This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above

Reviewer: David Kan
Digital Source: Micromega Microdrive, NEC Multispin CDR-401G, Deltec Little Bit DAC, Deltec PDM Two DAC, Marantz SA6820, Philips DVP9000S
Analog source: Denon DP-59L turntable, Denon DL-302 MC phono cartridge, Ensemble PhonoMaster phono stage.
Preamp: Dared SL2000A, KingRex Preamp, NuForce P-9 [on loan]
Power Amp/integrated Amp: Dared MP-2A3C, Dared VP-16, Dared VP-20, Audio Zone AMP-ST, KingRex T20, Winsome Labs Mouse, NuForce Reference 9 and 9 SE, NuForce Reference 9 V2 [on loan]
Speakers: Loth-X BS-1, Klipsch Synergy F2, Mark & Daniel Maximus-Ruby, Maximus-Mini
Cables: Clearaudio Silver Line interconnect, Deltec Black Slink interconnect, Luscombe LBR-35 interconnect, Unity Audio Solid Link interconnect [on loan], OCOS speaker cables by Dynaudio, Unity Audio Solid Link single-wire/Shotgun bi-wire speaker cables [on loan], Orphee Audio digital cable, Aural Symphonic Digital Standard digital cable
Power Cords: Aural Symphonic Missing Link, Ensemble Powerflux, Unity Audio Link Precision Link [on loan]
Power Line Conditioning: Monster Power HTS-3500 Mk II (modified by Nu Force), Monster Power HTS-1000 Mk II
Room Size: 15' x 13.5' x 8 diagonal setup / 12' x 24' x 9' opens to 12' x 17' x 9' L-shape, short wall setup / 13' x 28' 8" x 9' with openings on one side to hallway and staircase, short wall setup
Review component retail: C$699 (Whitewater); C$499 (Inner Spirit); C$449 (Clearwater)

How this review has taken so long to materialize is beyond reason. Long story short, some time in October of last year, I received some cables from a friend who said the designer of these cables wanted me to evaluate them. The name Unity Audio was unfamiliar but its bold red maple leaf logo conveyed a sense of homeyness. The attached product list itemized a comprehensive range of interconnects, speaker cables and power cords in addition to four loudspeaker models. The most intriguing element was the cheap and cheerful pricing across the board. To give you some idea: a 1-meter pair of pure copper interconnects started from C$60, 8-feet of pure copper speaker cables started from C$99. Holding the cables in my hand, the price seemed too good to be true. Had I been missing something after all these years of living in Canada?

Unity Audio is a young Canadian company with a passion for music that goes back a long way - way back to the good old days of disc-jockey cuing, scratching and spinning back and forth on vinyl. The founder Omer Humayun is a Canadian-born Pakistani with an educational background of no less than computer science and electronic technology. Yet his passion lies in music, which had him start his DJ service company in 1985. Later on, he naturally branched out into music recording. The company soon migrated into audio retail through a new umbrella called OZ Enterprises and started marketing its own creations in 2005 under the Unity Audio brand. Omer started with cables, "my labor of love" as he called them, plus the floor-standing Spirit speaker designed to be reasonably priced and very tube friendly". Then the Whitewater bookshelf speaker was introduced at FSI in Montreal later that spring.

Omer continued his story. "The design team is me and some other people who have come and gone. However, Al Thimot was involved with the design of the Spirit and he did the woodwork for that model. He has since moved out west (sniff). So, right now, I have a local cabinet guy who does MDF cabinets for me, another who does exotic veneer, and StudioLAB takes care of the vinyl/laminate models.

"As for the CD recording side, that was also a dream come to fruition. But as luck would have it, the musician/guy behind making it all come true moved out to North Bay last year. So who knows if it'll continue or not. But, the first release was very well received and is currently being used as a reference by a few dealers in Canada and the US, as well as the NY Audio Society."

Once our dialogue was thus opened, my curiosity began to mount. I kept on requesting more items for evaluation to which Omer gladly comply. Amongst the speakers and cables, Omer also sent me two CDs. One is a sampler of jazz and blues, pop and rock. The other one is Josée Deschênes' What it is [Unity-0001]. Even though the music is not my cup of tea, the sonic quality is very impressive and lifelike. People who can make music sound right usually go a long way in their audio expeditions too. Let's see if there's any correlation to Unity Audio speakers to begin with. They all are assembled in Canada with locally produced cabinetry and carry a 10-year warranty. Binding posts are gold-plated and can accept bananas, large spades, pins or bare wire. The three pairs of bookshelf speakers for audition are summarized in the following table.

Specifications Whitewater Inner Spirit Clearwater
Cabinet 3/4" MDF, rear ported 3/4" MDF, rear ported 3/4" MDF, front ported
Driver(s) Fostex 6.5" widebander (FE167E), shielded, modified for Unity Audio Fostex 4.5" widebander (FE127E), shielded, modified for Unity Audio Silver Flute 5" midwoofer (W14RC2508), HiVi Research 1" tweeter (TN25)
Frequency response 50Hz - 20kHz 59Hz - 20kHz 44Hz - 20kHz
Sensitivity 94dB 93dB 89dB
Impedance 8 ohms 8 ohms 4 ohms
Crossover none none 6dB/octave 1st order using Mundorf caps and coils
Internal wiring Unity Link Series Unity Link Series Unity Solid Link Series
Standard finish Black laminate Black laminate Black laminate
Optional finish Multi-coat paint or real wood veneer Multi-coat paint or real wood veneer Multi-coat paint or real wood veneer
Dimensions <WxDxH> 9" x 10" x 15" 8.25" x 8.25" x 12.75" 7.75" x 9" x 13"
Weight 35lbs/pr 19lbs/pr 30lbs/pr
Price C$699/black
Shipping fee (USA/International) C$25/C$75 C$25/C$75 C$25/C$75

