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Emotiva UMC-1 Processor Review

Emotiva UMC-1 Processor Review




The Equipment and System

After long and considerable debate, I finally decided to take the plunge back to full separates for our dedicated Cedar Creek Cinema home theater system. Up until this point I have been using an Onkyo 906 receiver for the main processor in our home theater system and allowing it to power the center and surrounds. About a year ago I purchased the Emotiva XPA-1 Mono-block amps for our main front/left MartinLogan Prodigy electrostatic speakers. For my first attempt at finding the right unit for preamp/processing duties, I decided to give the Emotiva UMC-1 a test drive. It is quite a feature filled processor at a price of only $699 shipped. There are some receivers that have extra features such as Audyssey MultEQ XT32, DSX and Sub EQ HT that I would like to experiment with, but they are at least double if not triple the price of the UMC-1. Initially the less expensive route seems a reasonable trial. I also purchased the 3-channel Emotiva XPA-3 amp since I had to have power to replace the center and surround amp duties of the Onkyo, powering the MartinLogan Theater center and MartinLogan Ascent surround speakers. I have been hesitate to go with separates because of my obsessive compulsive behavior towards being organized, uniform and having equipment evenly matched and placed in the system. I know it sounds silly, but I am who I am and it is what it is.

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]
Flanking the center shelves of the equipment cabinet, which accommodates the UMC-1 processor, an OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray player and a Dish Network 622 satellite receiver, are a pair of Panamax M5300-PM units for help in protecting and powering up the system. Below each 5300 are dual Behringer EP2500 amps for powering the dual custom built
Pulse subs in the front and the built-in quad eighteen riser/back-wall subs. Extending from each side of the cabinet are the XPA-1 Mono-block amps, the Prodigy’s and then the custom built subs in each corner… all symmetrically placed… controlling my OCB. Now we have this odd-ball XPA-3 entering into the picture, causing my perfectly symmetrical alignment to be scarred. Not only was my OCB about to be challenged… adding to that, my surround speaker wires were not that long coming out of the walls, and I really did not want to splice them to make them longer in case I decided to reluctantly stack the XPA-3 on top of one of the XPA-1 amps. The solution, albeit not quite what I wanted, was to set the XPA-3 on its side and behind the cabinet. At least this location allows all cables and wires to be easily connected and the unit is out of site, calming my previous concerns. The only drawback is not being able to actually see the unit in the system… somewhat of a shame not to display such a good looking amp.


Features

On the audio side the UMC-1 uses twin Cirrus® 32 bit dual core DSP’s and has decoding support for Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital True HD, Dolby PLIIx, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS-HD, DTS Master Audio, DTS Neo 6, SPDIF and PCM 8 channel. Some of the audio formats are only supported via HDMI. It has Dolby Volume and uses its own branded Emo-Q™ for automatic multi-channel loudspeaker setup and room correction, with an independent 11-band graphic equalizer for each channel. It has selectable high and low pass filters ranging from 40Hz to 250Hz with selectable second-order and fourth-order filters for each channel.

On the video side it offers the Genesis/ST® Torino high performance scaling engine that features a full implementation of the Faroudja DCDi™ image processing suite. All legacy video inputs can be scaled and output over HDMI up to a resolution of 1080p. It offers 1080p/24 fps video support and video pass-through mode. It is HDMI 1.3a Deep Coler compliant and has a full color graphical on-screen display over live HDMI output.

For a full list of features you can visit the Emotiva UMC-1 product page.


About Emotiva

Dan Laufman worked for other audio manufacturers for several years before developing his own brand, Emotiva. The name translates the emotion and signifies the passion Emotiva puts into every product they offer. Emotiva is a sponsor at Home Theater Shack and I have been truly impressed with their amplifiers and the bang for the buck they offer, hence my reason for considering their product line. Their customer service seems to be reasonably good and they have an excellent warranty, which is five years on all of their products. They offer a 30-day in home trial, as well as a generous 40% discount to original processor owners on future generation processors. They are also not shy about discussing their products, offering their own in-house forum for owners as well as for those just looking.


