Emotiva UPA-500 Five Channel Power Amplifier Review

everettT

everettT

Audioholic Ninja
Is your seating distance from the speakers far? Large room? Even if you knock the sensitivity down to 90dbs, it should drive them wo clipping. Not sure of the phase angles and where the lowest dips occur so I cant say for sure. As for AH I haven't seen a bias, in fact I know of no other publication that puts AVRs and amps thru as complex testing. You can always pick up a Crown pro amp to drive the mains only. But as far as the review goes, it's a 399 5 channel amp, with "smaller" transformer as Peng mentioned, so I'd take it all with a grain of salt if your expectations were too high. Sorry that it might not be driving your speakers the way you hoped (Btw I liked BG speakers) if it were me I'd take measurements to verify what you are hearing.


Yes, I seem to be, even though I calculated I should have been drawing under 120WPC. This is what lead me to read this review and the included measurement data again.

For the record though the reason I posted this was to point out that AH endorsed what seem to fairly inflated manufacturer power claims, not to troubleshoot my headroom problems (although Im happy to discuss that too :) Im always glad to get advice).

I just want others to be aware that AH might not be totally unbiased in this regard. You always need to do your homework as a consumer. I didn't read the fine print in this particular review and now Im paying for it.
 
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PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
Yes, I seem to be, even though I calculated I should have been drawing under 120WPC. This is what lead me to read this review and the included measurement data again.

For the record though the reason I posted this was to point out that AH endorsed what seem to fairly inflated manufacturer power claims, not to troubleshoot my headroom problems (although Im happy to discuss that too :) Im always glad to get advice).

I just want others to be aware that AH might not be totally unbiased in this regard. You always need to do your homework as a consumer. I didn't read the fine print in this particular review and now Im paying for it.
You made some valid points, and we don't have to agreed on everything 100%.

As far as "paying for it", for $399, I would say it was not a bad deal at all. If you add a 2 ch amp for the mains, the upa may be all you need for the remainder 3 channels.
 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Yes, I seem to be, even though I calculated I should have been drawing under 120WPC. This is what lead me to read this review and the included measurement data again.
FWIW, I'm not able to find measurements for the X3/X5 on a quick glance at Google results, but I did find the Radia 520i's measured by Stereophile:
https://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/1204bg/index.html

They're nominally rated at 4 ohms as well, but the impedance dips below the 3 ohm mark at 165Hz, and is exhibiting a good bit of reactivity with a phase angle of -50deg at 120Hz where impedance is still in the 4 ohm range. If your speakers present a similar load, that's a lot to ask from an entry level amp, even one rated to deliver power into a 4 ohm resistive load (and I agree their 4 ohm ACD continuous rating is hogwash).
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
Is your seating distance from the speakers far? Large room? Even if you knock the sensitivity down to 90dbs, it should drive them wo clipping. Not sure of the phase angles and where the lowest dips occur so I cant say for sure. As for AH I haven't seen a bias, in fact I know of no other publication that puts AVRs and amps thru as complex testing. You can always pick up a Crown pro amp to drive the mains only. But as far as the review goes, it's a 399 5 channel amp, with "smaller" transformer as Peng mentioned, so I'd take it all with a grain of salt if your expectations were too high. Sorry that it might not be driving your speakers the way you hoped (Btw I liked BG speakers) if it were me I'd take measurements to verify what you are hearing.
Both, it is a big room, 23x29x8, and certainly not nearfield at 12' from speaker to MLP.

I'll admit my expectations where pretty high but thats what I've come to expect from Emotiva. I own a LPA1 which retailed for $499 (many years ago now) which actually outputs its rated 225x6 continuous @ 4ohms. I also own a XPA5 which sold for >$1000 and it also meets its spec at 300x5 @4ohms. With that in mind I don't see why $399 for 120x5 would raise any red flags. Emotiva amps have always been a great value and almost always meet spec, or very close to it. I honestly think in this situation an amp that actually puts out 120x5 would make all the difference so in a way all I was expecting was what I was promised.

