McIntosh eschewed trendiness in favor of tradition. While most of the new A/V preamps I have seen at recent trade shows are small to medium in size, with either TFT screens or multi–line LCD and rows of same-sized buttons. The MX-136 is a full-sized unit with a nine-inch-tall by 17-and-three-quarter-inch-wide faceplate on an 18-and-three-quarter-inch-deep chassis, weighing 31 pounds. I first found the large faceplate to be a bit awkward, but soon came to appreciate its ability to transmit the needed information with elegant simplicity.
As one would expect, the MX-136 is a full-featured AV preamp that can decode Dolby Digital EX, Pro Logic IIx, DTS-ES and NEO:6. In addition to these now-expected audio formats, the MX-136 has unanticipated and welcome assets, such as two balanced audio inputs and a Moving Magnet Phono input. The MX-136 also has a pure analog audio path available for optimum stereo sound quality. The volume control is a digitally controlled unit that ensures that all eight channels track within .5dB. The MX-136 is no slouch in the video department either, with video up-conversion from composite and S-Video to component and then to HDMI. HDMI video signals up to 1080p can be switched, but not processed. Composite, S-video and component 480i/p signals can be up-converted to 480p, 720p or 1080i signals.
McIntosh MX-136 AV Preamplifier