Unpacking

The two boxes arrived within a couple of days of ordering, being that we are located in Alabama (Roll Tide), only a state away from Emotiva in Tennessee. The UMC-1 and XPA-3 were both double boxed and well packaged… as were the XPA-1 Mono-blocks back when I ordered them. With as many pieces of equipment that I have purchased over the last 20+ years, I have had my share of shipping damages, so I am always glad to know a company takes
special care in packaging and understands the potential abuse that their products have to suffer through the shipping process. The UMC-1 box had a pretty good puncture wound in the top, making its way through even the second box, denting the top of it pretty well, but fortunately there was no damage to the unit, although it would had to have made it through the remaining packing material to get to the actual unit. Un-boxing the equipment was fairly painless, other than the XPA-3 weighing in at nearly 60lbs and having to carefully place it behind the cabinet. The contents of the UMC-1 included the power cord, remote, extra fuses, tuner antennas, microphone… and I was happy to see a remote turn-on cable included for use with the 12-volt trigger.


Appearance

Appearance and exterior quality of both units is exactly what I expected, first rate. I have always favored Emotiva’s facial design on their gear, although it is not all black, the aluminum side strips are not intrusive to my system. The front is not cluttered and is well laid out for those who might occasionally use the front panel buttons. The display brightness is adjustable via the DIM button on the remote, of which I had to tone down a bit from the factory default setting. I am uncomfortable (and perhaps a bit lazy) with opening up the units to look at the inside, so we will leave that to the über professional reviewers. Maybe one day I will be able to have a dedicated space for disassembling and testing gear.


The Remote Control

At first site, I was very curious about the remote control. There were no batteries packed separately that required installation like I would typically see when unpacking other similar product remotes. There is no slip
off or pop-out type battery compartment… nor could I get it to work right out of the sleeve. Of course, being in a hurry to get it all connected, I over looked the notice on the remote sleeve cover that clearly states the batteries have an insulator installed that requires removal before it will operate. For this task I needed a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the six small screws from the back plate of the remote. I suppose there is no worry of losing the battery cover. Surprisingly the remote is built out of the same metal that Emotiva uses for its processor and amps… and it has the silver end caps, keeping the design in harmony. The buttons are all chrome. While maybe on the heavy side, it has a good quality feel to it. Unfortunately it has no back-lighting of any kind and is not programmable. While it may be attractive, I would not consider it being very useful for everyday use. Either way, it will not matter in my case, since I will program it into a Universal MX-880. I did notice while using it temporarily that it is finicky about being pointed directly at the UMC-1.


Connections

Connecting the UMC-1 was typical of most any receiver or processor. It has all the necessary connections one would expect, including five HDMI 1.3a inputs with one HDMI output, all the typical 7.1 inputs and outputs, four analog stereo inputs, four coaxial and three optical digital video inputs with an output each, component and S-video inputs and outputs, and a few special purpose outputs. It even has a balanced XLR connection in addition to the RCA connection for the subwoofer output. There is a USB input for firmware updates, as well as the Emo-EQ mic input and four trigger outputs.

The only drawback in the connections department that I would complain about is every connection is on the rear of the unit. This poses a bit of an issue for firmware updates and connecting the mic if there is no easy access to the rear of the equipment. I would prefer at least a concealed section on the front of the unit that would house a USB port, the mic input and one aux input, which is handy for those who frequently use Room EQ Wizard.

I have absolutely no use for a Tuner and consider it a waste of space on a preamp/processor, but it is there if wanted or needed, along with AM and FM antenna connections. I suppose there are some who still listen to AM/FM radio other than in their car… although I personally use Sirius/XM, and then it is only in my ride.

