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Unison Research CDPrimo CD Player Review Print E-mail
Monday, 05 March 2012
Article Index
Unison Research CDPrimo CD Player Review
Listening and Conclusion

Interview with Marc Phillips of Colleen Cardas Imports:

Avrev: Can you tell us how you became the importer of Unison Research & Opera products? What did you think was special about the brands?

Colleen has had a long relationship with the Nasta family, who owns both Opera and Unison Research, over many years. Well, the two brands weren't getting proper distribution in the US over the last few years, and the Nasta family approached Colleen to help them. Since she was too busy being President of Cardas Audio, a position she held for 20 years, she reluctantly turned them down. Once she decided to leave Cardas, being the US distributor for Unison and Opera was the first thing she thought about doing. She's always loved their gear and thought they deserved a much bigger following in the US. After all, they have a huge following in the rest of the world.

She brought me in because she knew I wanted to get back into high-end audio. I'd left the scene for a couple of years to start a computer business in Texas. I even let all my audio magazine subscriptions lapse. After talking and talking, she convinced me to help her create Colleen Cardas Imports. But I didn't need to be sold on Unison at all. I would have purchased a Unico integrated amp 15 years ago if there had been a dealer in my area. I loved the Unicos and after I auditioned one I wanted one.

The funny thing is that we both grew up in Southern California, we both spent the last few years in the Pacific Northwest, but we never crossed paths. Now here we are, in the middle of Texas, representing two legendary Italian hi-fi brands. Amazing.

Avrev: It seems to me the products are designed from the perspective of the music lover, yet without compromising accuracy. Would you agree this often difficult to achieve?

We like to promote the fact that the Unison and Opera products are Italian, Italian, Italian. For the Italians, beauty is not optional. But since it comes so naturally to them, perhaps they can focus more on the technology. They certainly have some great minds over in Treviso.

But look at the wood pieces on any Unison product; they actually serve a purpose other than to look good. The wooden pieces dampen the vibrations of the chassis. On the Giro turntable, there are several wooden pieces on the acrylic plinth that are placed in a specific way so that the grain of the wood breaks up those resonances at certain frequencies. I don't know who else is doing that on such an elegant level.

It's not fair to say the Italians do it better than anyone else. I've fallen in love with hi-fi products from Japan, Great Britain and Austria, but for different reasons, reasons that are absolutely nationalistic. But Italians are such music lovers, and they have that tremendous history. It comes out in everything they make.

Avrev: Can you tell us about some of the newer Unison Research and Opera products?

It's a great time to be the US distributors for Unison Research and Opera Loudspeakers since they're introducing so many new products in 2011 and 2012. First came the Simply Italy integrated amplifier, a 12wpc single-ended parallel design that runs in Class A and retails for just $2450. It sounds a lot like its big brother, the amazing S6, for half the cost. The Unison factory is very busy making these great little amps right now, and we're trying to grab as many as we can get for the US market. They really sound special and of course they look beautiful!

Unison then introduced the Unico 50 integrated amplifier, which is a powerful hybrid amp that includes some design features that mark a new direction for the company such as power BJTs instead of power MOSFETs and a new style of dual mono chassis that's far more efficient when it comes to heat dissipation.

On the Opera side, the two Callas models stay the same, but the entire Classic line is being revamped from the top down. The $5495 Quinta and the $3995 Seconda made their debuts at CES, and they were big hits. They're both a lot of speaker for the money. They both have new cosmetics that are much more striking than their predecessors, such as a wraparound leather baffle that runs over the top and all the way down the backside, and the drivers and crossovers are also new. Later this year we'll see two more smaller models, the Grand Mezza and the Mezza, which will probably be priced in the $2000 to $3000 range. All of the Classic line will be offered in cherry, mahogany, black lacquer and an absolutely beautiful new white lacquer finish.

Last but not least, Unison will be more closely involved with computer-based audio over the coming months. They're almost finished with their music server, and they're going to introduce one or possible two DACs. With the Giro turntable/tonearm combo and UN1 cartridge, which we're importing into the US for the first time, it will be possible to have a complete 100% Unison/Opera system with all of the digital and analog sources you need.


Unison Research Unico CDPrimo,
available from Colleen Cardas Imports  via their trusted Dealers


●    Transport: TEAC CD5010A
●    Digital interface: Wolfson Micro WM8804
●    Sample Rate Converter: Burr Brown SRC4192
●    Convertiter D/A: Wolfson Micro WM8524
●    Sampling: 24bit / 96kHz
●    Digital Standard: AES3, IEC60958 (S/PDIF) e EIAJ CP-1201
●    Digital input (Ext): Isochronous-Out 16bit / 32-48kHz (USB-B)
●    Digital output: 44.1kHz
●    Output stage: solid state, Class A
●    Outputs: 1 RCA
●    Gain: Triode Class-A
●    Valve: 1 x ECC82 (12AU7)
●    Power conumption: 100W max
●    Dimensions (la x lu x alt): 43.5 x 43 x 9.5 cm
●    Net weight: 10 kg

Review System 1

CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT, Unison Research CD Primo
Server: Squeezebox Touch with CIA  VDC-SB power supply
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box
Preamp: Audio Research SP16,
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Integrated Amplifier; McIntosh MA6600
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC),  Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rack

Review System 2

CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, Rein Audio X-DAC
Preamplifer: Densen B-200
Amplifier: Revox A722
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Transmission Audio M1
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant (IC),/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), Kiimber(digital)

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