View Full Version : It's just here for a visit: The Unison Research "Simply Italy" integrated tube amp.


JohnVF
01-24-2013, 08:16 PM
So how about something different. This thing was just put into my arms and I was asked to run it for about 12 hours, if I would care to. And I care to. To break it in as a demo unit for a friend's store.

So what is it? It's the Unison Research Simply Italy. And I know nothing about it right now, except that it sound pretty good right off the bat. I just hooked it up not 1/2 hour ago. Source is an EMM Labs CDSA CD player, speakers are Harbeth SHL-5s.

So what's a "Unison Research Simply Italy"? I don't know. Let's find out.

First, it looks like this. The cage is something interesting. I prefer how it looks without it, but its nice that it actually has one. Its not huge but its a decent size integrated. The trim around the knobs is wood, which looks nice.

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b384/fiebke/IMG_2698.jpg

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b384/fiebke/IMG_2701.jpg

http://i23.photobucket.com/albums/b384/fiebke/IMG_2700.jpg

The Simply Italy is...um...let me look it up. "Singled ended ultra linear Class-A." About 12wpc. Two 12au7s and two EL-34s. They can tell you the rest as I'd rather listen than type:

http://en.unisonresearch.com/3146/simply-italy/

So how does it sound? Immediately upon hook-up it was a bit strident (not unexpected, as this things never been run that I know of) but it calmed down over the last 1/2 hour and now sounds REALLY good. I'm listening to Andrew Bird's last album to get a feel for it, as I'm pretty familiar with this recording, and it has a nice big open sound with well recorded vocals.

I'm a bit surprised how well it sounds on the Harbeths, as the similarly powered Leben never worked well with them. 12wpc seems to be doing ok here. The bass that the older Accuphase integrated brings to this system is not nearly as prominent here, but the rest is more open, more detailed and just ....well, it just sounds really natural. I'm very impressed as a first impression. We'll see if it lasts....I have it for the evening.

JohnVF
01-24-2013, 08:35 PM
Little bit further along, this is a fun little amp. Well, little in power not size. Its pretty average in size. It runs out of gas at a point but up until that, it sounds great. And it doesn't run out of gas as quickly as I expected. Were this actually my amp I'd find more efficient speakers for it. Voices are handled extremely well.

I can tell that its a tube amp, but it doesn't have any sort of thick syrupy presentation. Reminds me a bit of the Pass Aleph 30 if the Aleph 30 was 12wpc instead of 30. Which is to say I like it...but wish it had more power or I had more efficient speakers.

MWalt
01-24-2013, 08:38 PM
Single ended pentode tube amps have their own sound; full and midrange rich is my take. That looks like a nice little amp.

JohnVF
01-24-2013, 08:40 PM
Single ended pentode tube amps have their own sound; full and midrange rich is my take. That looks like a nice little amp.

I think while you were posting that I amended my 2nd post with a comment sort of addressing that. It is full and the midrange is very nice. But its also not overly warm or too-thick sounding.

This review is pretty spot on to what I'm hearing.

http://www.whathifi.com/review/simply-italy

Would I buy it? Well, It's too little power for my needs but it sure is nice. I'm not writing this up to give a thumbs up or down, just passing the time while I put it through its paces. But its certainly deserving of a thumbs up, its a nice amp. I wasn't expecting to have a tube amp put in my hands on the way home from work.

sebrof
01-24-2013, 08:58 PM
I heard one of those at a show driving Polk speakers. Unlikely combo for sure, but I was very surprised that the little Italy drove them as well as they did. I have always liked the look of that company's products, too

MWalt
01-24-2013, 09:00 PM
I wonder how you would feel about the little amp driven by 100db, efficient speakers? Horses for courses, John.

JohnVF
01-24-2013, 09:06 PM
I -could- bring out the Cabasses. About 94db efficiency. But its driving the Harbeths well enough. I might do that later if I get bored. It doesn't get strident when it runs out of steam (the initial stridency appears to have just been it waking up). It just gets a bit congested sounding. But it is really not a bad match for the harbeths. A smaller room and it would be fine. I'm very surprised by that.

Is it going to convert me back to tubes? Nope. But that's because I really like my speakers. This thing would rock on efficient speakers.

