So after doing countless Reviews on Onkyo, Denon and other Receivers as well as Integra and Marantz pre-pros I was excited to get the opportunity to try something different. And by different I mean "High End." Every aspect about the McIntosh MX151 screams elegance. Even the packaging is the best I have seen to date (pics below). Not knowing what to expect upon hooking it up I was mesmerized when Oblivion began playing. For the record I have always dismissed more expensive components as overpriced and never would have imagined I would find one I consider worth it. That was until the moment I turned on the MX151. For those looking for me to compare it to the latest Onkyo Receivers and Marantz AV8801 prepare to be disappointed. The McIntosh is out of their league.
I am used to using my own tripod with the mic that comes with whatever model I am Reviewing at the time. I was pleasantly surprised to see a supplied calibrated microphone with stand/boom. It is very nice quality and very simple to use. My past experience with Audyssey has always ended with more than adequate results. Using the RoomPerfect Automatic Measurement System blew it out of the water. Definitely more precise and definitely more thorough. I watched a tutorial here which is towards the bottom of the first page of the owner's thread on AVS Forum. Actually that particular thread is very helpful with setting up the MX151. Thanks to "Thrang" for starting it. Anyway, though I still tried to make it as quiet as possible out of habit the cool thing is you don't have to with RoomPerfect. I began in the "Focus" position which I ended up naming JoeRod's Seat afterwards. Though for the most part when watching movies I have it set to Global since most of the times we have people here. If I am by myself (like when doing this Review) I will have RoomPerfect set to JoeRod's Seat. When using the microphone/stand your goal is to get RoomKnowledge as close to 100% as possible. I ended up calibrating 12 positions. I believe on the 10th I hit 100%. I felt like a kid in school getting an A+! I changed the levels of the stand with my measurements and did a couple close to the floor and close to the ceiling. I also stayed at least 4 feet away from the chairs and speakers. After finishing I started testing some Blu rays. Oblivion is pure ear candy! I ended up favoring the Movie Surround mode with voicing at Action+Movies. To me whatever movie I tested I just liked it the best. This is of course opinion and your taste may leave you at Neutral or just Movie.
Not many companies in our hobby are made in the USA.
Especially this high of quality!
The above are some of the various Blu rays I used to help with this Review. Each of them have unique type moments that are effective when it comes to discerning soundtracks. And yes, I was able to score an early copy of Iron Man 3 in 3D! I first (as mentioned above) put in Oblivion. Wow, this is one that gives your sub a good workout. Speaking of which I just recently began using a Martin Logan Descent i (more on that later). Our new movie fanatic Hondo has never cared about what was playing until the MX151 was installed. Seriously, for about 50 minutes straight he sat there (pic below) and stared at the screen on full alert. The sound was that captivating. The bubble ship Tom Cruise pilots has amazing take off and landing effects. Not to mention the 1 hr 13 min mark fly over canyon scene! Even Jaclyn (my Wife) who usually does not care for Sci-Fi type movies loved it. She was still talking about it the next day! I then jumped in various scenes from The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Olympus Has Fallen, and Monster's Inc. All had the best dialogue to date I have heard in my theater. Explosions and punches could be felt as well as heard. Boo's giggles (Monster's Inc.) were so real like it seemed as if there was a real little girl in the room with us. Same as the little girl ghost in The Haunting of Whaley House. Creepy and very scary! Speaking of scary movies The Strangers will scare the hell out of you. When the knocking starts you can't tell which speaker is doing it. They blend that well together! Loud and hard knocks fill your room. When the unannounced visitor asks if Tamara is home you will cringe. It has never sounded this clear before. Another movie I recommend watching at night in a dark room is Vacancy. Same type of banging on doors and windows. This one will also leave you sitting there uneasy.
