Lyngdorf MP-50 AV Preamp Reviewed

Lyngdorf MP-50 AV Preamp Reviewed

Its price may be a bit daunting, but Greg Handy argues that the Lyngdorf MP-50 actually represents an incredible value, when you consider the products it competes against.

I am not new to the Lyngdorf brand and product line. In fact, it was not that long ago when I reviewed the Lyngdorf TDAI 2170, an integrated digital amplifier that impressed me with its best-in-class digital amplifier technology, dead silent background, crystal clear dynamics, and proprietary room correction system. Since then, I have admired this company’s ability to implement sophisticated technology into practical applications.

You may be familiar with the Steinway & Sons product line, created by the Steinway Lyngdorf company, which offers ultra-premium audio and home theater systems that are state of the art, operating within a proprietary, digital, and active ecosystem. The Steinway Lyngdorf team is the same design and manufacturing group that produces the Lyngdorf MP-50 ($9,999) reviewed here. And a cursory glance at the design and spec of the two units reveals just how much the MP-50 is the beneficiary of trickle-down technology from the Steinway & Sons processor, the P200, which retails for $18,000. While the P200 is different in that it only works with the Steinway & Sons system, the MP-50 shares a few technologies with the P200: the chassis, power supply, and convection cooling technology, along with its RoomPerfect calibration and room correction system.

The MP-50 continues the Lyngdorf Scandinavian appearance with its matte black metal and glossy glass front display, along with its iconic oversized volume wheel. The unit itself has six metal panels connected with recessed screws to form its finely finished casework, which measures 5.8 inches high, 17.7 inches wide, and 14.6 inches deep. Overall, it offers an understated but sophisticated look.

Lyngdorf_mp50-front.jpg

The Lyngdorf MP-50 is a fully featured surround sound processor with the latest in immersive surround sound formats, modern digital connectivity, and functionality. This processor supports Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, and Auro-3D, which are included without any upcharges. All legacy surround sound formats are present as well.

All eight HDMI inputs are Ultra High Definition (UHD) compatible, with support for 3D, UHD, BT.2020, and HDCP 2.2. The HDMI board used is not the typical off-the-shelf product typically found in surround sound processors, but rather a custom version where Lyngdorf writes their algorithms and software.

There are two HDMI outputs, and one HDBaseT Ethernet output capable of transmitting uncompressed full HD video and audio over a category 5e cable or higher, up to a distance of 300 feet, with the use of an HDBaseT receiver or HDBaseT equipped projector.

Later this year, Lyngdorf is offering an HDMI upgrade, which offers 18-gigabyte bandwidth with an HDMI 2.1 feature called eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) on all eight inputs and two HDMI outputs. The full upgrade must be performed at the company’s Denmark facility and includes round-trip freight for the cost of $1,300.

There are a total of nine digital audio inputs, not including the previously mentioned HDMI inputs: One AES/EBU, three S/P-DIF coaxial, four optical, and one USB. All digital inputs are asynchronous, with full clock recovery to control latency issues. I should also point out that the MP-50 has no analogue inputs.

Output options are numerous, providing flexibility for sophisticated home theaters. 16 fully balanced XLR audio outputs deliver up to 12 discrete audio channels, to create up to a 7.1.4 immersive surround sound configuration. Four additional XLR fully balanced outputs are available for any combination of additional subwoofers or speakers. For example, 9.1.6 or 7.3.6 configurations are possible. One observation worth noting is that there are no RCA output connectors; audio connections between the processor and amplifier are by XLR balanced connectors only. Included is a digital coaxial S/PDIF output for a second stereo zone. A sophisticated DCI-compliant digital AES/EBU input for digital cinema server integration is available as an optional upgrade.

Lyngdorf_mp50-back.jpg

There are a host of other relevant connections worth mentioning. The RoomPerfect setup microphone uses a specific XLR connection, and an RJ45 LAN Ethernet input provides hardwired network connectivity to the MP-50. There is also an RS-232 port for control devices, along with two IR inputs and one IR output. Four trigger outputs can turn on other components, allowing easy system startup. Two USB connections facilitate music file playback, as well as software updates. Lastly, there is an SD card slot for storing system settings and backup.

