McIntosh MVP851 DVD Player Reviewed

McIntosh MVP851 DVD Player Reviewed

McIntosh has one of the most loyal followers in the industry. While outsiders find the gear to look dated, the classic styling keeps their fans loyal. For those who wanted a balanced look to their system McIntosh offered this DVD player

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McIntosh Labs has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. Although now owned by Clarion Audio, the parent company has wisely allowed them to continue making virtually hand-made products in upstate New York.

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To take a look at their audio products is to think that they are still stylistically stuck in the 60s. Blue meter dials, twist knobs, toggle switches, and backlit labels abound, and the incorrect presumption might be made that they might also have 60s technology inside. Such an assumption would be very far from the truth as demonstrated by the new $3,500 MVP851 DVD video/audio progressive-scan player.

Unique Features
This player follows the familiar stylistic theme with a black glass plate front, backlit green labels for the buttons, and retro push-button switches. The centrally placed McIntosh label is also backlit in green, adding a further bit of retro charm to this player. It is said that the shade of green used on the McIntosh is similar to one that denotes success in Japan, and this has helped McIntosh to become very successful in that country. Although the look may be polarizing, it rapidly grew on me and, within a few days, I went from somewhat apathetic to considering it absolutely beautiful. The player is well built, weighing in at a solid 20 lbs.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The MVP851 starts out with a Panasonic transport and video section, namely that of the well-received RP91. McIntosh built their own audio section around this, and also added their own remote control. One look at the back panel confirms the serious audio breeding of this product. Among the various connectors for video, digital audio, and multi-channel outs, there are a pair of balanced analog outputs for 2-channel playback. This is a feature usually found on high-end CD players to eliminate any noise created through the cables in-between the player and the preamp/processor. The Krell Showcase processor I had on hand happened to have a set of balanced inputs which I connected with AudioQuest Python XLR cables. The 5.1 outputs were connected with single-ended Python cables, and Tributaries component and S-Video cables were used for video. Digital audio duties were handled by an AudioQuest VSD-4 silver digital coaxial cable. Associated equipment was my B&W Nautilus 804/805/HTM2 system, Pioneer Elite 520 television, Classê CAV-150, and REL Strata III subwoofer. Setup was fairly straightforward as the MVP851 has the same easy to use menus of the RP91. All speakers were set to large.

Read more about the MVP851 on Page 2.
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The remote is a very nice and simple, large, black unit with all of
the transport and navigation buttons backlit in green. The backlight
button is very intelligently placed on the side of the unit making
operation in the dark even easier. Curiously, there is no power button
on the remote, but the McIntosh places itself in standby mode if not
being used for a period of time.

Final Take
First up was 2-channel CD listening through the balanced analog
outputs. I was very pleasantly surprised by the immediacy and powerful
dynamics of the MVP851. The sound is very smooth on top, with a
slightly forward midrange, and a strong, tight bass response. There is
a tremendous amount of detail to the music without being fatiguing in
any way, imaging is just simply excellent, and the player is very
transparent to the original source. The soundstage is fairly wide, but
the perspective is much more intimate and up close. The sound is more
forward than that of the Krell DVD Standard, creating an impression
that you are sitting in the front row of the performance, and the
imaging is so strong that it is easy to see the vocalist a few feet in
front of you with the mind's eye. The bass response is among the best
that I have heard.

A feature called Digital Re-Mastering Enhancement Circuitry,
designed to extend the frequency response on CDs beyond 20 kHz by
upsampling to 88.2 kHz, is available through the digital and analog
outputs. Moving on to DVD-Audio, the same sonic signature was again
apparent.The McIntosh makes everything that you put in it come alive.
One negative was a somewhat slow responding transport-taking a couple
of seconds to switch between tracks.

DVD movie material was next. The player has a front panel switch to
turn on progressive scan, which is very handy for those who have HD
televisions that lock into "full" mode. The picture quality is very
smooth, film-like, and detailed with minimal noise. There is an
interesting comparison here with Faroudja-based products, which will
often have a built in enhancer in addition to the Faroudja
de-interlacing chip. Many of these players deliver a very sharp,
detailed picture where the edges of objects and people are clearly
delineated. The McIntosh's picture was detailed, but smoother edges are
softer. Some people find this effect more pleasing, personal preference
will dictate. The subject of de-interlacing does bring up the sole area
with which I have reservations about the MVP851. As it is based on the
Panasonic RP91, it shares the antiquated Genesis chipset. Although this
player does well with properly flagged film DVDs, it does not have the
de-interlacing prowess of a Faroudja-equipped unit, and poorly flagged,
tough material will cause artifacts. Video-based material will also
cause some problems with artifacts especially if there is a significant
amount of motion. The up-side is the picture quality overall is very
good, and the unit does make the best of the Genesis chipset so, in
most cases, artifacts are not a major issue. Still, I can wish that
McIntosh had based its product around one of the newer Faroudja-based
products. It is worth mentioning that the interlaced output picture
quality is also quite good, and it is important to remember that those
with external scalers for a projector or Plasma system are not going to
use the progressive output anyway. The McIntosh also functions very
nicely as a transport for CD, DD, and DTS, and the Krell processor
mated very nicely with the McIntosh sound. It is very obvious that
McIntosh's heritage is as an audio company first and foremost. The
audio capabilities of the MVP851 are simply top-notch, and for those
that watch the occasional Hollywood release, the picture quality of the
player will be more than acceptable. If this player had been based on a
better de-interlacing chipset and perhaps even had a more massaged
video section I would be willing to put it on a pedestal. If I could be
allowed to dream a bit further, the addition of SACD would make it
perfect. As it is, the video side is good, but the audio side is
flat-out fantastic, making this McIntosh one player seriously worth
auditioning for those with audiophile leanings.

Suggested Retail Price:
$3,500

Additional Resources
• Read more source component reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a receiver to pair with this source.
• See more about the audiophile world at AudiophileReview.com.
• Discuss all kinds of gear at hometheaterequipment.com.

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