For my system, the connections are fairly simple… the OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray/DVD player and the Dish 622 satellite receiver are the only sources. They both use HDMI… so there are only two HDMI inputs with one HDMI output to the Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector… and then the normal audio pre-amp outputs to the XPA amps.


Menu Setup

After getting everything connected and the insulator removed from the batteries in the remote, I powered on the UMC-1. At this point it did not trigger the other equipment because this requires going into the setup menu and turning on the remote triggers for each input that is using the equipment being triggered. A few remote maneuvers later and all other equipment was powered on as well.

Setting up the UMC-1 via the on-screen menu is fairly simple after getting the hang of the various button directions. With all the testing and changing of settings that I was doing, I became familiar with where the settings were located rather quickly.


In addition to the preset Tuner input (which cannot be altered), there are sixteen inputs that can be setup with several options. Each input can be named; set to visible or invisible; any combination of audio and video inputs can be assigned; and input level and lip sync can be set. Each trigger can be set to On or Off as well as the ability to choose the Emo-Q™ for each input. The flexibility of input setup in near endless, so there is little to worry about accommodating almost any combination of sources.

There are several options for video processing, of which I used Pass Through for my permanent setting. There is an Auto setting along with numerous other selections from 480p to 1080p 60Hz.


Firmware Updates

The UMC-1 came loaded with software version W7.02.00.05, of which is supposed to have fixed some of the few remaining bugs that Emotiva has been dealing with in this processor for several months. I have heard that the upgrade process is a bit complicated for some people, so I am probably glad I did not have to worry with it. It is at least good to see it can be upgraded and they have been consistently working on improving the unit.


Emo-Q™ | Auto Setup | Bass Management

The one major and rather significant issue I have with the UMC-1 is the Emo-Q™, and specifically the bass management… including the subwoofer and LFE equalization. I will get into the reason why shortly… and this will be an area that I will spend significant time explaining my concerns in as much detail as possible. I have never been a proponent of auto equalization for the full frequency range, particularly because I have rarely seen it work like it should in the mid or upper frequencies. In some cases it may have improved the sound, but not by necessarily making it any more accurate, instead it simply changed the frequency response to a sound that may have been more desirable. However, I have seen and experienced good results with Audyssey in the low frequency range. I was eager to see how well Emo-Q™ could manage and equalize the bass in our system.

When Emo-Q™ starts, it checks the ambience noise level of the room, however, I did verify that the provided mic needs a puff of air or a tap to activate the Emo-Q™, otherwise the ambient noise level check comes back with a “Test Ambient Failed”. I read about this online in the forums, but thought it would have been fixed by now, being that there have been software updates since the issue started. At any rate, I gave it a good whoof at the beginning of the test and it worked. The auto setup was able to get most of the settings right for my system. The only area that I disagreed with it was in the crossover settings. It wanted to use a lower crossover point in my left, center, right and surrounds than I did… so I adjusted all five of my speakers to 80Hz. Strangely enough, it set the low pass on my sub to 50Hz, which I adjusted to 80Hz. As far as the distances and levels, it was spot on. I did check the speaker levels with my Galaxy CM-140 SPL meter and I make this stern warning; turn the volume down on the UMC-1 before starting to test levels with the built-in test tones of the unit. My volume was up at pretty good levels and it startled me when I turned on the level test. Typically those levels are preset in most receivers and processors; however, they are not preset in the UMC-1.

The Emo-Q™ auto equalization measures each speaker independently. The “Subwoofer” labeled section of the Emo-Q™ is setup to make adjustments as needed to the discrete .1 LFE signal via one-third octave centered bands from 22Hz to 224Hz. It should more accurately be labeled “LFE”, because it does not equalize the full subwoofer output, only the LFE output. The other five (or seven) speakers are adjusted in full octaves beginning at 31.5Hz.