The MP-50 lacks any form of wireless connectivity; however, once hardwired to your network, the MP-50 connects through Apple’s Bonjour IP discovery service, which is available in any OS X operating system. There is also a Windows version available for download. I was able to access the Lyngdorf MP-50 web menu on my network, which allowed complete system setup, customization, and unit control. If you have a wireless network in your home, you would be able to access the MP-50 web menu wirelessly with your computer. I found this type of connectivity invaluable for system setup, software updates, and streaming. Additionally, the MP-50 can be set up through its on-screen display, along with its slender and straightforward remote, which can work in either Infrared or Radio Frequency modes. I suspect Lyngdorf intended the MP-50 to be operated by a robust control system, but I was able to control the processor with the provided remote with no issues.

The MP-50 also has a built-in media player for network or USB-attached files. Streaming music is possible from an attached device on your network, or through Internet radio (Vtuner), Spotify, and Airplay.

As I mentioned earlier, sound calibration is accomplished with RoomPerfect, a Lyngdorf-designed calibration and room correction system. The application manages speaker level adjustment, balance, and room correction. According to Lyngdorf, RoomPerfect represents one of the most extensive patent filings in audio history. The system measures, at a minimum, two million audio reflections, which creates a three-dimensional model of the listening room. It takes into consideration power response (energy), distance, and level compensation, while understanding dispersion characteristics of your loudspeaker, integrating it all for an optimal result without the need for acoustic room treatment. One of the goals of room perfect is to maintain the tonal characteristics of the speakers used in the system. Their technology adapts the sound system to the room, rather than adjusting the sound system to a pre-conceived target curve. During calibration, RoomPerfect listens to the speakers located within the room from several positions, as opposed to just the primary listening position. As a result, the signal becomes more linear, while maintaining the overall tonal characteristics of the speaker. Another benefit is that the speakers can be located up against a wall or even in the corners of the room, assuming the speakers are not rear ported, with no detriment to their performance.

Additionally, a voicing tool allows for the creation of individual equalization profiles for each source. Up to eight filters can be used to change the frequency response, gain, and slope.

Lyngdorf_MP-50_voicing-tool.jpg

For this review, I installed the MP50 in two different rooms: my Family Room, which has a 5.1.4 immersive surround sound speaker system and my living room with a 5.1 surround sound speaker system.

The Hookup
My family room, which measures 20 feet long and 15 feet wide, with nine feet ceilings, has a PSB CustomSound in-ceiling and in-wall enclosed speaker system. The left, center, and right (LCR) speakers are model C-LCR, and the immersive speakers are model C-SUR, while the surround channels are model W-LCR. A Halcro seven-channel amplifier was used for all ceiling channels and surround channels were powered by a three-channel DeChiro amplifier (using only two of the three channels). The Subwoofer is a Paradigm Reference Studio SUB 15. The MP-50 replaced an Anthem AVM 60. My primary source was a MacBook Pro for music streaming, and an XBox One for Blu-ray playback.

Before I began any critical listening, I set up the MP-50 with my sources, labeling them accordingly. Next, I identified the sizes, quantity, and location of each speaker within the room.

Bass management is configured as part of the speaker set up and is specific for each speaker. Indicating the speaker size, within the speaker set up menu, controls standardized frequency cut-off, or it can be customized per speaker.

Lyngdorf_MP-50_speaker-setup.jpg

Lastly, I performed the RoomPerfect calibration, with the supplied microphone and microphone stand. Unlike some calibration systems, RoomPerfect requires the manual measurement and input of each speaker’s distance from the primary listening position. Using a measuring tape would require two people, so I obtained a quality laser-measuring device to complete the measurements. After inputting all speaker distances, I ran the RoomPerfect guided setup, and performed eight different measurement points by moving the microphone around the room, as indicated in the manual, and obtained a 93 percent room knowledge.

Impressed with the MP-50’s performance in the family room, but somewhat concerned that an architectural speaker setup wasn’t the best test of the processor’s fidelity, I moved the unit into my living Room, which measures 14 feet wide and 15.5 feet deep, with ceilings hovering 13 feet high. I replaced my current processor, an NAD M17 with the MP-50 and maintained my reference amplifier, an NAD M27. The primary source was an Oppo BDP-105D. A 5.1 Vienna Acoustic speaker set up from their Schönberg line of on-wall speakers (now discontinued) was already installed and in use in this room. A MartinLogan BalancedForce 210 subwoofer handled frequencies under 80hz. I performed a new speaker setup within the MP-50 and recalibrated RoomPerfect in the same manner previously described. In this instance, I obtained a 98 percent room knowledge score with eight measurements.

