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Emotiva UPA-500 Five Channel Power Amplifier Review

by August 08, 2012
  • Product Name: UPA-500 Five Channel Power Amplifier
  • Manufacturer: Emotiva
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: August 08, 2012 21:00
  • MSRP: $ 399
  • Buy Now
  • Number of Channels: 5

  • Amplifier Gain: 29dB

  • Input Sensitivity: 850mv (full rated power, 8 ohms)

  • Signal to Noise Ratio: Full Power (A-wt): 117db

  • Input Impedance: 47kohms

  • Transformer Size: 350VA

  • Secondary Capacitance: 40,000uF

  • Output Devices: 2 per channel Topology: Fully Discrete, Dual Differential, High Current, Short Signal Path Class A/B

  • Power output (all channels driven):
    120 watts RMS @ 4-ohm (0.01% THD)
    80 watts RMS @ 8-ohm (0.01% THD)

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 70kHz +0/-3dB

  • Rated Power Band Response: 10 Hz to 20 kHz +-.06db deviation at rated power

  • Broadband Frequency Response (-3db): 5Hz to 150kHz

  • Power Requirements: 115 VAC or 230 VAC +/- 10% @ 50 / 60 Hz (automatically detected and switched)

  • Protection: protected against excessive operating temperature, shorted speaker connections, ground faults, and other common fault conditions.

  • Size: 17” W x 4. 1/16” H x 16 5/16” D

  • Weight: 22.9lbs (29.4lbs boxed)

Pros

  • Quality power on the cheap
  • Lightweight
  • Emotiva Durability

Cons

  • None at this price

Emotiva UPA-500 Introduction

When a box unexpectedly showed up at my door from Emotiva, I thought it was a preamp, given its unusually compact size. Instead I was surprised to discover it was their new UPA-500 five channel power amplifier. I’ve never been able to one arm an Emotiva up my flight of steps to the Audioholics Showcase Theater Room for testing until now. This little guy weighs less than a mid-fi receiver (about 23 lbs), making it very manageable to lug around and install in tight spaces. But can it pack a punch? Rated at 80wpc x 5 into 8 ohms and 120wpc into 4 ohms it certainly sounds like it does on paper but, let’s find out.

UPA500_TOP.jpg

Emotiva UPA-500 Top View (cover removed)

Design Overview

The Emotiva UPA-500 is a traditional class A/B amplifier design utilizing a single large 350VA toroidal power transformer and large capacitance bank for its power supply. Having a singular larger sized power supply is an advantage that allows the amplifier to deliver more power to any given channel if the output devices can handle it. This, in turn, provides more available headroom, which is critical for effortlessly producing large dynamics and peaks in music and movies. Emotiva claims the UPA-500 has 40,000uF total power supply capacitance and, peering under the hood, you could see their claim is correct with the four 10,000uF, 63V parts connected in parallel. 63V parts provide more than enough margin above the rail voltage needed to hit the 80wpc rating that Emotiva is claiming. The amp module topology is very similar to its bigger XPA series sibling, but in a more compact surface mount form factor. Emotiva also employs a trick circuit that senses the line voltage and automatically switches between 120VAC and 220VAC. Why more amplifier manufacturers don’t do this is beyond me. The UPA-500, like all Emotiva amplifiers, has the CE mark which is a rigorous international safety and regulatory test to ensure the amp will cause no harm to your home or interfere with any of your household electronics or pacemaker (should you have one).

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About the author:

Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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Recent Forum Posts:

PENG posts on August 07, 2017 15:28
nickwin, post: 1202703, member: 76936
PENG, to me its pretty clear that all those quotes on THX spec are saying IF you calibrate an individual channel to 85db @ -20DBSF, that channel will be asked to produce up to 105db (peak, whatever that means in this case) in playback. I certainly don't see anything to the contrary. We may have to agree to disagree on this one. I say again though, if you make the assumption your making, and your wrong, your in for a world of hurt because that makes a massive difference on wattage needs.

As far as being derailed I just mean that this thread has gone far from being about the UPA500. ill start a more general thread and send you a link

Seriously, last post this time haha.

Before you leave, let me try to make my point clear one more time.

I am saying, in fact have been saying, that during calibration setup (Audyssey, YPAO, MCACC or manually for that matter), each speaker/channel will be set up to produce 85 dB average and 105 dB peak at the main mic position.

THX will likely, and logic tells me they do, test each individual channel during the certification process for the same reason that the calibration/set up does. So what exactly are we to agree to disagree?

