Emotiva UMC-200 vs “Processors Costing $4,500”

Emotiva Ad

Unfair? It’s not me who started that challenge.  The Emotiva boasts that the UMC-200 “has been compared to processors costing $4,500”.  Intrigued by the ad I requested a sample to be reviewed.  After several unanswered attempts (literally no answer at all) in contacting them, I finally ordered one.

After shipping, the price came out to be around $800 (not including brokerage fees and tax).  Why the shipping costs that much is unknown to me because I have a UPS account and based on UPS calculator, if I want to ship this item back to Emotiva, it only costs me $110. So Emotiva is actually making money from shipping this thing to Canada yet if I live in Buffalo, NY, the shipping will cost me nothing.  This does not mean I was hoping for free shipping,  but if the shipping for continental US can be included in the price, why Emotiva actually make profit in the shipping cost for countries outside USA? Strike one for Emotiva.

For starters, of course, I’m connecting my main equipments through its HDMI inputs.  To my surprise, the Xpressview HDMI switching is nothing to write home about. It’s not noticable faster than the regular HDMI switching used by $500 Pioneer or Yamaha receivers, although it is faster than the slow-ish Onkyo HDMI switching. Not a bad thing, but absolutely nothing special.  The exclusion of component video is a huge letdown (although I already know about the lack of them prior to the purchase).  I can’t connect my Wii and my Yamaha all-region DVD player.  I can’t even choose to use the component video from my cable box (which component video output looks better than its HDMI output).  The worst part for me is that I can’t even connect my Pioneer Elite LaserDisc player or my studio-grade Panasonic S-VHS recorder.  There is absolutely no analog video input at all. Something that all $500 receivers can do.  Strike Two for Emotiva

The Emo-Q, interestingly enough, gave me three different readings when ran at three different occassions although nothing (not even the mic) was moved.  Good thing, however, the readings are quite close to what my RTA compensation findings.  But how about the people without separate RTA unit?  How would they know when the reading is accurate when the end result was never repeatable?
As an addition, I tried using Emo-Q on a different UMC-200.  This time the results are even more mind boggling.  The first two tries Emo-Q did not even “see” the front three speakers.  Only after the third try (nothing was changed in the room, mic connector was not even re-plugged in) the Emo-Q suddenly registered the front three speakers.  Even then the level balance were extremely off for the rear and subwoofer.  Not by a dB or two, but by 10dB and higher!  Subwoofer distance was also completely wrong.  I understand that due to the processing in the EQ there will be slight discrepancy with the actual subwoofer distance, usually by a couple of feet.  Not in this case.  The error was registered by around 200% more from the actual distance distance.
This is too bad because the readings from a Pioneer Elite VSX-60 receiver at $500 (although not too accurate either) were at least constantly repeatable.  Strike Three for Emotiva
When it comes to 4K pass-thru, most budget receivers to high-end pre-pro are able to do so.  Most can even do 4K upscaling using respectable upscaling chip such as Marvell Qdeo K2H.  Emotiva?  Can’t pass through the native 4K content streamed via HDMI from the Sony 4K movie server.  Strike Four for Emotiva
Last but not least, although I personally don’t find it to be important at all since too many “$4,500 processor” users tend to have a universal remote, the remote.  Although ergonomically acceptable and admittedly much better laid out than Pioneer’s $2,000 receiver, it is nowhere near an Onkyo/Denon/Marantz processors selling at around that $4,500 mark.  Furthermore, the plastic quality used for the remote is abysmal with gaudy “silver” painted buttons.  So although it feels good in my hand (to operate), it feels cheap once you pressed any button or worse, looking at it.  Strike Five for Emotiva
So in the end, is Emotiva a good unit?  Well, it’s a decent unit.  It sounds good, the HDMI switches works as expected (although I don’t know what the Xpressview is doing), there is enough customizations provided you know what you’re doing.  However, it is nowhere near the $4,500 value they alluded to, not even near a $2,000 Pioneer Elite receiver (used as a pre-pro – Pioneer Elite SC-68, to be exact); heck, it can’t even match any aspect of the Anthem MRX-300 at $1,000 (again, only used as a pre-pro).
What I’m trying to say is that in the end you get what you pay for…and that’s only if you live in the USA. As soon as you cross the border by even a single mile, it is no longer a good value by any means since you will then need to pay international shipping should you need any kind of factory repair.
This is a clear case of hype over substance.  If the unit is being sold for $399 plus a sane shipping price, I would highly recommend it in a heartbeat; but not at $599 “introductory price” and especially not when Emotiva is making profit from the insane shipping cost to Canada.
No wonder Emotiva never even bothered to reply to any of my three e-mails for this product to be reviewed
So my question to Emotiva…which aspect of “$4,500 processor” are you comparing your UMC-200 with?

