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Emotiva MC-1 Review (Home Theater Processor)

Rate this AV Processor

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 83 36.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 121 53.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 20 8.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 4 1.8%

  • Total voters
    228

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Emotiva MC-1 13.2 channel home theater AV Processor (AVP). It was purchased new by a member and drop shipped to me. It costs US $999.
Emotiva BasX MC1 Review 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.jpg


I really like the slim look of the unit. Many so called processors are AVRs with their amps taken out and still shipped in large boxes. This rules them out in many situations where you don't want or can manage such tall boxes. This one is slim and light as it should be.

What you give up here is balanced output for normal channels although a pair is provided for subs (good idea):
Emotiva BasX MC1 Review Back Panel HDR 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.jpg


I can't figure out why the remote uses hard to push membrane switches. It is not like the remote need to be waterproof or anything.

Operationally, the unit works smoothly and well. The one thing I did not like was lack of acceleration in the rotary encoder for volume. It steps up in half dB which is nice but then it takes forever to go from low to high volume.

Emotiva MC-1 Measurements
I started with HDMI as input and selected Pure/Direct modes. They both produced the same performance across all the measurements so excuse me as I use them interchangeably:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


I adjusted the volume to get our nominal 2 volt output for unbalanced RCA. Distortion is actually decent at -100 dB but there is a pile of low frequency noise which drags SINAD down to 88 dB, planting MC-1 in the poor category for AV products:

Best AV Processor AVP Review 2022.png


I switched to Toslink and actually disconnected the HDMI cables to make sure its noise is not polluting the output:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Toslink 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


As you the elevated low frequency noise is still there but the bit of jitter we had with HDMI is gone.

The good news is that the unit has plenty of headroom on its output:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Toslink THD+N vs Level 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Pro...png


This means that you can drive plenty of power amplifiers to their maximum wattage. And if they have lower gain than normal, gain some signal to noise ratio:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Toslink Dynamic Range 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Proc...png


Multitone was very disappointing:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Multitone 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


There is a lot of noise/intermodulation there. But also, roll off at 20 kHz. This can't as the sample rate for this test is 192 kHz. This means the internal DAC should produce 96 kHz of bandwidth which way, way higher than 20 kHz. Let's do a simple frequency response and see what is going on:
Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Frequency Response 192 kHz 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema...png


I confirmed with the info button that the unit was accepting 192 kHz so there was no conversion on my measurement side. But despite setting Pure/Direct mode, there is internal resampling of sorts that is equivalent to 44 or 48 kHz sample rate. This kind of thing really needs to be advertised to the user when he asks for "info." It should say, "input 192 kHz, output XX kHz." This is something all AV companies are guilty of. Anyway, this is not right. There has to be a way to play 192 kHz content to this unit without conversion.

IMD vs level suffers from same high noise level we saw in the dashboard:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements IMD vs level 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


Linearity gets hit with noise penalty as well:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Linearity 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


Jitter performance objectively is not good:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Toslink Jitter 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


Strangely, now Toslink looks worse as opposed to the dashboard where it had the upper hand.

Filter performance is poor both in slow roll off and not enough attenuation out of band:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements Toslink DAC Filter 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


An ideal filter would follow my vertical line and disappear from bottom of the graph. When it does not, it causes the following measurement to look worse:

Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements HDMI THD+N vs frequency 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Pr...png


This however is a lot worse than expected so let's look at the spectrum up to 90 kHz:
Emotiva BasX MC1 Measurements HDMI FFT 13-2 channel Dolby Atmos DTS-X Cinema Processor.png


The sloping up is classic "noise shaping" used in some DACs to push audible noise to inaudible spectrum. In this day and age, we don't see it often. Fortunately it is harmless as you are not going to hear it anyway.

Conclusions
The overall form factor and functionality of the unit seems nice but is let down by well below average performance. There are a lot of noise and interference issues creeping into every measurement. And we have that situation with high resolution content being resampled.

BTW, I saw some reference to Emotiva's own room EQ in there. Not sure how good that is. Or what its origins are. If that performs well, that would be a reason to get this unit over some desktop DAC.

I can't recommend the Emotiva MC-1 if you are looking for a well measuring unit. I think they can do better by performing a clean up pass and at least getting rid of that low frequency noise.
 
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Tangband

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Nice review. Its sad one cant play material with high resolution, ie more than 48 kHz .
Good news is plenty of headroom on its output.

Edit: I would buy the unit if it could play high resolution material correctly with no resampling, and if the multitone measurements where better.
 
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GWolfman

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Quite a few reviews by Amir showing Emotiva is shooting for the "good enough" crowd, at least in product development. Not sure on their website and marketing lingo, as it has been a while since I've looked them up.
 

Nelaer

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Nice review. Its sad one cant play material with high resolution, ie more than 48 kHz .
Good news is plenty of headroom on its output.

Edit: I would buy the unit if it could play high resolution material correctly with no resampling, and if the multitone measurements where better.
You could convert your 24/192 files to 24/48 in foobar2000, using Free Encoder Pack and high quality SoX Resampler
 

Dimifoot

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Almost all AVs are converting everything to 24/48 when applying room eq software.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Almost all AVs are converting everything to 24/48 when applying room eq software.
But in pure/direct they are not supposed to.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Quite a few reviews by Amir showing Emotiva is shooting for the "good enough" crowd, at least in product development. Not sure on their website and marketing lingo, as it has been a while since I've looked them up.
Unfortunately they make lofty claims about MC-1:

"Like every product in the BasX series, the MC1 includes two critical features that you will not find in most other components in its price range: outstanding audio and video performance with excellent build quality. The BasX MC1 is a true audiophile component, designed and built by professionals to deliver the outstanding performance that both audiophiles and casual listeners can appreciate."

They definitely are not advertising "good enough."
 

ah-ra

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Shame. It could probably have a better performance for a few bucks more or a few days more in development.
Still awaiting a review and measurements of a Marantz slim AVR like NR1710 or 1711...
 

Sal1950

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You could convert your 24/192 files to 24/48 in foobar2000, using Free Encoder Pack and high quality SoX Resampler
What's your point?
 

milosz

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The audio that accompanies most video material (cable / streaming /DVD / Bluray / 4k) is compressed / lossy. Yes, there are so-called hi-res lossless formats on some discs, but how much transparency and resolution do you really need to listen to explosions, planes zooming around, actors voices and so on? This thing is good enough for Dolby AC-3, surely, and that is the format used for the vast bulk of video programming / movies.

Now for MUSIC- almost all of which is 2-channel -this thing falls short. So, if you buy this pre-pro, you can also buy yourself a nice Topping 2-channel DAC for $130 and arrange a way to switch between the two. Transparent DAC for music, "Just OK" pre-pro for TV.

If you INSIST on being able to listen to 11-channel audio on a more transparent system, you will need to spend a small fortune. And I wonder - with all those effects zooming around- can you really hear the difference between a system linear to 13 bits like this one and another one that reaches 20 bits of linearity when playing a movie or watching TV?
 
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