Essentially, the beyond-stereo sound of the Lexicon defies traditional multi-channel chaos. So devoid of processing noise, background hash and other compound-channel swill is the DC-1 that you'll feel ashamed for ever thinking that its extra effects can be likened to similar processes on low-end receivers pretending to be home-theatreware. Do not cut your ears off to spite your head: the multi-channel chicanery of the DC-1 is nothing like the synthetic sound produced by lesser devices. Although you cannot A/B the modes beyond those which are adjacent to each other - I couldn't find a way to alter the sequence as it appears during the scrolling - you will find yourself preferring many of these options. I was particularly taken with the way the DC-1 enhanced mono TV broadcasts, the added definition, ambience and clarity improving even , which I was horrified to learn was recorded in Dolby Stereo despite its recent vintage.
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Settling on laserdisc as source, I revelled in convincing, seamless, but above all surround from well-produced discs such as , the remastered trilogy and the like. And I'll resist the hyperbole: no, I couldn't hear Elizabeth Berkley's hairs rustling, nor Kyle McLachlan's jeans stretching, but there was detail aplenty. More impressive, too, than the explosions, tyre-squealing and ammo discharging of basic Arnieware were the examples of low-level detail: nervous breathing during tense moments in thrillers, heavier breathing in , the tumbling slots in . And the directionality...whew.
Ever a fave is the peerless pulp-fiction action flick, . What better than the fly-bys for judging the directional capabilities of the DC-1? My preferred mode was THX Cinema, even though I use unapproved gear. (I defy anyone to tell me that some of the undistinguished dreck wearing those three letters can better five Marantz or Acurus-driven Apogees.) But I digress. Even without side-channel dipoles, THX bettered straight Pro-Logic with cleaner dialogue, a smoother left-to-right span at the front and far more precise image positioning.
But what about straight pre-amp operation? The DC-1's role as a stand-alone DAC? It seems a shame having to dissect what stands as bargain when you tally the cost of equivalents made up from separate ingredients, but here goes: As a pre-amp, the DC-1 sounds like a good £1500 solid-stater, its cleanliness and three-dimensionality consistent with its role as a surround processor. As a DAC? I reckon it could hold its own with today's £1000 champs. But as a surround processor? For that alone the Lexicon is worth three big ones. To me it's like getting a video switcher, a pre-amp, a DAC and an ADC thrown in for free.
The DC-1 gave me a real buzz, more fun than I've had since I first loaded . I absolutely loved it. Indeed, if this weren't a family magazine, I'd say that the DC-1 is f***ing amazing.
Harman Audio, Unit 2, Borehamwood Industrial Park, Rowley Lane, Borehamwood, Herts WD6 5PZ. Tel 0181 207 5050.
LEXICON A LA MODE
If you were wondering how a controller could have surround modes, (briefly) here's what they do. Oh, and remember that each one has its own set-up menu with user-adjustable parameters - hours of fun for the whole family!:
1) Panorama: adds spaciousness by extracting the recording's natural ambience
2) Nightclub: generates the appropriate early reflections to suggest intimate spaces
3) Concert Hall: as above, but suggesting a large hall
4) Church: uses a reverb algorithm to make you feel holy
5) Cathedral: as above, but holier
6) Music Logic: provides steering to exploit the extra speakers for surround usage for stereo music material, also steering signals at the front
7) Music Surround (THX): as above, but the front left and right channels receive unprocessed L/R signals
8) TV Matrix: a KK fave, this provides surround effects for mono, stereo and stereo synthesised TV programmes, helpful for cleaning up dialogue
9) Logic 7 (THX): for use with musical material, it provides "maximum separation" and "uses intelligent steering to extract wide bandwidth stereo surround channels"
10) Mono Logic: and I quote, "takes a monaural soundtrack and sends music and sound effects to the sides and rear through a room simulator mode while keeping the dialog (sic) in the center (sic). Don't laugh: it
11) Pro Logic: your proper, familiar Dolby Pro Logic Surround decoding
12) THX Cinema: Dolby Pro Logic with icing
13) Party: provides unprocessed stereo signals to all speakers; amusingly, it gives you some idea of what AC-3 will be like if you've ever wondered what happens when full-bandwidth signals come from the rear speakers
14) Two Channel: good, ol' stereo...
In a nutshell, I used numbers 7, 8, 11, 12 and 14 a lot and dabbled with the rest. With the exception of numbers 2-5, they're all worthy.