5 responses to “Emotiva UMC-200 vs “Processors Costing $4,500”

  1. Emotiva XDA-2 DAC recently tested is a similar example. Awful design both aesthetically and functionally – huge footprint albeit low profile, too many ugly blue lights that cannot be turnoff and look like watercooler lights, and remote that is ugly, too big, too sharp, too heavy with unusable button that get stuck and require a “hammer” to turn volume up or down. Thumbs down for this product in spite of a low price and decent sound quality. Strangely not too many competitive products offer similar functionality (DAC/Pre-Amp with remote) in that price range and only from the $1000 mark similar products are available from the likes of Peachtree(another weird/awkward design), Wyred, etc.

  2. Hey David,
    Interesting review. Just started reading about the UMC-200 preamp. It is an interesting product especially at its price point. You said it cost you $800 final price. I assume that includes 13% hst and the unit cost you 599US so if you remove the hst than shipping may be more in line but still higher. You said the unit sounds good so that is a good start. Did you base this “good sound” with EQ or no EQ? Any chance you measured the EQ feature? Was it fairly flat?
    All my sources are now hdmi so no legacy inputs is not a big deal for me. I think one of the biggest advantages of this unit is it parametric EQ (although no such feature for back two channels – not ideal but also not a major factor I think).
    At least now you can get 25% off the XMC-1 when/if it comes out.
    I actually tried a Denon X4000 for a while but returned it as although it produced a better sound (due to Audyessy XT32) than no EQ it was not good enough for me. Frequency was not that flat but regardless I was not happy with my listening tests. Started looking to the Anthem MRX 510 with ARC but am also looking at the UMC-200 as I already have an external amp.

    • Hi Frank, the $800 price does not include HST. Emotiva charged me nearly $200 for shipping. The “sounds good” comment is based on the unit set using its own EQ manually based on my RTA finding.
      As I also own an Anthem MRX-700, I can be pretty certain that the MRX-510 will yield a far better results than the Emotiva.

      David Susilo; PhD

  3. I’ll throw in my 2 cents having been an audiophile since the 1980’s(CJ preamp, Krell Amps, and Snell speakers was my first real system in 1988) and in a past life having worked in retail Hi-Fi for over a decade. All the Emotiva processors are an amazing value and often sound better than units costing 3 or 4 times as much. The UMC-200 along with an XPA-5, which in the U.S. cost me less than $1500 shipped, sounds better than any of the $2500 receivers or processors I’ve owned. NONE of the Japanese receivers will drive my Magnapan home theater set up to even moderate volumes without clipping and or shutting down. It may lack more than 4 HDMI inputs and lacks 4k passthrough, but many users like me don’t need either of these. I don’t use it’s built in EmoQ, preferring to use it’s built in 11 band parametric EQ to equalize by mic and ear to adjust for room acoustics.

    Now if we want to talk about the sound quality of XMC-1 that retails for $1999(I paid $1499 new as part of their club), compared to my recently sold Integra 80.2 that was $2300, the Emotiva sound quality is head and shoulders above the Integra. It’s not even close. You would have to go to a processor from a company like Classe costing $10,000 or more to get comparable sound quality to the Emotiva.

  4. After reading your review I’m totally agreed with you David. This UMC-200 can’t even compete with most $600 range receivers never mind $1000 ones and I don’t even have to purchase one to find it out. A good example: An old Onkyo TX-NR809 could easily leave this UMC-200 in the back burner, never mind last year (2013) model TX-NR 828 currently sell for $599 on Amazon, and yet at the time I’m posting this, Emotiva listing still wants $599 (LOL). Keep in mind, Onkyo and other receivers have what’s called ” PURE DIRECT ” so it can work & act just like pre-amp. “HYPE”…is the exact define word for this UMC-200, of course they’re no longer posting comparison of their products to others that cost 10x. It’s such an embarrassing to a company to even post such thing really. I laugh so hard when I read up on their specs section.

    The XMC-1 they’re asking $2000 is a real joke. Seriously, even for $1500 with club membership or $1200 with upgrade card if you were dupe from last UMC-1, I would get Marantz AV7702 for $1700 from their 2000 MSRP or last year 2013 AV7701 for $1200. This of course is a NO BRAINER for everyone, except for those FAN boys on their lounges that posted in thousand insisting XMC-1 is better, but recently changes in atmosphere, I saw few that wake up and starting to compare with other receiver unit, yep, those will get deleted soon on their lounge site. pshh….hahaha….joke is one me and thanks for your honest review Dave.

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