Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity - Best of Awards 2018
While keeping the virtues of classic McIntosh equipment, including the unique look, superb construction quality, and iconic sound, the MVP901 Audio Video Player, MX122 A/V Processor, and MC205 Five-Channel Solid-State Amplifier add leading-edge technology, but leave some out as well.

McIntosh fans may have minor qualms about these components, but their confidence will be (mostly) justified by the pleasure of owning gear that will probably outlive the purchaser. I know of nothing more durable than McIntosh equipment.



MVP901 A/V Disc Player, MX122 A/V Processor, MC205 Five-Channel Power Amplifier

  • The MVP901 Audio Video player plays every optical disc format except Ultra HD Blu-ray, and sounds good doing it
  • The MVP901 Audio Video player also serves as a network (Ethernet or Internet) streamer
  • The MVP901 Audio Video player offers MKV file support
  • The MX122 A/V processor also streams through wireless and Bluetooth inputs
  • The MX122 A/V processor supports Ultra HD video through HDMI 2.0 ports
  • The MX122 A/V processor has an excellent file-information display to help optimize your system
  • The MX122 A/V processor comes with Audyssey room correction
  • The MC502 Five-Channel Solid-State Amplifier, despite lacking McIntosh’s iconic transformer outputs is a 200 watt-per-channel powerhouse
McIntosh MVP901 Audio Video Player

The McIntosh MVP901 Audio Video Player is a Blu-Ray A/V disc player that can be used with preamplifiers, processors, receivers, or streamers. It streams content via Ethernet, and through multiple other inputs. The disc section can play multiple disc types including CD/DVD-R/RW formats. It handles almost every file format including MKV video. It will up-convert 1080p video to Ultra HD, but will not play native 4K UHD discs with HDR and extended color. One can use either digital or analog outputs. The latter come in either unbalanced (RCA) or balanced (XLR) flavors. This is the only A/V disc player that McIntosh sells currently (at this writing), and is intended to work with all its other preamplifiers and processors.

McIntosh MX122 A/V Surround Processor

The McIntosh MX122 Surround Processor is the least expensive A/V processor offered by the company, but it still offers a wide variety of great features. It can serve as a stereo preamplifier (using DSP or direct modes) and handles up to 11.1 channel input and output. In addition to a wide selection of digital inputs, including wireless and Bluetooth, the processor provides analog inputs, including a phono stage. The processor’s outputs for dual (mono) subwoofers allow flexibility in both two-channel and multi-channel playback. No stereo subwoofer feeds are available. The processor sports both digital and balanced analog (XLR) inputs and outputs.

McIntosh MC205 Five-Channel Solid-State Amplifier

The McIntosh MC205 Five-Channel Solid-State Amplifier is a classic McIntosh product, although without the brand’s iconic output transformers. It can drive up to five loudspeakers at a time, and can also be used to bi-amplify speakers if desired. The 200 watt-per-channel (into 4 or 8-ohms) amplifier is “classic McIntosh” in terms of its muscular sound, excellent control, striking appearance, and impeccable construction quality. Like the other Mac components reviewed here, it accepts both unbalanced (RCA) or balanced (XLR) sources.




Audio Specifications

Number of channels:

From 2 to 11.1, depending on input

Audio formats decoded :

MP3, WMA, AAC, LPCM, SACD, Multi-format DTS (including DTS-HD Master Audio), Multi-format Dolby (including Dolby TrueHD)

Output level:

4.0Vrms Balanced, 2.0Vrms Unbalanced

Output impedance:

600 ohms (Balanced or Unbalanced)

Blu-Ray & DVD frequency response:

4Hz to 22,000Hz (48kHz Sampling, Linear Audio), 4Hz to 44,000Hz (96kHz Sampling, Linear Audio), 4Hz to 88,000Hz (192kHz Sampling, Linear Audio)

SACD frequency response:

4Hz to 40,000Hz

CD frequency response:

4Hz to 20,000Hz

Signal to noise ratio:

115 dB

Dynamic range:

110 dB

Total harmonic distortion:


Channel separation:

Better than 110dB (1,000Hz)

Video Specifications

Signal system:


Region code:


Component / composite video output:


Supports 3D playback:



Stereo outputs / unbalanced:


Stereo outputs / balanced:


Multi-channel outputs / unbalanced:


HDMI output:


Digital coaxial output :


Digital optical output:


Component / composite outputs:





3 (1 front panel, 2 rear panel)

Diagnostic output:



Rear panel IR sensor input:


Rear panel data input:


Power control input/output (12-volt trigger):

1 each

RS232 control input:


General Specifications

Disc formats :

Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD, DVD-Audio

Disc capacity:


Laser beam wavelength :


Laser power:

Class 1

Standby power requirement:

<0.5 watt

Dimensions (W x H x D):

17-1/2″ (44.45cm) x 6″ (15.24cm) x 13-1/2″ (34.3cm)


19.5 lbs (8.8 kg)

Shipping weight:

35.9 lbs (16.3 kg)







Multi-channel outputs / balanced:

11.2 (also known as 7.2.4)

Multi-channel inputs / unbalanced :


Multi-channel outputs / unbalanced:

13.2 (only 11.2 speaker channels can be used at one time; when connecting 12 or more speakers, the output automatically switches according to the input signal and sound mode)

Stereo inputs / balanced:


Stereo inputs / unbalanced:

8 (including Moving Magnet Phono)

Stereo outputs / unbalanced:


Digital coaxial input:


Digital coaxial output:


Digital optical input:


Digital optical output:


AES/EBU balanced input:


HDMI input:

7 HDCP 2.2, High Dynamic Range (HDR10), 4K Ultra HD at 50/60Hz, 4:4:4 color, Rec. 2020, 3D video pass-through

HDMI output:

3 HDCP 2.2, High Dynamic Range (HDR10), 4K Ultra HD at 50/60Hz, 4:4:4 color, Rec. 2020, 3D video pass-through

HDBT output:



1 Type A

Component video input:


Component video output:


Composite video input:


Composite video output:


S-Video input / output:


Subwoofer 2 output:

Yes (identical but discrete signal from subwoofer 1)

Network (Ethernet) connection:


Max # of audio channels in zone A:


Additional zone outputs:

Zone 2: HDMI audio/video, component video, composite video, analog stereo audio
Zone 3: Analog stereo audio

Advanced connections:

Ethernet Web interface and firmware update, IP-based control, Web Data Streaming, Apple AirPlay (both wireless & wired), Bluetooth


Total harmonic distortion (DSP Bypass / direct-mode):


Dolby processing:

Atmos/True HD/Digital Plus & EX/Pro Logic IIz, IIx

DTS processing:

DTS:X/HD Master & High Res. Audio/ES/96/24, Discrete & Matrix 6.1/Neo:6/Express/Neural-X

Auro processing:

Auro 3D, Auro-Matic, Auro 9.1, 10.1

Pure Stereo DSP bypass mode:


Video scaling:

Ultra HD Up-conversion (resolution only)


Third party control (for use with universal remotes or web programming):

RS232, Web IP, IR Input

Tone controls (implemented via digital processing):

9 Band Equalizer, Bass and Treble

On-Screen-Display overlay on HDMI output:


Input-output format indicators:

9 in and 9 out

Control of McIntosh sources:

Yes, by handheld MX122 remote, 1 Data Out, 2 Power Control Trigger jacks

General Specifications

Channel formats:

11.2 (7.2.4), 7.1, 5.1, Stereo

DSP room correction:

Audyssey MultEQ XT32, Dynamic EQ / Dynamic Volume, DSX

Microphone and stand included:


Network features:

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, vTuner & Roon-ready

Unique crossover frequency, each speaker:


Special features:

Rear Panel USB-Apple Dock, HDMI in standby, Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth

Dimensions (W x H x D):

17-1/2″ (44.45cm) x 7-5/8″ (19.37cm) (including feet) x 19-1/2″ (49.53cm) (including front panel, knobs, rear panel connections and USB drive)


31 lbs (14 kg)






Electronic Specifications

Power output per channel:

200W @ 4 or 8 Ohms

Number of channels:

5 (can also be used as a 2-zone amplifier with 3 channels in zone A and 2 channels in zone B)