Emo-Q™ does not have the optional settings that Audyssey offers such as Dynamic EQ that can boost the bass regions considerably; however, after calibrating my system with the auto equalization feature, the bass was fairly hot… meaning it was much louder than I expected, even though the output was level matched with the other speakers. Granted, encoded LFE will be +10db, but what I was hearing was excessive. After checking the levels, naturally the next step for me is to grab my laptop and run a few REW (Room EQ Wizard) sweeps to see what the issue might be. This is when I got that yucky sour look on my face. I could not see the adjustments Emo-Q™ was making to my subwoofer response because it only adjusts the LFE portion of the subwoofer output. REW does not output discrete .1 LFE. Then I learned that the redirected bass in the mains was being equalized and sent to the sub output… boy was I puckered up. I was certainly in a pickle about how to fix the apparent mess I was facing. I know this Emo-Q™ equalization method probably sounds strange and unusual (because it is), but it is actually how Emotiva designed it… as flawed as it may be. Lonnie Vaughn, the V.P. and CTO who helped design the UMC-1, explains this in Lonnie's UMC-1 Bass Management 101 thread in the Emotiva forum. He states…

When you set a high pass crossover for each of your speakers, everything below the crossover frequency will be summed together and sent to the subs. So the EQ settings (for each speaker) below the crossover frequency will apply to the summed bass response.

Thus you have EQs for the summed bass and for the LFE that can be set and tuned independently from each other to be whatever you want them to be.


This is considered a crime to us in the subwoofer equalization world and was a seriously bad decision on behalf of the UMC-1 designers. Home Theater Shack got started because of the love a few others and I had (and still have) for equalizing subwoofers. I realize this does not necessarily make us the master king-daddy of bass management by any means, but if there is one thing we have learned in looking at the equalized bass response of literally hundreds of multiple subwoofer setups, it is the fact that it is nearly impossible to equalize subwoofers independently and then combine their output to result in a well equalized response. Let me qualify that statement… if two subs are co-located, it is possible to equalize them separately and potentially come away with a good combined response, although it would be a waste of time to do so. Also, it is reasonable that a pair of subs placed symmetrically in a perfectly symmetrical room could be equalized independently and then their outputs combined for an acceptable response. In any other setup with multiple subs, it is ill-advised to independently equalize each sub.

Consider the Audyssey team and the amount of research and testing they have accomplished in the auto equalization realm. They have obviously learned there is great concern in the home theater enthusiast world when it comes to subwoofer equalization. Their most recent release of the MultEQ XT32 significantly improves on the filter resolution for the subwoofer channel. They have even gone one step farther and now offer the Sub EQ HT in these same units offering XT32. Audyssey states, “Sub EQ HT allows consumers to properly integrate two subwoofers in their home theater systems. Sub EQ HT makes the integration seamless by first compensating for any level and delay differences between the two subwoofers and then applying Audyssey’s room correction MultEQ technology to both subwoofers together. The result is great sound with fantastic bass." Notice “both subwoofers” are measured and corrected together for equalization, not independently.

Multiple subwoofers should always be equalized together. You may be wondering why I keep mentioning multiple subwoofers when Lonnie is not referring to multiple subwoofers; he is referring to the other speakers in the system, not multiple subwoofers. Yes… that is correct, however, if the speakers are crossed over in a five or seven channel system, Emo-Q™ still equalizes the subwoofer equivalent low frequencies of each speaker independently and redirects that equalized signal to be combined with the LFE signal via the subwoofer output. In other words, the Emo-Q™ is equalizing the low frequencies of each speaker as if they are going to act as subwoofers, therefore it is as if there are multiple subwoofers surrounding the listener in the room, even though those low frequencies are not used at each speaker.

