McIntosh MX134 A/V Preamplifier

McIntosh MX134 A/V Preamplifier 


24-Bit Signal Processing

  • Dolby Digital/Pro Logic, DTS, THX and Bass Management
  • THX Surround EX and DTS ES
  • Pro Logic II Decoding
  • Home THX Cinema
  • Two Independent Zones


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    [Mar 06, 2009]
    Audio Enthusiast

    I bought the MX-134 after researching all of the different Mac Pre/Pro's over the past few years because it had THX Surround EX, DTS ES & ProLogic II without the extremely high prices of the later models. My dad had a Mac MX 110 paired to a MC-240 amp growing up & I decided it was time to fulfill my dream of getting my own Mac system.

    I bought the Mx-134 and a MC-7205 at the same time, but the amp needed to be shipped so I took delivery of the MX-134 5 days before getting the amp delivered. Unwilling to wait for the mac amp to arrive, I hooked the MX134 up to the Adcom GFA-2 amp that I'd been using for over 20 years (which still sounds fantasitc, by the way). I wasn't sure how much better the sound would be by just swapping pre-amps out, but I can't overstate the difference. The sound was so much more transparent. The preamp made you forget that there was componentry involved in music production and let you just focus on the music. I was stunned, and when the MC-7205 arrived later in the week, it just got better.

    Setup of the MX134 was a breeze with the on-screen menu. Tons of options for various digital & analog connections in the back. One thing I particularly noticed: The "Pure Stereo" (pure analog) was the best sounding of all of the 2 channel modes of listening, hands down, and though the MX134 is preset to automatically choose a digital signal if one is present, you have the option of overriding that & choosing the signal you want to listen to. Nice touch.

    Speaker config was easy, too. I has a built in noise generator that scrolls through all 8 channels (7.1 surround) so you can set volume by need for a cumbersome microphone. Speaker timing is done by distance. Set the distance of the speaker from your listening area & timing is automatically taken care of. Another feature I especially liked was the Mc Bass Management system. For small THX speakers, the Mac will automatically (and digitally) route low frequencies to the sub. You choose the frequency cut off you want based on the speakers you have. If you want to have BOTH speakers & sub handle bass, you can do that, too, or you can have the sub just handle LFE out of the .1 surround channels. You can't beat that kind of flexibility.

    The controls on the pre-amp are extremely well designed, as well. There is ZERO noise that comes from the pre-amp thanks to the digital switching behind the volume, balance & tone controls. Instead of having physical resistors attached to these controls to adjust volume, there are over 100 optically controlled digital switches that are used to control volume. The results are outstanding. Both channels track within .05db. there is absolutely no opportunity for noise or other distortion. Controls are extremely smooth & have an excellent "feel". That, along with the sultry look of the McIntosh backlit glass front panel and the unit just oozes class, confidence and that it comes from a pedigree of fine audiophile equipment.

    Video upconvert is outstanding, too. Composite to either S-Video or component signals. The only thing it's missing is HDMI. This wasn't available from Mac when the MX134 came out. The downside to that is there is a D to A converter in all signal paths which prohibits the DTS Master HD & Dolby Master HD codecs from being used. The newest MX150 has it, but it's not worth the additional $9k for me. Though I won't get the Master HD audio that'll be coming out, I still can take advantage of the high sampling rate associated with Bluray content, thanks to the 24 bit processor.

    Did I mention that this system supports 2 zones? If you want to have a 2nd zone in another room, go for it. You can get a separate controller that fits into a standard wall switch that will receive commands from the remote and control the 2nd zone. Run wires for the IR controller & some speaker wire & you've got Zone B set up & running.

    The price of some of the older Mac gear is in/around what you'd pay for a high end mass produced system. Why on earth anyone would choose a mass produced system over a Mac is beyond me. Check out eBay, look at some of the 5 to 10 year old Mac gear & see for yourself. This stuff is built to last decades. My dad's MX-110 & MC-240 still sound outstanding and they're over 40 years old. You absolutely can't go wrong with a Mac system if you're interested in highly accurate, warm sounding music that makes you forget about electronics & lets you focus on the music. I can't recommend this piece enough, and, given current economic conditions, there are opportunities to buy genuine made in america audiophile quality gear for the same price as some mass produced made in China, all plastic junk that'll last 10 years before you're either tired of it or it's time to throw it out.

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