Performance
With the MP50 connected to my network, I streamed a variety of music tracks from Tidal using my MacBook Pro. I noticed an improvement in two-channel audio immediately. Bass was more engaging and controlled, while the soundstage displayed more depth, along with an improved level of clarity. At first, as mentioned above, I thought the MP-50 was overkill for an architectural speaker set up. However, after extended periods of listening, I concluded that the entire system benefited from the MP-50’s stepped up performance and in particular the ability of RoomPerfect to deal with acoustical imperfections.

For movies, I played two cuts from a Dolby Atmos sampler disc: John Wick and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

In John Wick (Lions Gate), the final fight scene takes place in the rain, which gives the MP-50 ample opportunity to show off its object-based surround sound processing capabilities. Height channels imaged well and tied in nicely with front and surround speakers alike. Clarity was impressive, yet the system never sounded overbearingly bright.

With the movie Transformers: Age of Extinction, the scene in question is one in which the Decepticons’ mothership magnetically inhales and drops everything in its path, creating massive destruction. The MP-50 did a wonderful job of conveying the trains, cars, and boats falling and rolling from overhead, removing none of the force of fury from the sound effects, but delivering them with utter control and precision. Through it all, the mostly yelled dialogue was impressively articulate.


In addition to the demo disc, I watched the movie Wonder Women, where the Atmos soundtrack excelled in every scene. At about 14 minutes into the movie, Diana (Wonder Woman) is training with her mentor Antiope in a full-on fight, in which Diana uncontrollably releases what appears to be an electromagnetic pulse to defend herself. The surround, immersive, and front channels connected by overarching from the back and side walls to the ceiling and all front channels creating a cocoon of audio bliss.

It was an impressive display of imaging and effects. While I suspect some of this effect was due to superior digital signal processing and conversion, I also believe that RoomPerfect calibration did a fantastic job of dealing with this room’s acoustics and the speakers’ locations (in this case, all in-ceiling).

Training of Diana Prince | Wonder Woman [+Subtitles]

Moving into the living room, I started by streaming some familiar stereo soundtracks from Tidal using the app within the Oppo BDP-105D and controlling it from my iPhone through the Oppo media control application. The song “Ofelia” by the Lumineers (Dualtone Records) exhibited a noticeable increase in mid-bass presence, heft, and detail over what I’m accustomed to hearing from the track. The weightier mid-bass I heard via the PSB speakers was in evidence here, too. It was substantial enough that I checked the bass management settings to ensure the front speakers were crossing over at 80Hz, which was, in fact, the case. I also noticed an elevated level of transparency. The combined result was impressive.

The Lumineers - Ophelia


I proceeded on to the track “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac, from their Rumors album (Warner Bros). While my reference system always impressed me on this track, I was now hearing a small but noticeable difference in many areas that added up to a substantial overall improvement: Imaging was broader and deeper, and vocals had a natural tonal quality not previously heard. Consistent with other tracks I had listened to, I heard increased midrange base levels, which forged an authentic soundstage that sounded alive and clear.

Tonality was very natural and authentic, which I attribute in large part to Lyngdorf’s room correction system. If you recall, my speakers are wall mounted, and RoomPerfect did a great job of pushing the Vienna Acoustics to new levels of neutrality and articulation.

I began streaming from Tidal through my MacBook Pro so that I could experience the higher resolution USB input on the MP-50. While replaying the above soundtracks, as well as others, and performing an A/B test several times, I believe that the USB input provided a superior result. I continued listening to various soundtracks from different artists and genres, all through Tidal and using the USB input, to consistently find higher frequencies were crisper, while the soundstage appeared to be more spacious and extensive, along with a pronounced mid-bass, all against a dead silent backdrop.

The Wonder Woman Atmos soundtrack was so impressive in the Family Room that I wanted to experience it again with ear level speakers on a 5.1 system. Moreover, since I could hear an improvement in music, I thought it was appropriate to play a musical: The Greatest Showman.