I think at .58VA per rated watt @ 4ohms the UPA500 has to be the wimpiest amp Emotiva has ever sold. Most Emotiva amps are in the .7-1.2VA per rated watt range (UPA at the lower end, XPA at the higher end), which isn't exactly conservative/over built, but it is reasonable and when you consider the price its still a lot of value. For reference many sources say 1.2VA/watt is the gold standard and some more expensive and more conservatively rated (high-end) amps have 2+VA per rated watt @ 4 ohms. Theres no such thing as a free lunch (or in this case, watt) :D

AH was with Emotiva from the beginning so you have to imagine they realized all this. This is exactly the kind of info I used to read AH for! But they did worse than said nothing about it, they validated Emotiva power claims and stated it was "honestly rated" in the conclusion.

I think this tells you something: Here is a side by side of the UPA500 and its replacement the A-500 ($499). Almost identical amplifiers with identical power ratings, but notice on big difference? The transformer in the A-500 appears to be substantially bigger, by the look of it Id guess at least 500-600VA which would put it more in line from what Ive come to expect from Emotiva. And then consider the fact that my UPA500 manual has a typo that states it has a 850VA transformer o_O.
 

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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
FWIW, I'm not able to find measurements for the X3/X5 on a quick glance at Google results, but I did find the Radia 520i's measured by Stereophile:
https://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/1204bg/index.html

They're nominally rated at 4 ohms as well, but the impedance dips below the 3 ohm mark at 165Hz, and is exhibiting a good bit of reactivity with a phase angle of -50deg at 120Hz where impedance is still in the 4 ohm range. If your speakers present a similar load, that's a lot to ask from an entry level amp, even one rated to deliver power into a 4 ohm resistive load (and I agree their 4 ohm ACD continuous rating is hogwash).
I think the the X line was a totally different animal, I don't think they shared a single driver with BGs more expensive speakers. Unfortunately I don't have any impedance measurements for them either. At 93db vs 87 for the 520is the X series speakers are certainly a lot more efficient. My old Denon AVR certainly didn't like them which is why I bought the UPA500...
 
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PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
I think the the X line was a totally different animal, I don't think they shared a single driver with BGs more expensive speakers. Unfortunately I don't have any impedance measurements for them either. At 93db vs 87 for the 520is the X series speakers are certainly a lot more efficient. My old Denon AVR certainly didn't like them which is why I bought the UPA500...
The only xpa amp I have respect for are the monoblock and xpa-2.

I don't believe the xpa-5 has a large enough transformer to claim 300w x 5 continuous, though it may pass the 1 khz power sweep test.
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
The only xpa amp I have respect for are the monoblock and xpa-2.

I don't believe the xpa-5 has a large enough transformer to claim 300w x 5 continuous, though it may pass the 1 khz power sweep test.
I won't argue that one. I also own a XPA1 and its clearly the most conservatively rated of the bunch.

You might be right about the XPA5, I could have sworn I had bench test data on it but I can't find it now. Even so, it should be pretty close, especially with a Variac. At 1500 watts total and 1200VA its certainly a lot more reasonable than the UPA500 at 600 watts and 350VA. The UPA500 barely meets spec at 8 ohms let alone 4.

For those that where wondering, directly from the horses mouth, Emotiva rates there amps at 1khz, continuous (RMS) and as AH stated they use a Variac to hold the line voltage constant at 120.

I still maintain, in general, Emotiva amps represent a great value.
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
I also just noticed the UPA500 replacement, the A-500, is no longer rated for 4ohm ACD.
 
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j_garcia

j_garcia

Audioholic Jedi
My son in law has an A-500 and it is pretty stout. I probably wouldn't use it with a full compliment of 4 Ohm speakers, but it seems more than powerful enough for the typical home theater and on par with flagship AVR levels of power. Likely more geared to a less expensive option for the MC-700 compared to the now somewhat more expensive XPA G3.
 
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PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
I won't argue that one. I also own a XPA1 and its clearly the most conservatively rated of the bunch.

You might be right about the XPA5, I could have sworn I had bench test data on it but I can't find it now. Even so, it should be pretty close, especially with a Variac. At 1500 watts total and 1200VA its certainly a lot more reasonable than the UPA500 at 600 watts and 350VA. The UPA500 barely meets spec at 8 ohms let alone 4.

For those that where wondering, directly from the horses mouth, Emotiva rates there amps at 1khz, continuous (RMS) and as AH stated they use a Variac to hold the line voltage constant at 120.

