Review: Emotiva UPA-200 Amplifier
The term giant killer is often the most used term in describing an audio product. In fact in my opinion quite over used to the point of absurdity. However there are times when it is appropriate.
Case in point is the Emotiva UPA 200 power amplifier. For a few years now this upstart audio company has quietly been putting out some very stellar products, that the mainstream audio press seems to pass over. Perhaps it is they sell their products factory direct, thus cutting out the distribution process, that adds to the overall cost of the product. With that in mind their products are priced well within the reach of most audiophiles, plus a 5 year transferable warranty, and products are shipped without charge. The other great thing is that actually answer the phone with a real live person and the tech department is always within reach to answer any and all questions you may have. How refreshing is that. If you like snob appeal and being insulted, then look elsewhere, but by chance you enjoy being treated like a real customer, then Emotiva is for you.
Been in this hobby since 1957, and over the years have owned more gear than I can remember, from Threshold, Levinson, Krell, Spectral, Pass Labs and others that escape memory at the moment. The UPA 200 is not in that lofty company. So no worries for those iconic marks. With that being said however brands such as Adcom, Cambridge ,Nad ,Technics, Rotel and others in that category are at risk of loosing market share to Emotiva based upon the business model of Emotiva.
In the all important price/performance category Emotiva stands alone has zero peers, the money saved by not having a dealer network, allows them to put more into the product they produce and it shows quite nicely. No matter what your preference maybe from 2 channel stereo to an all out HT system Emotiva has the products you have been waiting for and at a price that is all so very right.
Of late one of my venerable Class A power amps gave up the ghost. So what to do spend some $900.00 to rebuild or find something else. As I pondered that question I have a Emotiva USP-1 PreAmp already in the system, that I am impressed with and a couple of years ago wrote a review of it here on Audiogon. So visited the website and reviewed what they had in power amps and decided on the UPA 200 at $349.00 delivered, with 5 year warranty. Was delivered to my door in two business days. And if I do not like it I can return within 30 days no questions asked. So no downside and risk.
Arrived in pristine condition, double boxed with two wall corrugated cardboard box. Amp is cradled in two Styrofoam end caps that support the amp very nicely. Amp is covered with a cloth over wrap, along with power cord, 12v trigger cable and the spiral bound owners manual as well as a couple of back up fuses.
Now to the obligatory specifications:
Topology: Fully discrete, dual differential, high current, short signal path Class A/B.
Number of Channels: 2
(rated power; THD 0.05%):
125 watts / channel (8 ohms; all channels driven).
200 watts / channel (4 ohms; all channels driven).
Rated Power Bandwidth (at rated power; 8 Ohm load): 10 Hz to 20 kHz + / - 0.1 dB.
Minimum Recommended Load Impedance: 4 ohms (which equals one 4 ohm load or two paralleled 8 ohm loads per channel).
Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 80 kHz + 0 / - 2 dB.
THD + N: < 0.03%
Signal to Noise Ratio (8 Ohm load):
92 dB at 1 watt (A-weighted).
106 dB at rated power (A-weighted).
Damping Factor (8 Ohm load): 500
Speaker Output Connections:
Full-sized 5-way binding posts; one pair per channel x 2.
350 VA high current ultra-low noise toroidal power transformer.
40,000 uF of storage capacitance.
Input sensitivity (for rated power; 8 Ohm load): 1.1 V (for full output; 8 ohms).
Gain: 29 dB
Unbalanced (RCA); one per channel.
Input Impedance: 47 kOhms
Trigger Input: 5 - 20 V (AC or DC); < 10 mA input current required.
Trigger Output: 12 VDC; can drive any load up to 50 mA.
Power Requirements: 115 VAC or 230 VAC +/- 10% @ 50 / 60 Hz (automatically detected and switched).
Front Panel Controls and Indicators:
Standby; push button (changes color to indicate Standby or On).
Status LEDs (one per channel); illuminate blue for normal operation or red to indicate a fault (may be disabled by rear panel Status LED switch).
Rear Panel Controls:
AC Power switch; rocker switch (switches AC mains power).
Status LEDs switch; small slide switch on left rear (disables front panel Status LEDs).