For further clarification, let us suggest a 5.1 setup with the five speakers in a system crossed over at 80Hz, so that all the low bass frequencies below 80Hz are redirected to the subwoofer. By design, the Emo-Q™ is still going to equalize those speakers as if they are not crossed over. If the Emo-Q™ decides that the left and right front speakers need a 5db boost at 63Hz, it will setup a separate filter for each speaker at 63Hz with a +5db boost. Remember those speakers are crossed over at 80Hz, so as Lonnie explains, the equalization is passed on with the redirected summed signal that is sent to the subwoofer. Now there is a +5db boost in the left front, plus a +5db boost in the right front, for a total boost of +10db at 63Hz, which is being redirected to the subwoofer. The equalized portion of the low bass frequencies are moved from the left and right front speaker locations to the subwoofer location.

The problem with this is the low bass frequencies in the left and right front speakers were equalized for their particular locations (placements) and not the location of the subwoofer. In other words, those responses were not corrected for the subwoofer location; they were corrected for their respective locations. It is irrational to adjust the response in one location and then move that adjustment to another location and expect it to be a proper adjustment for that other location, yet this is what the Emo-Q™ is doing… and even Lonnie confirms it.

I did not want to believe this was the case, not that I did not trust what Lonnie wrote, but I needed to confirm it for myself. Well… maybe not necessarily just for myself, but maybe for a few others as well. When I told several of our staff members how it was setup, they thought I was misunderstanding how it works… or perhaps that I was just plain crazy. Therefore, I have indeed confirmed with tests that the equalized signals below the crossover frequencies are combined (stacked) and redirected to the subwoofer output.


This is extremely dangerous and could potentially damage a subwoofer. Granted, +10db does not equal +10db with the Emo-Q™ equalization adjustments, but each adjustment had a significant impact on the response.

In essence, the Emo-Q™ in its current design, is measuring six different subwoofers in six different locations. Each speaker is representative of a subwoofer, since the low frequency response below 80Hz of each speaker is going to be redirected to the subwoofer. Equalizing each subwoofer independently fails to take into account the interaction each subwoofer has with the other.

Below is another graph showing my front speaker low frequency response of which the Emo-Q™ will measure and attempt to apply equalization too. The equalization that has been applied below the crossover point of 80Hz as a result of the front speaker measurements is then sent to the subwoofer, which as shown below has a difference response curve than the front speaker that the Emo-Q™ did not take into account during measurement and equalization.


Actually, it never does attempt to measure, nor will it ever equalize the response seen above at the subwoofer output. Any changes to it will be from the measurements of the other speakers passed on to the subwoofer by way of bass management redirection. The simple truth is that I am not aware of a more flawed design.

In my case (consider again what the Emo-Q™ is measuring)... there are six individual subs (low frequency portion of the speaker) arranged in the room in normal locations (left, center, front, surrounds and subwoofer). They are not all dedicated standalone subwoofers, but they all have low frequencies that will be redirected to the subwoofer output. One of the six subs represents two standalone subs + two built-in subs (2 x 15 and 4 x 18) that are all measured as one by Emo-Q™. Only the LFE is measured through the actual subs, not the entire subwoofer output. They are measured as one sub and equalized (1/3 octave) as one sub for the LFE encoded output only. The redirected and summed low frequencies will not be equalized by the same equalizer section that equalizes the LFE output. There are still five other non-dedicated subs... one for each speaker (sub 80Hz frequencies that will be summed and redirected) that are each equalized with two bands of equalization at 31.5Hz and 63Hz. Emo-Q™ is going to attempt to equalize each of these six subs individually at their respective locations and then combine all six of those equalized signals to play through one subwoofer output channel in hopes that the result will yield a properly equalized low frequency response. It simply will not work.

It might be suggested that this is solved rather easily by letting the Subwoofer section of the Emo-Q™ fix the combined output. As previously mentioned, the Subwoofer section of the Emo-Q™ only equalizes the discrete LFE .1 information from the source. It will not equalize the summed and redirected low frequencies. It is not really a “Subwoofer” EQ section… it is a “LFE” EQ section. I have never heard of any subwoofer equalization system functioning in this manner, but assuredly I have verified this is how the Emo-Q™ works.

