Lab report

Having to keep voltages on the valves means this unit consumes a lot of power, even when it's not in use; 30 Watts are consumed while idling and up to 46 Watts during playback. There is no standby option and the power switch is in an awkward location on the side of the unit. A 30-second 'valve warm up' timer on power-up is a nice touch, though the manual recommends allowing 10 minutes for the system to warm up to its optimum operating conditions.

On investigating the better-than-expected distortion results we see a predictable second and fourth harmonic making up the majority, giving that 'analogue warmth' is so desired by analogue's fans. This, at the cost of the dynamic range, it seems. The third harmonic measured nearly as high as the sixth, so under gain the sound may become rather rough.

Sound quality

The Unico clearly exerted its charm on the listening panel, two thirds of which were very taken with it, while even the most critical managed to find something positive to say. It's valve complement undoubtedly inspired comments such as "very musical - more sense of ambience" and "good sense of liveness and atmosphere".

The bass is usually where such designs come undone, but even here it found a lot of favour, the panel noting that the, "bass is light but not low on energy" in one case and "good bass, tight but not the deepest" in another.

About the most critical point raised was that it's "not exciting" and "controlled yet timid", but that seemed a unique view as there were more comments along the lines of, "piano sounds like a piano" and "good projection into the room with a big 3D image".

Further sighted listening generally backed this up; the Unico has a very natural presentation that suits acoustic instruments to a tee, thanks to a very transparent midrange and a generally musical style. It lacks the precision of the some other CD players in both detail and imaging terms, the latter seeming quite vague by comparison and the bass is clearly not as well extended, but these factors have little or nothing to do with its remarkable degree of vividness.

The Unico is a fairly expensive player, but it combines exotic build with an engaging and revealing sound that most music-lovers will have difficulty resisting.

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