Given that the Lotto Fairy is still suspiciously silent on a variety of inquiries made in recent years, it comforts me to know that there are others out there that cater to my champagne taste and beer budget. Case in point? Colleen Cardas Imports and one of my favorite Italian brands Unison Research. I love these folks.
No, Unison (as a brand) isn’t cheap. Writing a check for thousands of dollars for anything will give any sane person a severe case of jitters, indigestion, and possibly induce cardiac arrest. Yep. Roger that. But when you do get that bonus check, or that tax return, or that insurance payment or however it is you manage to score the bread that you rely on to feed your audio habit, it’s absolutely wonderful to know that those bucks can still buy buckets and buckets full of audio caviar. Hooray!
So, today’s big winner in the expensive-but-not-insane price category is the Unison Research MAX 1 loudspeaker. At $6,495 a pair, you’ll forgive me if I swoon a little bit. The veneer is very tasteful, in the best kind of 1960’s way (think “Eames Lounge and Ottoman“). The fascia is covered in leatherette. It’s front-ported, so placement is a breeze, and best of all? It’s a 94dB, 8Ω speaker. Tubes, baby! It’s a friggin’ tube-friendly speaker that isn’t the size of a garage! Huzzah!
The tweeter is a compression jobby, horn-loaded of course, and mated to a beefy 12” driver for a frequency response that whacks 30Hz with a club. At 94dB, this isn’t really a hail-Mary for those of us still carrying our love for SET amps on our sleeves like lost, sad little deer, but for modest-output amps (20-50 watts, or more), this speaker will be absolutely spot-on.
Take, for a completely random example, the Triode 25 ($3,995), a 22 wpc triode/45wpc pentode integrated amplifier also (gasp!) from Unison. This amp is the cat’s pajamas in sheer looks alone (shazam!), and with four EL-34 tubes, it has big, brassy [o.o] with which to rock out the MAX with. Did I mention that the Triode 25 also sports an on-board USB DAC, capable of supporting up to double-DSD decoding? No? Well, there you go. You’re welcome.
Also shown was the Unison Research CDE CD player ($4,495, addition $225 for the dual-mono DAC) for you Luddites with your silver discs. A quartet of 12AX7 tubes glory up that player. Furutech Speakerflux speaker cables, Lineflux interconnects, with Alpha PS-950-18 power cords and a fTP-615 power conditioner, rounded out the package here.
The sound of this sexy little speaker, paired with that pretty little integrated, was romantic, big-hearted, and altogether delicious. This is what high-end audio ought to be — a delight for all the senses. Sign me up.
Floating out of the room, I almost missed the new Unison headphone amplifier — but audio evangelist and Audio360 guru Mike Mercer did not — we came in together, but he promptly made a hard turn, pulled out his Astell&Kern AK240 and a pair of Audeze LCD-XC headphones, and went for an extended visit to La-La-Land. At last report, he was digging it pretty hard.