I was later able to actually speak with Lonnie by telephone about the bass management in the system. Despite numerous complaints about the Emo-Q™ bass management that I have read in various places and my pleadings to him, he still believes it is superior to other systems. He states it is how the Cirrus chip is designed to work and exactly how other units he has in his possession work. One particular unit he mentioned to me is Integra; however, I verified with Integra that they use the Audyssey correction system which equalizes the subwoofer output (not merely the LFE of the subwoofer output). Again… as of the writing of this review, I know of no other processors or receivers that handle bass management in the same way the UMC-1 handles it… and for good reason… it does not work. Lonnie’s comment to me… “We will just have to agree to not agree.” He did eventually state that while he may not agree, he has noted my pleadings and they will at least be considered, although he stated it can take six to eight months to encode the chip with bass management changes. Needless to say, I did not hang up the phone with any optimism that there will be any changes.

In systems with the mains crossed over and redirecting bass to the subwoofer, when listening to music that is not 5.1 and does not have LFE information, the subwoofer output cannot be equalized properly with the UMC-1, since it will only equalize the LFE portion of the subwoofer output.

I mentioned at the start of this section of the review that my bass seemed to be hot after initial setup. I stated I was unable to verify any effect the LFE equalization may have had on the LFE output because I did not have the proper discrete .1 LFE signal to send to the processor in a method I could measure. I do have REW, but as also previously noted, it does not output a discrete .1 LFE signal… nor do I have a sound card that could accommodate it. However, I can only suspect that the peak I was seeing in my subwoofer response was only being repaired in the LFE channel and not the redirected bass, since those bands are limited and cannot address as many points of equalization. The redirected bass was still peaking at the subwoofer, hence the hotness I was experiencing was really more as a result of an unequalized peak.

While Emotiva is a sponsor and I truly appreciate their products, this is one area they missed significantly. I hope they are listening and will immediately get the ball rolling to fix this issue. The one-third octave Subwoofer section of the Emo-Q™ needs to equalize all of the bass summed, including the .1 LFE and the redirected bass, both at the same time. Most users will not benefit from the current method that has been chosen, however, they could benefit greatly if the issue is repaired. This would not effect the equalization of the other speakers. If they are full range, they can still be equalized, but if they are crossed over, any equalization below the crossover point should be handled by the subwoofer equalization section.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend using the Emo-Q™ equalization if crossing over any of the other speakers in the system and redirecting the cutoff frequencies to the subwoofer output, unless all equalization below the crossover frequency is set to flat and there are plans to also use some sort of alternate sub equalization.

For those curious as to how well the Emo-Q™ performs above my 80Hz crossover, below is a response graph with 1/3 smoothing applied showing the corrected response via the auto equalization in red.


I was able to further adjust the response manually (blue), which provided very respectable results… and better than what I have seen with other mid to upper range auto equalization.

If Emotiva will improve the resolution of their equalization, especially in the entire subwoofer output, they could potentially have a bona fide equalization system for people to work with. One thing I like about this system is the ability to manually adjust the equalization, although it would have been nice to have more bands to work with. So… the overall Emo-Q™ is not a total bust. If adding a BFD for parametric equalization of the sub channel output, about another $100 expense, the end result could potentially be a fairly smooth overall response.


In-Use Observations

This review is not as much about subjective sound quality as it is about the setup and functionality of the equipment. I have never been one of those who can so creatively describe sound as so many of these magazine reviewers are able to do. Words such as palpable, grainy, ripe, luster, sparkle, glow (and there are many others I have seen)… are simply not in my vocabulary of describing sounds, much less is my hearing that clever.

I will state that nothing about the Emotiva setup interferes with the magnificently wide and deep sound stage of my MartinLogan setup. It was completely neutral in that regards, perhaps maybe even improving on my previous setup.