Protection: The UPA-200 is protected against excessive operating temperature, shorted speaker connections, ground faults, and other common fault conditions. If a fault occurs, the UPA-200 will return to Standby mode, the Standby push button will light amber, and the Status LEDs will flash red.
unboxed: 17" wide x 3.375" high x 16.5" deep
Weight: 24 lbs (net); 32 lbs (boxed)
A true audiophile-quality stereo amplifier.
Advanced engineering with SMD gain blocks.
Wideband, short signal path, class A/B design topology.
Top quality parts and construction.
Real power easily drives complex loads.
Heavy-duty power supply with oversized toroidal transformer.
Gold plated five way binding post speaker terminals.
Gold plated RCA input terminals.
Classic Emotiva styling with rugged solid steel chassis.
15mm solid milled aluminum faceplate.
Channel status LED’s. (which can be disabled in stealth mode).
Remote trigger input and output.
115 VAC or 230 VAC with automatic detection and switching.
Full protection from all common input and output fault conditions.
Music Used For Evaluation:
Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064)
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Paul Desmond/Jim Hall - Complete Recordings - Mosaic(MR6-120)
Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia CS 8192)
Paul Desmond - Self Titled (Artist House AH - 2)
Ahmad Jamal - But Not For Me - Argo LPS 628
Bill Evans - At The Montreux Jazz Festival - Verve V6-8762
Bill Evans - At Montreux II - CTI 6004
Sunken Cathedral - American Gramophone - AG 361
No Bass Hit - Concord Jazz Label - CJ-97
Oscar Peterson - Night Train - Verve V-6 8538
Gerry Mulligan Reunion Chet Baker - Pacific Jazz ST 90061
Bill Charlap - New York Trio Stardust - Venus VHJD 22
Michael Garson - Serendipity - Reference Recording RR20
Bill Charlap - Things We Did Last Summer - Venus TKJV19111
Ahmad Jamal - Extensions - Argo 758
Tommy Flanagan - Plays Harold Arlen - Inner City IC 1071
Jazz At The Pawnshop - Proprius - 7778-79
Barry Harris - At The Jazz Workshop - Riverside RLP-1177
Adam Makowicz - The Name Is Makowicz - Sheffield Labs 21
Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Private Investigations Best Of Dire Straits (HDCD) - Dire Straits (Warner Bros 49891-2)
Straight Up - Bob James Trio (Warner Bros 945956-2)
Land Of Giants - McCoy Tyner (Telarc 83576)
New York Reunion - McCoy Tyner (Chesky 5173324)
Gladiator Motion Picture Soundtrack(Decca 2894670942)
Copland - Appalachian Spring (Telarc CD 80078)
Frederick Fennell - Holst Suites (Telarc 80038)
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Telarc 80041)
John Williams - American Journey (Sony 89364)
Bizet - Carmen (Telarc 80048)
Live At Sweet Basil - McCoy Tyner Trio (Evidence ECD 22106-2)
Paul Desmond & The Modern Jazz Quartet - Red Baron JK57337
Jimmy Smith - The Unpredictable - Verve 8230308-2
Dexter Gordon - Our Man In Paris - Blue Note 7 46394 2
Mike Garson - Jazz Hat - Reference Recording RR 114
Bill Evans - Live In 1975 Switzerland - Gambit 69232
Bud Powell - Essen Jazz Festival - 1201Music-1QGN9
Cannonball Adderley - Know What I Mean - Riverside OJCCD105
Bill Evans - Ronnie Scotts 1980 - Gambit 69242
Tommy Flanagan - Over C,s - Prestige - OJCCD 1033-2
Ahmad Jamal - Chicago Revisited - Telarc CD 83327
Bill Charlap New York Trio - The Things We Did Last Summer - Venus Records - TKCV-35525
Al di Meola - Flesh on Flesh - Telarc - CD - 83543
Flim & The BB’s - Big Notes -dmp - CD 454
As you can see a wide variety of music was used for the evaluation of the UPA 200 power amp. While this music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it did give me a baseline for the sonic qualities of the UPA 200 amp.
Lets get this out of the way now. The UPA 200 is not in the same league as the esoteric high end amps in the market place today. But then again does not cost some $4,000.00 dollar plus. Over the years have had a few of those come through here.
However in its price/performance category I am happy to say it does not have any peers. Yes that is right no peers from the likes of Adcom, NAD, Cambridge, Rotel and others in that category. From build quality to outright musicality it is a hands down winner - PERIOD!