Total harmonic distortion:


Signal to noise below rated output:


Dynamic headroom:


Damping factor:


Rated power band:

20Hz to 20kHz

Frequency response:

+0, -0.25dB from 20Hz to 20,000Hz / +0, -3dB from 10Hz to 100,000Hz

General Specifications

Circuit configuration:

Push-Pull Complementary

Circuit design:


Mono bridge:


Mono parallel:






Meter light switch:


Balanced input:


Front panel:



LED Fiber Optic

Chassis style:



Speaker binding post type:

Gold-plated five-way binding posts

Dimensions (W x H x D):

17-1/2″ (44.45cm) x 9-7/16″ (23.97cm) (including feet) x 21″ (53.3cm) (including front panel and cables)


81 lbs (44.2 kg)

Shipping weight:

114 lbs (51.8 kg)






McIntosh MVP901 review, McIntosh MX122 review, McIntosh MC205 review, Disc Player, AV, Processor, Power Amplifier, Review 2018

Component Overviews
McIntosh MVP901 Audio Video Player


The McIntosh MVP901 Audio Video Player is the only universal disc player offered by McIntosh. It is, therefore, exceptionally versatile to match most customer requirements. It accepts discs of almost any type, except Ultra HD Blu-ray, can serve as a network streamer, and does an exceptionally good job at all these tasks. The first challenge I flung at the player was a DVD+RW disc with MKV video files. Not only did the player recognize the disc and properly identify, then play the files, but it also transferred the 5.1 soundtrack intact. The MVP901 reads Region A1 discs only, so if you’re a fan of foreign movies, you’ll need a separate player for foreign discs. This is common for all disc players sold in the USA and should not be considered a shortcoming.

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The player’s major shortcoming is that the McIntosh MVP901 will not read or play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. I’m sure that this will be remedied shortly with a different model, but until then the up-conversion of standard Blu-rays to Ultra HD resolution works smoothly.

The McIntosh MVP901 loads quickly, plays robustly, even with scratched discs, and operates silently and smoothly. I tried DLNA streaming over Ethernet to the MVP901, and it immediately accepted the music via its Universal Plug-And-Play connection. The disc player is also Apple AirPlay compatible.

The analog outputs allow for stereo unbalanced (RCA) or stereo balanced (XLR) connections. Having the choice means that the player will work with any type of downstream equipment. I used the player as both a stereo DAC/Streamer and as a disc player for CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays. For movies, I used the MVP901’s digital HDMI connection to avoid additional DA/AD conversions at the processor.


I listened to the McIntosh MVP901 both through a passive preamplifier (analog output) and through the McIntosh processor (HDMI digital output). The player uses Sabre-brand DACs (a chip not identified by McIntosh) that have a characteristic sound. Many listeners like the “Sabre-sound” that is commonly associated with a high amount of detail in the upper midrange and treble. Fans believe that this adds “sparkle” to the treble and enjoy the effect. Other listeners dislike the emphasis, calling it “Sabre glare.” The MVP901 avoids most of the Sabre-glare effect, but potential owners should audition the player prior to purchase to decide for themselves. Other than that, the sound of the MVP901 is beyond reproach. Good bass extension and control with extended high frequencies make this an easy player to live with.

Another issue to consider with the McIntosh MVP901 is the remote-control. It is not backlit, making it difficult to find in the dark. It’s made from lightweight plastic (as are all McIntosh remote-controls) rather than being metal. It also lacks a button to open and close the disc drawer.


These remote-control ergonomics issues, however, will probably be academic for most users, who are likely to use an aftermarket universal remote such as the programmable (and backlit) Logitech Harmony line.

McIntosh MX122 A/V Processor


The McIntosh MX122 A/V Processor is a control center for high-end home theater systems. It IS Ultra HD-ready and supports HDR along with wide gamut color through its HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.2 content protection. The appearance is classic McIntosh with the green, LED-illuminated text and glass faceplate.

