Unity Audio: Cables For The Rest Of Us
Review by Noam Bronstein
Good cables are important to audiophiles – that much we can all agree on. But from there, things unravel fast. Because what constitutes “good” (or even “good enough”) is open to an amazingly wide range of interpretations. The debates that ensue can be harsh, and futile. I won’t be attempting to weigh in on all that in this review, but I suppose I need to come out with a position, so to speak.
So let me be as blunt as I possibly can: I’m a cable skeptic. It’s not that I don’t believe different cables affect the sonics of an audio system. I know they do. I just don’t place a major importance on it. I’m especially wary of “excess” in speaker cabling; in my experience two things count most here, an appropriate gauge and length, and a good tight connection. If I had a penny for every dollar audiophiles blow on vanity speaker cables, I think I could retire comfortably.
So in a way, I’m grateful that Omer Humayun only sent me his Solid Link v2 interconnect ($80 for 3ft) and Solid Link power cable ($120 for 6ft) to review. The only thing I hate more than obsessing about cables, is reviewing them!
Well, I’m happy to say that in the end, this was no chore, and in fact, Unity Audio’s cables are a breath of fresh air. And really, that isn’t any surprise: anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting or dealing with Omer can attest to the marked absence of any snake oil. No hype or bragging, or expectations. He’s a sincere enthusiast, a humble, honest guy, and he makes his cables (and speakers), largely for the fun of the hobby.
First off, the power cable. My take on power, living in a fairly new community with a relatively clean supply, is simple: conditioners and other filters do nothing special here (I’ve tried a few renowned ones that were sent in for review), nor do I need any big fancy-ass cords capable of impressing audiophiles, scaring young children, or maiming intruders. For me, an aftermarket cable should make a tight, strong connection from my component to my wall outlet – and that’s about it. It’s really mechanical, by and large. If I feel that connection is good, the issue is resolved, in my mind, and I don’t spend any more time worrying about it.
I’ll go a step further: the thicker and heavier a cable is, the worse, if its main job is to physically connect tightly. If you don’t believe me, you need to try some of the cords being sold out there in audiophile land. Wait, no, I wasn’t recommending that you actually try them. I think they’re ridiculous. Many of them have a turning radius as wide as a small car, and, God forbid, if your component weighs less than 50 lbs., they want to jack it up like an El Camino in East L.A. Not good, not good at all.
So when I saw Omer’s power cord, I was very pleased. First of all, the connectors are high-grade, and have a transparent housing. I like being able to see what’s in there. The actual connector blades are clearly made from solid, extruded copper, and not brass. And this is a big deal! I firmly believe that even changing all the brass (and “gold-plated brass”) connections in our systems to copper, is a major step in the right direction. Copper conducts electrons much more effectively than brass. Secondly, the cable itself is a perfectly reasonable proposition. The guage appears to be 14awg, which is better than the average free IEC cord they throw in with your preamp, but definitely not heavy/fat enough to physically put a strain your components, or to make you curse trying to bend it into position. So far, so good.
Build and parts quality appear to be very good. Omer makes and tests all the Unity cables himself, by hand. That may be true of other audiophile brands, but those will likely cost you a lot more. In use, the Solid Link performed perfectly for me, whether used with amplifer, preamp, or CD player. It never flinched nor gave me any cause for concern, and I’ve been using it for about 9 months now.
On to the interconnect cable. This is a typical unbalanced or single-ended (RCA type) cable pair, with left and right channel leads, for stereo. The connectors are made by Furutech, and the cable is high purity OFC (oxygen free copper). Furutech is one of the leading names in the industry, and the connectors here use a copper center pin. You can certainly spend a lot more, for various grades of copper, including the OCC (Ohno Continuous Cast) that has become the rage in recent years. The sonic benefit of using better interconnects will vary, largely with the type of system you have, and how analytical you are when listening. So, if your gear is really high-end, with extremely high resolution, and you listen for a lot of details in your recordings, then better interconnects will make a more noticeable difference. On the other hand, if you listen to rock and pop recordings on a more modest “mid-fi” rig, the chances are that really high-end wires are going to be wasted, as whatever actual ‘effect’ they might have will be lost on the listener. Let me reiterate this: better cables don’t retrieve detail that isn’t there to begin with. If you feel that your system commits “sins of omission” (loss of fine detail), that’s something that can be addressed in several ways – but I can almost guarantee it won’t be by spending more on cables.
I’m pretty much saying “don’t” use cables as a tone control – it tends to create a vicious circle of problems. That’s just my opinion, of course. I can’t defend my cable ethos any better, even at gunpoint, but there it is. Nor can I articulate all the reasons why I think it IS valid to play with the tone of your system by rolling tubes and capacitors; but I do. You might disagree, based on your experiences. And you might be right. I can only report on my own choices, based on what I’ve tried. Nobody knows everything.
Physically, this i/c is “just right”. I’ve tried a few big, heavy interconnects over the years, and each time I did so, I’ve regretted it. They tend to make a horrible mate to almost all the jacks you’re likely to find in day to day use. That’s a big issue, especially to a reviewer, or to anyone that swaps gear out all the time like we do. An interconnect cable needs to work with a variety of “typical” components, or I’ll chuck it. I know I’m stating the obvious, and probably annoying some of you with my ranting, when I really should focus on the items being reviewed.
What else can I say? These interconnects worked for me, and they worked well, no matter where I used them. They brought no bad sonic artifacts – no hum or noise, no glare or etching qualities, no slowness or obscuring of detail. No artificial quality as far as tone. Nothing added, just good reliable performance. They did everything I asked of them.
Now in fairness, the budget interconnect market is more crowded than ever. As to how the Unity Solid Links stack up against the comparable offerings from Audioquest, or Wireworld, I can’t say. I’m inclined to believe they’d do quite well in a head to head comparison, but that’s not something I’d want to undertake. Life is too short. A reviewer’s life is even shorter.
The Canadian dollar is down again…way down. Which makes both these cables a downright bargain. Better still, they’re made and sold directly by a fellow whose reputation is excellent. Such that, even if a customer weren’t totally satisfied, I have no doubt that Omer would do everything in his power to ensure a happy outcome.
In an age when corporate giants like Volkswagen have conspired to fleece the buying public with carefully engineered lies and deception, I personally prefer to deal one on one with craftspeople who care about their work, and their customers. And in that vein, I’m happy to strongly recommend the Unity Audio Solid Link cables.
Unity Audio Solid Link Power Cable (6 feet), $120 Canadian
Unity Audio Solid Link Interconnects (3 feet), $80 Canadian
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