Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unison Research, Opera Loudspeakers and Cardas Audio at AXPONA NYC

Unison Research and Opera Loudspeakers, both made by the same Italian family just outside of Venice, have returned to the North American market after a two-year hiatus. AXPONA attendees were very enthusiastic about this announcement since many of them own the gear and love it. I've always enjoyed the hybrid Unico integrated amplifiers and came close to pulling the trigger on buying the original model--the only thing that stopped me was that I couldn't find a dealer nearby.

Unison and opera are now being distributed in Canada by Vince Scalzitti of Tri-Cell and by my good friend Colleen Cardas, who has just started CCI in order to be the US distributor. Here's a pic of Colleen and Bartolomeo Nasta of Unison/Opera in the CCI/Tri-Cell room.

Here's a look at the beautiful system they brought to AXPONA. The top component is the beautiful S6 integrated, which has 30 watts per channel of pure class A and is single-ended (parallel). Below that is the Unico Nuovo integrated, and at the bottom is the CDE CD player (which also has tubes--four of them!). The rack was from HRS and I was told it retails for $15,000, which is more than all the Unison components it shelved.

This gorgeous speaker is the Opera Grand Callas, and it sports four 5" magnesium cone woofers and no less than five tweeters--two on the front and three in the back. This unique arrangement gives a normally lush and warm speaker a lot of extension in the treble, making it sound very balanced overall. In other words, the Grand Callas were warm and romantic without sounding rolled off. I really loved their sound.

These are the original Opera Callas loudspeakers, the same ones that got a rave review from Sam Tellig a few years ago. You'll note that even though they're the bookshelf version of the Grand Callas, they still contain five tweeters each. When compared side by side, the smaller Callas sounded very similar to their larger sibling, with just a little less weight. Bartolomeo Nasta told me that in smaller rooms, he actually prefers the sound of the Callas to the Grand Callas.

This is the innards of the Unico Primo integrated, which is the direct descendant of the original Unico. Even though this is Unison's entry-level product (it will sell for around $2200), the layout and the parts quality is exceptional. It even has a nice thick faceplate.

Best of all, thanks to Colleen and Bartolomeo I'm going to get the whole system in for review. From the time I spent with it yesterday, I know I'm going to enjoy their visit.

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