side of things, I was once again impressed with the stereo imaging of the MX150. On the Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company CD, there was exquisite detail and separation in the voices, and the performance was absolutely center stage in my listening room. On track five, Fever with Natalie Cole, I could clearly make out distinct placement of instruments, and details like the strum of the strings on the bass was exquisite. From the snapping of fingers to Ray Charles' distinctive voice punctuated with outstanding percussion, I just sat back and imagined Ray and his friends performing these great songs. I played some of my favorites from Diana Krall and Michael Bublé. On the Quiet Nights CD it seemed that the band was right in the room. The MX150 delivered the detail of the drums, guitar and piano. Notes seemed to linger and pause with great precision and I really noticed the details in Diana's breathy vocals. On Georgia on My Mind from the Crazy Love CD, Michael Bublé's vocals and his orchestra sounded larger than life. The soundstage was huge and subtle details made me want to just sit back and enjoy. I did experiment with turning off RoomPerfect, but I quickly found that I preferred the results with the system engaged and I never looked back.

McIntosh MX150 A/V Processor

McIntosh MX150 A/V Processor

McIntosh MX150 A/V Processor

From a video perspective, the MX150 just switches the HDMI signal and I did not encounter any handshake problems. This was the first time I can remember not running a video processor in my theater for many years. While I didn't need any extra video processing for my Oppo BDP-95, I definitely missed not having a video processor when it came to watching some content from my satellite DVR. The nice thing about McIntosh's approach with the MX150 is that the decision to purchase an external video processor can be made separately based on the video needs of the user. The incremental cost of an external video processor is also probably not a concern for individuals that can afford the MX150.

From an operational perspective, the MX150 was exceptionally simple to use. I really liked having the ability to just select an input and have all the work done for me. I also enjoyed just having the inputs that I cared about. Zone B operations were also very simple. A small light is illuminated above the "Zone B Control" button on the front panel when controlling Zone B. Unfortunately this light turns off when you switch control back to Zone A, so there is no obvious indication as to whether Zone B is active. The ability to control the MX150 from the web interface is also a plus, but I found it impractical to use from the browser on my iPhone as the application refreshed far too often.

The MX150 comes with a basic remote. It is a slender design and fit nicely in my hand. The buttons are backlit which I really appreciated. My only complaint on the remote is that the source buttons are impossible to see in a darkened room since the labels are on the face of the remote and not on the buttons themselves.

The MX150 offers a really basic on-screen overlay when changing inputs or adjusting the volume. If you want to see the details for a particular source, just press the "Display Mode" button on the front panel of the MX150. This brings up a really nice overlay which indicates the current source, volume, RoomPerfect settings, and lets you know all about the audio and video signal being processed by the MX150.

This is a really nice feature and I was mystified that this info could not be displayed with the remote. As with many things on the MX150, it turns out that there is a way to make it happen. The MX150 remote is configured for an all McIntosh environment. While there are users out there with all McIntosh source equipment, there will certainly be people who will mix other equipment with the MX150. There is a menu option buried in the "General Setup" menu called "Enhanced RC Control". By turning this option on, the MX150 remote will provide some extra functionality.

The first gem is that pressing the "Info" button on the remote will bring up the display mode overlay. The second feature is found by pressing the Menu button. This brings up the MX150 "User Menu" which provides easy access to the sources, surround mode, and general settings that you might want to access while enjoying the MX150 as a user.

The "Surround Mode Selection" menu also gives you easy access to all the audio modes that are defined in the MX150.

I highly recommend turning on the enhanced remote functionality.