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Review and measurement of Emotiva UMC200 pre/pro

Blumlein 88

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#1
Emotiva umc200 front.png


040913_emotiva umc200_back.jpg

We'll start with the 12 khz Jtest in a 32k FFT. And what a graph it is. Yes, the horrid looking result is over coax connection. The peak jitter spikes are at – 65 dbFS. There are lots of them not much lower than that, and a wide area is raised by random jitter noise too. The spacing on the spikes is 600 hz. Thinking it might be some 60 hz harmonic I looked at the 0-300hz range and this unit is very good there. Highest is -124 dbFS and a bit lower. No hum here. If you notch out the 12 khz tone what is left is -63 dbFS over that 24 khz band. YIKES!!!!!
Dual Emotiva Jtest graph.png


The better looking result is over HDMI. It isn't a great result. The base has considerable widening and several tones close in, but much better than the coax. The close in spikes are spaced exactly at 101 hz. The highest level is the closest in at -80 dbFS. They fall below the noise floor about 1 khz each side of the main tone.

Well is it audible? Anecdotal subjective description. I used this in my video rig for several weeks. Used for music and movies/TV. I told a friend who has one I was not happy with it though I had heard his and liked it. I told him music seemed opaque and brittle. Yet I did think it was good on surround sound. Pretty darn good for moives which was confusing. Of course music was being fed from a PC over Coax and movies over HDMI. I didn't know all this then. I became dissatisfied enough I hooked up one of my recording interfaces I could switch out for listening to music. My immediate impression which held up after continued comparison was similar to the difference in listening to good recordings as 128 kbps MP3 and the full WAV files. Fairly noticeable and enough it interferes with emotional connection with good music. Again I didn't know all this about how it measured until now. Oh, and my friend's unit which I liked fine? He only used HDMI connections. One could put music thru HDMI from a computer, but who would think that the smart way to go?

Now let us talk about another gotcha with this unit. The volume control goes from 0 to 80 in .5 steps. But they aren't db steps. Further, set to 80 (max) you get more than 30% THD. Set to 70 which is about 3 db less you get a few % THD. Set to 69 THD drops to .009% or about – 80 db. 69 is 2.23 volts output and 80 is only 3.23 volts output. A difference of 3.2 db. Why did they allow you to do this? You don't get any real gain for low levels. Why leave it so you could experience 30% THD?

Now I was listening to music at low 60 levels at the loudest. But with the extreme jitter it did not sound good. Here is 69 on the volume with 1 khz over HDMI. OK, but not excellent. Odd harmonics are much higher than even harmonics. You also see the jitter spikes around the 1 khz tone here. The 3rd harmonic is about -79 db.

1khz 68 HDMI emotiva.png


Now here is a spectrogram for the coax input. It is a single tone sweep to 20 khz and then dual tone sweep with tones 1 khz apart. The background goes gray at -100 dbFS only things above that level leave a trace. You see the ample harmonics from distortion. But look at all the spikes and haze from periodic and random jitter. Contrast it to my Marantz measurements which showed the sweep tones and a little 2nd harmonic with a whole lot of empty space otherwise. This is an awful result for the Emotiva over the digital coax input.
Emotiva sweep showing jitter wo invert colors.png

Here is the Marantz AV 7701 for comparison.

Marantz sweeps 100 db.png


Now here is the HDMI result. It has the moderatley high harmonic distortion, but not the horrid jitter residuals in evidence.

Emotiva sweep over HDMI.png


So what to make of the Emotiva UMC 200 pre/pro?

It has a booby trapped volume function.

It has a tremendously jittery digital input on coax (I didn't try the toslink yet).

It has THD which isn't necessarily audibly awful, but it is substandard by modern standards.

I didn't show the low level linearity where it is okay. It goes off the rails starting about the 17th bit.

The dynamic range is okay at roughly 101 db.

You could not say it has nearly that much effective dynamic range using the coax input.


For positives, it looks nice.

It has a simple easy to use UI.

It sets up much easier than most pre/pros for video.

It is less expensive than most other options by 300%.

Emo-Q speaker correction is simple and works very nicely. It isn't the best, but mostly is good.

The PEQ option is terrific. You can set several parametric EQ points and all the parameters to your needs.

Then I think of looking into the manual. You'll find the specifications …...well wait a minute…..well …..well there aren't any. None listed. I now think I know why that is.

Perusing the Emotiva lounge forums, one can find where it has 3 volt output. Not mentioned is if you go above 2.23 volts you are going to get horrendous distortion. I've seen a couple people say the output is only clean to 68 or so on the volume reading. Which is true. I don't know if they measured it or just heard it (it isn't too subtle to hear).

