Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Unison Research Phono One phono preamplifier
Darn that Mike Mercer. No sooner had he completed his review in Positive Feedback Online on my Unison Research Simply phono preamplifier--my Simply Phono, the one that I used in my own system--he said those words. "I love it! I want to buy it!" On one hand, it's a great thing when a reviewer loves your product so much that he wants to own it (suffice it to say that his review, which will be appearing very soon, is a rave). On the other hand, I loved it too.
It's an occupational hazard that as an importer/distributor, anything I have is up for grabs, even when I've already purchased it for myself. But the silver lining, of course, is this: as the distributor it is my job to familiarize myself with every single product in the Unison Research line-up so that I can doff my expert's hat and answer questions. Unison has a rather extensive line-up--14 integrated amplifiers, two power amplifiers, two preamplifiers, two CD players, a turntable, a cartridge and even an FM tuner. Oh yes, and two phono preamplifiers. The Simply Phono, as wonderful as it is, is actually the smaller phono stage in the line. Selling my personal preamp to Mike meant I got to try out the more ambitious model in the stable...the Unison Research Phono One.
Today, my new Phono One arrived, clad in a beautiful mahogany veneer that could only come from Northern Italy. On paper, the differences between the two phono stages are small--both are all-tube stages that run in Class A and have zero feedback. The Phono One has five ECC83 (12AX7) tubes in it while the Simply Phono has only four. Both units come with the hefty external power supply. (In our literature we list the power supply as a $795 option, but you can only forego it if you are plugging the unit into a handful of Unison Research amplifiers.) Even the price differential is far from staggering: the Simply Phono is $1650 and the Phono One is $2450.
But the Phono One possesses a far more impresssive appearance. The Simply Phono, while still incredibly attractive, is small, a half-width chassis that is approximately the size of the old Naim NAIT. The Phono One is more of a full-size component and needs its own shelf on my rack. It's not as big as a full-sized power amplifier or preamplifier, but it's probably about as big as a classic Advent 300 receiver.
The extra cost of the Phono One is more than worth it, however; you get more flexibility with loading and matching cartridges than the Simply Phono, a circuit layout that offers better separation and interference rejection, a interior circuit that has an elastic suspension for less vibration and nearly non-existent low-frequency cross-talk (less than -90 dB).
The downside, however, is that I only have a few weeks to play with the Phono One before it too gets shipped off for review. It's mine when it comes back, however. I'll have another phono preamp to play with in the meantime (more on that later), but for now I'll be enjoying the warm, tubey goodness of the Phono One.