Lexicon MC-12 HD Music & Cinema Processor Reviewed
Lexicon's long run with top end digital processing is exemplified in the MC 12-HD. Offering HDMI switching and a ton of control flexibility this is a highly regarded piece. Read HTR's managing editor Andrew Robinson's review here as Harman just dropped the price on the current unit.
When it comes to building professional-grade home theaters or theaters for that matter two brands come to mind Lexicon and JBL. More professional movie theaters and cineplexes feature JBL speakers mated to Lexicon designed components than any other brand available today. The MC-12 HD, which retails for $14,000.00 and reviewed here builds on a tradition of excellence when it comes to recreating the big screen experience in the home. The MC-12 HD features a host of connection options including six, count 'em six HDMI inputs with a single HDMI monitor out. The MC-12 HD's HDMI inputs/output are capable of accepting and passing a 1080p video signal. The MC-12 HD will only switch between HDMI inputs with all upconverting happening at the analog video level with legacy signals being upconverted to the MC-12 HD's component video output. While this fact flies in the face of conventional "do-all" processors the thought behind it is sound. Lexicon believes in keeping the signal in its purest form which means intact from the source itself without having to result to processing trickery that mimics the appearance of added quality. While a minor inconvenience for those of us with complicated systems the decision on Lexicon's part is decidedly sound. The MC-12 HD's HDMI ports will also pass multi-channel audio but uncompressed audio formats such as Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio are not decoded internally and must be handled on the source level. There are plans in the works towards an upgrade but no release date has been set. On the audio side of things the MC-12 HD boasts a number of unique and performance rich features including but not limited to dedicated 24-bit/192kHz digital to analog converters for each output.
The back panel of the MC-12 HD is thoughtfully and spaciously laid out however not the most clearly labeled. I also, didn't like that the HDMI ins and outs were located below the component video inputs but it's nothing I couldn't work around. The MC-12 HD features both balanced and unbalanced preamp outs which is nice and it has enough digital audio inputs on tap to satiate even the most source heavy system, which is a rarity among today's modern processors. The MC-12 HD is a true multi-zone processor allowing for full control and operation of audio and video in up to three separate zones and can operate each independently of each other.
The MC-12 HD has automatic speaker calibration and EQ though the process is a bit tedious, needing four spider like microphones, with their inputs located on the rear of the unit. The process is relatively straightforward and the results are accurate but the MC-12 HD's auto EQ doesn't produce results as dramatic as say Audyssey's Pro EQ. That being said, the MC-12 HD's EQ does provide for better bass tuning than any other auto EQ I've encountered thus far.
Read the High Points, Low Point and Conclusion on the next page.
High Points • The LexiconMC-12 HD possesses a solid, even-keeled sound that has explosive capability that makes it more suitable for movies and movie soundtracks then music.
• The LexiconMC-12 HD's ergonomics and day-to-day livability once setup properly is first rate.
• Plenty of HDMI inputs to connect any and seemingly all of today's modern HD equipment make the MC-12 HD a strong center piece for today's home theater enthusiast. • The MC-12 HD is one of the most striking and beautifully designed processors on the market today. This is not a piece of gear you'll want to hide away from view if at all possible. • The MC-12 HD's auto EQ is better for bass tuning than any other auto EQ on the market currently.
Low Points • The setup procedure and menus are tedious at best and the auto EQ process isn't as simple or straightforward as it could be. • The remote is an absolute joke and not worthy of a product costing as much as the MC-12 HD. Frankly, it's the same remote you get with the Outlaw 990 and while it's acceptable for the 990 it's not for the MC-12 HD at a many, many times higher price. • Lack of uncompressed audio support will likely turn off some potential customers from purchasing the MC-12 HD and for good reason though the decisions behind their exclusion do make some sense. • The MC-12 HD's lack of video upconversion means you may have more than one cable running to your video screen or projector which is "so 2005." • The MC-12 isn't the absolute best processor for two channel music compared to comparably priced models from Meridian and Halcro yet it does a good job with multi-channel fare - specifically movie soundtracks. Absolutely, no complaints on the sound for movie playback with the Lexicon MC12 HD.
Conclusion Let's not beat around the bush, $14,000.00 for a AV preamp that doesn't upconvert to HDMI and support uncompressed multi-channel audio can be somewhat hard to sell when receivers costing a tenth as much are offering more in terms of features. That being said, receivers are designed to a price point and to appeal to the masses often resulting in lackluster performance and shoddy craftsmanship. The Lexicon MC-12 HD possesses none of those attributes and is a product that appeals to the consumer who is above the idea of just shopping for a preamp from a laundry list of features.
The Lexicon MC-12HD excels at keeping the signal pure and unadulterated for maximum multichannel enjoyment. It believes in letting the rest of your gear excel at what they do best while adding what it does best making for a more team effort approach versus fix all to system integration. If movies are your bag and you've got a cost-no-object theater with some truly kick ass components in the signal chain then you should definitely check out the Lexicon MC-12 HD. Its got the power to hang in the most serious of home theater systems both at the local Cineplex as well as in the finest of homes.