The processor has features that taught me new things about my audio system. For the past several years, I’ve kept my audio server computer in a room at one end of the house, and my audio components in a living room at the other end. An Ethernet cable connects the two. The majority of my music resides on a RAID-10 array connected to a MacBook Pro by USB, and the music itself is primarily stored in 44.1, 16-bit WAV files.


The McIntosh MX122 display, in addition to depicting the cover art and time track of the selection being played, also shows the format of the incoming audio stream. My WAV files, in McIntosh-speak, should always be identified as “PCM.” Imagine my surprise when some files were identified as “MP3 320.” When I asked McIntosh, they were unable to reproduce the problem and recommended that I check my server settings. Doing so, I found nothing amiss, so I downloaded another server software (ROON) that instantly cured the problem.

Without the McIntosh MX122 A/V Processor’s excellent information display, I might have never known that some of my music was being mangled before it ever reached my living room! Thanks, McIntosh!

The McIntosh MX122 A/V Processor, like the disc player, uses some undisclosed flavor of DACs. Their sonic signature is more prominent on the processor than it was on the disc player. So once again, this is definitely a component that should be auditioned prior to purchase.

I ran the Audyssey room correction software late in my review period, and was surprised to find how little effect it had. Apparently, my sound-absorber-treated listening room is fairly bass-friendly without the need for correction.

I tried the optical, HDMI, analog, and S/PDIF coaxial inputs on the MX122 without noticing any significant sonic differences. The processor can also accept Bluetooth and wireless streams, if you need that capability.


As delivered, the MX122 does not currently support Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) decoding, although the MQA content that I played without the “unfold” sounded perfectly good. The processor will also accept DSD, high-bitrate audio, and supports Ultra HD video with HDR and extended color.

I must also mention the MX122’s remote-control. Although it is backlit via a button on the side, this doesn’t help the user find the remote in the dark. The best handsets I’ve seen have a motion-activated backlight that illuminates by slightly bouncing on the couch, for example. This helps the user locate the remote in the dark. McIntosh could also review the ergonomics of this remote for some easy improvements.


I’d also like to have seen stereo subwoofer outputs. Although the MX122 has two subwoofer output connectors, they both use the same summed mono signal. So, no matter what you do, your bass-effects audio channel will never be more than “point-one” for the subwoofer(s). Since bass below 80Hz is generally considered to be non-directional, this issue may be academic.

The learning curve of the MX122’s setup menus is somewhat steep, but the better-than-average user’s manual makes it easy enough to navigate. After a bit of tinkering, I got the hang of the nomenclature, and could change input assignments, for example, without any further return to the manual.

McIntosh provides future firmware updates to keep the processor functional and current for a long time to come. In fact, McIntosh has announced that a firmware update is planned for the MX122 A/V Processor that will add support for Dolby Vision and HLG.

So, my overall impression of the McIntosh MX122 is that beyond the (to my ears) slightly bright sound, and its startling price, it is an exceptionally robust and durable piece of kit.

McIntosh MC205 Solid-State Amplifier


There’s less to say about the McIntosh MC205 than the rest of these components. Despite the amplifier’s lack of McIntosh’s classic output transformers, its 200 watts-per-channel is audibly intoxicating. This is a most excellent-sounding amplifier in addition to being carefully constructed and exceptionally durable.

Almost every audio nit I found to pick about the MC205’s output was eventually traced back to one of the upstream components. The McIntosh MC205 turned in a flawless performance that would likely be appreciated in comparison to amplifiers selling at any price.

The traditional “McIntosh big blue meters” can be distracting during movie viewing, so Mac has thoughtfully provided a “lights-off” switch on the left of the front panel. The amplifier runs cool, sounds great, and gives the owner great confidence that it will still be singing for decades to come.

Let me note that this amplifier is HEAVY. I’d recommend having assistance for unboxing and moving. I’m big, strong, and stupid, so I decided to unbox and rack the amplifier myself. I succeeded, but I wouldn’t want to go there again!


Of course, should any of these components give the slightest bit of trouble, McIntosh-authorized service centers are widespread and all the ones I’ve used have also been quick and competent.

I give the McIntosh MC205 five-channel power amplifier a clean bill of health and a strong, five-star recommendation.