The UPA 200 was paired with the Emotiva USP-1 Preamp, Audio Analogue Paganini CDP, and old Realistic Lab 400 Turntable with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, while the VPI was out for service, a JVC KD-V6 Cassette Deck and a Polk Audio XM Satellite Tuner, using Discovery RCA Interconnects throughout. Speakers are Alon Model 1 87dB efficiency at 8 ohms, actually about 6 ohms.
Installation is as straight forward as it gets. Connect the supplied power cord, the RCA Interconnects, speaker wire and the trigger cable to the preamp. Powers right up and is ready to go - NO DRAMA here! Front panel shows the two blue LED's for each channel and is operational. Power button lights with a Blue Halo around it. Yellow when it is in standby - Nice touch. Gets warm but certainly no hand burner by any means.
Now to the sonics of the UPA 200. Like I said no wolf in sheep clothing here, so the high end guys can breathe a sigh of relief. But in the realm of real world performance and listening pleasure it is all one can ask for and then some. If this sold in today’s market driven network it would sell for two to three times it's $349.00 price from Emotiva.
In my opinion it has warmth without being overly so. Nice rich dynamics due to its high damping factor of 500 at 8 ohms. Grabs a hold of the Alons and the bass is rich and deep without bloat. Imaging front to back is very good and only lacking what the esoteric amps are capable of. Soundstage is very wide and fill the room with damn near a holographic image. It has the uncanny ability to play piano music with authority and stunning dynamics as basically a piano is a percussion instrument. Couple that to its ability to retrieve vibraphone nuances, with all the different frequencies that instrument can produce is downright amazing. Something that my old Spectral power amp had difficulty with. Milt Jackson and The Modern Jazz Quartet seldom sounded better. Inner detail is surprising right there but not as good as the esoteric power amps which bring out more of the inner detail. There was one CD playback that just blew me away and that was Bill Charlap’s New York Trio , The Things We Did Last Summer,
This really got may attention big time. And shows what this amp is capable of with a great CD. Jazz trio is one of the purest forms of the art. The reproduction here was mesmerizing with each instrument clearly defined from Bill’s impeccable piano work, to Jay Leonhart on bass and you can hear the string work just beautiful, to the drum work of Bill Stewart crisp work on the drums to the shimmer of the cymbals. I was completely astounded how the UPA-200 was able to capture all the magic on this disc. I can’t remember when I have heard this disc played any betterthan it was during this evaluation. I am please way beyond expectations. This is a true wide bandwidth Class A/B Amplifier that does not fail to impress.
Okay I am 72 now and to be honest as jaded as you can think of, with all the years in this hobby and having owned some of the best gear ever produced. Over the last few years have been liquidating most all of the collection of esoteric power amps. Started the downsizing a few years ago sold the house, now I rent, best move I ever made, just got tired of home ownership and all the crap that goes with it. Same can be said of all the gear collected over the years. But to downsize to audio gear I have now has been a blessing in disguise because I still enjoy a great sound system and the Emotiva products have let me precisely accomplish that goal.
For those of you that are younger and have deep resources, then explore the likes of a Pure Class A amp, nothing sounds as great as a Pure Class A amp. Most are about 4K plus. And a Klyne preamp the best out there at about 6K or better. And say Wilson speakers at some 40K or better. Been there done that and a over the top pure joy. But for me and a vast majority of others that do not have that type of disposable income then one should look at the Emotiva products. Trust me you will be over joyed at what you will discover. Price/Performance ratio Emotiva has as I said no peers. Earlier I mentioned the term Giant Killer that was over used, but is apt with this product and others in the Emotiva catalog.
In 1978 NAD shattered the world of high end with the 3020 Integrated Power Amplifier. To me this is a like product that provides one with a real world listening experience to rival some of the finest components out there. Here you have the high end experience without having to take a second mortgage or dip into kids college fund.
How long can Emotiva keep building products like this and at their price points - who knows, but I think the future of this company is very bright indeed. Although recently discontinued by Emotiva, check Audiogon and other sites In the pre owned secondary market. I still have 3 years left on my warranty and remember the warranty is transferable to the next owner, nice touch there.
Emotiva USP 1 Pre Amp
Denon DVD 2800
RS Lab 400
Ortofon 2M Red
Alon Model 1 Speakers
Nad, Rotel, Cambridge, Parasound,Adcom, Technics