McIntosh MX406
By #083 Ricky

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Overview:

One look at the unit and you know it’s a McIntosh…looks just like every other product McIntosh makes. The laid back, chrome trimmed appearance makes it somewhat hard to integrate with most of today’s monotoned dash schemes which, on the other hand makes it stand out (invest in a very good alarm system in other words). It does integrate well with some of the rather expensive European imports such as the SLK with its retro interior, the Jaguar XK8s and XKRs as well as some of the new Porsche 911s with the aluminum interior trim. Some may like it, some may not, but that really doesn’t matter—it has nothing to do with the sound anyway. The upside to all this though is that one listen to the unit and you know it’s a McIntosh. One of the quietest units I’ve come across (although our boy Peter Lufrano says the new Nakamichis will give it a run for its money). The unit was designed to reproduce music…and accurate reproduction is what it does best…it doesn’t add anything to the music, nor does it take anything away.

The MX406 seems to revel in simplicity. (So much so that I have one BIG complaint…but let’s reserve that for later). From the analog controls (yes, analog) which also happen to be knobs, to the simple symmetrical (almost) layout of controls and of the display, to the (overly) limited functions available, the unit doesn’t do much, but the little that it does, it does very, very well. The face of the unit is made of the same material as its home audio counterparts: black backed glass. The only thing missing is the green glow of the McIntosh logo on power up (in this case, it’s just gold whether on or off). The layout is pretty simple: two concentric knobs on either side(the left knobs control power, volume, balance and fader while the right ones allow you to select the station as well as to select the source), two smaller round buttons, each inward of either knob (autostore and repeat, band selection) and a row of six buttons (station selection) each with an indicator light on top. On top of that is the fluorescent display (which matches the dash lights of my Expedition, thank you very much!) Another two buttons can be found each on top of either knob (the bass and treble knob on the left and the eject button on the right). A slot for the cd on top of the display completes the clutter free face of this head unit.

The display works well both in the daytime as well as the nighttime. As mentioned earlier, McIntosh opted to put very few buttons and knobs on the face panel. Some companies that do this compromise by requiring you to commit to memory pages upon pages of button combinations in order to access the tons of functions made available by the unit. McIntosh on the other hand chose the opposite route…few buttons mean fewer things to control. That’s not really a bad thing. You can control all (well almost..again, more on that later) of the basic functions like volume, fader, bass, treble, track skip, station select (even autostore!) and all that…it just doesn’t have functions like digital time alignment, jazz club, concert hall, stadium and disco simulation, garage door opening nor an eject button for rear seat passengers who complain that there isn’t enough treble in the rear (although that IS a good idea, the passenger eject button).

The unit’s built in D/A converter (a nice 20 bit job) accepts external signals from an outboard transport. This allows you to use an MCD4000’s (or any of McIntosh’s other changers equipped with digital outputs) digital output to take advantage of the better D/A converter of the MX406.

The line outs come in wired gold plated RCA jacks. Rubber grommets protect the wires that run out of the chassis. I guess they used this instead of the regular mounted RCA terminals as the unit is rather deep and by doing this, the need for more space to the rear of the unit is mitigated.

The MX406 comes with a 40+ page manual in A4 size pages. Lots of useful information and has the answers to most of the questions you may have. An added bonus is the tasteful cover…thick stock, dark blue with gold embossed lettering.

Radio performance:

I hardly listen to the radio while on the road but in my limited experience with its FM functions, it ain’t too shabby. I did notice though that it seemed to pull in more stations clearly than the stock head unit or my previous head units (a lower model McIntosh and several Alpines).

CD Performance:

In one word…EXCELLENT! Although part of the credit must go to the amps, speakers and EQs, the unit delivers impeccable detail and clarity. The chassis is adequately shielded to reject noise. With the proper installation, it’s just about impervious to skipping unless you are into the habit of trying to wreck your vehicle’s suspension. The only time I notice skipping is when I hit a pothole large enough and hard enough to make me wince at the thought of what it did to my car. The ability to allow a changer to use the unit’s internal D/A is great, although you can also go for an external D/A for the MX406 as well. No complaints in this department.

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