Associated Equipment

Notes: Lest anyone ask, I’m reviewing this equipment with some less-than-loftily-priced speakers because I’m highly familiar with the sound of these speakers in my room. My other reason is that any speaker change on short notice would muddy the waters as to which sonic differences were caused by the equipment under review and which were caused by the change in speakers.

  • Storage: Raid-10 four-disc array with USB3 interface
  • Audio Server: MacBook Pro running jRiver Media Center 24, Roon software, and both Ethernet (DLNA) and TOSLINK connections to the McIntosh components
  • DAC: Mytek Liberty (best sounding Sabre DAC implementation I’ve heard)
  • Preamplifier: Schiit Saga passive preamplifier
  • Amplifiers: Carver Premier THX 5-channel & Emotiva BasX A300
  • Wires & interconnects – Audioquest & Straightwire
  • Speakers – Emotiva T2 & C2, Thiel CS 1.6, RBH MC-6C
  • Subwoofer – PowerSound Audio S3601 (dual 18”) sealed box
In Use

I’ve been on a gypsy kick lately, so you’ll have to bear with me. The acoustic instruments and unusual voices and melodies remind me of my maternal grandparents who were first-generation immigrants from Hungary and Romania. Music I’ve been enjoying lately includes the Gipsy Kings, the Goran Bregović Wedding and Funeral Band, Ogi Radivojevic, Emir Kusturica & The No-Smoking Orchestra, Balkan Beat Box, and Gogol Bordello. One of my favorites is the 2007 live in Serbia concert by Goran Bregović and Ogi Radivojevic as shown on YouTube. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find this excellent performance on CD. So…

Goran Bregovic “Champagne For Gypsies”

The “Be That Man” performance by Goran Bregovic featuring Eugene Hütz (of Gogol Bordello) sounds as alive and “in the room” with me as anything that I’ve ever heard through this trio of McIntosh equipment. The version of the song that I like best is on Bregović’s “Champagne for Gypsies” CD. Hütz’s voice reminds me of Leon Redbone, but it’s different enough to be unique.

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The instrumental interlude in the middle of the song has some of the most ethereal-sounding guitar chording that I’ve ever heard, and the bass impact of the brass instruments should be visceral. The accordion should also be startling in its immediacy. This McIntosh gear lets the details through!

Gogol Bordello “Trans-continental Hustle”

A brash recording is Gogol Bordello’s “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher).” Hütz’s voice, again, leads with some electric bass, violin, and guitar in the background. Some electronics seem to compress this dynamic recording, making it sound overly polite. The McIntosh gear brings the heat. The song itself is a confusing political statement and the YouTube version has a pitch for the ACLU’s immigration division at the end. Ironic, considering the threats expressed by the song…


And although the sound quality isn’t what it could be, I strongly recommend streaming the entire YouTube performance of Goran Bregovic and Ogi Radivojevic’s amazing 2007 live concert in Serbia. The music has enough depth and air to make the hair stand up on your neck, particularly on the utterly creepy “In The Death Car, We Are Alive.

The McIntosh gear makes the most of what’s available and elevates the mediocre YouTube sound quality to something good enough that you won’t even notice the shortcomings.


I first played the Blu-Ray disc “The Italian Job.” My poor wife had the misfortune of happening to walk through the room at the exact moment that the explosives were triggered, dropping the safe through several ceilings of an Italian villa, and into the canal below. She literally jumped into the air, screamed, and cursed.

It didn’t help that I was laughing… But the episode demonstrates the excellent dynamic range and excellent surround capabilities of the McIntosh trio. The MX122 not only has dynamics, but also steers soundtracks in such a way as to maximize the veracity of the surrounding acoustic. I don’t have the front width and height speakers that the MX122 is capable of using, but the pleasure of hearing the 5.1 performance of this gear makes me wish that I did.


I also tried to play the Ultra HD Planet Earth II discs and was stopped dead in the water by the fact that the $5,500 MVP901 will not load or play any Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. End of that story… Video performance was exceptionally good with DVD and Blu-Ray discs. I was, however, profoundly disappointed that the player would not accept any Ultra HD titles.



