Late last year I reviewed the affordable Model 975 AV preamp from Internet-direct darling Outlaw Audio, which in turn prompted many readers to insist that I review the Emotiva UMC-200 AV preamp as well, for obvious reasons. I was happy to oblige and my resulting review - and arguably, my experience - was a positive one, to say the least. Shortly after receiving a copy of the review for fact-checking, Emotiva head honcho Dan Laufman reached out to me, asking if I would be interested in reviewing another Emotiva product. Sure, I replied, but rather than try to bowl me over with, say, the new XPR Series of amplifiers or perhaps giving me first crack at the soon-to-be-released XMC-1 AV preamp, he offered up a $500 amplifier in the form of the UPA-700. Hmm. When asked why he insisted upon sending me an amp that is modest by even Emotiva's standards, Dan simply replied, "I think you'll be shocked." It's been a long time since I've delved into the world of truly affordable amplification, unless you count my experiments with pro-style amplifiers. I supposed Dan would be proven correct: whether the experience was good or bad was to be determined.
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I should begin by apologizing, as I stated above that Dan sent me a $500 amplifier in the UPA-700. This is a lie, as it is a $499 amplifier, which like all Emotiva amplifiers is sold direct via the company's website. The UPA-700 takes its styling cues from the older UPA/XPA line of amplifiers rather than the newly released and rather sexy XPR lineup of products. This isn't to say the UPA-700 isn't physically attractive - it actually is - it's just not as attractive as the XPR amps. Still, the XPR amp's styling doesn't necessarily fit with any of Emotiva's other product offerings, meaning if you own a UMC-1 or have recently purchased a UMC-200 AV preamp, the UPA-700 will mate brilliantly. In truth, the UPA-700 is aimed at the consumer who would otherwise be in the market for a higher-end AV receiver, like the Sony STR-DA5800ES I reviewed recently. Pairing the UPA-700 with the UMC-200 would result in a separates system that would compete (and likely best) the Sony's performance at a sonic level for less than the Sony's $2,000 retail price: $902 less, to be exact. That's a good value proposition, but then again, that's always been Emotiva's MO.
Getting back to the UPA-700, it is a solid piece of kit that in person appears far more impressive and well-built than its pictures on the Internet would lead you to believe. It measures 17 inches wide by six inches high and just under 17 inches deep. It weighs a manageable 29 pounds although, like the UMC-200 I reviewed previous, it feels far more substantial in hand. The chassis is black with silver aluminum trim pieces (removable) flanking either side. There is a rather large "window" dead center of the front panel that houses the amp's indicator lights, which are defeatable via a switch on the rear of the amp. Below the indicator lights rests a large standby on/off button that features Emotiva's trademark "E" logo. The standby button glows amber when not in use and blue when the amp is operational.
Around back, you'll find a cleanly and clearly laid-out back panel, starting with the status LED control switch, which can be set to on or off, as well as a pair of 12-volt triggers, one input and one output. Immediately to the right of those options rest the seven unbalanced (RCA) inputs and seven pairs of five-way binding posts. All of the seven inputs and outputs are neatly spaced and clearly labeled. On the far right side of the back panel, you'll find the unit's main on/off switch, as well as its removable power cord receptacle.
As you've no doubt gathered by now, the UPA-700 is a seven-channel amplifier, with each channel capable of churning out a modest but sufficient 80 watts into eight ohms, all channels driven. The power output doesn't however double down into four ohms. Instead, it comes to rest at 100 watts per channel - again, all channels driven. The UPA-700 itself is a fully discrete dual-differential high-current design that operates Class A/B.
Naturally, I'm sure Dan would've preferred me to use the UPA-700 in conjunction with the recently reviewed UMC-200 that I still had on hand. While I did pair the two together, it's important to note that the performance notations you'll read in a moment were carried out with the UPA-700 connected to my reference AV preamp, the Integra DHC 80.2. Why? Because when I review a component, it's best to make it the only variable and, while I've become familiar with the UMC-200 since its arrival, I'm more familiar with my Integra. The two pieces were connected together via five one-meter RCA cables from Monoprice. The UPA-700 was then charged with powering five identical Aperion Audio Intimus 5B bookshelf speakers (left, center, right and surrounds), which were connected to the 700 via 12-gauge bulk speaker wire from Binary, a SnapAV company. I used SVS' wonderful SB13-Ultra for subwoofer duties. Source components included Oppo's new-ish BDP-103 universal player and Dune's HD Max Blu-ray player/media streamer, both of which were connected to my Integra via one-meter runs of high-speed HDMI cable from Monoprice. The total cost of this setup minus video, which came by way of a SIM2 Nero and a 120-inch Elite Screen, was just under $6,000 total. Subtract my Integra and replace it instead with Emotiva's own UMC-200 and the total system price drops to just a hair over $4,000. Swap out the SVS sub (why you'd want to is beyond me) and it would be very easy to assemble a system on par with what I used for this review for around $3,000 total - plus video, of course. This is an important fact to keep in the back of your head as we proceed.
Read about the performance of the Emotiva UPA-700 amplifier on Page 2.