When the attack began in Pearl Harbor the room instantly became a war zone. You really are front and center with the action. You literally feel for the soldiers as they are being bombed. Jack Reacher was pulse pounding. Especially in the beginning. In the movie theater I could not hear the shooter breathe heavy before he pulled the trigger. It was distinct at home using the MX151. Not as clear on the Marantz 8801 I used right before. Same for the newest Onkyo Receivers. The hairs on my neck stood straight up and when he pulled the trigger. The shot was the most real to life shot I have ever heard outside of standing next to someone shooting a real gun. Tyler actually jumped in my lap (first time he has ever done this during a movie) because it really seemed like it was in the room with us. The 1 hour 55 minute mark has a great rain scene. This sounds lifelike and makes you feel like you are getting wet. The movie Sunshine and Darkness Falls starts off with narrations that are very natural. I have used Darkness Falls many times with my other component Reviews and again the MX151 soars past them with detailed clarity. Speaking of voices Vin Diesel's really can get the ladies going! His strong tight type of voice is right up the MX151/Martin Logan Stage X (Review here) alley. I don't have to tell you what Jaclyn and her friends said after hearing him speak. Anyway, Riddick was sweet ear candy to them. There are a few excellent scenes that are great for showing off. From one of my friend's (G-Rex) at AVS who suggested Riddick and Sunshine: "To show how good the 151 is with dialog and sound effects in the background... play the opening scene of Sunshine with the narrated voice describing the ship and bomb. Also as the ship pans across the screen listen to the detailed sound effects. Play Riddick with the chapter 1 or 2 scene where he enters/takes over the ship. Riddick truly sounds like he is in the room. The layers of detailed sound is very full, smooth and dimensional with the perfect amount of midrange in the voice. Very clear and intelligible. As he flies away in the ship he is speaking with subtle details in the background of the ships controls. Very lifelike and you lose the belief that it is reproduced sound." My opinion how well the MX151 performs is shared by many. Especially from experienced owners.
So enough "boring" talk about blu ray. How does the MX151 do with music? In one word, Lush* (see below). I have only spent a short time listening to various music but the results have been beyond the capacity for me to describe. You can discern each type of instrument as it blends smoothly with the vocals. Like being at a live concert!
So before I forget (and get a few emails) let me also add that Video Games also sound extraordinary. I was amazed at the amount of detail that is in games today.
Now let's discuss DirecTV shows and sports... The first show we watched was of course Dexter. We have seen this show many other times with many other components. Never before have we heard the things we did. At least not with this much detail. Dexter crashed a charity event and when he confronted Hannah you could hear music clearly in the background as well as subtle talking. You could make out most of the other conversations if you listened hard enough. No, it was not distracting at all. It put you at the event with the actors front and center!
Voices were spot on. From the opening eery music intro to the credits the sound was definitely in another league.
Sports... Now as many of you know I am a HUGE fan of Height sound in my theater. I have loved it since day one. The MX151 does not have it. The speakers it offers are two front, center, surrounds and two backs with one sub out. For those counting that is 7.1. The sub is no big deal since you can easily just split it. There are assignable outputs but I find it way to easy not to just split the sub out if needed. So how are the NFL games sounding so far? Since this is preseason I viewed last year's Championship games and Super bowl. Let's just say I am a firm believer in quality over quantity now. It was like taking cotton out of my ears! The public announcer can be heard perfectly in the surrounds and backs while at the same time you can listen to the TV announcers who sound like they are in the room with you! As for the crowd... Let's just say this is the next best thing to being there. You hear individuals scream and shout and when a big play hits you feel the crowd roaring louder and louder as the player is running. Really cool! The MX151 makes me forget about Height sound with the fantastic job it does with the crowd in the fronts. You also can still hear the QB bark out signals and when there is a penalty the ref sounds incredible using his mic. I just wish one day that TV broadcasts would find a cool way to use LFE more so when there was a hard hit we could feel it. Still the MX151 has made the game feel more like you are there than any component I have had in my rack before it. And that is saying a lot...
Enough about the actual sound. What is under the hood featurewise? The above screens show one of my favorite features of the MX151. Sure you can use the remote (pic above) and the on screen display. The GUI is not bad (pics below) but who would want to use it when you can access everything easier through any web browser? I can do everything using my iPad, iPhone or PC laptop. Just go to the MX151's Network menu and type in its IP address and save it to your favorites on whatever device you are using. It is that easy! I love being able to change the volume using my cellphone. You can do calibrations, speaker set up and anything else this way. For those that send me emails saying they can't connect their components with an Ethernet cable there is an easy solution. I use Powerline Ethernet Adapters like these. They work great with everything like Streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video or doing firmware updates on Blu ray players and other components. Not very long ago they cost twice as much! Easy to plug and play...
Final Thoughts... On page 3 of the MX151's manual underneath 'Thank You' it says your decision to own this McIntosh MX151 A/V Control Center ranks you at the very top among discriminating music listeners. You now have "The Best." They also claim it is the best for film presentations. These are very strong words and never before have I read such confident comments in a user manual. After spending time with the MX151 I would say they have completely backed them up. It's "clear" to me you don't need to have 9, 10 or 11 speakers to get cinematic sound. I will take exceptional quality over quantity anytime. And I definitely have choosing the McIntosh MX151 A/V Control Center. It has won over our ears since day one!