Then I recall reading a review (which I don't remember which audio/video mag it was in). It stated the 2nd harmonic at 2 volts is -98 db and you simply don't have to worry about distortion with the UMC200. With a volume setting of 68 I get 2 volts out and on 1 khz the second harmonic is -98 db. Now the author either was told that by Emotiva ( in which case he was simply mister ad copy) or he measured it. If he measured it, he had to see the 3rd harmonic was -79 or -80 db and the 5th was -84 db. Which means he lied to the reader to make Emotiva look better than it was and let the reader assume distortion was that or lower. I used to give publications and manufacturers the benefit of the doubt on such things. Yet I continually run into cases where one or both are just trying to sell you a story and are not being honestly transparent.

Used from its HDMI inputs the Emotiva UMC200 isn't bad. It could be better. For the price similar options are very limited. Mostly to Outlaw units and older Anthem pre/pros. One of which appears to be the same exact unit with their name on it, but fewer features (mainly no PEQ). So in that context the UMC200 could be worthwhile for someone wanting a video pre-amp who doesn't want to spend $1500 or more. The UMC200 has been discontinued. It has been replaced by the very similar looking MC700 for $699. I wonder if the unit performs better for audio?
 

Timbo2

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#3
Thanks so much for this! This was on my short list of solutions to replace my slowly dying AVR. As you mentioned my other option was Outlaw. My issues from my reading with Outlaw was firmware and HDMI-CEC issues. I had hoped the Emotiva might be better in that regard.

The THD you measured is crazy for a modern piece of audio. I agree with you - they should have just stopped it at the 69 mark. But if you do that you can't advertise 3V output. I've been out of the audiophile world for a long time - is 3V really that big a selling feature?

Looks like a refurbished Onkyo is still looking to be the most cost effective solution for me.
 

soundArgument

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#4
I always suspected that Emotiva products took engineering shortcuts. These measurements, as well as Amir's of the DC-1, confirm that suspicion.

Many thanks to @Blumlein 88 for helping folks save their money.
 

tomelex

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#5
Blumlien 88, You, and the others here who post measurements , are truly what this site is all about.
 

svart-hvitt

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#6
Horror! Thanks, @Blumlein 88 ! Such measurements are really valuable so as to avoid putting hard-earned money in frustrating gear.

Out of curiosity: Could you look at optical Toslink? Galvanically isolated, FWIW...
 

amirm

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#7
Wow, that is quite a turn around for coax to be so much worse than HDMI. They really needed to work hard to make it perform that bad. :)

Excellent work by the way. Promoting to an article on home page. :)
 

Thomas savage

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#8
Wow, that is quite a turn around for coax to be so much worse than HDMI. They really needed to work hard to make it perform that bad. :)

Excellent work by the way. Promoting to an article on home page. :)
No historical ‘ enigma ‘ controversy in Dennis’s reviews :D
 

Blumlein 88

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#10
I had a chance to look at the Toslink connection. I think one picture will tell the tale.

UMC200 toslink vs coax jtest.png

The toslink is gold and the coax is magenta. Only difference is the spacing of tones is 600 hz with coax and today it was 626 hz with toslink. I looked at other measures as well and like this one essentially no difference.
 

Blumlein 88

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#11
Thanks so much for this! This was on my short list of solutions to replace my slowly dying AVR. As you mentioned my other option was Outlaw. My issues from my reading with Outlaw was firmware and HDMI-CEC issues. I had hoped the Emotiva might be better in that regard.

The THD you measured is crazy for a modern piece of audio. I agree with you - they should have just stopped it at the 69 mark. But if you do that you can't advertise 3V output. I've been out of the audiophile world for a long time - is 3V really that big a selling feature?

Looks like a refurbished Onkyo is still looking to be the most cost effective solution for me.
Many pre/pros talk about the specs at 2 volts output. Some of those put out more voltage some don't. I don't think claiming 3 volts is a big deal. And Emotiva doesn't claim anything. The output question was asked on Emotiva forums and someone from the company said it was 3 volts. Here are the only 'specifications' listed in the UMC200 owner's manual.

