|Lexicon MC-12B Music and Cinema Processor|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Sunday, 01 June 2003|
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As a music and home theater enthusiast, I frequently find myself upgrading or modifying my system, either through improvements to the acoustics of the listening environment, or the replacement and/or augmentation of various pieces of equipment. Most of the time, these changes result in small to moderate levels of improvement that are not always monumental, generally more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But every now and then, a rare piece of equipment crosses my path, making me reevaluate my overall approach to my system configuration and setup. One such recent addition has been the Lexicon MC-12B Music and Cinema Controller. Lexicon, a member of the Harman International conglomerate, has been a highly respected producer of both professional and consumer electronics over the past few decades. The MC-12B represents the current pinnacle achievement in music and cinema controllers offered by Lexicon. The MC-12B’s pedigree can be traced back to the original CP-1, which was in introduced in the late 1980s, up to and including the MC-1, the previous flagship processor in the Lexicon fleet. It is an extremely powerful and highly adjustable component, with broadcast-quality video switching and all the current multi-channel processing algorithms, including some extremely effective proprietary modes as well. Lexicon offers the Music and Cinema Controller in two configurations, the standard MC-12 ($8995), and the MC-12B ($9995), which features both single-ended and balanced outputs.
The Lexicon MC-12B’s cosmetics are a vast departure from the somewhat utilitarian packaging of the MC-1. With its classy brushed aluminum front plate and sexy cobalt blue lighted display window, the MC-12B exudes a sense of elegance and distinction. There are three main switching sections positioned on the front panel, one controlling the main inputs, another used for a second zone system, and finally an area for various record functions. The unit’s processing modes can also be accessed from the front panel via dual selector buttons, which are positioned next to an oversized, silky-smooth main volume control. The case has a matte black finish, measures 17.3 inches wide by 5.2 inches high by 14.85 inches deep, and weighs 45 pounds. The back panel is incredibly loaded, with a wide variety of input and output connectors. The outputs offer the option of both balanced and unbalanced connection. Analog audio source bypass is available on the 5.1 multi-channel inputs and the five stereo input pairs. Digital audio connections include 13 inputs (six coaxial, six optical, and one AES/EBU) and two S/PDIF outputs: one coaxial and one optical. The 17 video inputs consist of four full HDTV-compatible component connections, eight S-video and five composite inputs. The user can associate each of the available 12 inputs with any of the audio and video input connectors as they see fit. Video outputs include one BNC component video output with full HDTV compatibility, two main video outputs, each with composite and S-video, and two record video outputs, each with composite and S-video. Three independent zones (Main, Zone2 and Record), three programmable trigger outputs, and one IR input round out the active connectors on the MC-12B. Future expansion is covered by four unused microphone inputs, three open internal slots, one removable rear panel access plate and two RS232 inputs for software upgrades.
The THX Ultra Certified Lexicon MC-12B utilizes some very significant digital processing power, incorporating four Analog Devices SHARC 32-bit DSP engines for processing power, Cirrus Logic's Crystal CS49326 DSP decoder for decoding multi-channel audio-data sources, 24-bit/192kHz D/A converters for audio playback, and 24-bit/96kHz dual bit delta-sigma architecture A/D converters to handle the analog inputs. The MC-12B is able to decode a full array of current processing modes, including DTS, DTS-ES, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Pro Logic II, and THX Surround EX. In addition, it features the proprietary LOGIC7 decoding algorithm, which can either be used with two-channel sources or as an overlay on top of existing surround modes to create and enhance multi-channel playback.
The Lexicon MC-12B offers such a vast array of adjustability that it is difficult to describe how to best set up this surround sound processor for all environments. Its flexibility will allow end users to fine-tune their systems to their listening environments much more accurately than most other processors. Though the MC-12B is basically ready to play right out of the box, optimal performance will truly be reached by thorough exploration of the multitude of menus that address everything from bass management to the high frequency roll-off options available for the surround speakers, as well a host of other setup parameters. These menus are viewable through the MC-12B front panel display or via the onscreen display, a nice, convenient option. My initial system setup only touched the surface of the available flexibility that is provided by the MC-12B. It is challenging to describe all of the potential features of the Lexicon, as the manual itself is extremely comprehensive and substantial in its content. A prospective owner should be prepared to spend some time studying the manual in great depth in order to obtain a greater understanding of all of the adjustable parameters that are available within the MC-12B.
For my audition of the Lexicon MC-12B Music and Cinema Controller, I set up my reference system in a 7.1 configuration, utilizing the Revel Studios for the main speakers, a Revel Voice for the center channel, four Revel S30s for the surrounds, and two Paradigm Servo 15s providing low-frequency support. The Lexicon features one of the most flexible bass management systems available, allowing for independent channel crossover points, adjustable from 30 to 120 hertz in 10-Hertz increments. The crossover point utilized for the subwoofers was 70 Hertz for most of the audition, and I deployed a 15 kHz high-frequency roll-off setting for the surrounds. This is one of a series of frequency points available to adjust the surround speaker’s roll-off characteristics. Implementing a 120-hertz crossover point for the center channel proved to be very helpful, creating a relaxed and airy center fill to the image. The MC-12B offered many options facilitating my setup and, though I obtained a terrific end result, I have no doubt that this processor has much more to offer with additional time spent fine-tuning all the possible configurations and settings. Additionally, there is a synchronization delay available for those times when your audio signal is not matched to your video playback, a feature that is unfortunately missing in many processors.