McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

McIntosh MX123 A/V Processor Review

McIntosh’s equipment has always been captivating in my eyes. It’s not just because of the green backlit “McIntosh” logo, the tranquil blue screen, and the typical McIntosh family aesthetics. What I appreciate the most are the actions that occur when you press the power button.

The soft and crisp sound of the relays engaging in a quiet environment is incredibly soothing. Then, the “McIntosh” logo lights up in green, followed by the serene blue font on the screen. It’s always a ceremonial experience for me. After that, I enjoy my favorite music or watch my favorite movies.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

The MX123 A/V Processor is McIntosh’s offering in the surround sound preamplifier category, boasting exceptional performance. To meet the demands of the 8K generation, McIntosh has recently announced an 8K upgrade for the MX123. For those interested in home theater, let’s delve into the details.

In the past couple of years, as 8K TVs have continued to roll out, and gaming consoles like the Sony PS5 have declared support for 8K, McIntosh decided to equip the MX123 with 8K capabilities to cater to the needs of the new generation of consumers. In a press release, McIntosh announced that starting September 2021, MX123 surround sound preamplifiers from the McIntosh factory will support 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz. Additionally, the MX123 can upscale lower resolutions to 8K.


The MX123A/V Processor is McIntosh’s latest home theater preamplifier, replacing the previous MX122 model. It has received updates regarding features, design, and support for surround sound formats.

The new MX123 has been updated in surround sound formats to include support for DTS:X Pro, IMAX Enhance, and MPEG-H Audio. MPEG-H Audio support is a standout feature of the MX123. This audio format is designed for immersive sound experiences in future TV broadcasting and digital streaming. MX123 is well-prepared for the future with this addition.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

On the pure audio front, it has been upgraded to support DSD128 and 24bit/192kHz audio, and wireless music playback now supports Apple AirPlay 2, offering improved audio quality for Apple enthusiasts. The MX123 home theater A/V Processor also incorporates virtual height channel technology into the existing Dolby Atmos system.

Using advanced height filters and digital signal processing, it can simulate overhead surround sound without needing overhead or reflective speakers. Users without overhead speakers can create a virtual overhead soundstage effect with a 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1 speaker setup.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

Regarding channels, the MX123 has expanded its maximum output channel count from 11.2 to 13.2 channels. That means MX123 can provide up to 6 overhead channel speakers for three-dimensional immersive audio, extending the coverage area of the overhead sound field and improving the smoothness of sound movement.

MX123 supports up to 4K UHD@60Hz specifications, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG high dynamic range formats for video. It also supports 4:4:4 color encoding and REC.2020 color space for enhanced color reproduction.

In addition to its support for surround sound and DAC upgrades, McIntosh has considered that high-end home theater users often operate their audiovisual systems through central control systems. MX123 can be connected to control systems like Crestron, and when activated through the control system, it can trigger other McIntosh amplifiers to power on automatically, simplifying system operation.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

MX123 uses Audyssey MultEQ® XT32 for automatic room optimization, a familiar choice for many users as it’s also used in Marantz and DENON AV amplifiers and surround sound processors. The MX123 comes with a high-quality adjustable stand to facilitate the collection of information from multiple reference listening positions, providing an excellent user experience.

McIntosh is indeed a renowned name in the world of audio, and for high-end consumers who appreciate prestigious brands, owning a McIntosh system is often a must. Pairing the MX123 home theater A/V Processor with McIntosh’s amplifiers adds a significant level of style and presence to your setup. McIntosh provides a range of options that complement the MX123 seamlessly. Here are seven recommended amplifiers from the McIntosh lineup: MC303, MC255, MC257, MC8207, MI347, MI254, and MI128.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

For instance, to enjoy movies and pure two-channel music, you can opt for the MC303 three-channel amplifier to drive the front left, center, and right channels. Each channel delivers a powerful 300W output, and the amplifier’s design features McIntosh’s iconic “blue meters.” Meanwhile, you can use other 5-channel, 7-channel, or 8-channel amplifiers for your surround sound and overhead channels to complete your setup.

Pairing the MX123 with these recommended McIntosh amplifiers ensures a harmonious and high-performance audiovisual experience and adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to your home entertainment system.

Sound Performance

The MX123’s low-frequency performance is loose, robust, and full-bodied. When watching scenes like the tunnel shootout in the movie “John Wick” the low-frequency effects of the gunfire are impressive, especially with the shotgun’s rich low-frequency sound, delivering a substantial and impactful experience.

The gunshots have a powerful and forceful sound, with their deep and substantial low tones making the gunfire feel immense. MX123’s rich and robust bass style appeals to enthusiasts who appreciate powerful low-end audio.

As you spend more time listening, you’ll find that MX123’s sound is very enjoyable. The front soundstage is deep and extends backward, providing a sense of depth without a forward bias. It also offers width, creating a sense of spaciousness in the sound. The sound seems to extend beyond the physical speakers, creating a vivid and immersive sonic experience. Achieving a cinematic soundscape is crucial for a home theater, and MX123 excels.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

In addition to delivering immersive home theater audio, MX123 offers two optional modes for stereo Hi-Fi sound. The first mode is Pure Direct, bypassing all digital processing circuits and delivering the digital audio signal directly to the DAC, essentially functioning as a pure high-end preamplifier for the cleanest stereo sound.

The second mode combines MX123’s built-in two-channel optimization features, allowing for 2.1 or 2.2 configurations, correcting speaker delays, and optimizing playback using the built-in automatic sound optimization. Theoretically, this can result in a more accurate audio experience. Regarding features and audio performance, the MX123 A/V Processor stands out among products in its class.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor


McIntosh is a brand with a history spanning over 70 years in the audio industry. McIntosh has evolved from a high-end brand to an iconic name throughout its development. Almost every audio enthusiast is familiar with McIntosh because the brand has earned widespread recognition for its audio design and manufacturing expertise. McIntosh has positioned itself as a luxury brand, and most of its products come with a premium price tag, catering to a high-end consumer base. This demographic demands exceptional sound quality and values brand reputation and aesthetics.

As the current flagship, McIntosh’s MX123 home theater A/V Processor excels in video compatibility and surround sound formats. It also supports features like DTS:X Pro, Dolby Atmos virtual height channel technology, and MPEG-H Audio, preparing for future audio formats and smart home integration.

McIntosh MX123 AV Processor

However, pairing the MX123 with McIntosh’s amplifiers is a must for dedicated McIntosh enthusiasts. Imagine the experience of pressing the MX123’s power button, with the amplifiers seamlessly powering up in sync, accompanied by the iconic McIntosh logo lighting up. This complete McIntosh home theater amplifier setup exudes a strong sense of presence and luxury.

For high-end consumers who value performance and aesthetics, McIntosh’s MX123 is a compelling choice, offering a blend of cutting-edge audio technologies and the timeless allure of the McIntosh brand.