Emotiva UMC-200 Home Theater Preamp Processor Review

Emotiva UMC-200

Emotiva UMC-200

Emotiva recently introduced a new preamp processor to their line of exceptionally priced products. This preamp processor is priced at $599 and includes many features that you would expect from a higher cost preamp processor. These include 4 HDMI inputs, 1 HDMI output with ARC, analog and digital inputs for a variety of non-HDMI audio sources. The HDMI inputs are also of the pass-through variety which is generally a good thing. All of the analog audio inputs and outputs are of the unbalanced variety except for the subwoofer which has a balanced and unbalanced output.

The unit lacks several features that some may find problematic. It does not include the ability to handle non-HDMI video sources. It does not have balanced analog outputs for speakers other than the subwoofer or an ethernet port for IP control and streaming audio/video. I find the lack of IP control to be the one feature that I would miss the most. Today’s home automation products make using a product much nicer when this level of flexibility is available. For example, you can directly set the volume at a specific level or interrogate the preamp’s current processing mode or input quality.

I had the opportunity to work with one of these units recently and found many compelling reasons to own this product. First, the price to performance ratio is astounding. This unit also includes many features only found on preamp processors costing up to 20 times more. I also liked the simplicity of the units operation. Many products add complexity that only gets in the way of obtaining good sound quality at all times.

The manual parametric equalization found in this product is exceptional. It offers a very wide range of Q adjustment making it much easier to achieve the proper frequency response on every channel. This along with the 11 bands per channel is superior to that found in the Classe SSP-800 which is much more expensive.

I also found the variable crossover slope between the subwoofer and speakers to be very valuable in extending the frequency response for smaller speakers. The client previously had a Denon receiver in his home. With that receiver the speakers were limited to 120Hz because of the shallower crossover slope. With the UMC-200 the crossover for the center channel speaker could be lowered to 80Hz with no loss in audio quality. This is important because it will prevent the dialog from sounding like part of it is coming out of the subwoofer which is not located near the center speaker.

In general the flexibility of this product for sound adjustment is in a class of its own. This flexibility is most useful in systems that have smaller speakers or lower cost speakers (<$15,000/pair) in general. These adjustments can then be used to achieve a much higher level of sound quality for the price than would be possible with a more limited set of adjustments.

As usual the automatic audio calibration found in this product was lacking, but not a reason to ignore this product. I typically find major issues with automatic audio calibration systems and this was no exception. Here are comparisons of some of the settings used in both cases.

Channel Levels Emo-Q AccuCal

Left Front +2.5db 0.0db

Center -3.0db -2.5db

Right Front +2.5db 0.0db

Right Surround -2.0db -4.0db

Left Surround -1.5db +2.0db

Subwoofer +2.5db -2.0db

Crossover Freq. Emo-Q AccuCal

Front 120Hz 90Hz

Center 120Hz 80Hz

Surround 120Hz 120Hz

Subwoofer 150Hz 150Hz


The following are a few measurement comparisons between manual calibration of the system and Emo-Q Gen 2. Note the loss of high frequency bass and the lowest octave with Emo-Q. Manually, I tilted the region around 20Hz slightly higher than reference so the client would not lose rumble since he listened less than reference typically. The average frequency response for the system was also much smoother after manual calibration resulting in a much more natural sound quality.

Emo-Q LFE Channel

Emo-Q LFE Channel


AccuCal LFE

AccuCal LFE



Average System Frequency Response Emo-Q

Average System Frequency Response Emo-Q


Average System Frequency Response AccuCal

Average System Frequency Response AccuCal

The UMC-200 did have two serious software glitches. It went into direct mode processing for Dolby Digital sources when first engaged. This disabled bass management and the equalization. This needs to be rectified in future software releases. It was easily corrected by selecting the proper processing mode manually after starting to play the source. (update: Emotiva says this will be corrected in their latest software release 2/26/2013) It also dropped the back channels with at 7.1 DTS-MA choice when connected to a 5.1 system.

Overall the UMC-200 is an outstanding performer in the home theater preamplifier processor category. It has excellent sound quality and exceptional flexibility. Assuming you can live with it’s limitations and calibrate it manually you would be hard pressed to find a unit that can sound this good for anything close to this price point.



  • 4 HDMI Inputs all inputs HDMI 1.4 compliant, with 3D and CEC support
  • 1 HDMI Output HDMI 1.4 compliant, with ARC support
  • Analog Inputs 4 stereo pairs and 1 7.1 channel unbalanced;direct
  • Digital Inputs S/PDIF, Coax, and 2 Toslink Optical
  • USB Input Accepts Emotiva Bluetooth dongle only
  • Analog Outputs 1 7.1 channel (unbalanced), 1 subwoofer (balanced), 1 stereo pair (unbalanced), and 2 stereo pairs (Zone 2 and Zone 3).
  • Antenna Inputs 1 AM and 1 FM
  • 2 Trigger Outputs
  • 1 IR Input
  • 1 IR Output
  • Remote Control Full function infrared remote control with CEC sub panel
  • Display (on-screen) Full color OSD over live video
  • Display (front panel) Two line alphanumeric High visibility blue VFD (dimmable)
  • Size:
    unboxed: 17” W x 14” D x 3-1/4” H
    boxed: 21” W x 18” D x 7.5” H
  • Weight: 10 lbs (16 lbs boxed)



W. Jeff Meier

ISF and THX Certified Home Theater Consultant


How would the UMC-200 stack up against the Onkyo Integra DHC 9.9. The Onkyo can be had for approximately $500 on ebay.

W. Jeff Meier

I would choose the Emotiva. It offers more flexibility for adjustment of EQ and Onkyo has been less reliable than Emotiva.


What about the lack of dual subwoofer outputs. Many rooms benefit from dual subs, but they may not be equidistant from the main seat. Without two different delay settings, and EQ options, isn’t this unit quite limited in a dual sub setup?

W. Jeff Meier

Not really. I have setup many multiple subwoofer systems. Some with two subwoofer outputs and others with three and some with one. I see little difference between systems with these adjustments and ones without them. To get the most benefit of multiple subwoofers it is generally necessary to set some partially out of phase with others. It is a loss of a degree of freedom, but quite limited is not what I would term it. It just means you should have subs with a phase knob, but that is something I would recommend anyways.


Phase control. In a sense that let’s one control delay. Good point. Thanks.


Waiting on delivery, please suggest manual sub settings, with front speakers set large.

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