Specifications
Connectivity
Video Inputs and Outputs:

(4) HDMI 1.4 compliant inputs (all with 3D and CEC support)
(1) HDMI 1.4 compliant output (with ARC support)
Audio Inputs:

(4) stereo unbalanced analog audio inputs
(1) set of 7.1 channel unbalanced direct audio inputs
(2) SPDIF coaxial digital audio inputs
(2) Toslink (optical) digital audio inputs
(1) Bluetooth audio input (requires optional Emotiva Bluetooth dongle)
(1) FM Antenna input; 75 ohms coax (F-connector)
(1) AM antenna input (spring terminals)
(1) internal AM/FM tuner
Audio Outputs:

(1) set of 7.1 channel unbalanced audio main outputs
(1) balanced subwoofer output (same as main sub output)
(1) stereo unbalanced analog mix audio output
(2) stereo pairs of unbalanced analog audio zone outputs (Zone 2, Zone 3)
Other Inputs and Outputs:

(1) IR remote control signal input
(1) IR remote control signal output
(2) trigger outputs (programmable)
(1) USB data input (reserved for firmware updates)
Environmental
Size:
unboxed: 17” W x 14” D x 3-1/4” H
boxed: 21” W x 18” D x 7.5” H
Weight:
unboxed: 10 pounds
boxed: 16 pounds
Page 27

For what it is worth I have an old H-K AVR with pre outs on RCA. It puts out 4 volts fairly clean. I could measure it more carefully, but I think it is from 2004 which means the relevance to anyone is diminished. From memory it is cleaner than the UMC200, but falls short of the Marantz 7701.
 

Sal1950

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#12
Great review D, I'm quite surprised that the Emo came away so badly, I had a higher opinion of what I thought to be their engineering chops.
Don't look like it will be displacing the 7701 any time soon. ;)
 

Blumlein 88

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#13
Great review D, I'm quite surprised that the Emo came away so badly, I had a higher opinion of what I thought to be their engineering chops.
Don't look like it will be displacing the 7701 any time soon. ;)
Me too actually. I need to measure my friend's XMC-1. I think it might redeem Emotiva's rep somewhat. Also I didn't think the DC-1 was bad at all. No glaring problems and a good design that has been around awhile. Good that it is bettered by newer designs, but nothing to be ashamed of in my mind.

But yes, you are correct. Your Marantz likely has a home for a few years.

We need some software to handle movie surround formats. That and a $350 8 channel pro audio interface could be a really good deal. Maybe there is such software I am unaware of.
 

Sal1950

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#14
Also I didn't think the DC-1 was bad at all. No glaring problems and a good design that has been around awhile. Good that it is bettered by newer designs, but nothing to be ashamed of in my mind.
No, the DC-1 came away just fine from the measuerments ,also proving to have an excellent headphone amp included. Biggest failing was some wire routing and mechcanical design issues but nothing audible. That unit is still doing DAC and headphone chores here and probably will remain till it finally blows up
I'd rather have it that the 4x more expensive Schitt Yiggy
 

rebbiputzmaker

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#15
No historical ‘ enigma ‘ controversy in Dennis’s reviews :D
This is because he sticks with household items such as the toaster.

"Electric toasters have been in existence for less than 100 years. Yet, people have been consuming bread for the past 6,000 years, and people have been toasting bread since the time of the Romans. Before the advent of the electric toaster, bread was toasted over an open fire with the help of a variety of simple tools. Toasting bread does more than just preserve it, of course, it changes its nature; bread becomes sweeter, crunchier and the perfect surface on which to spread all sorts of things. The first electric bread toaster was invented by Alan MacMasters in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1893 and continually developed since then, the most common household toasting appliances are now the pop-up toaster and the toaster oven. "

https://www.sutori.com/story/the-history-of-the-electric-toaster
 

XpanD

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#16
I would love to see those XMC-1 measurements, that would be really interesting. I've seen a lot of people claim that that thing punches far above its price class when it comes to audio quality, and was quite interested in it myself as well. Here's hoping it does better...

Thanks for the great info, as usual!
 

Blumlein 88

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#17
I thought I would add the distortion plot for 1 khz using coax and the maximum volume setting of 80 on the UMC200
Magenta is a -1 db signal at max volume and gold is a -6 db signal at max volume. I did adjust the level digitally so both line up on the graph. You see 25% THD for the higher level signal and 56% THD+N. The lower level signal is only slightly better. The signal only gets clean at max volume when the signal level is around - 12 db. For the max level the 19th harmonic is only -43 db in level.

umc200 80 vol coax max and minus 6.png
 

RayDunzl

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#18
Can you show the waveform?

All odd harmonics, squared wave...
 

Blumlein 88

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#19
Yes. At a signal level of about - 6dbFS with this volume setting things clear up some. As you go above that it simply squares off. So its clipping something. Though even at -6dbFS signal level you have the elevated jitter spikes and low level haze from a raised noise floor due to presumably jitter.

If you keep volume to 69 or less and use only HDMI things aren't terrible though nothing to brag about.

UMC200 coax 1 khz vol80.png
 
Last edited:

RayDunzl

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#20
I'd think it was broken if only one side of the signal was bad...

Make a 100 cycle tone, see if it clips from the start? silence-tone-silence

Maybe it has lost capacity...

Odd that the flat top appears to rise a little, though...
 
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