|Lexicon MC-12B Music and Cinema Processor|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Sunday, 01 June 2003|
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To assess the DVD Dolby Digital surround performance of the MC-12B, I chose the already classic war epic, “Saving Private Ryan” (DreamWorks Home Entertainment). I had heard a great deal about the film and how it accurately recreates the events occurring during D-Day, but amazingly, this was my first viewing of the Steven Spielberg production. To say I was shell-shocked by this movie is an understatement. “Saving Private Ryan” is action-packed and extremely gruesome, definitely not for the faint-hearted. The scenes depicting the landing on Omaha Beach are truly graphic, yet so masterfully recreated when played back through the Lexicon controller that I find myself at a loss to describe them. The cinematography was captivating, the soundtrack and special effects were riveting, and the combat sequences were startling and extremely realistically recreated through the MC-12B. With John Williams' powerful score overlaying the film, the Lexicon processor showed its true dynamic quality, capturing the sorrowful sonata of battle, leaving the viewer with the rumblings of powerful emotion.
One interesting thing I experienced was that, despite how exciting and captivating the video images were, at times the sonics through the Lexicon were so stunning and realistic that they become the dominant stimulus, with the images merely validating what I was hearing. The MC-12B showed its prowess as a world-class processor, displaying great articulation, excelling during certain scenes, such as an interlude after the Omaha battle sequence when a momentary blanking of the screen is followed by the layered sounds of typewriters clicking like machine guns as Army typists write next of kin letters, melding into a backdrop of raindrops falling, further recalling the sound of gunfire. While viewing this film, I got a sense that the MC-12B had a true lock on the soundtrack, allowing the minutest of details to be articulated, yet keeping complete composure during the most complex and dynamic sequences. The refinement of the multi-channel processing was extremely apparent, capturing the essence of the ultimate home theater experience. I found myself unaware of the rest of the world, leaving only me and the event I was experiencing to exist in that space and time.
After viewing “Saving Private Ryan,” I decided to do a 180-degree switch and cued up Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" (Universal Studios Home Video). This film takes place during early ‘70s, capturing the youth, innocence, and sometimes confusion of this rock ‘n’ roll era. The film concerns a young teenage journalist who gets sucked into the rock world, much like what happened to Crowe in his youth. The DVD is a beautiful transfer and there was no noticeable degradation when viewing the movie through the MC-12B processor video switcher, compared to feeding my monitor directly. This fantastic film is put together in an exceptional way, demonstrated by the brilliant layout of both the dialogue and music of the soundtrack, and the way the selected songs complement the film flawlessly. Throughout the film, there are countless performances from great artists of the time, featuring Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, Rod Stewart and Lynyrd Skynyrd, to name just a few. Once again, the MC -12B showed its incredible ability to create that "you were there” sensation, placing the viewer directly at each venue or setting, whether behind the scenes or mixed into the crowd. One of the more memorable scenes takes place during an impromptu tour bus singalong of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” The Lexicon convincingly placed me on the bus longing to join in. As with “Saving Private Ryan,” the MC-12B displayed grace and ease following the soundtrack, providing a high level of dynamic contrast throughout this film. Interestingly, I found that once I optimized the Lexicon controller for my listening environment, it performed equally well on both films, though their content and soundtracks were extremely different. I feel this is attributable to the MC-12B’s flexibility and adjustability, allowing it to achieve a higher degree of integration into my listening environment than a less flexible processor would have.
Focusing more on the musical attributes of the MC-12B, I enlisted the DVD concert disc Diana Krall Live in Paris. This DVD features Krall's own jazz group, including acoustic bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton, electric jazz guitarist Anthony Wilson, recording legends John Pisano on acoustic guitar and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion, with the European Symphony Orchestra sitting off to the side of the stage in semi-darkness. Krall tastefully offers her unique yet elegant renditions of several tried and true tunes that have been around for many years, previously made famous by singers ranging from Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra to Jon Bon Jovi and Bono.
Listening to this DVD on DTS, especially Krall’s version of the famous Burt Bacharach tune "The Look of Love," brings you right into the auditorium, straight to front row center stage. Throughout the concert, the MC-12B positioned the audience nicely around my listening position, recreating the appropriate venue ambience while keeping the main performance up front and focused. Occasionally, some of the front stage information spills over to the surround channels, but for the most part, it is very minimal. All instruments are recorded with lifelike accuracy and the MC-12B remained true to the source, providing appropriate weight to each instrument while remaining light on its feet. While other concert and movie sources effectively demonstrate the MC-12B’s dynamic and transient capabilities, this DVD showcases its tuneful, melodic qualities, creating an extremely non-fatiguing yet detailed presentation, regardless of the volume level. With Krall’s sultry voice and matching looks, this is a great concert to both watch and hear straight through from beginning to end, especially with the MC-12B in the system.
I explored the MC-12B’s multi-channel analog pass-through capabilities with Graham Nash’ DVD-Audio disc, Songs For Survivors (DTS Entertainment). Throughout this extremely well-recorded disc, the Lexicon sounded very clean, the music emanating from a totally black background. The fun, energetic and complex opening cut, “Dirty Little Secret,” was effortlessly reproduced, with none of the instruments or detail lost in the mix. The drums were very lifelike, and the cowbell floating up from the depths of the song was extremely realistic, delineated and delicate through the Lexicon processor. Songs For Survivors was recorded with multi-channel in mind, placing the listener more in the middle of the band during the performance rather than in the audience. Some may not like that perspective, which does not mimic a realistic concert experience, but it was enjoyable, different, and transfixing as presented by the MC-12B.
To test the attributes of LOGIC7 with a two-channel 16-bit/44.1 kHz source, I reached for one of my favorite older romantic recordings, Roxy Music’s Avalon (Warner Brothers). Listening to the smoldering title track through the Lexicon MC-12B makes you realize how graceful and alluring this disc is from start to finish. Engaging the LOGIC7 processing mode created a vivid and transparent portrayal of the cut’s haunting textures and gorgeous melodies. Listening to other favorites such as "More Than This," "To Turn You On" and "Take A Chance With Me,” the Lexicon MC-12B easily created a multi-dimensional sound experience that far exceeded any two-channel playback of this disc that I had listened to previously. When properly calibrated, the Lexicon processor consistently transformed older two-channel CD sources from flat two-dimensional soundstages to much broader three-dimensional presentations. I've not been able to spend a lot of time with other music-focused processing algorithms, such as the Meridian Trifield music processing mode, but I feel confident that more often than not, Lexicon Logic 7, when properly calibrated, will enhance the playback of most two-channel sources.