Review: Unison Research Unico P Tube amp
Unison Research Unico P
System used for audition:
Rega R5 speakers
Rega Apollo cd player
Rega P3-24 turntable w/Dynavector 10x5
All van den Hul cables.
I’ve been living in my usual state of audio dissatisfaction for quite sometime. I enjoyed my all Rega system but something has been lacking. It felt kind of gray or uninteresting to me. I’ve tried various speakers without enhancing my overall level of happiness…oh sure one speaker had better imaging or better bass response but in the end it wasn’t long before I was reaching for the old familiar R5’s. So now what…can’t afford any new gear and I really, really don’t want to make another lateral move….oh well, live with it.
Then enters the Unico P.
So I’m talking with a friend of mine who is familiar with my gear and he says “it ain’t gonna improve until you bid farewell to the Mira 3”….but I love my Mira 3, it matches my Apollo and has a fabulous phono stage…”so be it”. So I’m browsing a used HiFi store’s online inventory when I see this Unico P for less than I figure my Mira 3 is worth…hmm, I’ve heard good things about those…I wonder. I shoot ’em an email and his reply was;
“Thanks for your email. We were listening to the Unico on Saturday and heard a distinctive hum in both channels so I am going to have my technician check it out this week. If it get's a clean bill of health, I'll email you right away. For now, I'll remove it from the website.”
Thus began the saga of the great transaction…a couple of days later it was;
The Unison is in the hands of our best surgeon right now. I think a tube simply went but we want to check the bias and make sure everything it okay. It will be 2 weeks until it's available again as he wants to test it under extreme hot and cold temperatures. Sorry for the delay.
Hmm…so I waited 2 weeks and called….”I’m sorry but our tech has been out with personal issues…” oy vey!
Finally and at long last I got the call, “we’re shipping it down for your audition” Yippie!
Moments of disappointment quickly turn to excitement, followed by disappointment, followed by excitement and finally contentment.
When I arrived home from work last Thursday (½ hour early…I was fortunate enough to have a power outage at work) there sat a box on the front porch…Unico Research clearly legible on the box. Excited as I was I had promised my wife and that we would go to dinner with her daughter and granddaughter. So I slipped the box into the house and split.
Two long hrs later I was ready to start the listening. It took me all of 10 minutes to switch out the amps and prepare for listening.
First impression was that of a rather warm presentation but a bit dense with poor imaging but decent timbre. It had promise but that promise wasn’t realized yet…then I remembered a review I read while waiting for the unit to be repaired. The reviewer stated;
“This amp scored a clear hit with all our listeners. It seems to have ticked all the boxes, and what's more the impression it made started well but got better. The praise began cautiously, with a warning note about slight veiling, but by the third track comments were uniformly positive.”
So I felt that some patience might be rewarded…but dadburnit patient I’m not!
As the first evening wore on the amp sounded better and better. I was very impressed by now…however I had no idea what was to come.
Night number 2..by Friday night the unit had been on 24 hrs and it was time to begin listening to music that has been giving my system a hard time. Music that I enjoy but that requires something special to really bring it out. What I was expecting to do is listen for sibilance, brightness, timbre, soundstage, imaging and all of those other audiophile goodies….what caught me by surprise was something altogether unexpected.
Remember this if nothing else about this amp…it communicates music and it flat boogies. This reminds me of what Frank Abela said long ago about the Mira 3, it has pace and timing but lacks Rhythm when compared to Naim…uh yeah and now compared to the Unico P. The sense of rhythm that I experienced with the Unico is part of another phenomenon with this amp that blew my mind…it’s ability to articulate every line in a piece of music and weave it together where it all makes sense both individually as expressions of an artists ability and together as a coherent piece of art. Music that I liked before I now love as I can hear and more importantly feel all of it. I can now follow all of the lines in a piece of music while still tapping my toe to the overall piece…what a joy!
A great cd to listen to to feel what I’m talking about is the Luciana Souza’s Brazilian Duos disc. When it’s right she sounds dynamic with an incredible ability to communicate, her voice like the body of a gymnast moves with speed and cat like precision and her timbre is rich.
Lucinda Williams often sounds sibilant and her lyrics brilliant but a bit difficult to understand…not with the Unico P. Late night listening Friday to Lucinda’s World Without Tears cd revealed and amp that is able to convey the difficult emotions that are always a part of Lucinda’s music. Her lyrics were easy to hear and better yet to feel and the music made sense as part of the whole
I didn’t leave vinyl out….I tried one of my favorites..don’t laugh…The Ozark Mountain Daredevil’s It’ll Shine When It Shines. I turned the volume up so that it was like one of my summer late night listening sessions and it sounded fabulous. Rich and warm with plenty of detail. In this area alone it was not a lot better than the Mira 3 but was at least as good.
Oh yeah and I guess I forgot to mention bass extension and hi end and all of that, so what. It’s excellent but that is so much not the point with this amp. It’s all about musical communication…that’s what’s important isn’t it?!
Hum…oh no, I HATE HUM!!!
Wait a second…don’t panic.. So how much hum? In a quiet room you have to put your ear within’ 18 inches or so to hear it. But is it just mine, is there something wrong? No. I emailed other owners and they stated that they too have the hum and that it bothers them not a bit. OK…keep in mind that I’m trading my 2 year old amp that has the same retail value as this amp…and did ya read other comments here, ya I’m keeping’ it!
The next day I start to play my favorite music and…no you’re kidding…it sounds better yet. Holy smokes how long can this continue? Honestly I don’t know. Everyday it sounds better, it hasn’t been turned off since I first fired it up. It just keeps getting better and better.
By now as you may have guessed I've boxed up the Mira 3, thanked it for 2 years of unfailing service, and bid it farewell.
That’s where I’m at today. Content in the fact that every piece I play sounds like music, real music. It’s a process of rediscovery as every cd I play sounds better than I’ve heard it before.
Well that’s about it, sorry not much in the way of audiophile stuff. Just an emotional journey for me and one I’m glad I undertook.
Too many to list