One issue I was having with previously using the Onkyo 906 receiver as the processing unit in my system was that the center dialogue had to be boosted to sufficiently hear the voices, even though when testing, the center was properly level matched. I had added about a 6db boost so that I could easily make out voices in the dialogue. There is nothing more aggravating than to be watching a movie and constantly not be able to understand what is being said. With the UMC-1 level matched as it should be… there were absolutely no dialogue issues. Voices were very clear, pronounced and loud enough for me to understand the dialogue.

Thinking about the center dialogue issue, one convenient feature that can be used on the remote (or programmed into a learning remote) is “on the fly” trim adjustments for the center, surround and subwoofer levels. Occasionally there will be a movie or concert I watch that is a bit heavy or perhaps a little shy in the bass region. This can easily be adjusted via the remote trim adjustment buttons. The adjustment is temporary and resets to the previously defined preset when the unit is powered off.

I watched a variety of Blu-ray action movies using the UMC-1. The Expendables, Inception, Knight and Day, The Prince of Persia, Taken, Terminator Salvation, and probably others I am failing to remember at this moment. The UMC-1 performed admirably with movies and other than having to adjust the bass levels upwards for concerts, it performed well again. The Eagles Farewell Tour Live from Melbourne was a real treat. The surround sound steering seemed to be smooth and accurate as best I can tell for the numerous movies I have watched. There were no issues with any of the audio processing formats.

While my home theater room is used as a theater (and perhaps a small concert venue) and not a critical listening room, I decided to go ahead at least listen to a few tracks of music. I rarely listen to CDs, but I gave a listen to a few of my favorites, just to see how they sounded using the various listening modes. The first CD was Yello - One Second… my favorite tracks being Habanero, Hawaiian Chance and Goldrush. Another CD was James Newton Howard and Friends from Sheffield Records, which I always enjoy for the range of instruments and the snap of the music style. Of course, being a huge Pink Floyd fan, I gave Momentary Lapse of Reason a spin, listening to Learning to Fly and Yet Another Movie. Before it was over, I listened to quite a bit of The Pulse by Pink Floyd… bringing back memories of The Division Bell concert we attended. The UMC-1 did not disappoint me with its ability to pass the unadulterated signal right on to the Emotiva XPA amps and Martin Logan Prodigy speakers, when used in the Direct mode. However, I preferred Stereo, since there was more bass presence, and once again, I was pleased with UMC-1 performance for 2.1. I was not impressed with any of the DSP modes and never have been with any processor. I will note a deliberate comparison I made between the two channel track of High Hopes on the Pulse CD and the David Gilmour in Concert DVD using the 5.1 track. The 5.1 version was considerably more enjoyable to listen to… much more like being at the concert.

I did not fully test the video processing of the unit since I primarily watch Blu-rays and DVDs and allow the OPPO BDP-83 to handle the processing, passing it through to the projector. I did quickly check the scaling from several of our satellite channels… a mixture of SD and HD content. I tried using the 1080p setting, but frankly I could not tell any visual difference in the quality when it was set to Pass Through or 1080p. If considering use of the video processing, this may be something to investigate further.


Conclusion

The UMC-1 does almost everything I need it to do and does it well, with the only exception being the poor bass management and bass equalization, which means I was forced to break out my old faithful BFD (parametric EQ) to properly tame the sub-bass. I am in hopes they will eventually fix this issue, but that may be some time down the road. There are some that would never use this feature, so it may be a totally irrelevant issue in those cases. Otherwise, the features are abundant and the setup is relatively easy with possibly a few minor adjustments needed after the initial auto setup. The UMC-1 and XPA-3 combo is actually several hundreds less than the now discontinued Onkyo 906 street prices. For a complete 5 or 7-channel system, the UPA-5 or UPA-7 paired with the UMC-1 would still offer more power and cost less than most higher end receivers.

How would you like to win this processor I have reviewed? If you are interested, see the Emotiva UMC-1 Processor Giveaway.

Please see the Emotiva UMC-1 Processor Review: Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments

Cedar Creek Cinema

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