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Emotiva MC-1 Review (Home Theater Processor)

Rate this AV Processor

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 91 37.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 123 51.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 22 9.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 4 1.7%

  • Total voters
    240

Sprint

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It would be interesting to test Tonewinner AT-300, I believe it shares many parts with this Emotiva model.
I would also add IOTAVX AVX17. I had this unit for a few days. It sounded quite decent to my ears and wanted to even keep it for its size/simplicity. The issue I had at my end was some delay in HDMI hand shake in comparison to my old AVR, also inability to select Upmixers for 2ch music (only auto was possible) and I had no option to increase the bass level without eq. Yamaha has this option to increase and decrease the bass levels on the fly. Unfortunately, I did not want to use the EQ of IOTAVX as I have been using GLM in my Genelecs.
 
Last edited:

Koeitje

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This is the form factor I want in an AV processor. Too bad the performance is garbage.
 

somebodyelse

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There seems to be quite some variation in performance depending on exactly what test signal is used on what input. The LF noise appears on the dashboard for both HDMI and toslink, but is absent on the later 90kHz bandwidth test on the HDMI input. The HF droop with 192kHz input on HDMI disappears in the later filter performance spectrum at 44.1kHz on toslink. The different jitter performance is called out in the review.
 
D

Deleted member 43441

Guest
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.
View attachment 185125

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):
View attachment 185126

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:

View attachment 185127

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:

View attachment 185128

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

View attachment 185129

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:

View attachment 185130

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:

View attachment 185131

Multitone was very disappointing:

View attachment 185132

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:
View attachment 185133

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:

View attachment 185134

Linearity gets hit with noise penalty as well:

View attachment 185135

Jitter performance objectively is not good:

View attachment 185136

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:

View attachment 185137

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:

View attachment 185138

This however is a lot worse than expected so let's look at the spectrum up to 90 kHz:
View attachment 185139

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.
Does anyone make a decent and obtainable AVP anymore? I have one that’s nine years old, does not have the latest Atmos, or the latest HDMI, or full 4K capabilities, let alone 8K.

4K Doesn’t really even interest me, my 1080 P plasma TV is pretty amazing. But the audio does interest me, and until I find one with stellar measurements, and not a so so DAC I’m not purchasing anything.

Thanks for the review, and here’s another one to cross off the list.

Until I find the right one, I went with the Freya+ for two channel, because I think I’m still sacrificing sound with my present pre-pro.
 

muslhead

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Typical Emotiva HT processor mediocrity.
Combine this with poor support, continued defects in hardware and software and lack of transparent spec reporting should give prospective buyers all they need to know. Move along, nothing to see here.
Although I am a fan of the look.
 

617

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Can someone summarize the functionality of the room EQ functionality?
 

rebbiputzmaker

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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
Well I believe recent studies have shown that isolation during the pandemic has caused a drastic increase in the watching of porn. This might’ve been a reason to consider designing a remote control that was resistant to the… elements. o_O
 

Doodski

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Although I am a fan of the look.
Me too. I think it looks fabulous although the blue display is that freaky floating text when viewed in the dark. The eye can't focus well on blue light in the dark and the depth perception goes wonky. I would buy it on looks if that where a parameter.
 

JDS

Member
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Apr 21, 2021
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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.
View attachment 185125

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):
View attachment 185126

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:

View attachment 185127

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:

View attachment 185128

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

View attachment 185129

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:

View attachment 185130

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:

View attachment 185131

Multitone was very disappointing:

View attachment 185132

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:
View attachment 185133

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:

View attachment 185134

Linearity gets hit with noise penalty as well:

View attachment 185135

Jitter performance objectively is not good:

View attachment 185136

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:

View attachment 185137

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:

View attachment 185138

This however is a lot worse than expected so let's look at the spectrum up to 90 kHz:
View attachment 185139

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.
It looks like the case/back panel might be shared with a higher priced unit -- it seems to promise 6/2 HDMI inputs/outputs, but half of each appear to be blocked off. Even if the performance had been adequate, that would be an issue for some of us.
 

Steve Dallas

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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?

I do what you suggest in running and external DAC with my external front pair amp for music, but that eliminates my ability to use bass management and subs with high fidelity, so it is not a perfect compromise.

In any case, the best solution for reasonable cost is still to buy a Denon receiver and turn the amps off. Incredible that this is still the case. Why Denon hasn't made this product and done it far better is interesting to say the least.

I am voting "Not Terrible" as this unit is probably fine for video, but sadly misses the mark for pure audio and fails to achieve the bar set in their lofty marketing mumbo jumbo.
 

Veri

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Umm. That "low frequency" noise looks a lot like an EQ being applied. See for example HUD100 measured here before.

Emotiva
index.php


HUD100 'Dynamic'
index.php


HUD100 DSP bypass mode
index.php
 

TimoJ

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It looks like the case/back panel might be shared with a higher priced unit -- it seems to promise 6/2 HDMI inputs/outputs, but half of each appear to be blocked off. Even if the performance had been adequate, that would be an issue for some of us.
It has 6 inputs and 2 outputs. Looks like Amir still had some protection caps installed.
 

Spkrdctr

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I gave it a headless Panther. If a product does not do what it says it should do and has poor performance at premium prices, it gets called out. While not deserving the famous "Junk" title by Amir, it does deserve a headless Panther. I am so tired of people "accepting" extremely bad marketing mumbo jumbo that is not delivered in the product. Would anyone want to buy a car that advertised air conditioning but when you try to use the A/C it put out the most feeble tiny bit of cold air that it was a joke. No one would put up with that. So, for me it is the same with audio products that do not deliver on even very good performance. I'm not even asking for great performance, but this unit Amir tested is overall very poor. Audio buyers accept so much poorly designed, poor performing equipment because that is the way it has always been. I'm so glad Amir posts loud and proud all the silliness in audio products. We can then buy the better products with our hard earned cash! Support the good manufacturers and let the others go out of business.......
 

JDS

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It has 6 inputs and 2 outputs. Looks like Amir still had some protection caps installed.
Interesting. I've never seen protective caps on HDMI jacks before.

They should've spent that money on engineering.
 
Last edited:

mdsimon2

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Wouldn't that appear in the frequency response graph?

Seems like there is something weird going on here depending on sample rate. Assuming the 90 kHz spectrum is using 192 kHz sample rate the lack of low frequency rise is consistent with the frequency response measurement also at 192 kHz. Definitely warrants some more investigation.

Michael
 

617

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I think it's a little silly to pan the audio performance of a component due to a mediocre SINAD score, which is still in excess of what is needed for almost any material recorded with a microphone, while ignoring the performance of things that do matter, like the equalization and room correction features.

I understand that it's really hard to quantitatively test that, maybe impossible, but that's what actually matters for this class of product. Now, if there were a bunch of processors with good room correction, maybe SINAD would be a good way to reward the engineering effort embodied by the better products, but they ALL are mediocre compared to standalone DACs.

I'd be interested in this product if the room correction was easily configurable, preferably by PC or phone. It would also be nice to know what the underlying technology of the correction is.
 
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