I typically don’t spell this out so bluntly, but one of the things I always try to accomplish with my unboxing posts is to give you a sense of scale. I can tell you a package or an amp or a speaker measures however many inches or millimeters by however many other, and maybe that means something to you. But I think most people look for visual clues. Which is one reason I tend to leave my Leatherman in the frame when taking the first establishment shots if there’s nothing else nearby you can use to calibrate your eyes.
I just don’t think the inclusion of a multitool or a 3x3 speed cube, or even the presence of standard-sized hand trucks, is going to do justice to the scale of the box for McIntosh’s $8000 (in USD) flagship MHT300 A/V receiver. The thing is massive. So, given that everything else was failing me, I decided to grab the box for another receiver—the positively human-sized Pioneer VSX-935, which I still have around for long-term testing for a Wirecutter guide. The box for the MHT300 makes the one for the VSX-935 look like it’s for a source device, not an AVR.
By this point, I’m starting to worry whether this beast of a machine is even going to fit in my gear rack should I choose to install it in my main home theater system. I typically review AVRs in my bedroom system, but with a specified output of 120Wpc into 8 ohms (seven channels driven!), this one definitely has enough oomph to compete against my A/V separates. But all of my home-theater gear resides in a Sanus rack that struggles to accommodate my Marantz AV8805 A/V processor. Is this going to be too much? Seriously, why is this thing so massive?
Well, there’s one clue. When you open the box for the MHT300, the first thing you’re greeted with is another box. Split the tape and pop the top on that box, and you’re met with what appears to be a for-real microphone stand.
Indeed, it is. An On-Stage boom mike stand that’s way nicer than any of the stands I have in my home studio. The supplied mike, for use with Dirac Live room correction, is also a step up in quality from the mikes you normally get with AVRs. It’s still a hockey puck, but it’s a beefier one than you’re used to seeing.
Pulling the box for the microphone stand out of the way, we finally get to the packaging for the MHT300 itself. The smaller box-within-a-box definitely alleviates some of my concerns about the size of the receiver. It’s also nice to see McIntosh using such effective cushioning to keep the inner carton secure. Each of the custom expanded polyethylene corner caps holds the interior carton rigidly in place while also providing enough shock absorption to handle a few nasty dings and drops in shipping.
The company even thoughtfully included handholds on the inner carton to make it easier to lift out of its cradle. Little touches like that elevate the experience of unboxing the MHT300 and prepping it for installation. It’s a shame that so many customers won’t get that experience for themselves, given that it’ll likely be handled by an installer. In a way, McIntosh has made the whole unboxing of the MHT300 feel like a premium white-glove experience without the clichéd inclusion of for-real white gloves.
Open the inner carton and you’re greeted with a beefy instruction manual, along with the MHT300 itself, both wrapped in plastic. Oddly, there aren’t any corner caps in this inner box, and as such, one can’t help but wonder what’s keeping the receiver from flopping around inside its innermost shipping container.
And that answers that, doesn’t it? Holes cut into the stacked corrugated cardboard padding at the bottom of the box hold the receiver’s feet tightly and don’t let it slide around. With the receiver out of the way, you can also see the pack-in accessories: the remote control, the power cord, and a couple of optional rack ears.
And here we get our first good look at the MHT300 itself. It’s obviously a beautifully built and well-designed piece of kit. It’s a little susceptible to fingerprints, but it comes clean pretty easily. The remote control is sublime. It’s a little thin for my tastes, or so I thought at first. I kinda like a chonky remote that I can grip like a 1960s-era C-shaped Fender neck. But there’s no denying that the remote for the McIntosh feels elegant and nicely laid out, and best I can tell without actually plugging the receiver in and trying it out, the main buttons seem nicely reachable and intuitively placed.
Flipping the unit around to get a look at the I/O, we see that it’s surprisingly minimalist and well-organized. Four HDMI inputs (40Gbps HDMI 2.1 with HDCP 2.3) may have seemed a little limiting a few years ago, but these days, I think most of us are getting by with fewer sources. It’s enough for a gaming console, Roku Ultra, Kaleidescape, and a universal disc player, which is all I need. You might need room for a satellite receiver, too, but if you do, chances are you don’t need the extra input for a gaming console or Roku.
You may have noticed that the MHT300 has seven powered outputs, and each of those outputs has a preamp out and line-level in, with jumpers bridging each. There are also preamp outs for two pairs of height channels and two subwoofers.
If I had a complaint about anything here, it’s that the output/input jumpers make it hard to read which channel is which without getting really low—lower, in fact, than I can get when setting up an AVR in either my bedroom or my home theater. So I’m taking a few extra photos of the back panel for reference during setup.
So far, though, that’s my only real concern. Mind you, the MHT300 has its work cut out for it, justifying its $8000 price tag when so many other A/V receivers do so much for a lot less. Based on my limited time with the unit so far, I strongly suspect that the experience of using the MHT300 is as much a part of the appeal as its performance. But confirmation of that will have to wait for my full review, coming soon to SoundStage! Access.
. . . Dennis Burger