JohnVF
01-24-2013, 11:33 PM
Been listening to it all night. It's really only gotten better as the night has gone on. It has an excellent grasp of timbre, which really shines through on the Harbeths. My only complain is the bass is not very controlled...but now I'm going to play with the adjustable feedback to see if I can improve on that.

Also...it smells nice.

ReverendFunk
01-24-2013, 11:44 PM
It's certainly a pretty little thing. I always found italic fonts on control labels a bit ostentatious, but that's a minor nit.

JohnVF
01-24-2013, 11:48 PM
It's certainly a pretty little thing. I always found italic fonts on control labels a bit ostentatious, but that's a minor nit.

Yeah the labeling is a bit much. I didn't even know what it was called when I grabbed it. "Why does it say Simply Italy on it?" I guess they designed it for the 150th Anniversary of the unification of Italy (?).

I played around with the feedback. I don't have the owner's manual so I don't know which way is "more feedback" and which way is "less" but one definitely sounds better to me than the other, at least on these speakers. Not that it really matters to anybody here...just having fun!

Art K.
01-24-2013, 11:52 PM
Looks like a fun amp to listen to, John. I read the review not long ago. I have a fondness for Unison products having owned one their hybrid amps.

ReverendFunk
01-24-2013, 11:52 PM
Did your friend say what the MSRP is on it? Might it play well with KEF bookshelves? :D

stish
01-24-2013, 11:58 PM
Thanks for sharing the experience. It looks like it would be worthy of audition by anyone looking for a piece in that power range.

JohnVF
01-24-2013, 11:59 PM
It's around $2400. I think.

Art, did you have the Unico by chance? That's the only amp I remember reading about from Unison. Now that I've seen pictures of the S6, I think I remember a review on that. The Simply Italy is new to me.

Yeah, its a really nice sounding amp. With a remote! A nice remote, too. Its wood with a metal faceplate. When it's driven to hard it sounds as bad as any tube amp driven to hard, but that's my fault for being to lazy to dig out my more efficient speakers (which would entail breaking up the Jenga-like stack of crap I have going on in the closet).

The store has some big efficient Legacy speakers that I think this will work well on.

Fusion
01-25-2013, 01:15 AM
Wish I could try that nice, low powered single ended tube amp on my Audio Notes. My Audio Space worked great with them, but it's not single ended, which I gather has a certain magic.

Nice pics, btw.

Enjoy the amp while you have it. I'd definitely bring out the more efficient speakers. You will probably wish you had done so when the amp is gone, just because you'll be wondering how different the sound would have been.

Art K.
01-25-2013, 01:37 AM
It's around $2400. I think.

Art, did you have the Unico by chance? That's the only amp I remember reading about from Unison. Now that I've seen pictures of the S6, I think I remember a review on that. The Simply Italy is new to me.

Yeah, its a really nice sounding amp. With a remote! A nice remote, too. Its wood with a metal faceplate. When it's driven to hard it sounds as bad as any tube amp driven to hard, but that's my fault for being to lazy to dig out my more efficient speakers (which would entail breaking up the Jenga-like stack of crap I have going on in the closet).

The store has some big efficient Legacy speakers that I think this will work well on.

I had the baby Unico P. Nice little amp with my usual 50 watts per channel...lol!

It had a nice sounding phono stage and just a very good overall character. Made me want to try other products by them.

MWalt
01-25-2013, 10:18 AM
I really like flea powered amps, but have found that they just don't fit in with my personal taste. Even with highly efficient speakers I prefer at least 25 clean watts a side.

Treshold
01-25-2013, 10:22 AM
Heard it a few months back w/a pair of Triangle speakers w/are highly efficient and it sounded very nice. Also had good results w/a pair of Kudo speakers.:music:

JohnVF
01-25-2013, 10:33 AM
It really is a very nice amp. Give me about 92db efficiency and I'd be on cloud 9 here. I'm giving it a few last songs this morning before I head off to work. I'll take it back at noon (I live next door to work, and the stereo shop).

The big Legacy speakers at the shop are about 94db/watt I think, and they should be a good match for it, even though the speakers themselves are a little big for the small showroom. It's this little shop is called Tweak Studio, just a small operation, one guy really and some assistants...I'm glad I've gotten to perform this little 'burn in' duty for them. Maybe its something I'll get to do with other gear in the future.

