|Lexicon MC-12 HD Music and Cinema Processor|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Thursday, 01 May 2008|
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If you’ve contemplated building a home theater with the utmost performance in mind, you’ve no doubt considered the Harman International brand Lexicon. When it comes to outfitting true performance-based home theaters that rival some of the best movie houses in the business, Lexicon has to rest somewhere near the summit. No other brand, save maybe Genelec and JBL, has such a storied history in professional cinema and mastering applications as Lexicon. However, in recent years, rapid evolution surrounding video formats and connection options, mainly high-definition video and HDMI, have given companies like Lexicon a moment of pause. This has allowed large, mass-producing giants from Japan to muscle their way into the playing field and even briefly take it over. However, with the arrival of the Lexicon MC-12 HD processor, the once mighty king of home theater has returned and is poised to reclaim its rightful place at the top of the high-end processor market.
The Lexicon arrived at my home shortly after the departure of my Meridian G Series processor that had served as my reference processor for nearly a year. Needless to say, the MC-12 HD had large shoes to fill, for I considered the Meridian to be in a class all its own, excelling in both video and audio quality. The MC-12 HD is just as elegant as the Meridian, with its flat off-white faceplate and small charcoal gray controls. The small blue lit display and soft glowing blue lights add a hint of sophistication to the otherwise Spartan façade. The faceplate is broken into five main areas, the first being the display resting to the left of the large volume knob. The manual controls are broken down into Main, Zone 2 and Record groupings to the right of the volume control. The whole processor appears to sit on a black plinth that at first glance appears like nothing more than a pedestal. However, when turning the MC-12 HD around, its presence is of paramount importance, as it houses the MC-12 HD’s balance audio outputs. The MC-12 HD measures in at roughly six-and-three-quarters inches tall by 17 inches wide and nearly 15 inches deep. For a full-featured processor, it is rather beefy, tipping the scales at an impressive 45 pounds. The MC-12 HD comes in two configurations, balanced and unbalanced. My review unit was configured for balanced connections and retails for a hefty $14,000.
Turning the MC-12 HD around, I was met with a host of connection options, most notably six HDMI inputs and one output capable of accepting 1080p source material at 60, 50 and 24Hz frame rates. The MC-12 HD’s HDMI inputs can also accept 24/96 5.1 PCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, DTS and DTS-ES audio formats. There is no support of either Dolby True-HD or DTS-HD MA audio formats at this time. However, in comparison to other high-end processor offerings, the MC-12 HD is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in its nearly full support of HDMI for both audio and video signals. After speaking with Andrew Clarke, vice-president of Product Management at Harman, the absence of Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD MA in the MC-12 HD is not entirely uninformed. In the time it takes to design and release a product such as the MC-12 HD, formats can change dramatically. At the time of the MC-12 HD’s inception, market research showed that people wanted high-resolution formats decoded in their respective players for numerous reasons, although since the unit hit store shelves, that paradigm has changed. I’ve been assured that Lexicon is working hard toward a solution to make everyone happy. I should mention, while the MC-12 HD has six HDMI inputs and one output, it will not up-convert lesser analog video signals to digital; it will only up-convert those signals to component video. Truthfully, when you have as many HDMI inputs as the MC-12 HD does, the need for conversion becomes a non-issue in many ways, so I don’t really fault the designers there. Frankly, I rarely even use component connections anymore, let alone composite or S-video. The MC-12 HD has four component video inputs, as well as a single monitor output; however, both the fourth component input and monitor out are of the BNC variety. There are also the usual suspects of composite and S-video connections.
The MC-12 HD has more than enough analog audio inputs, as well as a nice assortment of digital audio options with six coaxial and five optical inputs. Along with its analog and digital audio inputs, the MC-12 HD can take advantage of all of the latest Dolby Digital and DTS audio settings (save the uncompressed HD ones), as well as meeting THX Ultra 2 and THX Surround EX standards. The MC-12 HD also features Lexicon’s critically acclaimed Logic 7 stereo and surround sound audio settings. As for preamp outs, the MC-12 HD in its balanced configuration has 12 audio outputs, three of which are allotted for multiple subwoofer configurations, one for the main zone and two for zone 2. In addition to the balanced outs, the MC-12 HD has the same number of unbalanced preamp outs, adding an additional pair for the second zone. The MC-12 HD has two RS-232 ports and four small microphone inputs that work in conjunction with its EQ calibration program and microphone kit ($1,000) that Lexicon was kind enough to send along with my review sample. A detachable power cord rounds out the list of features located on the MC-12 HD’s rear panel.
Under the bonnet, the MC-12 HD is as complex and configurable as they come, with independent and adjustable crossovers and use of dual (operating in dual-mono) digital to analog converters and internal two-stage jitter reduction. I could easily fill my 3,000-word quota just talking about all of the various “little” things the MC-12 HD does in its endless quest for purity, but I think it’s better to talk about what it all means in play than to simply look at it on a drawing board.
This brings me to the remote. I have to say, while I found the remote to be functional, it clearly does not look as if it has any right being mated to a $14,000 processor. It is cleanly laid out and shockingly familiar right out of the box. It dawned on me why: it’s the same remote that comes packaged with many of today’s processors from Outlaw Audio on up. It is, for lack of a better description, a generic universal remote with a brand name logo screened along the bottom. Does it work? Yes, and it works well, but for the money, I was expecting something so much more.