What else? How about an ultra low (DSP Bypass) Total Harmonic Distortion of 0.005%! With the MX151's accuracy you can tell that's a true claim. There's also 5 HDMI inputs with 3D passthru. Not having 4K passthru is not a big deal since those type of components will have two HDMI outs. You will just send the audio into the MX151. There is absolutely no Video Processing. What comes in goes out. Test patterns proved the image is not harmed in the least bit. You also get two pairs of high level balanced inputs and ten channel balanced outputs which allow long cable runs without loss in sound quality. For those that use them you get a Moving Magnet Phono input. There are 12 analog (one eight channel) and 15 digital audio inputs. Also 9 analog and 5 digital video inputs. There are video outs of every flavor. You can access all of them easily with the remote. There is also 118 phantom inputs which can be titles and matched in level so there will be no abrupt volume changes between inputs. And as I mentioned above you get Lyngdorf Audio's amazing RoomPerfect calibration. Dual Zone capability is included. Also Triggers to power on and off other components. The front panel which is beautifully lit uses Fiber Optic Solid State Illumination. Hands down this is the classiest looking component I have had in my rack. The input speaker lights on the left tell you exactly what sound is coming in and then of course the right side tells you what the MX151 is sending out. There are 25 LED indicators total. Nice! Even the sides are machined from thick aluminum panels with a smooth black finish. And I can't forget to mention the power supply. It has Multiple Regulators to ensure stable noise free operation even though the power line varies.
The back of the MX151 looks a like space station. The amount of connections makes the possibilities endless.
Call Noah at (630) 607 0054 Tell him I sent you!
Special thanks to Noah & Angel of Audio Video Interiors of Chicago. Stop in sometime and listen to their wide assortment of speakers and AMPs. Also check out their cool showrooms. If you are planning to do a home theater let them help you do it right the first time!
SONY VPL-VW1000ES 4K PROJECTOR, McIntosh MX151 A/V Control Center,Sony BDP-S790 Blu ray,
Simplay Labs DVDO DUO VP, OnkyoTX-NR 5010 Receiver/ Pre-Pro, DARBLET, DirecTV Genie, Xbox 360, PS3, Monster Power HTS 5100, Oppo 103 Blu ray, Panasonic BDT 500 3D Blu ray player, MonsterVision 3D glasses, Sony 3D glasses, Parasound HALO A51 AMP x 2, Antec Component Coolers, Vutec SilverStar 120.5" screen with a Carada Masquerade Masking System. Speakers MARTIN LOGAN STAGE X Center, THEOS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (Surrounds), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofers- Martin Logan DESCENT i, BG Woofer SW210, Dayton APA150 Sub AMP, 8 Aura Pro Bass Shakers, 8 Black Seatcraft Venetian Home Theater Chairs, Remote: Harmony 1100. Monster 1000 HDX Ultimate HDMI cables top to bottom. And two Monster 35 foot HDX Hyperspeed HDMI cables.
Equipment used for all or part of this Review:
To help achieve these remarkable results I have been Reviewing Martin Logan's Vanquish Surrounds and Axis Backs (coming soon) with their Descent i Subwoofer. For AMPs I am using two Black Parasound A51s with Balanced XLR interconnects.
Special thanks to all my readers. There are many options out there and thanks for making mine part of your day. Also thanks (as usual) to my lovely
Wife Jaclyn. Without her support and understanding of our hobby I would not be able to dedicate the amount of time. More to come...
Click here to learn more.
*This is not meant to offend anyone in the least bit. I have been asked by a couple people about the word LUSH in terms of music. Using an Oppo 103 with SACDs here is what
lush means to me:
Lush - Very Rich/Full.
Lush (2) - A "lush" sound has a sense of warmth and fullness. Notes are more authoritative and have a sense of life about them. It is a sound free of any sibilance or brightness. It does not mean colored, however. It is an open and inviting sound enveloping the listener into its soundstage.
Warning: The following clip shows the opening to Jack Reacher which can be disturbing. You can hear the sniper breathing right before the bone-chilling gunshots are fired. Listen for the bullet casings. As amazingly detailed as it sounds here it sounds so much better live!