I found the Unity Audio naming conventions highly confusing from day one. The Whitewater and Inner Spirit, two totally unrelated names, are both single driver, crossoverless high-efficiency speakers. The other water model, the Clearwater, clearly is not. It's a two-way bookshelf. Adding bewilderment to confusion, of the three models I received, the Whitewater was finished in cherry laminate, the Clearwater in black ash and the Inner Spirit is white. Maybe that's just me. I give up. I've never been good at remembering people's names at parties anyway. Nevertheless, the drivers are much easier to distinguish. The 6.5" Fostex FE167E used on the Whitewater is similar to the one used on Omega's older models, the TS2R (2002?) and Grande 6 (2005?), which retailed for US$899 and US$799 back then. While they all adopt Fostex' recommended bass reflex enclosure, the Omegas were front ported, the Whitewater is rear ported in a slightly smaller cabinet. The finish of the Unity loaner models varies and gives some evidence of how Unity handles aesthetics. The Clearwater's most affordable standard finish is simulated black ash laminate with silver front baffle and black cloth grille. The Whitewater is in Cherry veneer and the Inner Spirit serene white is hand-finished multi-coated enamel varnished with clear top coat - not top-notch craftsmanship but still good decent value. Internal wiring according to specs is Unity's own Link series but I noticed Analysis Plus inside my audition loaners.

The other single driver used on the, um - Inner Spirit is the smaller 4.5" Fostex FE127E. It reminds me of the Fostex drivers used on Omega's Super 3 XRS and TS33. They could be the same though modified differently. Probably due to its easy-to-work-with size and price, this Fostex driver has been extremely popular among DIYers. Like its larger sibling, the paper cone is made of banana pulp. The only difference is that the larger FE167E features a whizzer cone with rolled edges. Wait a minute, speaking of banana pulp paper cone, here comes a déjà vu. I was seriously considering buying either the Omega Grande 6 or Super 3 some years back when they were still employing these Taiwanese Fostex drivers with pale yellow paper cones made of banana pulp– exactly the same basic drivers as on the Unity speakers here. The latest Omega models have relocated their resonance ports to the rear and shifted from Fostex to HempCone drivers, which reportedly "prefer more powerful amps".

The Clearwater is a two-way design with a minimalist crossover network. The woofer is a 5" Silver Flute W14RC2508 with wool fiber cone, rubber surround and cast alloy basket. The tweeter is a Hi Vi Research TN25 1" soft fabric dome featuring a ferrofluid-cooled voice-coil and self-shielding neodymium magnet, pre-built with a non-resonant, tear-drop-shaped acoustic rear chamber. Both drivers are made in China where Hi Vi Research is one of the largest loudspeaker manufacturers and OEM supplier to Dul'cet, Swans and other brands.

The 1st -order crossover provides a very gentle roll-off (6dB per octave) and contains only two components: a 0.56 uF Mundorf MCap and a 0.68 mH/0.71ohm Mundorf coil inductor. The choice is audiophile grade: the German MCap metallized polypropylene capacitor sports very tight electronic/mechanical tolerances and is one of the quickest capacitors available; the Mundorf coil inductor is the high-performance air core type praised for accurate pulse reproduction and freedom from distortion. The objective is clear: to preserve high sensitivity and seamless coherence.

Auditioning and comparing three loudspeakers seemed to be unduly ambitious and ear-boggling at first. But as I progressed, it turned out to be a meaningful exercise because these speakers were all designed to synergize with the same kind of amplification (SET tube amps and low-power Tripath amps predominantly), so finding out which suited what became a momentous challenge. Knowing myself to be a devoted Mark & Daniel advocate, I had to be realistic about expectations in low frequency for the Unity Audio speakers. The Xmax figures of the 4.5" and 6.5" Fostex drivers are ±0.4 mm and ±0.6 mm respectively, so lightweight compared to M&D's ± 10 mm. Even my latest Maximus-Mini's 4" SX woofer still boasts a linear excursion of ± 7.5 mm, more than double that of the Silver Flute woofer's ±3.5 mm.

Bass extension aside, single driver speakers are created with a different design philosophy and have their unique advantage. Purists who favor low-powered SET amps mated to high-efficiency single-driver speakers glorify their musicality. They treasure coherence and midrange fidelity in particular, which is exactly what single-driver speakers do best since they have no crossover to dissect the frequency range. The purists loathe multiple drivers and the whole string of complications to follow - crossover network that might induce phase- and time-alignment problems take the obvious blame. "The cure is worse than the disease" so they proclaim.

So why didn't I go for an Omega and ended up with the Loth-X BS-1? Two reasons. First, the
Loth-X has better extension on both ends of the spectrum without getting harsh in the treble. Second, the Loth-X has the deeper soundstage. I made the decision after auditioning the Omega Grande 6 and Super 3 plus the Loth-X Amaze and Aura models, the latter a floorstander. I wasn't prepared for single drivers then and reneged to a quasi-single driver, quasi-crossoverless design. After all, the Loth-X BS-1 was using a wideband Lowther, just augmented with a tweeter attached via a single capacitor. It seemed a fair deal at the time (don't call it a compromise) since the other bigger single driver models sounded too nasal (not exactly boomy) to me. Was I less prepared for a single driver now than 30 months ago? Logical thinking would assume an affirmative answer, knowing my alliance to Mark & Daniel and NuForce. Truth is, I've since also fallen under the spell of Klipsch and low-power SET amps and Tripath amps. I have become an open-minded, free-willed audio-libertine who embraces all contradicting schools of audio doctrine.