With Wonder Women, the movie’s Dolby TrueHD soundtrack had the same traits of what I experienced with two-channel audio: improved mid-bass from the right, left, and now the center channel speaker, which was an immediate standout. Music passages soared. Additionally, I was surprised by the riveting realism of gunshot fire. In the scene about an hour and thirteen minutes into the movie, where the Germans have allied forces pinned down by machine guns in an area referred to as No Man’s Land, Wonder Woman crosses the field facing devastating artillery. For the first time in my system, gunshots were so real that it redefined my understanding of how gunfire should sound: It was frightening, jarring, and intimidating all at the same time. In comparison, I do recall this scene in my family room, where the gunfire did stand out, but it was especially more noticeable in my Living Room.

WONDER WOMAN – Rise of the Warrior [Official Final Trailer]

Regardless of what was going on in any scene, the dialogue was clear, which is always an issue for me since spoken conversation often comes with accents or voice inflection that can be difficult to discern. I also found that the rear channels had more clarity in comparison to my reference NAD 17 processor.

Throughout the vast amounts of bullets flying, the music soundtrack remained clear, well imaged, and dynamic. It was an impressive display of frequency response, coherence, and detail.

On The Greatest Showman, at about 50 minutes into the movie, the character Miss Jenny Lind, a famous European Opera singer, performs the song “Never Enough” in a New York theater. The performance was chilling and drew me in, taking my attention away from the critical listening, and more into the storyline.

Vocals were natural, with an organic flare that floated in the room center stage.

The Downside
From an audio perspective, I was very impressed and can honestly say I have no concerns. Additionally, there are no quirks or missing functionality from my perspective. However, it is worth restating two items I noted earlier. First, the MP-50 lacks any analogue inputs. For me, this was a non-issue as all my sources are digital and I have no plans on adding an analogue device. More of a concern, though, is that there are no line-level RCA audio outputs; all outputs use an XLR connector. Simple fixes for this issue include cables made with XLR and RCA connectors on opposing ends, or perhaps XLR to RCA conversion connectors.

Comparison and Competition
The Lyngdorf MP-50 is somewhat of an anomaly within the AV surround sound processor category. If I compare it to processors in the same price range, the Audio Control Maestro M9 and the Acurus Act 4 come to mind. The M9 is limited to 11.1 channels, lacks Auro 3D, and is short on balanced XLR outputs for ceiling channels. The Act 4 maxes out at 9.5.6 or 9.7.4 as of its latest update, but its new ASPEQT room correction system is still an unknown quantity at this point.

My reference NAD M17 is a version 1, and the recently announced M17 version 2 ($5,999) adds Dirac Live and Dolby Atmos support. While the NAD is a fantastic processor, the MP-50 proved to be a step up in terms of microdynamics, clarity, functionality, and flexibility.

The Anthem AVM 60 is another stellar value product that performs very well. However, the Lyngdorf pushed the limits of my room and downstream system to new levels.

My experience suggests the MP-50 could be compared to higher priced products such as the Datasat RS20i or Trinnov Altitude 16. With all three immersive formats, the RS20i is priced at $26k and is a substantial product.

The Trinnov Altitude 16 is also a top line processor with the same number of output channels as the MP-50, with support for all three immersive formats and discrete rendering of up to 16 channels. It has plenty of system settings for just about any need. However, the Lyngdorf sells for thousands less.

Conclusion
The Lyngdorf MP-50 proved to be a fantastic performer on both music and movies. After my extended audition period, I was reminded of the significant impact a preamplifier can have on one’s system. Regardless of the quality of your amplification and speakers, a quality preamplifier gets out of the way, while performing many tasks that all surround sound preamp processors must do: source selection, decoding, digital-to-analogue conversion, equalization, and room correction.

Perhaps the biggest thing that the MP-50 has going for it, though, is RoomPerfect, which proved to be a high performing calibration and room correction system in both of my listening rooms, each of which posed significant challenges: The family room has an architectural speaker system, with all of the speakers installed in-ceiling, while the living room has an on-wall speaker system. RoomPerfect handled both impressively. If you recall, at first I thought that the MP-50 was too much product for an in-ceiling speaker system, but the improvements that RoomPerfect made to that system in terms of improved tonality and overall system integration proved me wrong. When you have no other choice but to live with a compromised speaker setup, or when interior design dictate speaker layout, the effects of a sophisticated room correction system such as RoomPerfect cannot be overstated. Likewise, consider all the high-end ear level speakers that are never located optimally within the room due to practical reasons (like the expense of divorce). No matter the compromise, RoomPerfect represents a compelling solution.

