Hmmm, did you ask McIntosh if the knob can be removed and reseated without having to be opened up?
I thought it was angled inward or something along those lines. This is the alignment of the notch to the function text...I might let that to...
Hi everyone – new to the forum, first post, and boy, am I glad to have found this thread!
I'm also the proud owner of several products from McIntosh, namely the MX151.
Let me start by saying that (as you all know) the audio quality is incredible, for both music and multichannel home cinema. From a “sound” perspective, I couldn't be happier with it.
However, I do have a list of issues/problems/nuisances that I've observed over time. I've tried contacting McIntosh about these, but in my experience they have been either a) very non-responsive or b) very dismissive of the problems (i.e. this is some other device’s fault)
I would like to expand on the post made by scanido regarding his PS3 problems and share my own findings.
First, a bit of introduction: I have quite a few devices connected to MX151, including every modern game console you can think of… this includes the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii and Wii U (I even have a PS2 and the original Xbox!). As you can tell, besides movie watching, I do quite a bit of gaming on it ;)
I also have some other stuff like an HTPC, a Motorola STB, etc… you get the picture.
Every console has its own specific output formats (for example, the Xbox 360 normally only outputs Dolby Digital). But, in general, they are very versatile. The PS3 and PS4, for example, depending on the application/game, can output anything from a simple stereo PCM signal to 7.1 channels @ 192Khz and anything in between (and of course bitstream formats like DD, DTS, DTS HD, DDMA, etc...). They can switch between formats and/or number of channels at any time (sometimes even inside a single game), and they don’t necessarily keep every channel active. This exercises the MX151 quite a bit more than simply a Bluray player.
So, here are the problems I've found…
Problem 1 – incorrectly turning off channels:
Games will many times be outputting 5.1 PCM, but not actually generate audio in every channel all the time (that's how game engines work - which is different than an music track or a movie). But the MX is constantly trying to detect when no actual audio is present in a channel, and turns it "off". However, it doesn’t always turn them back “on” when they start playing again.
Very specifically, there is a bug I can reproduce quite easily - if a game starts on 5.1 PCM mode but doesn't actually generate any audio on the center channel (but does on the surrounds), the MX will interpret it as simple stereo and it will *never* switch to 5.1 (as indicated by the front panel). A good example is SSX on PS3 – the music on the main menu only plays on the two fronts and two surrounds (but no center channel). The MX151 interprets this as “stereo” only, so you hear nothing on the surrounds. Worst, as you go into the game, you won’t hear character voices, because they playback on the center channel, but the MX fails to reactive the 5.1.
However, if the game moves to a section that does generate audio on the center channel and you switch the MX to a different input and then back to the PS3 input, and the center channel is still playing something, then all 5.1 channels activate as well. So detection *does* work, but only when you switch the input. Another good game to observe this is Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (but there are others)
To be clear this is only an issue with PCM channels – if the output is bitstream (either DD or DTS), then the channels are always active and there are no problems (but unfortunately these are lossy compression formats, so I would like to avoid them if I can)
Problem 2 – slow audio detection
Continuing the issues of Problem 1, if the game or app is in absolute silence for just a couple of seconds, the MX disables all sound (the famous “Silent Signal”). When the audio returns, it takes a couple of seconds for it to detect it and start playing. However, if the sound is very short and stops, not only you don’t hear it, you won’t hear the next one either… the perfect example of this is the PS3 XMB (the main menu of the console itself). When you navigate the options (horizontally or vertically), it makes a very short “tick” sound and stops. Since it didn't last long enough to activate that "warm up" period I described, no audio is output at all.
If I artificially make the sound more frequent (e.g. by hammering the left/right buttons to generate a continuous sequence of "tick" sounds") then the MX eventually starts playing them. If I stop, I have about a 1-2 second window to generate a new sound to keep the channel active. As long as I do that in that window, it will always play back that sound, no matter how short. If I let that 2 second window pass without doing anything, then the MX turns of the audio again, and you won't hear the tick sound until you repeat the trick.
Luckily, the PS4 added background music to its menu, so this problem goes away – but on a PC this can happen as well (e,g, short “tick” sounds navigating menus)
The combination of problems 1) and 2) makes the whole gaming experience not so great. Audio gaps and loss of channels half-way through the game are not pleasant at all :)
Problem 3 - STB has no audio over HDMI
The MX simply has no audio when I connect my Motorola STB over HDMI (model DCX3200-M - it’s the one supplied by Cox). Again the info says "Silent Signal". If I connect the STB to my TV directly using HDMI, the audio plays perfectly fine.
Luckily the STB also has an Optical output, so I connected an optical cable and configured the input to get video from HDMI but audio from optical. This works, but nevertheless, this should't be needed :) It should "just work".
If anyone has this same model I would love to hear if it works for you.
Problem 4 – Audio breaks on HDMI inputs 4 & 5
Many of the consoles will have continuous audio breaks if they are plugged in to either inputs 4 and 5. They work perfectly on inputs 1, 2 and 3. I can’t say for sure that *every* possible source has this problem on those two inputs because I haven’t tried them all, but I know that at least the PS4, the Xbox One and the Wii U show this problem. The channel lights on the front display actually turn on and off when the audio breaks, which happens at least once every 5 seconds – maybe it’s an HDCP handshake issue on those ports? Again, if would love to hear if anybody else sees this problem.
As a side note, I've had a MX121 for a while just to test, and none of these issues occur. All channels are active 100% of the time and the experience is rock solid. However the audio quality was very clearly not as good, so I couldn't bring myself to swap it out permanently.
I'm really curious if everyone can confirm they have the same issues..
Finally, I checked the audio clipping problem on Star Trek that thrang mentioned, and indeed I can hear it as well (on the explosion following the ship crashing in the water). Sounds normal if I force a PCM output. I've used a PS3 for this test.
I'm very excited to hear about this new firmware – I really hope it solves at least some of these problems (especially problem 1!). How exactly can I put my hands on it?
If not, I would be more than happy to provide more feedback to McIntosh to get all these pesky bugs solved.
And sorry for the long post :P