But listening to this amp one last time...it really is just a great sounding unit. Simple clean open sound. The amount of bass it puts out is fantastic, its just not controlled on these speakers. But's its there. The lack of power confronting the relative inefficiency of the Harbeth SHL-5s results in it getting boomy and one-note-ish. I'm looking forward to hearing it on a more sensible matchup. I feel the bass will come into its own and match up with the excellent midrange and upper frequencies. It really conveys an open natural midrange about as well as I've heard any amp do it.

I'm kind of nervous about putting the Accuphase back in, for missing what this does that it doesn't. Maybe I'll just hear the excellent bass and dynamics of it and be happy. I'll do that later so I've had time to forget this midrange clarity and detail.

Catcher10
01-25-2013, 10:56 AM
That is really cool that you have that opportunity to listen to this amp. Makes me wonder how it would sound on my Epic 2's at 90db.....but I don't have any buddies that have an audio shop :tears:

JohnVF
01-25-2013, 10:57 AM
That is really cool that you have that opportunity to listen to this amp. Makes me wonder how it would sound on my Epic 2's at 90db.....but I don't have any buddies that have an audio shop :tears:

This place has the Epos line, and the Epic 2s. I might get to hear that matchup. Last amp I heard on them was a Music Hall. A good but not great matchup..but certainly really nice for the price. This would be a nice contrast to that.

240sx4u
01-25-2013, 11:08 AM
It sure is a cute little guy. There are a LOT of days when I wish I just owned something simple like that. No outboard amps etc..

JohnVF
01-25-2013, 02:18 PM
So I took it back and we listened to the ever popular audiphile-standard "girl singing jazz-ish standard soullessly on piano" and it really sounded fantastic on bigger, more efficient speakers. In fact, even with my distaste for that type of music I wanted to keep sitting there marveling at how good the "sound" was, on well recorded music with a better speaker match. Speakers were Legacy Focus SE.

I didn't really like these speakers on a Burmester solid state setup. Something about the wild mix of driver types in that speaker just bugged me. But with this amp, that all went away and it was just a nice big easy to like sound coming at you. I no longer felt like I was listening to 4 or 5 different drivers and it was just "music". Nice!

240sx4u
01-25-2013, 02:25 PM
So I took it back and we listened to the ever popular audiphile-standard "girl singing jazz-ish standard soullessly on piano"

Haha! FWIW, I like Legacy speakers. The whispers left an impression that I have never been able to shake.

JohnVF
01-25-2013, 02:33 PM
Haha! FWIW, I like Legacy speakers. The whispers left an impression that I have never been able to shake.

This pairing made me rethink the Legacies. I had a chance to pick up a big older pair for a ridiculously low price and now I'm thinking maybe I made a mistake. Oh well....live and learn.

The Focus SE is 95.4 db/watt. Makes sense that this amp sounded better with them...really really nice. I need to take my Leben down there to do a comparison.

audiodon
01-25-2013, 03:44 PM
That looks like the kind of amp you'd put by your feet while working at a desk during a cold snap - at least with the cage on.

chicks
01-25-2013, 03:50 PM
That looks like the kind of amp you'd put by your feet while working at a desk during a cold snap - at least with the cage on.

:scratch2:

http://i.ebayimg.com/t/MARKEL-VINTAGE-ELECTRIC-SPACE-HEATER-FAN-MACHINE-AGE-DECO-STYLE-w-GLOWING-COILS-/00/s/NzIwWDYxMQ==/$%28KGrHqZ,!joFBLZqqPlqBQ,QW,w+7w~~60_35.JPG

JohnVF
01-25-2013, 04:06 PM
That looks like the kind of amp you'd put by your feet while working at a desk during a cold snap - at least with the cage on.
Thank you. I was trying to figure out what it reminded me of. It looks kind of toy-like, even in person. I'm not a big fan of its looks. Sure did sound nice though.

ReverendFunk
01-25-2013, 04:17 PM
It reminded me a little of a space heater too. I really like the way it looks. Except I'd use a more low-key font on the labels.

