When Emotiva finally unveiled its UMC-1 A/V processor, I knew it would be a hot product. But rather than mating it with their monster XPA series amplifiers, I decided to review its complementary seven-channel amplifier, the UPA-7. I glanced over the specs of the UPA-7 and thought it would be a good product for its asking price, not realizing my bias against external power amps rated at under 200 watts/channel. When I began unpacking the UPA-7, I realized I underestimated this amplifier. Once I ran my bench tests, I found that I had greatly underestimated this product even more than initially thought.
The Emotiva UPA-7 in my mind is an embarrassment - not to itself, mind you, but to the industry. What I mean by this bold statement is, it’s built too robustly, measures too pristinely and performs too well for a seven-channel amplifier selling for even twice its price. My only concern is that Emotiva doesn’t put too much weight into my assessment of the UPA-7 and inflate their prices.
The UPA-7 is a traditional class A/B amplifier design utilizing a single larger toroidal power transformer and large capacitance bank for its power supply. I much prefer this over smaller individual power supplies for each channel much like Emotiva used to do with its MPS-1 and MPS-2 amplifiers. Having a singular larger sized power supply 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-7 has 90,000uF total power supply capacitance. Since the UPA-7 is only rated at 125 watts / channel (8-ohms), they could get by with using lower V rated parts which greatly reduces their profile.
We’ve established that the UPA-7 has quite a meaty capacitive power bank but what about the most critical power supply component - the power transformer? Emotiva didn’t pull any punches here. It employed a large 850VA toroidal power transformer to ensure the UPA-7 could deliver all of its rated power and then some. The amplifier modules utilize four output devices per channel ensuring that the UPA-7 is totally stable under 4-ohm loads. I’ve never seen these type of components used in a multi-channel amplifier of such modest pricing.
The back view of the UPA-7 is a bit bland but the connector spacing is well laid out. It’s rare to see a seven-channel amp with such ample speaker connector spacing between channels as the UPA-7 has.
The front panel sports Emotiva’s industrial look found in all of their current products, with their infamous silver power switch embroidered and backlit with their logo (yellow for off state, blue for on state). There are seven LED indicators (one for each channel) that illuminate blue when the amplifier is operating under normal conditions and flash red when all hell breaks loose.
For this review, I tested the UPA-7 in the Audioholics Showcase Home Theater room. I paired the UPA-7 with Emotiva’s matching UMC-1 A/V processor. The source was my Denon DVD-A1UDCI Blu-ray player and the speakers consisted of my reference RBH Sound T-30LSE Signature system. All speaker cables were Kimber 8PR and all digital interconnects were Impact Acoustics Sonicwave.
I fired up the Audioholics demo CD I prepared for my blind listening test during my recent trip to Axiom Audio. I used this disc solely for two-channel listening tests with the UPA-7 bi-amping my front speakers which were run full range without any additional powered subwoofers.
Dianne Reeves - Never to Far
Bass was incredibly punchy and tight. At high listening levels, the UPA-7 was able to provide all of the power I demanded without ever sounding strained. The sound was a bit darker and more analytical than what I recall with my Denon POA-A1HDCI reference amp retailing for 10X the price. I don’t consider this a knock on the UPA-7, it’s just a bit different.
Pat Metheny / John Scofield - Say the Brother’s Name
Pat Metheny’s guitar was like butter. With eyes closed, I felt like I was listening to a live performance in a small jazz club in NY.
SACD: Patricia Barber - Modern Cool
It’s been awhile since I fired this SACD up on my system but I wanted to see how well the UPA-7 handled the highest resolution formats. Track #1 “Touch of Trash” The sustain of the bass was liquidy smooth while the trumpets just popped with dynamism.
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