By: JoeRod
McIntosh MX160 A/V Processor Review
So after spending a long time previously with the McIntosh MX151 I have been looking forward to getting my ears on their new flagship MX160. Upon getting it with early software that left many features still not enabled I was somewhat disappointed but knew when it was updated it would be a winner. Was the wait worth it? Definitely! The MX160 had a lot to live up to considering how well the MX151 is. 

Opening it up again I was reminded how great the packaging is from McIntosh. You can tell how great the quality is from how much the company puts into their packaging. Setting up was easy as well. The microphone and stand are simple to assemble. Just make sure you give yourself time when doing Room Perfect. The process can take some time but is well worth the effort. Go for a 100% room knowledge unless you are okay scoring a 95 or 98. To my ears I still consider RP (Room Perfect) the best room correction system. Just make sure you move your microphone up high and then low and keep it aimed at your screen. You can never do too many measurements. Above all have fun!


The GUI on the screen is easy to navigate and understand. Many will prefer to use a Tablet or their smartphone though. Whichever route you choose it is quick to learn. The first thing I did was work in the Speaker configuration section. I added my Top speaker for Auro-3D and then worked on adding my Subwoofers and Butt Kicker line. After the latest update (1.3.2) Auro-3D and using its Top speaker came alive. For those that are used to having one you will notice the difference when you take it away. For those that don't have one you are missing out. Pics below show the GUI. The image on the right is the Tablet and the left is the on screen.
Looking at the back you have to be impressed with all the HDMI inputs and outputs.
The days of getting a high end piece with limited HDMI connections is over for McIntosh. You also get plenty of RCA (old fashioned red and whites) and a Multi Channel in option. An HDBaseT output is included to provide degradation-free, uncompressed digital video and audio over long cable runs between the MX160 and your projector or TV. Plenty of Optical Digital, Microphone spot and of course all the Balanced inputs. There is quite a bit more but you get the point. The MX160 has as many options as the Star Wars Death Star! Let's talk about the video up conversion. Which allows you to scale to 4K. I have to say the image was pretty good. I think this is a huge step in the right direction for McIntosh. They allow you to also have no scaling and just pass the image through untouched. The back lit remote works well. Button pressing feels solid and the layout is simple. Those using Tablets will probably only use it for reference but those that use it full time will like it. The cool thing with the MX160 is it's easy to raise Center or Surrounds or Heights on the fly. It's also easy to set the voicing depending on what you're watching. We usually have ours on Action & Movie. Speaking of which... How does the MX160 sound?
I have to say right off the bat Mad Max Fury Road is my new intro reference for sound! Darkness Falls I will still use but the presentation from Mad Max is startling good! As he begins his narrating the hairs on your neck stand straight up. The difference from good, great and out of this world can be ascertained the first few minutes with Mad Max. Sicario also has some really stand out moments. Like when Emily Blunt is slowly breathing to herself in the bathroom (not to mention when she is showering how the water sound makes it feel like you are there) but also how she lightly tells herself to stay calm. The slow plane rides and helicopter pans will draw you in. The  soundtrack is in Atmos so the object based sound is remarkably done well. You can leave the MX160 in Dolby Atmos or you can select the option to switch it to Auro-3D or Auro-matic (Auro up mix) the Atmos sound. If you have a Top speaker it is a cool option which for my room was the sweet spot. The other movies above all have very good soundtracks which the MX160 renders well. Oblivion is also one of my favorites. I used this one with my MX151 Review (here) and the 160 does not disappoint. Whiplash has some sounds that are tougher to hear in many systems but definitely clearer with the MX160. Like at the end when JK Simmons is threatening Miles Teller. You sense the anger and jubilation from both characters. I used to think image was by far the most important aspect to movie time. High end pieces like the MX160 remind you just how important sound can be and how it brings the movie to life. 


So how does DirecTV sound? Football is amazing! Peyton barking out Omaha Omaha was like you were there holding the first down marker. Dolby Surround (Atmos upmix) is the definite sweet spot. Sorry Packer fans but the Hail Mary throw from Aaron Rodgers has a "wow did you hear that" moment. As the ball is caught you actually hear both players collide for the ball. You can also hear as the ball is snapped the players grunting as their pads hit. Crowds get louder as the player is running down the field. It really makes you feel as if you are there. When you have sound this good who wants to deal with crowds, parking and sometimes bad weather? 

Music. Yes we actually did some critical listening. The MX160 should be considered a nice Musical as well as Movie piece. The two channel fans will not be disappointed either. There truly is not much the MX160 doesn't excel at.