Art K.
01-25-2013, 04:21 PM
The S6 gets good reviews...:smoke:

JohnVF
01-25-2013, 05:15 PM
The S6 gets good reviews...:smoke:

I like the looks of that one better, and it has more power :thmbsp:

waterjetguy
01-25-2013, 05:33 PM
:scratch2:

http://i.ebayimg.com/t/MARKEL-VINTAGE-ELECTRIC-SPACE-HEATER-FAN-MACHINE-AGE-DECO-STYLE-w-GLOWING-COILS-/00/s/NzIwWDYxMQ==/$%28KGrHqZ,!joFBLZqqPlqBQ,QW,w+7w~~60_35.JPG

Chicks,


Nice photo, I think I used to have one of those heaters.

Also, you always have the best quotations in your signature. We are of like mind.

JohnVF
01-25-2013, 05:57 PM
Chicks,


Nice photo, I think I used to have one of those heaters.

Also, you always have the best quotations in your signature. We are of like mind.

Its an interesting quote but if you go on a pro audio/recording site or start up a conversation with any of the engineers I've worked with, they have just as many opinions and quarrels about subjective preference in gear as we do. DACs/ADC/boards/Mics/Mic preamps...you name it. Everybody has favorites. Certainly not always because of sound but often.

jblnut
01-25-2013, 07:20 PM
That looks like the kind of amp you'd put by your feet while working at a desk during a cold snap - at least with the cage on.

I thought I was the only one :D. I had an old Knight amp that kept my feet warm under my desk for many years.

Nice review John. I'm not really an integrated amp kinda guy but that one is pretty cool. High WAF...

Jblnut

cubdog
01-25-2013, 07:26 PM
Why is it that John's audio posts are like chick magnets for slightly creepy old guys?

cubdog

240sx4u
01-25-2013, 07:55 PM
Why is it that John's audio posts are like chick magnets for slightly creepy old guys?

cubdog

Have you ever paid attention to the amount of views johns posts get?

cubdog
01-25-2013, 08:18 PM
Have you ever paid attention to the amount of views johns posts get?

That is, I think, my point? Of course I'm kidding, which around here seems to get lost in translation.

cubdog

Art K.
01-25-2013, 10:26 PM
Have you ever paid attention to the amount of views johns posts get?

Just the other day I noticed. I noticed over 108,000 views of my Brio-R thread. I think the Modern Day HiFi forum is picking up steam...what do you guys think!

ReverendFunk
01-25-2013, 10:42 PM
Just the other day I noticed. I noticed over 108,000 views of my Brio-R thread. I think the Modern Day HiFi forum is picking up steam...what do you guys think!

Maybe people realize how boring it is to talk about the same old vintage receivers year after year once you point it out to them. :tongue:

Art K.
01-25-2013, 10:51 PM
Maybe people realize how boring it is to talk about the same old vintage receivers year after year once you point it out to them. :tongue:

You might have a point...:yes:!

Catcher10
01-25-2013, 11:22 PM
This place has the Epos line, and the Epic 2s. I might get to hear that matchup. Last amp I heard on them was a Music Hall. A good but not great matchup..but certainly really nice for the price. This would be a nice contrast to that.

Ohh I did not like the Epos on MH amp when I auditioned them, I think it was an A15 something. It was decent, but to me it sounded reserved.

The NAD feeds them much, much better. I have since gone back and heard them again...

elcoholic
01-25-2013, 11:25 PM
I just listed this in the personals on Craigslist - MWM seeking FWSS

(Married White Male seeking Friend With Stereo Shop)

JohnVF
01-26-2013, 04:22 AM
I just listed this in the personals on Craigslist - MWM seeking FWSS

(Married White Male seeking Friend With Stereo Shop)

:music: That's EXACTLY how this arrangement came about! OKCupid, though.

JohnVF
01-26-2013, 12:00 PM
Hooked the Accuphase back up and all is well. No sense of let down- I prefer how it works with the Harbeths.

Now I'm trying out a pair of cables that I borrowed from the same place. Probably not as exciting to ya'll. But they're a good fit as well, and probably more than I feel like spending on cables. Vertere D-Fi (I have a pair of their speaker cables already and love them, these are RCAs).