Review: Emotiva UPA-2 Stereo Amplifier
Powerful amplifier can turn any feature-rich but underpowered system into a force to be reckoned with.
May 04, 2009 by

Emotiva is a name that is up-and-coming in the world of audio electronics. Manufacturing amplifiers and now loudspeakers, Emotiva is a brand that is moving beyond the fascination of the Internet Direct crowds and settling into the living rooms of mainstream consumers.

These days manufacturers are adding more and more features into mid-fi and budget-level A/V receivers. The trade-off, however, is usually in respect to amplifier power and quality. So what’s a consumer to do if they want to achieve the maximum features with the maximum punch? Well one solution is to get a feature-rich A/V receiver and then mate it to a high quality two-channel amplifier. Best of both worlds? Absolutely, and for far less than buying a flagship AV receiver.

Build Quality
Packaging for the UPA-2 was excellent. The amplifier arrived in the standard robust Emotiva packaging with engineered foam surrounds and ample protection. The amp looked like it could survive even the worst abuse from a local carrier (and we’ve seen some doozies). The UPA-2 weighs a hefty, but reasonable 30 pounds, most of that due to a large toroidal transformer and the chassis (with a solid milled aluminum faceplate). The amp comes with 4 large 10,000 uF capacitors and a discrete laminated core transformer in addition to the seemingly b2-ton toroidal. The interior of the amp is clean, with twin heatsinks that take up approximately 50 percent of the square footage of the internals. The transformer nabs another sixth and the rest of the chassis is filled with circuit boards and the remaining power supply for the dual differential class AB amplifiers. Ventilation seemed more than adequate, though the seemingly inefficient position of the fins seemed to indicate that air-flow should be left to right instead of vertical as the venting suggests. In either case I never experienced any shut-downs so it appears to be a non-issue provided you’re not boxing the amplifier into a sealed space with little ventilation.

The UPA-2 is a traditional class AB design (like all current Emotiva amplifiers except the MPS-2 which uses a multi-rail class “H” design scheme). Class AB amps typically retain a more linear response but sacrifice efficiency (they’re not as “green” if you care about that sort of thing in your amplifiers). Sticking with class AB was a smart move by Emotiva. While it didn’t save them any weight or heat, it (along with class A) is the preferred design of choice among audiophiles everywhere. This is a solid amplifier and Emotiva even took some care in making design choices that ensure it runs as efficiently as possible.

The UPA-2 contains a single, large central power supply for both channels. This design philosophy is carried through for all UPA and XPA series amps such as the 5-channel XPA-5 and 7-channel UPA-7. While it was trendy a few years back (and still with some manufacturers) to build true multi-channel mono block designs (which can offer better channel to channel isolation), a huge advantage to these centralized power supplies is more available headroom. With a central power supply, the amplifier is able to deliver more output to any single channel since each can tap into the robust power supply for its needs. With amps, headroom is king, so we heartily endorse this method over others as a general rule.

The front of the unit is nicely adorned with Emotiva’s revamped aesthetics, featuring the embossed aluminum side plates and solid brushed aluminum faceplate. The front panel LED display is large for its function. It has LEDs that indicate the power state of the amplifier (blue LED on/off), normal operation and a fault condition (red LED). The round power switch on the front bears the Emotiva emblem and lights up amber when the unit is in Standby mode. When powered up, the emblem is blue. Graphics are limited primarily to the Emotiva logo at the top center and the model number which is located at the bottom right of the front panel. Small text, including Standby, CH1 and CH2 are designated where appropriate with small white lettering.

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Product: Emotiva UPA-2 Two-Channel Amplifier

Price: $299

Performance: 4.5 out of 5

Value: 5 out of 5


  • Big amplification in a small package
  • External DC trigger input
  • Output level control
  • 5-year warranty


  • Not bridgeable
  • Binding posts very close together

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