UPA-2 Setup Listening Tests
It's not difficult to configure this amplifier for use, especially since it’s not bridgeable (where you can double down the power by using both amps to drive a single channel). For those wanting to beef up their AV receiver (as we did) you just connect the RCA preamplifier outputs of the receiver to the RCA inputs of the UPA-2. We recommend running the amplifier full-out with the gain set to maximum. In this way you are guaranteeing you'll get everything it has to offer. Level control should be set via the receiver and you can use the channel level controls (in the receiver's setup menu) to ensure you are at the correct reference levels for all speakers in a multi-channel system. If you have the ability to use the 12V trigger system, we recommend doing it. This involves making the physical connection with a 1/8-inch mono mini cable and also configuring the AV receiver to trigger the amplifier in the proper way (see your receiver's user manual to understand the specifics of how this can work).
We connected the speakers to the amplifier using a pair of River Cable StarFlex SPX speaker cables. I like the positive lock these provide, though the proximity of the amplifier's binding posts made me consider using something with a plastic (rather than metal) shield to avoid accidental shorts. It also made me wonder why Emotiva mounted them that close together when they had an almost limitless amount of spacing available to them. In any case, should your amplifier shut down for any reason and you know it to be well-ventilated, take a look at your speaker cables and make sure they aren't shorting out (touching each other at the amplifier). My theory is that this "flaw" is a diversion. Sure, give the reviewer an obvious negative and he'll jump all over it, leaving the rest of the amplifier open for criticism-free adoration. Well the joke is on them, since this amplifier IS fairly criticism-free and performance-rich. Yeah, I sure showed them.
When the UPA-2 powers up (either with the front panel switch or the 12V trigger input, the front panel LED will go from red (5 seconds) to blue. This is normal and indicates the amplifier is functioning normally and ready to receive input signals. If the LED light doesn't come on or it blinks red (protection mode) then you have some kind of fault. We never encountered this, but it could happen due to a short or if the amplifier overheats.
For our listening tests we bypassed any potential processing by utilizing a Denon DVD-2930CI universal DVD player to feed signal directly to the amp. We connected the UPA-2 to a pair of Dali LEKTOR 8's which we are intimately familiar with (no, not that intimate!) This particular setup eliminated most non-room issues from interfering with our listening tests and allowed us to hone in on how well the amplifier alone drove the speakers. In each of the tests we also did direct comparisons back and forth with a Harman Kardon AV154, which has a 40 wpc amplifier (x7) and 10 times the THD (0.07% at 20kHz bandwidth) of the Emotiva amplifier (0.007% at 80kHz bandwidth). Additionally, the HK features 40dB of crosstalk separation while the Emotiva has 80dB. All tests and comparisons were done in two-channel mode and we split the output of the DVD player so that AB comparisons could be made as quickly as possible. All in all this was an excellent test to show what advantages the amplifier might have over the entry level receiver. Our results were eye-opening.
HDTV: The Sarah Conner
This show is shaping up, after having some hesitant fits and starts throughout its first season. While not exactly high fidelity, The Sarah Conner Chronicles offers a dynamic soundtrack that is much different than most musical discs can deliver. In the second season episode that aired during my review period there was a scene where John Henry, the "learning" robot gets compromised and the room erupts in a flurry of activity and power spikes as Henry "comes online" and begins to respond to an outside hacker. Throughout the scene there are computer chirps, dramatic mid-bass sweeps and even John Henry's voice takes on a bassy tone as he voices his acknowledgement of what's occurring. With the Harman, the effects in the scene were pronounced, with the sparking effects coming through cleanly and John Henry's bassy voice really pushing the LEKTOR 8's so that they resonated fully into the living room. When I switched over to the Emotiva, however, the highs seemed to clear up and get more airy and the bass seemed to be a tad tighter and more pronounced. I replayed the shutdown sequence over and over again (thank goodness for DVR!), which was essentially a downward sweep, and felt that the Emotiva did a much better job of controlling the LEKTOR 8 speakers and allowing them to deliver the sweep completely and with more control.