So what contributes to amazing sound? How about the Total Harmonic Distortion (DSP Bypass) of 0.005%. The pin point accuracy of the speakers is uncanny. I wonder how it will be when DTS: X finally hits? There's also DSP Room Correction with RoomPerfect, 1/12 octave. Bottom line is simple. Your room will be accurately enveloped with object based sound. The McIntosh MX160 is hands down better than 98% of the rest of the market. The only Processor that narrowly beats it out is the Datasat RS20i. That is a huge compliment to the MX160 since the RS20i has a MSRP in mid to upper 20s. If you are a fan of McIntosh and their top shelf line you owe it to yourself to check out a MX160 which is fully updated. With all of the channel options and the new sound codecs (not to mention HDMI ins and outs) you will be set for a very long time. Think of all the money you will save in gas, movie tickets and game day tickets since you won't have to leave your home. And your ears will thank you...


Equipment used for some or all of the Review in the "lab" are:


Sony VPL-VW665ES, McIntosh MX160 A/V Processor, Datasat RS20i pre-pro & RA7300 AMP (Fronts, Center, Sides & Backs), DarbeeVision DVP-5100CIE, DVDO Mini 4K Scaler, DirecTV 4K Genie, Xbox One, Sony FMP-X1 4K server, Monster Power HTS 5100, Oppo 103D Blu ray, Monster/Optoma/Sony 3D glasses, Parasound HALO A51 AMP (Heights & TOP), Antec Component Coolers, Vutec SilverStar Curved 3D Screen, Speakers: MARTIN LOGAN STAGE X Center, THEOS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (HEIGHTS & ATMOS & T), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofers- Martin Logan BalancedForce 212 X 2, Dayton APA150 Sub AMP x 2, 8 Aura Pro Bass Shakers, 8 Black Seatcraft Venetian Home Theater Chairs (with Raffel Integrated Lighted Cup Holders), Remote: Harmony 1100. Monster 1000 HDX Ultimate HDMI cables top to bottom. And two Monster 35 foot HDX Hyperspeed HDMI cables.
Click above to read more about the MX160.
Thank you (again and again) to Audio Video Interiors Chicago for getting me a McIntosh MX160. If you are ever in their area (by Oakbrook Mall) stop in and check them out. They have plenty of cool stuff to play with. All the guys there are friendly and knowledgeable. Give them a call at (630) 607-0054 and tell them hello from me. You will be glad you did!

And a thanks to my Wife and her friends for assisting in all the demos. Hope all the popcorn was enough for payment! LOL
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JOERODHOMETHEATER.COM
2/4/2016
   PART 2 is at bottom of page!
PART 2.(08):
Looks great and super easy to navigate!
So just looking at the pics above you can see the extreme makeover the new 2.08 firmware has given the MX160. We also have noticed how much the sound has improved! Also note in the above pics and vid that the MX160 can pass HDR through. I have tested it with both the Panasonic and Samsung players on the Sony 5000ES. The vid shows "4K Server" as the source but that is what I call the Samsung player since we mainly use it for the Oregon demo clip (as well as others) with the UHD TV pack. We use the Panasonic as our main UHD player. The cool features are now coming into play! I am using a couple of the HDMI outs now. One to the Sony 5000ES in our main theater room and one to the restroom TV hanging on the wall. That is a crowd favorite since we never have to pause the movie. You can also assign resolutions for each output and input! You literally have complete control over everything. Now with the new update you can do all future software updates online. Next we just need DTS;X to hit and we will have it all. For now I can say we are more than happy with the MX160...

"We are seeing proof or the real capability thanks to the engineers at McIntosh. I am passing everything with both the Panny and Sammy through the MX160 into the 5000ES and two other displays. HDMI 2.0 with the latest updates has been updated to 2.0A like. Very cool!"

When asked about the sound difference from other lower cost models:
You'd have to listen to one to understand. Room Perfect does some amazing things with the sound. I have Reviewed Integra (as well as many other brands) for years. The majority of them are lacking what I like to call "subtle sound" moments. For those that want the full immersive movie experience those make all the difference.

In comparison with the RS20i... Round two. We had a room full of guests. A year ago we did the same test and the majority (if not all) preferred the Datasat. Not this time! We used The Conjuring 2 Captain America Civil War, Mad Max, Oblivion and a few older titles as demos to compare. I of course did not tell them which was live. We went back and forth a few times. Room Perfect just sounds amazing. And for sports the McIntosh MX160 was better! Dolby Upmixer just brings more between the crowds and the Public Announcer (with music) not to mention QB calling out the cadence on the McIntosh. I could probably spend some time to tweak the RS20i to come close or match it for sports but that would be time consuming. I also added MC205 and MC207 AMPs so now I look completely like a McIntosh fan boy. With Cinema like sounds which provide plenty of ear candy there truly is no reason to ever buy another movie ticket. 
Image to the left is showing the MX160 passing both HDR and BT2020 through using the Panasonic UHD model. Exciting times ahead for sure!!!