I found myself going out of my way to use the Lyngdorf at every opportunity, enjoying every moment I had with it, and that’s perhaps the highest praise I could give the MP-50. When compared with other high-end processors that offer similar functionality and flexibility, I believe the Lyngdorf MP-50 represents an incredible value, which is a lot to say about a ten-thousand-dollar component. It is easy to set up and use yet has sophisticated features comparable to processors that sell for thousands more. If you are in the market for an ultra high-end premium surround sound processor, I suggest auditioning the Lyngdorf MP-50.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Lyngdorf website for more product information.
• Check out our AV Preamp category page to read similar reviews.
Lyngdorf Audio TDAI-2170 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.

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Michael

I 100% agree with this review! I own a McIntosh MX160, which is the same as the MP-50 but with McIntosh analog inputs and a few other features. The RoomPerfect calibration is quite astounding. I had used Audyssey room correction for many years and always though it did a decent job but not great. RoomPerfect was what I was missing!

Brandon Eberhart

That is an impressive piece of gear. No analog inputs seems like an odd omission though.

Great review, and worth reading for this line alone:

“With the movie Transformers: Age of Extinction, the scene in question is one in which the Decepticons’ mothership magnetically inhales and drops everything in its path”

swanlee

Wow no Analog inputs? Everything seemed interesting then got to that point and that is an instant deal breaker. What were they thinking?

Greg

It is a digital world. I did not miss the analogue input. I don’t have any analogue only sources. My Oppo 105 does have an analogue output, but the digital HDMI output allows the MP50 DAC’s to do their job, and eliminates an Analogue to Digital conversion. The only analogue source I can think of that would cause an issue is a turntable, and there are options to deal with that situation. I doubt a diehard vinyl enthusiast would want to connect to any processor.

Woofy98102

There’s always the PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter for anyone who wants to use a turntable with this processor. It converts analog to high rez PCM or DSD on the fly which it can then send to any DAC using its ABS/EBU, I2S or USB digital outs. I tried doing it myself, via 24/96 and it was nearly impossible tell the difference between the NWPC’s analog outs and digital outs. Impressive, since my gear routinely draws attention to a recording’s flaws like differences in acousic space, where the engineer mixes vocals recorded in a sound booth with music and backup vocals recorded in the larger studios used to accommodate the accompanying band or orchestra.

Greg

My point exactly. There are options, and I suspect these options are superior to an analogue input that other manufacturers may use.

While Lyngdord did not specifically state this, I suspect they are not going to provide a feature unless it will meet their performance standard, and in order to do so may increase price point beyond their desired goal. Lyngdorf would have to equate that with consumer demand and make a judgment call – which they did.

Lastly, if a processor does have such an input, will it perform to the consumers desired/expected performance level?

Mark Alfson

I remember reading the review of the int-amp and thinking to myself, “If I had the money…” and here I am again. It reads as if they have created the very best regardless of price.

Nat Takabut

Have been living with my MP-50 for almost 9 months, I had the same surprise of how much a good pre-amp can lifted the whole system to another level.
I disagree with your value rating though. MP-50’s sound quality is ranked with the top ie. Datasat, Trinnov but only cost 2 or 3 times less! I would rated it a full 5 stars.

Noah Katz

Greg,

Nice review, I especially appreciate the comparison with your other components and the analysis of RP performance.

I presume your listening impressions were for the money seat; did you happen to see how the RP improvements held up at other listeners’ locations?

Thanks

Noah

Greg

I was lucky enough to enjoy the MP50 for an extended period so I experienced it in all listening positions. I can say that the MP50 improved all seats for sure.

Noah Katz

Glad to hear that, thanks

pw lane

No RCA inputs.. That seems strange with a way overpriced $18K Preamp..

Greg

The MP50 is 9,999. It’s cousin, the Steinway Lyngdorf is P200 is 18k, and works in that Steinway Lyngdorf ecco system only.

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