|Lexicon RT-10 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Ben Shyman|
|Monday, 01 September 2003|
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Consumer acceptance of DVD-Audio and SACD has been slow despite the undisputed and enormous improvement in sound quality. While there is no doubt that the bitter format war between these two high-resolution formats is to blame, making matters worse is the apparent inability of the record companies to agree on a non-proprietary digital connection standard. This not only puts an additional, unwanted layer of digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital conversion in the signal path, but it creates further problems as well. Audio enthusiasts looking to add both these competing high-resolution formats to their systems have been limited by their home theater processors, which at best contain only one set of analog 5.1 inputs (Lexicon’s MC-8 is an exception). Initially, this forced consumers to make a near-impossible choice. After all, many of my favorite bands have released their music on one format or the other, but not both. Recently, however, a handful of manufacturers have designed hybrid players that play both formats, thus minimizing the confusion of the format war and allowing audiophiles to utilize a single universal player in their systems. While many hybrid players have been released in the past year and more are surely on the way, there have been virtually no high-end universal players released that offer reference-quality audio and video for the serious enthusiast. That is, until now. Enter Lexicon with their universal disc player, the RT-10.
The RT-10 is Lexicon’s first foray into providing a source component, and an ambitious one at that. It is the only high-resolution disc transport manufactured by the Harman Specialty Group, a division of Harman International, and was designed to be a high-quality product that customers would consider integral to a complete system, including either a Lexicon MC-8 or MC-12 Music and Cinema Processor and a LX Series Power Amplifier. The player lists for $3,495 and can play virtually any three- or five-inch disc format, including DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, DVD-RW/R, SACDs, Audio CDs, CD-RW/R, Video CDs, and SVCDs. It is also MPEG and MP3 compatible. The RT-10 can output digital audio via coaxial, optical or balanced XLR connectors. Having a digital audio XLR output is a nice touch and should be appreciated by those enthusiasts fortunate enough to have balanced inputs on their preamp processors.
Digital audio conversion for DVD-Audio and SACD sources is handled by six 24-bit/192 kHz D/A converters. In speaking with the company, Lexicon assured me that SACD processing in the RT-10 is 100 percent Direct Stream Digital (DSD), the technology on which SACD is based, and contains no Pulse Code Modulation (PCM), the technology on which CD is based. This is unlike many lesser-priced hybrid players on the market which, convert DSD to PCM, thereby avoiding having to design and manufacture two distinct signal paths. With the RT-10, you get what you pay for, with no shortcuts in SACD signal processing.
The RT-10’s video processing is supported by 12-bit/108 MHz D/A converters and features progressive-scan output, 3:2 pull-down for film-based DVD and Pure Cinema, which converts film sources recorded at 24 frames per second to 60 frames per second. The company claims Pure Cinema creates a more natural-looking picture. Although seemingly jammed with all the latest and greatest high-end technologies, Lexicon does not include High Definition Compatible Digital (HDCD) audio processing or Faroudja’s Directional Correlational Deinterlacing (DCDi) for improving digital video on progressive scan displays. While perhaps I am being a bit critical here, several more modestly-priced hybrid players from manufacturers like Denon include theses technologies. Hence, consumers should come to expect these features for nearly $3,500. Since my home theater includes a Proceed AVP2 and Faroudja NRS-DVI, I have these technologies in my system, despite their absence from the RT-10. Lexicon does not include HDCD in either the MC-8 or MC-12 and opted not to include it on the RT-10. However, with the current organizational restructuring at Harman International where Mark Levinson (the No. 40 and other products include HDCD technology), Lexicon and Revel will form the Harman Specialty Group, I would expect to see HDCD processing included on future generations of Lexicon products.
The RT-10 is fashioned like other current Lexicon components with the familiar and stylish aluminum faceplate and blue LED display. Much to my liking, the front face is uncluttered, with only a few buttons, which have a very chunky feel. Included among those is a toggle to turn off the LED display to minimize distractions while watching movies in a darkened room. The RT-10 definitely conveys a level of build quality and craftsmanship one expects from a player in this price range. However, after powering up the RT-10 I was somewhat disappointed to see that some text in the LED display appeared slightly distorted due to what appeared to be a limited arrangement of pixels. Lexicon did acknowledge the LED display in the MC-8 and MC-12 is more flexible and much more costly than in the RT-10. They stated that the custom charachters required for DVD players can not be used on the display in the MC-8 and MC-12. They would have used this crisper display if was possible.
Examining the rear panel of the RT-10 left me with a positive impression. In the video section, Lexicon has included sets of both BNC and RCA component video connectors, in addition to the standard S-video and composite video jacks. The audio section boasts six analog outputs for DVD-Audio and SACD, in addition to coaxial, optical and XLR digital audio connectors. BNC component video and XLR digital audio connectors are usually reserved for only the very highest level of audio-video products and I was pleased that Lexicon included them here. I was, however, confused by Lexicon’s curious omission of a RS-232 serial connection for computer control and software upgrades, which means it cannot easily be integrated into a computer-controlled system. Lexicon includes two such serial connection ports on their MC-8 and MC-12 controllers.