People who buy MCINTOSH gear aren’t just buying sound quality. For the MCINTOSH fan, there’s nothing else quite like a MCINTOSH Audio/Video stack.

  • The wonderful MC205 power amplifier is beyond reproach – one of the best I’ve heard
  • The dimmers and “lighting-off” switches mean no distractions during movies
  • The on-screen information is very useful for troubleshooting
  • The MX122 and MVP901 allow Ethernet streaming via DLNA or AirPlay
  • All manuals are well-written, well-illustrated, and highly-informative
Would Like To See
  • Ultra HD Blu-ray capability in the MVP901 disc player
  • Motion-activated illumination for the remote controls
  • Drawer open-close option for the MVP-901 disc-player’s remote control
  • Slightly less “Sabre-sound” for the MX122 A/V processor and MVP901 player
  • Stereo subwoofer feeds from the MX122

Although McIntosh gear almost always sounds at least good or better, consumers don’t buy McIntosh for sound quality alone. One purchases McIntosh gear for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The traditional durability
  • The innovative technology
  • The generous control options
  • The cachet of owning what is arguably “the best”
  • The striking looks
  • The service and repair network

This trio of components retails for $19,500. That isn’t a trivial price tag. Could you spend that amount on any other set of components and have all the virtues listed in the short-list above? Probably not. But if you’re only looking for equivalent audio performance, it is probably available for significantly less money in other brands. You won’t get the McIntosh durability or resale value, but you won’t spend twenty grand, either.

So, who IS the typical McIntosh customer? I’m sure that McIntosh has researched that question to death. But from the Kasbah viewpoint, when we spend $$$, we want audio performance! And it wouldn’t matter if it came in a Radio-Shack-looking box (the Schiit Yggdrasil comes to mind…). But the average McIntosh customer, whom I imagine to be a doctor, lawyer, dot-com exec, or hedge fund manager, wants a set of audio gear that matches their McMansion’s decor. What it sounds like truly IS secondary. The buyer wants to have the gear installed, programmed, and functional for the foreseeable future with absolutely NO breakdowns, issues, or problems. In fact, I’d wager that many of those who buy McIntosh (probably from their local Magnolia kiosk) also buy a lifetime service contract with the Geek Squad to fix anything and everything that ever breaks, period. So, what’s almost a new-car’s-worth of money to us is chump change to a McIntosh customer. Remember, cost is relative.

Would a Japanese AVR be trouble-free in ten years? I’d bet not. Will this Mac gear be trouble-free after the same time? I’d bet so. Plus, an ugly black Denon/Pioneer/Marantz/Onkyo/Etc. just doesn’t have the curb appeal of that gorgeous glass Mac.

In addition to the demographic just mentioned, there is a second group of McIntosh buyers. They are mostly baby boomers who have admired Mac gear for their whole lives, but could never afford it until now. I know that when I was buying a house for the first time while raising a family, I didn’t have much discretionary income. But once I got “over the hump”, put my daughter through college, and paid off the house, “hobby money” became more plentiful. Perhaps 5% of the baby boomers are also (financially speaking) in my shoes, and within that (huge) group, there are many who might not hear as well anymore (and would therefore just LOVE that “Sabre-glare”) but who still want the “great stereo” they couldn’t afford until now. And in many minds, “great stereo” equals McIntosh. Who am I to blow against the wind?

The MVP901 won’t play Ultra HD discs, but if that’s not a priority for you, this IS still a McIntosh component. For the MX122, be sure to carefully audition prior to purchase to see if you like the sound, and the muscular MC205 amplifier can be recommended completely without reservation.

What the MVP901 Audio Video player does, it does very well. Its lack of Ultra HD Blu-ray support is a shortcoming that each potential customer will have to contemplate and evaluate.

Despite some minor ergonomic quibbles, the price, and the faint hint of brimstone & “Sabre-sound,” the McIntosh MX122 A/V Processor is durable, versatile, beautiful to look at, and should be a very popular addition to the McIntosh lineup.

The lovely MC205 has nothing to criticize except for its weight. This isn’t even an issue unless you have a delicate back, like mine!

The time I’ve spent with these components has been a learning experience, and the McIntosh support group has been generous with their time and information.