I still maintain, in general, Emotiva amps represent a great value.
Took me a while finally found Gene's article on the ACD test thing.

http://www.audioholics.com/audio-amplifier/the-all-channels-driven-acd-amplifier-test

On the 1 kHz power sweep test, he made it quite clear that:

"An instantaneous sweep test will NOT yield a true continuous power rating in an amplifier despite the fact that some manufacturers will claim their power ratings are continuous with ACD and some print publications would have you believe it's a continuous measurement. Instead, the sweep will usually run for a couple of hundred milliseconds in a step progression of increased power until hard clipping is evident."

I thought such test would have the continuous sine wave on for about 1 second, but according to Gene, it's more like 200 ms. No wonder Emotiva, and others could make their ACD continuous claim even with transformers with VA rating less than their stated rated "continuous" output. It's sort of pseudo continuous.:D
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
Took me a while finally found Gene's article on the ACD test thing.

http://www.audioholics.com/audio-amplifier/the-all-channels-driven-acd-amplifier-test

On the 1 kHz power sweep test, he made it quite clear that:

"An instantaneous sweep test will NOT yield a true continuous power rating in an amplifier despite the fact that some manufacturers will claim their power ratings are continuous with ACD and some print publications would have you believe it's a continuous measurement. Instead, the sweep will usually run for a couple of hundred milliseconds in a step progression of increased power until hard clipping is evident."

I thought such test would have the continuous sine wave on for about 1 second, but according to Gene, it's more like 200 ms. No wonder Emotiva, and others could make their ACD continuous claim even with transformers with VA rating less than their stated rated "continuous" output. It's sort of pseudo continuous.:D
Well that probably would explain Emotiva's rating but Lonnie Vaughn (Emotiva CTO) says that there continuous power ratings are ran for "several seconds". He said every part of the amp could literally do this forever except for the heatsinks which are designed for 1/8 duty cycle. So it still doesn't really add up :confused:.

I actually found the Audio precision measurements for the UPA500 4 ohm, Emotiva used to publish these and its still available at the EmoVault.org: http://emovault.org/EmoVault/_DOCS/Amps/UPA-500/upa500_4ohms.pdf

It actually does manage to put out 120 wpc at 1khz, but at nearly .4% THD. At .01THD which is how its rated, it appears to output around 50 watts ACD, very close to what I guessed.

Bottom line, these are inflated power ratings, even by Emotiva standards.
 

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Verdinut

Verdinut

Audioholic Ninja
The problem with Emotiva's and many other audiophile manufacturers' inflated and misleading ratings is that they don't give you a reliable clue on the THD+N figures and as to what their amps are capable of at higher frequencies, and below 250 Hz where most of the power is required. It's not the figures at 1 KHz that will necessarily indicate how good an amplifier is, more so when the manufacturer states a power figure which is unrealistic in a continuous state, based on its power supply.

We have the right to insist on more honest publication of the right specs. I doubt that a serious magazine like the now defunct AUDIO would have accepted the evasive info which we now are offered by manufacturers and advertised in most magazines.

Here is a good article on how audio specs should be published (I know the signal and power levels are those more typical with pro audio equipment): http://www.rane.com/note145.html
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
very informative post Verdinut, I agree 100%.

I should have a pretty interesting comparo in the near future. I just bought a used Parasound HCA885a from circa 2000. Its rated the same as the UPA500, 80x5 8ohm 120x5 4ohm, but heres the kicker, it has 1KVA transformer vs 350VA in the UPA500 and also about twice the capacitance. The 885a is much more conservatively rated at 1.6VA per watt, although it still might be a bit of a stretch to hit its 4 ohm specs continuous.

The 885a also uses separate windings for each channel whereas the UPA500 shares the single 350VA transformer with all channels. Because of this the UPA500 might actually output more one channel driven than the 885a. With 2 or more channels driven the 885a should be able to output more continious power than the UPA500. Should be interesting!
 
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PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
very informative post Verdinut, I agree 100%.

I should have a pretty interesting comparo in the near future. I just bought a used Parasound HCA885a from circa 2000. Its rated the same as the UPA500, 80x5 8ohm 120x5 4ohm, but heres the kicker, it has 1KVA transformer vs 350VA in the UPA500 and also about twice the capacitance. The 885a is much more conservatively rated at 1.6VA per watt, although it still might be a bit of a stretch to hit its 4 ohm specs continuous.

The 885a also uses separate windings for each channel whereas the UPA500 shares the single 350VA transformer with all channels. Because of this the UPA500 might actually output more one channel driven than the 885a. With 2 or more channels driven the 885a should be able to output more continious power than the UPA500. Should be interesting!
Be careful with advertised transformer va rating too..
 