DVD-Audio: Seal IV
"Let Me Roll" was a song that really pushed the 'groove index' of the Dali speakers. The Emotiva was able to push an insane amount of bass out of this track while the vocals came through with texture and grit that marked Seal's style throughout this album. The entry level receiver did a fine job, but lacked the tightness in the bass or the finesse in the highs exhibited by the UPA-2. The upper frequency range was slightly aggressive in that it felt more tinny and sibilant with the entry level receiver compared to the same track played directly through the Emotiva amplifier. "Love's Divine" furthered this impression, with the reverb of the track taking on a more open and "overhead" feel with the UPA-2. During fuller tracks like "Waiting for You" the Emotiva seemed to offer a slightly clearer track with easier differentiation between instruments. These differences were more subtle than they may sound here, but there were apparent after several back and forth sessions.
CD: Steely Dan - Gold
As always, I started off with "Hey Nineteen" and listened to the punchy bass through the receiver, which came across as I expected it. When I flipped to the UPA-2, what I quickly realized was that some of the mid-bass had been a tad recessed. With the switch the mid-bass, which drives the rhythmic bass line throughout the song, was restored. The staccato guitar strums were clear on the HK, but really seemed to sharpen up when I flipped over to the Emotiva amp. I could say the same for the high hat and cymbals except that these seemed to lose their tinny and thin nature and take on a softer, loftier tone which gave the CD a more "live" feel. "Deacon Blues" had very reverberant keys which exhibit a smooth decay on high fidelity systems. The Emotiva did great job at revealing all of the gentle roll off of each chord. "Deacon Blues" also made it very apparent that the Emotiva UPA-2 increased the soundstage dramatically and opened up the mix, allowing for a wider representation of the music and filling the room more fully. This was perhaps the biggest and most easily perceived difference between the dedicated amplifier and the internal amps of the entry level receiver.
In the summary section on the first page of the article, it's price is listed as $299. I believe this is incorrect.
Price went up to $349
That is a great setup. Sucks the the B&K took a dive on you. Have you contacted B&K about refurbishing the amp? Surprised that the X-Overs in the speakers are still good.
Pay's to invest in quality.
Oddly enough, I was doing a Google search on B&K TX4430 amps to set a price for the amp and I came across this post (which was mine in the first place).
Thanks for the compliment. I've actually had some changes since that post.
The Rotel pre/pro has been replaced by an Emotiva UMC-1. In addition, I got the B&K ST14000 working again. I had forgotten that there are two fuses to check. It's been back in the rack for a month and running fine. It is powering two Emotiva ERD-1s for side surround. The Emotiva UPA-2 is driving two other ERD-1s for rear surround. The Energy Pros are now looking for new owners.
The NHT sup is retired having been replaced by a Rythmik F12.
When I get around to it (I say that a lot), I will list the Rotel RSP-1066, B&K TX4430, B&K ST1400, Rotel DVD-1040, B&K AVP-1000 and the Energy Pro 22s.
As you may know, handling 4 ohm loads presents problems to many amps which, from an arithmetic standpoint, should be perfectly adequate. When the speakers are also highly efficient, as is the case here, the results can be messy. (While not quite as responsive as the Klipsch classic speakers, reading through Magnepan reviews shows that this issue is a live one.)
I find the UPA-2 does a wonderful job in presenting a faithful rendering of the timbres of all instruments as well as clearly presenting bass notes and a fine precision that helps following multiple musical threads, such as found in the Brandenburg Concerti recordings from Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert.
The human voice is also beautifully rendered: "Glitter and Be Gay" from the orginal cast album of "Candide" shows just how accurate the young Barbara Cook was in this notoriously difficult piece. At the same time, Robert Preston's performance of "When Movies Were Movies" from "Mack and Mabel" shines through the technically challenging recording.
I find that I have stopped listening to the equipment and have resumed listening to the music - my most important criterion for a piece of audio gear.
Emotiva provides a 30 day trial period and I would strongly encourage anyone curious about this amplifier to take advantage of the opportunity to hear what this unit can do in your system.
(I have no connection to Emotiva, other than being a satisfied customer.)
Rotel 855 CD player
Oppo 970HD DVD player
NAD T-163 Pre/Pro
Emotiva UPA-2 - Klipsch KG-4 front speakers
Acurus Mondial 100 - Aculine surrounds and Athena C.5 center channel
Dali 1.5 Subwoofer
I believe there's another typo. The HK 157. I assume you meant 147.