Lexicon MC-12 Preamp/Processor Page 2

My listening session began with two-channel music—always the best way to get one's ears adjusted, I say. It didn't take me long to realize that I was going to like this piece. You can clearly hear its heritage, as it offers up that same highly effective, engaging mix of pinpoint accuracy and an unmistakable warmth that keeps it from sounding sterile or overly analytical. The sense of layering and separation on Babatunde Olatunji's 24/96 rendition of "Mother, Give Me Love" off Chesky's Super Audio Collection, Vol. 1 disc (which, thankfully, the Meridian passes intact from its digital outputs) was remarkable. I've heard few pre/pros (other than the MC-1) that take such care in crafting notes—to the point where each note takes its place as an independent event in a three-dimensional space, rather than just being another cog in the two-dimensional mush. Instead of backing away from the dense sonic imagery in a track like this, the MC-12 seemed to relish in the challenge of reconciling so many diverse elements while still maintaining an effortless composure and the highest degree of control. It showed the same unflappable character with the thicker tracks from the second Burmeister collection, and the wind from the Dallas Wind Symphony was never more palpable. Again, the stage's openness was unmistakable, and the natural flow from the top of the MC-12's response to the bottom was highly engaging.

1101lex.4.jpgSteering is another aspect of the Lexicon repertoire that has always impressed me, especially their Logic 7 mode. I like Logic 7 so much that the presence of Pro Logic II on this unit is a nonissue for me. Of course, you can decide for yourself which one you prefer. Via Logic 7, I converted the tracks from my two-channel demo to seven channels. As with the MC-1, I found that I liked what the MC-12's Logic 7 mode did about 95 percent of the time. There were times when it threw vocals and other front-derived sounds into the rear channels, but it has to work with what it's given, and there are occasions when this can be enjoyable, even if it isn't textbook-accurate. Many early SACD and DVD-Audio recordings aren't exactly textbook-accurate either, but they sound quite tasty off the MC-12. Naturally, for these tracks, processing is taken out of the MC-12's hands, but the pre/pro still does a masterful job of giving the high-resolution signals the space, timbre, and accuracy they need to live up to their potential. SACD material, such as Jerry Goldsmith's Movie Medleys and Bob Mintzer Big Band's Homage to Count Basie, was particularly dynamic, warm, and natural. Should we ever get a player that can pass high-resolution signals digitally, the MC-12's 24/192 DACs ensure that this pre/pro is well-prepared to handle the job.

Saving Private Ryan led off my soundtrack demo, and I initially concentrated on the processor's managerial talents: what it put where, when, and how well. A diverse, convoluted, quick-firing soundtrack like this one is just what the MC-12 seemed to want. These days, even the cheapest processors can put things where they're supposed to go and do a relatively good job of it, but you'd be surprised how much even the most minute errors can affect your perception of realism. "Transparent" sums up the MC-12's performance with movie soundtracks. It performed flawlessly, without the subtlest hint of editorialization, and still maintained its characteristic openness and engagement. The MC-12 passed its objective qualifications with flying colors. As with music, its ability to isolate random sounds in a film soundtrack by specifically concentrating on them created the impression that the pre/pro delivered each sound, no matter how minor, with as much care and attention as those that preceded it. Naturally, the soundtrack itself (especially a lossy one like Dolby Digital) will place greater emphasis on some elements than others—decisions that you may or may not agree with. However, by acting as an open window to the source, the MC-12 gives you every opportunity to judge the talents of the mixers for yourself.

The 5.1-plus portion of my soundtrack session turned into a battle royal between Dolby EX and Dolby Digital with the Logic 7 Film treatment. Each had its advantages and disadvantages, although the differences were admittedly subtle. Remembering how good the EX-encoded Haunting DVD sounded through the MC-1, I again suffered through this hair-raising (and I do mean the acting) sonic roller-coaster ride. Based on what it did with the rear channels, the final nod for this soundtrack went to DD/Logic 7. I really had to listen for the difference to acknowledge it consciously, but the overall sound was simply tighter front to back and side to side in this mode, with a slightly more-effective balance between localization and ambience. The whipping cables in chapter 18 seemed to have just a little extra bite and separation in the rear. Truth be told, though, either processing mode will have you ducking for cover on this one. DD/Logic 7's real test came with a straight 5.1 soundtrack with no premeditated help for an additional set of surrounds. Thus, Private Ryan got another run, and the MC-12 was again dead-on. The already-deep field got even deeper, with no sacrifice in accuracy, and Logic 7 had a field day with all of the surround information embedded in this soundtrack. I'd forgotten how constant the distant sounds of artillery explosions and other sounds of war are here, adding yet another boost to our perception of its reality.

The MC-12's peripherals are expectedly first-rate. Thanks to the quality onscreen menu system and manual, Lexicon has maintained their tradition of making highly sophisticated, flexible pieces of equipment that are relatively easy to use. I actually liked the old Lexicon remote better, but this one does the job just fine. It covers many of the major functions, and it still has its predecessor's tricky blue backlighting. Speaking of blue, the MC-12 keeps the MC-1's cool (and expensive) blue LED display, although its surrounding aesthetics are noticeably more uptown. Gone is the MC-1's studio look (which I didn't mind a bit), replaced by a sleek silver faceplate and twice the height of the earlier Lexicon. The front panel is somewhat busy, with source-selection buttons for all three zones, but even I have to admit that it's probably prettier to look at than the models that came before it.

I never did get that Booker's straight up that I was hoping for, but just about everything else the grapevine promised me about the new Lexicon turned out to be true. The MC-12 combines all of the sonic success of Lexicon's past with all of the tricks of the present (and future). With that, my very short list of end-all pre/pros just got one slot longer. Yes, $9,000 to $10,000 is a serious chunk of change; however, considering this unit's performance, design and build quality, flexibility, and features—combined with Lexicon' s aggressive upgrade/trade-in policy—purchasing the MC-12 could very well mean that you'll never have to go pre/pro shopping again.


• Virtually unbeatable audio performance

• Just about every feature you could want

• High degree of futureproofing


MC-12 Preamp/Processor
Dealer Locator Code LEX
(781) 280-0300