I know what you’re thinking. “Hey, didn’t you used to be the US importer and distributor of Unison Research and Opera loudspeakers from Italy?” Yes, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get excited about their new products, especially when that enthusiasm is tempered with an enormous amount of regret that I still don’t represent these two brands–especially when those new products are something I can really get behind. Plus, Bartolomeo Nasta of Unison Research and Opera are still close friends, so close that we still call each other “brother.” Bart was gracious enough to drive me to the High End 2019 show from my hotel room for the first couple of days. When I mentioned in my Brinkmann report that it was the second room on my list, that’s because it seemed all too logical to start my visits with Bart’s room because I was already there, getting my stuff together for the first day of High End 2019.
Unison Research and Opera were showing in the room of the German distributor, TAD Audio Vertrieb, who also represents such stellar brands as Ruark, Tannoy, Rega and GoldNote. There was some mighty fine sound in that High End 2019 room that didn’t come from Unison Research or Opera. But my attention was corralled by a couple of new products from Bart. First, I was finally able to see a Unison Research Absolute 845 integrated amplifier ($50,000), as I’ve already reported. In was a static display, so I still haven’t heard it, but one day I will–especially since the brands are now distributed by Walter Swanbon of Fidelis AV. The new products were quite fascinating–the Unison Research Max Mini loudspeakers, and the new uPhono+ “multifunctional” phono pre.
The uPhono+ is an intriguing product because it offers so much for so little–approximately 900 euros. It contains an MM/MC phono stage, A/D processing and conversion and a headphone amplifier. While I was the importer, my dealers often asked when Unison was going to introduce a product that contained more comprehensive connectivity options, and the uPhono+ accomplishes this for far less money than any previous Unison Research phono stage, DAC or headphone amplifier. We’re talking fixed and variable analog outputs, independent power supplies for digital and analog, Toslink and S/PDIF outputs and the ability to record vinyl and save them in high-rez formats.
The Max Mini is something I hoped we would see one day. I spent quite a bit of time with the big floorstanding Max 1 and Max 2, high-efficiency designs that featured a long-throw woofer and a compression-horn tweeter–all sourced from Italy. The Max Mini is a 2-way bookshelf version of those speakers, with an 8″ woofer, 93 dB efficiency and a frequency response that goes down to 30 Hz. You get all this for a price that will probably be under $4000/pair. I’ve hinted to both Bart and Fidelis that I would be very interesting in testing this new speaker, and I hope I can do it soon.