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Report on the New McInosh H.T. Receiver

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Marty Neudel, Feb 12, 2002.

  1. Marty Neudel

    Marty Neudel Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 16, 1999
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    After W.C.E.S. in January of 2001, my audio dealer asked me if I’d be interested in a new home theater receiver that McIntosh was introducing at around $5K. I told him that if it was truly a McIntosh, and pending the usual home trial, I certainly was. It’s been a long year; but last month, they started shipping the MHT100 receiver. I’ve been living with it for the past two weeks, and am ready to share my findings.

    For two reasons, I’m not going to cite numbers: 1) just about all published specs put distortion at inaudible levels; so what’s the sense of it - and 2) McIntosh uses a more stringent set of test-criteria than those subscribed to by Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, et. al. and the figures would definitely be misleading.

    One word of caution, if you need dpl2, es-discrete and neo-6, this receiver is NOT for you. If, however, you are interested in a receiver from a true high-end manufacturer, then read on.

    Since many are not familiar with McIntosh, I thought I’d relay a bit of the company’s history. Audiophiles and old-timers on the forum can skip the next paragraph.

    In 1949, McIntosh introduced the first true high fidelity amplifier, and brought a new level of sound to those who could afford it. Since that time, they have CONTINUOUSLY been manufacturing a line of high-end audio equipment that has earned a world-wide reputation for excellence. McIntosh Labs still build their components by hand in their Binghamton N.Y. facilities, testing each unit individually. Their commitment to quality is so high, that a month before they send a new model out, they start shipping demo-units back and forth across the country in order to test the packing. Over the year, I’ve found that the tech-support people really know their stuff; and when I asked a question they didn’t have the answer to, they went directly to the engineer who designed the unit and got the information for me. O.K. so, it’s a good company; but, is the MHT100 really a McIntosh?

    After unpacking the double-boxing, and unscrewing the receiver from its mounting in the inner-box, the first thing you notice is the 73 pound weight of the unit. Then you see the all glass front-panel and aluminum trim that’s the hallmark of McIntosh. The back-panel is logically arranged, and each of the 8 amplifiers (6 for the main room and 2 for zone-b) has separate preamp-out and amp-in connectors that can be rejumpered to suit your own needs. For instance, I use 2 speakers for the back-channel and don’t require the multi-zone feature. I was, therefore, able to use the zone-b amps for the back speakers, thus allowing each speaker to have its own amplifier.

    During setup, some pleasant surprises make themselves known: each input has its own settable level; the pink noise sequencer includes the subwoofer, allowing for accurate balancing of ALL channels in the room; and the subwoofer crossover is variable from 40 to 140 Hz in 10 Hz steps! During the setup, I didn’t even have to read the manual.

    The front panel has the controls you use most frequently, with large knobs and buttons that are easy to use, well-labeled, and not hidden behind a door. It’s clear that the people who designed this unit actually use the equipment. To top it all off the fluorescent red, green, gold, and blue markings of the front panel are almost hypnotic in their appeal.

    At this point, I know you’re asking “HOW ABOUT THE SOUND?” So let’s get to it. Experience has shown me that if a system can handle the demands of classical music, modern movie soundtracks are a snap. I was pleased to hear the system clearly reproduce the attack and decay of the tympany in the blazing finale to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, something most home-theatre receivers don’t do that well. The sound is rich and warm without putting a cap on the high-end, or sounding boomy (again something lacking in most h.t. equipment).

    The imaging is surprisingly dead-on. Alright, I know that at a live performance in a concert-hall, imaging is not very precise, and the low-notes are a bit boomy. To that end, the MHT100 does have 4 music modes for ambience enhancement. Two of them are quite good; one is acceptable; and the last is too boomy for my taste. Having lived for years with Yamaha equipment, I do have a predilection for digitally-synthesized concert-halls; but, the plain stereo sound of this receiver is so good that I prefer it that way. I’m starting to realize what I’ve been missing all these years.

