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Unison Research Max 1

By Jack Lawson 5th April 2017

An all Italian dream combo. On demo now at The Music Room.

Image © The Music Room / Douglas Whates

Unison MAX-1 loudspeakers now on dem. Italian flair, gorgeous cabinets and the golden age sound you thought had gone forever. This could be for you. Read on.

The JBL 4425 studio monitor was launched in 1985. It employed a compression driver, bi-radial horn and 12-inch paper bass driver with high quality magnet and (if I remember right) square wire and other techniques in the voice coil.

In those days Brits were going for the purist BBC sound but the Music Room offered customers a wider choice of loudspeaker based on the two major studio traditions, Tannoy and west-coast sound.

All three voicings are entirely different and this was a very neglected feature that degraded home stereo to disappointing reproduction, like a mismatched system of components.

That west-coast sound also sold in JBL’s domestic L-series loudspeakers in beautifully sculpted, oiled walnut enclosures. But for the raw visceral studio sound, we sold a few pairs of the plainer (ugly!) pro models. Enter the 4425 studio monitors.

I don’t know when they were discontinued but as the years went by many people felt the passing of a golden age when the bass was deep and the treble was felt – at moderate or even insane listening levels.

And so it came to pass that the corporates at Harman Group, owners of the JBL brand, got the message and have now launched an improved retro called the 4429 which sell for £5,800 in the UK.

But buses come in twos or threes and there is an interesting alternative...

Image © The Music Room / Douglas Whates

An immaculate finish. You'd expect nothing else from speakers coming out of the former Sonus Faber facility.

Image © The Music Room / Douglas Whates

Unison Research from Treviso, Italy, is part of Opera Loudspeakers (the former Sonus Faber factory) whose chief loudspeaker designer is one Mario Bon. To cut a long story short UR have developed a west-coast studio monitor – 12-inch paper woofer, compression driver and bi-radial horns, but as expected, gorgeous leather and walnut cabinets to keep the wife happy and the neighbours jealous. It looks a lot more than its price tag of £5,000 per pair because the company has a lot of efficient practices.

Image © The Music Room / Douglas Whates

Perhaps because Unison Research make valve amplifiers they recommend valve amplifiers and the impression has been formed that these speakers need valve amplifiers. This is not the case. The designer has incorporated equalization for both valve and solid state, selected by a rear-mounted switch.

You really need to hear them: you’ll love or loath them. They certainly make us ageing hippies smile and reassured that yes, music reproduction was getting too refined. You need to hear them. Perhaps you need two systems, one for correct sound and one for enjoyment….

How to describe the 4429 / MAX-1 loudspeakers??

They are genuine studio monitors because they magnify the soundstage both in scale and in the micro-detail. You are immersed in a soundscape. Recording engineers need to hear immediately if anything is going wrong. But in these days this leads to clinical monitors used by many modern studios; painful and unpleasant. The traditional paper woofers with compression drivers coupled to the room with a bi-radial horn, well it has always worked wonders and in my opinion, it restores much of the magic that we have lost with high-tech and soulless Hi-Fi.

Let your interior designer go for the slim and shiny silver components, the Unison MAX-1 combines Italian flair, gorgeous cabinets and the potent sound of the seventies.

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