Hi-fi companies are a funny lot. As the Unico Secondo's maker demonstrates, they can produce a nice new amp... and forget to put it on their website, surely most people's first port of call for information these days.

Luckily, Unison Research's UK distributor is more alert, and from it we learn that this is the "second generation" of the Unico, a well-established valve/transistor hybrid design from Italy.

Not for the first time, we find ourselves wondering just how much 'valve character' one really gets from one double triode small-signal valve per channel, but, well, we've had good results from Unico models in the past...

It's a big amp and a well-filled case. The mains transformer actually looks quite small at first, but only because it's dwarfed by the case itself and the heat sink next to (and cunningly profiled around) it.

Moving across the case to the left, one finds a large rectifier and the usual reservoir capacitors, plus two pairs of MOSFET output devices per channel. Most of the audio amplification is done on a large board which carries the audio circuits (the valves and some ICs, a couple with their numbers intriguingly scratched off).

A daughterboard at the rear bears the selector switch, a mechanical type not accessible via the remote control, plus the input circuit for the single balanced input. The remaining five inputs are line-level unbalanced - one is upgradeable to phono operation.

Twin speaker terminals are fitted, plus phono outputs marked 'Monitor' (aka tape out) and 'Subwoofer' (pre out). We were particularly taken with the look of this model, with its extra-thick front panel - very aspirational!

It's a bit horses for courses, as ever, but this was clearly one of the hits of the day. One listener never quite found the levels of excitement he got elsewhere, for instance, but the others had little but good to say about it.

Most of all, they found in it the punch and immediacy thought lacking with some other contenders. Obviously, the Michael Jackson track benefited from this considerably, but it wasn't the only one to enjoy new-found life.

Some interesting direct comparisons were made with the RA combo (remember our panel were listening blind), the consensus being that this was probably the more neutral of the two contenders, but perhaps (as a consequence?) less upfront.

The Unico seemed to have more 'boogie factor' and perhaps slightly more impression of depth - and even, one listener suggested, height - in stereo images. It also seemed to have very impressive 'blackness' between notes, and some great dynamics too, not just in terms of swing from maximum to minimum, but also in the naturalness with which that was achieved.

Occasionally such qualities are achieved at the expense of analysis - not here. In fact, the Unico was superbly detailed, making clear the varied tones and directions of the instruments within the whole, but never separating them unnaturally.

If anything, sounds became more solid and real as they got more complex, with highly stable image placement and some very good depth too. And tonality? Well, given that not one listener mentioned the subject with any of the tracks, there can't be much wrong there!