Audio Design Associates (ADA) is a different sort of company, and may not be one you have heard of before. If you have had a custom home theater built, the ADA name will be very familiar to you. ADA specializes in audio and control equipment for custom installed home theaters, and therefore markets itself to custom installers more than the consumer. Its products are designed to be rack mounted, and integrated into specialized control systems.
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Since I do not have a custom home theater, I really did not know what to expect when ADA sent the Cinema Rhapsody Mach II (hey guys, what's with the name?). This is ADA's new 7.1 surround processor, and is chock full of the latest technology and surround modes.
Unique Features - When I removed the Mach II from the box, I immediately noticed how long the unit is. It is low, long, and designed to take up as little front vertical rack space as possible, but uses the available length of a rack to hold all of its electronic innards.
The style of the Mach II is also different, having a centrally placed LED panel that gives you information concerning the input and the volume level, pictograph lights to the left of the LED panel, and dial controls to the right. The pictograph lights are very interesting, as one of them tells you how many channels are being input, and the other tells you how many channels are being output. For example, if you have a two-channel source, the L and R light up on the left pictograph, and if you are using Dolby Pro Logic II for this source, 5.1 channels light up on the right pictograph. In between the pictographs are the areas where the codes for THX, DTS, etc. light up. To the right of the LED panel are dials for mode, input, volume, channel and record. The input dial allows you to switch between different sources, and select which source you want on the bottom part of the LED screen, and then push to choose that source. This allows you to select the source without actually switching through all of them. The mode switch allows you to go through the different sound modes in the same way. Speaking of surround modes, the Mach II has lots of them. It is a THX Ultra 2 product, the highest and newest THX rating, and decodes Dolby Digital/DD EX, DTS/DTS-ES, Pro Logic, PUT, DTS Neo 6, and has various processing modes such as stadium, club, etc. This processor is proudly made in the USA, and states so right on the front panel.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The back panel has 8 audio/video source inputs, three component inputs, one component output, four digital coax inputs, and four optical digital inputs. There are also 7.1 inputs for an external decoder, but it is in the form of a DB-25 connector.
The remote control is the excellent and ubiquitous Home Theater Master SL-9000--which comes in a very nice polished black with the ADA label placed at the bottom. This was the first clue that something was different here, as this unit actually came in its own packaged box. The remote control is an extra, and this processor is meant to be an integral part of a custom built home theater installation. These usually use a master remote control, and the ASCII codes necessary for programming such a controller with all of the functions of the Cinema Rhapsody are in the back of the manual.
Hooking up this processor was fairly easy, and setup is accomplished on the LED screen without significant onscreen menus. ADA has a PC program that a custom installer can use to set up this processor fully, allowing for maximum flexibility to be achieved.
Final Take - The associated equipment used with the Mach II was B&W Nautilus 804 fronts, 805 rears, HTM2 center channel, REL Strata III subwoofer, Classé CAV-150 amplifier, the Marantz DV-8300 as the audio source, and the Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700 as the video source. The Mach II was first tested with two-channel music, and on Massive Attack's Teardrop, I immediately noted that something was different. The midrange was somewhat recessed, and a lower midrange keyboard line was very recessed. This was quite strange, and I put on some SACDs and DVD-A discs to try and use the 7.1 input. The same thing occurred, with a recessed midrange, emphasized lower end, and slightly recessed highs. Undeterred, I soldiered on, putting in From Hell, the Jack the Ripper movie. Once the volume was raised to the point where dialogue and voices were at a normal level (I do not play movies very loud), the bass output from this processor was very prodigious. My setup is not designed to be the ultimate in rock 'em sock 'ern bass output, but all of a sudden my floor was shaking, the subwoofer was rocking, and the 804s were producing bass like I had never heard before. The first thing I did was walk over and turn down the subwoofer tlainking that it was turned up too high. This was when I noticed that the 804s were also party to the "shakedown." After having this same experience with a couple of different movies, I began to understand what this processor was doing. By recessing the midrange and highs, the processor was forcing me to turn up the volume, increasing power to the speakers, and since the lower end was not recessed in comparison to the mids and highs, the bass was proportionately more powerful. This makes a lot of sense for a custom home theater where you want lots of bass and dynamic slam, as the Mach II is still quite smooth with decoding for movies. Interestingly enough, voices are still quite clear; the highs, which are a bit grainy on music, are smooth on movies, and the surround decoding is excellent. The overall package works very well indeed. This is not an analytical, accurate processor, but boy is it fun. If you want your place to shake when you watch a movie, if you want to feel the movie as much as watch it, if you want to make the place really rock, this is your processor.
ADA obviously has their market down pat, and knows what it is trying to achieve. The Cinema Rhapsody Mach II would be an absolute blast if I had a dedicated home theater. This processor will definitely keep the popcorn popping but, in my case, since I live in a condo, I would probably have neighbors at my door with torches and pitchforks. This is a quality, well-made processor for the custom install home theater crowd, and is perfectly directed at its intended audience.
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