- Feb 23, 2016
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!!!!!
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.
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.
Here is the Marantz AV 7701 for comparison.
Now here is the HDMI result. It has the moderatley high harmonic distortion, but not the horrid jitter residuals in evidence.
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?