I am also saying that just because calibration and testing are done on each channel, does not mean in real world movie playback each individual channel has to produce 105 dB peak on their own. I own quite a few movies, and watch a lot on Netflix. I just don't recall a single movie that has contents demanding 105 dB peak all produced by one single channel. In fact, during such high peak spl moments, not only more than one channel would be peaking, the LFE channel does too, and often contribute the lion's share of those peaks. So I suppose this is the point, and probably the only point, that we can agree to disagree.

Even if I am wrong, I won't be in a world of hurt because I run separates and have much more power reserve than I would ever need in my 2000 cu ft room. I also can't stand reference level as I find it much too loud for enjoyment. Even if I can tolerate the level, I won't because I don't want to risk hearing loss but that's just me.
Steve81 posts on August 07, 2017 09:57
nickwin, post: 1202710, member: 76936
So your saying the 105db is peak as in the peak of the waveform? This would be equivalent to 102db RMS, right?

That's my understanding of it. THX doesn't exactly go out of their way to release technical documentation, but looking at how AH does its room rating protocol for subwoofers, that also ties into 105dB (or 115dB for LFE as the case may be) being an instantaneous peak figure, as opposed to a short term RMS number.
nickwin posts on August 07, 2017 09:48
Steve81, post: 1202707, member: 61173
AFAIK, that's the commonly accepted understanding of how it works, i.e. 0dBFS = 105dB peak, not RMS. Indeed, the example given here:
http://www.acousticfrontiers.com/2013314thx-reference-level/
21824
lines up almost perfectly with a simple mix and match of other THX Ultra 2 hardware:
http://atlantictechnology.com/product/6200e-lr/
90dB sensitive, 6 ohm nominal
https://www.soundandvision.com/content/integra-dhc-803-surround-processor-and-dta-701-amplifier-ht-labs-measures
155W into 2 ch @ 8 ohms w/ 0.1% THD+N / 230W into 2 ch @ 4 ohms w/ 0.1% THD+N

Even if you bump up to the 1% numbers for the amp, you're not getting another 3dB worth of headroom out of it.

Just when I think I'm out… They pull me right back in hahaha

So your saying the 105db is peak as in the peak of the waveform? This would be equivalent to 102db RMS, right?
Steve81 posts on August 07, 2017 09:39
PENG, post: 1202681, member: 6097
The reference level of 85 dB THX referred to was clearly meant to be average spl. The 105 dB peak they referred to is not so clear in terms of whether they meant the maximum spl measured with a meter capable of recording peaks, or the maximum average SPL for a short duration….

“Many people also make a simple mistake which effectively doubles the size of amplifier required. Using the online calculators they enter follow a process of trial and error to determine the amplifier size required for 105dB SPL. The issue is that our THX requirement is not for 105dB continuous output but 105dB peak output. More on this later.”

I am not sure about that and I think that extra 3 dB should be ignored in order to be on the safe side, unless I can find evidence directly from THX that supports the author's interpretation. I brought this point up just for awareness and discussions.

AFAIK, that's the commonly accepted understanding of how it works, i.e. 0dBFS = 105dB peak, not RMS. Indeed, the example given here:
http://www.acousticfrontiers.com/2013314thx-reference-level/
21824
lines up almost perfectly with a simple mix and match of other THX Ultra 2 hardware:
http://atlantictechnology.com/product/6200e-lr/
90dB sensitive, 6 ohm nominal
https://www.soundandvision.com/content/integra-dhc-803-surround-processor-and-dta-701-amplifier-ht-labs-measures
155W into 2 ch @ 8 ohms w/ 0.1% THD+N / 230W into 2 ch @ 4 ohms w/ 0.1% THD+N

Even if you bump up to the 1% numbers for the amp, you're not getting another 3dB worth of headroom out of it.
nickwin posts on August 07, 2017 09:36
PENG, to me its pretty clear that all those quotes on THX spec are saying IF you calibrate an individual channel to 85db @ -20DBSF, that channel will be asked to produce up to 105db (peak, whatever that means in this case) in playback. I certainly don't see anything to the contrary. We may have to agree to disagree on this one. I say again though, if you make the assumption your making, and your wrong, your in for a world of hurt because that makes a massive difference on wattage needs.

As far as being derailed I just mean that this thread has gone far from being about the UPA500. ill start a more general thread and send you a link

Seriously, last post this time haha.
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