Product Review

ADA (Audio Design Associates) Cinema Reference Mach III Controller (SSP), MPA-502 Five-Channel Power Amplifier, and PF-2502 Two-Channel Power Amplifier

Part II

August, 2007

Piero Gabucci


Cinema Reference Mach III Controller (SSP)

The Mach III is the newest version in the line of Pre/Pro controllers (SSP - Surround Sound Processor) from ADA.

The flagship of flagship controllers, it comes complete with an impressive 7" front panel LCD display. The Mach III looks like it belongs on board of a Stealth bomber instead of an A/V closet. (I couldn't help but use their logo images of fast planes in my analogy.)

The Mach III is a THX Ultra2 certified product and can handle the entire spectrum of formats from Dolby and DTS (save the new Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD which are just starting to appear in receivers).

The wide-screen format LCD panel can display your current video selection, DVD for example, or the recording video source. If you don't care to use the panel, it can be turned off.

Next to it you'll find a second smaller display which handles the on-screen menu. Neither the LCD screen nor your display can show you the setup menu that's done amazingly also through a comprehensive program on your computer. The advantage of course is multiple configurations that can be recalled instantly, and also for your installer to operate and make modifications from his office. The Mach III is programmed for all those various inputs and playback modes, and they can be stored in infinite configurations.

The dimmable display will indicate input, volume, and your source selection. It's also where you can do a complete setup, if you're not inclined to use the software. Luckily ADA includes returning the Mach III to its default settings, which on their own are pretty good out of the box. I'll get into the setup menus later.

A third indicator area on the face of the Mach III is just as critical to the success of the controller. On/Off indicator lights let you know how the source is sending audio signals: how many channels for example and how the controller is outputting those signals. It will also tell you if the signal is digital or Dolby, DTS, or THX.

Five rather large knobs adorn the brushed faceplate, the largest being the volume knob. Although not activated on my review unit, pushing on it mutes, or puts the controller in stand-by mode. Immediately to the left is the Input selection; turn to the input you'd like and push to activate.

To the right is the Mode selection, and depending on which input is selected, the mode options change - basically it's endless and includes from basic mono to THX, and everything in between. The smaller knobs include a Record Input, and a Preset selection more on both of those later.

Turning the unit around you'll notice a straightforward layout. Immediately along the top, the Mach III has eight balanced outputs, not surprising in this caliber. Plenty of assignable inputs: eight analog audio inputs, and digital inputs include five coaxial and three optical. For those of us still interested in DVD-Audio and SACD via analog inputs, ADA provides a full six channels.

On the video side, eight input component video sources can be connected and two outputs. If by chance in this HD world you're still using composite or S-Video, eight each of those too. Interesting enough, the glaring omission is HDMI. It's not that ADA has not adopted HDMI, but in fact feels they would do a disservice to its clients to include HDMI 1.1 in the chassis. They have opted to let you use an external HDMI switcher that is inexpensive and easily replaced when HDMI 1.3 (which is a hardware upgrade) is the mainstay.

Go to Part III.

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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