Review: Emotiva UMC-200 preamp/processor and UPA-700 7-channel amp Page 2


I expected top-drawer sonics from the Emotiva duo, and that’s precisely what I got. On 2-channel music listening the UMC/UPA pairing provided a tight, highly defined balance and all the soundstage impact recordings had on offer. For example, Lutoslawski’s dense, busy, treble-intense “Fanfare for Louisville” (from the 2-channel layer of a Telarc SACD) retained the  naturally shrill, but never harsh, jangle of its dissonant brass clusters, and painted a satisfyingly deep sense of the orchestra’s large stage setup. Studio material such as Lyle Lovett’s “If I Were the Man That You Wanted” (from Anthology Volume One) sounded big and very crisply outlined — not bright, exactly, though I wouldn’t expect the Emotiva setup to do much to smooth out a tizzy loudspeaker or hard-sounding room.

The UPA-700 power amp’s relatively modest 80-watts-per-channel rating is less than many a similarly priced A/V receiver, but let’s not be prisoners of paper performance. The amp handily drove my relatively low-sensitivity stereo pair (about 3 dB less than many larger floor-standing designs) with all the level I could ask. Switching my player to the multichannel layer and cueing up Lutoslawski’s “Concerto for Orchestra” proved the point: The Emotiva delivered concert-hall loudness with no difficulty whatsoever, conveyed all the tonal and dynamic honesty I know this recording to carry, and preserved the gorgeous hall sound. With clean, dynamic rock played at the clipping point, the UPA-700 sounded slightly “squished,” but no more so than many another 100-watt-class amplifier or receiver — and on most such material this level was painfully too loud for me anyway.

One anomaly: When I switched listening modes from Direct (which did not appear to use the subwoofer channel, but rather oddly retained the front high-pass filters) to Stereo, the sub channel would not return unless I first switched to All Stereo or PLII, both of which do. Ah, fun with software…

Shifting my attention to film sound, I cued up The Dark Knight Rises. The UMC/UPA combo produced fully demo-worthy sound: clean, punchy, and with a sharp definition that throughout the 10-minutes-long climax and “back-sposition” both maximized the impact of background action cues and maintained the overarching score’s immediacy.


The results here are just a bit more mixed, but on the whole I found the UMC-200 to be an easy companion. (The UPA-700 amp doesn’t really figure into this issue; it powers up and down with the processor via a 12V-trigger link using the provided 1/8-inch-minijack cable.) The Emotiva pre/pro incorporates an instant-up, instant-down onscreen display, something that several much more costly competitors cannot claim. And it really is instant, appearing and withdrawing in a flash. A big factor here is that the UMC-200 performs no video processing, being strictly an HDMI switcher on the video side. This also contributes to the speed of the pre/pro’s input switching, which is well above average.

The display itself is plain-Jane, quite small white text on a dark background. It’s easy enough to read, but a point size or two larger would have been welcome. There are no background color options, but you can adjust translucency.

I loved having a whole page for channel-level trims, with unambiguous onscreen graphic telltales. And I was thrilled to find individual up/down button pairs on the remote for surround, back, center, and sub channels. Always immediately at hand, these pop up a smaller, bottom-of-screen display to show adjustments. (Similar pop-ups denote volume and mode changes.) The remote itself is fairly plain but straightforward in layout and labeling, though its black-on-silver key graphics are not the easiest to read in low light, and there’s no illumination.