Emotiva UMC-1 Pre-Processor Review
Can you get a $2000 processor for just $700? Emotiva is betting you can. It's new UMC-1 7.1 processor combines some of the more advanced A/V processing you'll find into a package that is hard to beat. Let's start with the hardware. The UMC-1 utilizes Emotiva's signature aluminum faceplate design and LED backlit controls that give it a warm, minimalistic look. They're going to audiophile appeal and I think they nailed it. The UMC-1 looks like the love child offspring of a McIntosh and Anthem processor. I'm just saying...
On the back you've got 5 HDMI inputs, 3 component video inputs and three composite/S-video inputs. That's enough to handle up to 11 video sources, not counting your integrated tuner and of course any dedicated audio-only sources like CD or Aux. For connectivity to an amplifier, the UMC-1 has unbalanced 7.1 analogue outputs and even a balanced subwoofer output. The other thing that makes this somewhat of an audiophile system is the fact that it doesn't have any provision for serial or network control. It's not really suited or designed for whole home integration systems.
As far as inside the box.. there's a lot. For video processing, you have a Genesis Torino chip with Faroudja DCDi. The on-screen display is full color and will overlay overtop of video via HDMI. There's even automatic setup and room EQ via "Emo-Q" and an included microphone. Bass management is pretty sophisticated, and you can set different crossover points and slopes for each speaker group (the main channels, center, surrounds). In terms of audio, the system is equally flexible and we liked how you could customize how it treated each signal type.
The remote is totally audiophile... which is to say ginormously big, clunky, and difficult to use or even hold in the hand. Lets face it, Emotiva hates everyone who it gives this remote to. They hate you. Why else would they go all the way back to 1985 to engineer a remote? Fortunately, nobody buys processors for their remotes, so here's what we recommend: get a universal solution, like the RF20 we reviewed earlier, and set this beautiful piece of billet aluminum on top of your processor for everyone to look at it. It's a piece of art, just not something you want to use. The only thing we really liked about it was the trim controls and tuner section. Having to grab a screwdriver to replace the two non-standard "N" batteries? Not so much...
Emotiva Remote Doubles as Navy Seal Weapon
What are the downsides to this processor? Well, it's not 3D-ready, but if you're as excited about 3D as I am, that's about as important as... it's just really not that important... Other than that this is a product that has the features you need, and none of the ones you don't. For all its capabilities, it's actually quite simple to use and operate - and that simplicity is what endears it to those looking for a more audiophile solution to home theater. You've got surround sound and video in a product that will do equally well at two-channel stereo sound. This is a very compelling buy from a company that has been producing value-priced products that consistently outperform their higher-priced counterparts. You owe it to yourself to at least check out the UMC-1, especially since they offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Pair the UMC-1 with one of Emotiva's hefty multi channel amps and you’ve got a separates solution with more power at your command than a flagship A/V receiver - and for much less.
On the Bench
Using our Audio Precision APX585 8-channel HDMI Audio Analyzer, we put the UMC-1 through our rigorous testing procedure.
Emotiva UMC-1 Frequency Response
Whether we measured the UMC-1 via the analog or HDMI outputs, the resultant frequency response was ruler flat to the limits of our test equipment. We measured a mere +-.096dB variation from 10Hz to 80kHz via the analog outputs and +-0.180dB deviation from 10Hz to 20kHz using 96kHz linear PCM on HDMI input. The UMC-1 handled 0dBFS input signals without any issues.
Emotiva UMC-1 FFT Distortion Analysis
With 200mVin, we set the master volume until it reached 1Vrms out of the preamp. The FFT plot was very clean (6.47+ 77.86)dBv = 84.33dB or 100*alog^-1(-95.69/20) = .0006% THD + N. Max unclipped output for the main channels was 5.5Vrms (6Vrms for the sub out) which is more than ample drive for any audio power amplifier to reach its max gain.
Emotiva UMC-1 SNR via HDMI In
Emotiva UMC-1 with 0dBFS input to HDMI and 2Vrms out, 40kHz LPF produced 95dB SNR which is excellent. Via analog using 200mV in, 1Vout, the SNR was almost 80dB with no weighting or filtering used. Again these are excellent figures.
Emotiva UMC-1 All-to-One Crosstalk Measurements
The UMC-1 exhibited commendable channel to channel crosstalk performance. With all channels acting as the noise source or disturber driven via the HDMI input, I measured each idle channel one at a time to determine the worst case channel to channel crosstalk via the analog outputs. At 1kHz the UMC-1 yielded >-80dB @ 1kHz and stayed level throughout the entire audio band with only a slight rise to -70dB at 20kHz for its noisiest channel. We consider anything less than -40dB @ 10kHz acceptable so the UMC-1 met that minimum requirement with 30dB to spare! We rechecked the results via the analog inputs and the UMC-1 produced similarly good results.
From its very generous feature set, ability to decode all of the latest HD Audio formats (IE. Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD, etc) to its excellent performance on the bench, the Emotiva UMC-1 has proven to be an excellent value for anyone searching for an affordable separates solution for about as much as a mid priced A/V receiver. Backed by Emotiva's 30 day return policy and excellent customer support, we give little pause to anyone on the fence about purchasing this product.
UMC-1 7.1 Pre-Processor
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About Emotiva Audio
Emotiva engineers believe that the experience of enjoying home audio and home theater components begins with thoughtful design, robust engineering, superior quality materials and a deep understanding of what the audio/video enthusiast wants and needs. It occurs all too often; designers and manufacturers consider technology and ease of use to be mutually exclusive qualities in a product. Emotiva engineers think differently. Technologically superior and user friendly products are paramount to the Emotiva design philosophy and are qualities that allow Emotiva users to appreciate their purchase in the future as much as they do today. We utilize only premium components with proven, critically evaluated circuitry in the audio and video paths to preserve the original quality of the sound and vision experience. Emotiva products compliment the entertainment experience and bring it up to a level rarely experienced with other mass produced products.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.
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