    Piano music and violins have the richness they deserve, while brass and reeds retain their coolness. Even most other high-end equipment tend to go one way or the other. I don’t know how McIntosh mixes hot and cool the way they do; but, it certainly works, and has helped earn them their reputation.

    One of the big surprises was the tuner. This is invariably the weak-link of receivers. The MHT100, however, has the electronic module of the McIntosh MR85 tuner, and its heritage shines through. I live in Chicago where the band is crowded and I’m surrounded by buildings much taller than the one I live in. Yet the sensitivity and selectivity of this tuner go far beyond what the specs would lead you to believe. No station is drowned out, or even ghosted; yet I’m receiving stations over 40 miles away with just an indoor antenna. The frequency response is also much flatter than I am used to in an included receiver. Even more surprising is the fact that music is actually listenable on the AM band.

    Having gone through most of my cd’s, I’m now rediscovering my old LP’s. Even the mono discs I have from the fifties sound fresh, once again.

    This receiver clearly puts to bed the myth that you must have separate amps to hear great sound. Of course, I’ve heard amplifiers that outperform this unit; but, they cost significantly more, and that’s just for the amps.

    The above is all well and good, but this is the “HOME THEATRE” forum, so how does it sound with movies. Once again, I trotted out all my favorite show-pieces. Both the DD and DTS performed without a flaw, which should be expected these days. Channel separation is clean and the sound from all channels is clear almost to the point of transparency, the way movie soundtracks should sound.

    The Pro-Logic in this unit is also interesting. The center channel is less grabby than most other units I've heard, closer to the logic of the early dpl decoders and Dolby Stereo in commercial theatres. While the dialogue is locked in the centre, other sounds tend to spread out, giving a more natural stereo spread. The surround field, while genrally not overwhelming, is well presented. On a whim, I watched the old ld of "Cotton Club." While the new 5.1 mix brings fresh life to the track, the old version holds its own, presenting an exceptionally cohesive soundfield, especially reproducing the accoustics of the club, and in the outdoor scene with the rain falling.

    I tested the 6-channel matrix decoder with The Phantom Menace and Jurassic Park III. The back channel is completely separate from the left and right surrounds; The soundfield of TPM was retained as a unity, which isn’t quite realized in the Yamaha RX-V1 I’ve lived with for almost 2 years and Denon 5800 I’ve auditioned. You have to hear this sound to appreciate it. The pod race came alive, with its distinct sounds everywhere in the room. JP3 played without a flaw, and when the velociraptors were everywhere, they really were everywhere.

    No home-theatre receiver I’ve heard comes close to this unit’s sound, leaving me no option but to keep the McIntosh. If you are looking for a true high-end component but, like me, cannot go above $5k, you really should audition the MHT100 in your home. Like me, you might just end up rediscovering the world of sound.

  2. Mark Austin

    Mark Austin Supporting Actor

    Dec 28, 1999
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    I have been waiting for this unit myself. It really intrigued me. I have always loved McIntosh gear, I won't ever get rid of my old 2105. You report sounds very promising to me, thanks . As soon as my dealer gets his in, I will be trying one out.
  3. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

    Feb 27, 2001
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    The Island, Canada
    Real Name:
    Rich Travale
    Glowing review Marty, thank you. It seems to be a great new Flagship receiver for the other big names to contend with. Maybe you should add a list of the rest of your equipment so that we have a base for comparison. Other than that, good job.
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    Fascinating review, Marty. Thanks!

  5. DanaA

    DanaA Screenwriter

    Nov 21, 2001
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    Yes, thanks for the review. I'm really quite envious. I've always dreamt of owning a McIntosh, but they're way out of range as far as the money I'd feel comfortable spending. At least I can live vicariously through you.
  6. John Sturge

    John Sturge Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 18, 2001
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    Lovely review. I've starting to look at Mcintosh now, considering all my dad's old equipment was Mcintosh. WHat was the street price on the Mcintosh Reciever(I doubt price matters with great electronics but still).
  7. Terrell

    Terrell Producer

    Dec 11, 2001
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    How about some pics?[​IMG]

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