Verdinut

Verdinut

Audioholic Ninja
very informative post Verdinut, I agree 100%.

I should have a pretty interesting comparo in the near future. I just bought a used Parasound HCA885a from circa 2000. Its rated the same as the UPA500, 80x5 8ohm 120x5 4ohm, but heres the kicker, it has 1KVA transformer vs 350VA in the UPA500 and also about twice the capacitance. The 885a is much more conservatively rated at 1.6VA per watt, although it still might be a bit of a stretch to hit its 4 ohm specs continuous.

The 885a also uses separate windings for each channel whereas the UPA500 shares the single 350VA transformer with all channels. Because of this the UPA500 might actually output more one channel driven than the 885a. With 2 or more channels driven the 885a should be able to output more continious power than the UPA500. Should be interesting!
Compared to the Emotiva, the Outlaw Model 5000 represents a better deal with, more detailed and complete and I believe, honest power and THD ratings. It's ACD power figures would indicate a more powerful power supply than that of Emotiva's UPA500.
The looks may not be as appealing as that of the Emotiva, so what? It's the performance that counts.
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
Be careful with advertised transformer va rating too..
Geez, you can't get a break as a consumer these days can you lol. I honestly hadn't even considered that.

In this case I think I'm safe, the 885a weights twice as much as the UPA500 and judging by the looks it has a lighter case too.
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
Compared to the Emotiva, the Outlaw Model 5000 represents a better deal with, more detailed and complete and I believe, honest power and THD ratings. It's ACD power figures would indicate a more powerful power supply than that of Emotiva's UPA500.
The looks may not be as appealing as that of the Emotiva, so what? It's the performance that counts.
The Outlaw 5000 does indeed appear to be more realistic with its ratings. No transformer spec but it weights a few lbs more than the 885 I just bought. That said the Outlaw 5000 is rated at 44% higher than the 885a at 4 ohms. The 885a is probably even more conservatively rated.
 
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PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
Geez, you can't get a break as a consumer these days can you lol. I honestly hadn't even considered that.

In this case I think I'm safe, the 885a weights twice as much as the UPA500 and judging by the looks it has a lighter case too.
Of course you are safe, relative to the UPA that is marginal at best. The Parasound's tx may not be exactly 1000VA rated, but wouldn't be far off, probably at least around 800VA.
 
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PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
The Outlaw 5000 does indeed appear to be more realistic with its ratings. No transformer spec but it weights a few lbs more than the 885 I just bought. That said the Outlaw 5000 is rated at 44% higher than the 885a at 4 ohms. The 885a is probably even more conservatively rated.
Weight is a good factor but it only gets you in the ball park. As an example, my 4BSSt weights 8 lbs less than my A21 but the 4BSST has significantly more output in every way. The design/build of the enclosure, heat sinks, capacitors and transformers don't all have the same rating/weight ratio. I am also suspicious about the 4 ohm ratings in general, especially when doing it on paper only. As stated before, unless we know how each do their bench tests, it is hard to do apple to apple comparison, so our best bet is to compare test results conducted by the same lab, preferably the same reviewer too. All these talks are academic if you follow my rule that one should have no less than 20 dB (like THX's) of headroom, without dipping into the advertised/specified dynamic headroom or peak capability specs of the amp) when listing at or below ref level from the main seat.:D
 
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nickwin

Junior Audioholic
Weight is a good factor but it only gets you in the ball park. As an example, my 4BSSt weights 8 lbs less than my A21 but the 4BSST has significantly more output in every way. The design/build of the enclosure, heat sinks, capacitors and transformers don't all have the same rating/weight ratio. I am also suspicious about the 4 ohm ratings in general, especially when doing it on paper only. As stated before, unless we know how each do their bench tests, it is hard to do apple to apple comparison, so our best bet is to compare test results conducted by the same lab, preferably the same reviewer too. All these talks are academic if you follow my rule that one should have no less than 20 dB (like THX's) of headroom, without dipping into the advertised/specified dynamic headroom or peak capability specs of the amp) when listing at or below ref level from the main seat.:D
Good point about the weight, its an indicator but nothing more.

Regarding 20db of headroom, I always aim for 20-25db of headroom for music to accommodate transients, but this seems a little crazy and excessive for theater. Do you mean 20db of headroom above avg or peak?
 
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