Secrets Benchmark Product Review

AudioControl Maestro M2 7.1 A/V Surround Sound Processor

Part I

March, 2006

John E. Johnson, Jr.




    Discrete 6.1, DTS Neo:6

● Seven Channels

● Inputs: Two Analog Stereo Audio, Four Analog Stereo
    Audio with Composite Video and S-Video, One 6.1
    Analog Audio, Three Coaxial and Three Toslink
    Digital Audio, Three Component Video, Two HDMI

● Outputs: One 6.1 RCA Analog Audio, One 6.1 XLR
    Analog Audio, One Stereo Analog Tape, Two Analog
    Stereo Audio with Composite Video and S-Video,
    One Coaxial and One Toslink Digital Audio, One
    Component Video, One HDMI, One Zone 2 Analog
    Stereo Audio with Composite Video and S-Video,

● AM/FM Tuner with RDS

● MFR: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

● THD: 0.003%

● Dimensions: 5.25" H x 17" W x 15.5" D

● Weight: 19 Pounds

● MSRP: $2,499 USA




AudioControl is a company that most consumers have heard of, but certainly, custom installers, because that is their specialty.

They started out marketing audio measurement systems, then moved on to processors and amplifiers, but they still sell equipment to measure the sound in listening rooms. In fact, we used one of them for years.

Currently, they sell to car, home, and the professional market.

Because they come from the Pro roots, their products tend to be bulletproof, at least that is what I have found.

Sometimes, equipment designed for professionals can be a little daunting for consumers to set up, because it is something the pros have so much experience with, the menus have not been re-organized for ease. Sort of like some of the nonlinear video editors (NLEs) I have used. It does not make any difference for the pros where the menu items are because they use it day in and day out. But for consumers, wow, what a nightmare they can be.

AudioControl does not seem to have taken the easy road and left their products hard to set up. In fact, the Maestro M2 turned out to be one of the easiest-to-use surround sound processors (SSPs) I have ever tested. This was a very nice surprise. But, that does not mean that it is no longer bulletproof. To the contrary, I put the pedal to the metal with it in our tests, and it never flinched. This is important because there are so many connections these days on processors and receivers, that it is easy to wire something incorrectly and cause a short.

The Design

The Maestro M2 is AudioControl's second generation SSP (the first was simply the Maestro). It's a 7.1 SSP as most tend to be these days, meaning that it will play DD-EX, DTS-ES Discrete, and generate two extra channel sounds with regular 5.1 tracks. As I have said many times, I originally thought that the two additional generated channels might be superfluous, but after having tested numerous SSPs and receivers, I now feel that 7.1 is actually quite beneficial, as the extra channels really improve the sound stage.

The front panel of the M2, at first appears to have more buttons than most processors and receivers, but in actuality, there are probably less. There is just not a flip down panel covering all the extra buttons that most processors have.

Secondly, even if there were the same number of buttons, the function is different. The M2's buttons are mostly for selecting the input (DVD, CD, FM, etc.).

Click on the photo above to see a larger version.

On the left is a Standby button (main power on/off toggle is on the rear), then a row of six tuner buttons. Underneath that are six buttons for selecting the Mode, Effect, Treble and Bass, and two buttons for using the Menu.

Then comes the input selection buttons, Mute, Display (brightness of panel), and an Aux input jack that uses the 1/8" stereo plug for iPods. The volume control is at the upper right.

The rear panel is actually rather Spartan by most standards, but it has everything one needs.

Click on the photo above to see a larger version.

The plethora of inputs and outputs is there, including 7.1 XLR analog audio outputs, which can be used with the XLR inputs on the AudioControl Savoy seven channel power amplifier that we reviewed in November of last year.

The M2 has two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output, which brings it up to speed for use with HDTVs that have HDMI in. I assume the RS-232 port will be useful when HDMI version 1.3 becomes available towards the end of 2006 or early 2007. I also hope that the Maestro M2 HDMI inputs will eventually accept DVD-A and SACD audio, because they do not at present. The HDMI inputs are permanently assigned to DVD and SAT inputs, and are labeled as such on the rear. Oddly, they do not carry digital audio signals, so you need to assign one of the audio inputs to each one, and use an audio cable from the source that has the HDMI output (such as the Toslink connection from the DVD player or satellite box). I am hoping that upgrades will include the ability to carry the digital audio with the digital video on the HDMI connections.

The M2 does not come with a remote control, but the IR sensor on the front panel accepts remote control commands, and the unit comes with a CD that contains Pronto remote control commands. The RS-232 port seems to be the remote control mechanism that AudioControl recommends, and the command structure is described in the instruction manual. This is a holdover from the custom installer beginnings of the company. There are IR repeater jacks on the rear panel that will let you forward IR commands to other components in your A/V system.

If you want to get a remote control with the M2, AudioControl supplies the MX-500, shown below, pre-programmed, as an option.

The M2 has a Zone 2 function, with basic stereo audio and composite or S-Video available to a second room.

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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