|Unison Research Unico CDE CD Player Review|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Friday, 13 July 2012|
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Unison Research CDPrimo tubed CD player a while back, and found it to be a great sounding, fairly priced source component. I thought it only fitting to review the Italian company’s flagship player, the Unico CDE. They share some of the same design characteristics, but are very different animals, as reflected in their price points and performance.
The $2295 Primo sounded terrific, with an output stage built around a 12AU7/ECC82 tube, a USB digital input, and a 96/24 upsampling DAC chip. The Unico CDE, also a 24/96 upsampling CD Player, has four twin triode tubes in the analog output stage. The build quality is extraordinary, taking things to a whole new level. There is a digital input via coaxial RCA, and both single-ended and balanced outputs. The CDE, like the rest of the Unico line, is available in silver and black. The CDE sells for $3895 retail in silver.
As with all Unison Research products, the CDE is made in Italy at their company’s factory in Treviso. As noted, there are four 12AX7 type tubes in the output stage as opposed to the single tube found in the CDPrimo. A rugged TEAC transport is used and proved to be a smooth operator. The unit ships stock with a Crystal module as the standard converter, but there is an optional DAC board whose main active component is the top-shelf Wolfson Micro WM8740, used here as a dual- mono, dual-differential design. The upgrade is $225, and my review sample arrived this way. According to the manual, you can even switch between the stock DAC board and the upgraded module via an on screen menu. As with the Primo, and with either DAC board, the signals are upsampled to from standard Redbook CD to 96 Khz, 24 bits.
In a twist that can be said to be a bit of Italian uniqueness, the digital input accepts up to 44.1 Khz, but the player sends 96 Khz through its own digital output. A bit odd, as all the upsampling CD players I know output digital prior to any processing. But, as you will, see this may be moot, as using an external DAC with the CDE is, based on what my ears told me, a silly move.
Set Up & Listening:
Unpacking this hefty player made apparent just how nicely built and finished this component is. The thick silver faceplate, with the familiar wooden Unico logo, was a sight for sore eyes. There are the usual controls on the front, and a nice sized display. I used an Element Cable Red Storm AC cable, which I use on all my digital source components, and Stager Silver Solid RCA interconnects. The CDE has XLR outputs as well, but my system runs single ended. For the hell of it, I used my Shakti Innovations Shakti Stone on top as well.