‘I wanted to create monitors that transform how sound engineers work’: Unity Audio founder Kevin Walker reflects on 30 years in the business
Kevin Walker, founder of monitor specialist Unity Audio, has been an influential figure in the sector for almost 30 years.
Once you own Unity Audio products you own them for life. That’s the bold claim from Kevin Walker, who created Unity Audio as a result of his passion for sound, music and, in particular, monitor technology. “Having been in the audio industry for over 30 years and seen the growth of the digital era, I wanted to create monitors that not only transform how sound engineers work, but achieve faster results due to having an accurate monitor,” he explains.
Unity Audio began as a UK distributor for high-end pro audio products and moved into manufacturing monitors after noticing a gap in the monitor market. “The trend over the past several years due to restricted production budgets, studios becoming smaller and generally smaller monitors becoming more accurate seemed to dictate the decline for large format main monitors,” said Walker. “However, over the past few years there seems to be a resurgence for main monitors again.”
His approach to this was to design a sealed speaker cabinet rather than a ported design, with the aim of producing superior and accurate low frequency reproduction with a dynamic transient response and a more natural extended bass roll off. The flexible modular approach provides customers with an upgrade path and different mounting options, suitable for many operational requirements. “Like every aspect of audio design there’s always a trade off, a sealed cabinet won’t achieve the same SPL figure as a ported cabinet,” Walker says. “Now that the range has expanded we have been able to address the demands of customers wanting high SPL figures. This coupled with our philosophy to only use excellent quality components ensures a high technical standard. The proof is in the pudding, as our customers certainly appreciate the end results when they hear them.”
Walker’s philosophy has always been to maintain an emphasis on manufacturing, with attention to detail and an open-ended commitment to customer satisfaction.
The Unity Audio range includes the Boulder, Rock monitors and BABE monitor system. Walker gets into the detail: “The Boulder MKII is a three-way active monitor that gives a fast, accurate detailed sound and extended bass response, while delivering even greater levels of SPL. It incorporates four bi-polar low feedback amplifiers to give the power delivery of the custom Class A/B amplifier. The Boulders are fitted with two 220mm SEAS custom aluminium woofers that provide bass precision down to 32Hz and beyond. The unique coaxial mid-range tweeter driver made exclusively for Unity Audio works as a point source over seven octaves and delivers linear amplitude and phase independent of frequency, resulting in incredibly detailed and accurate imaging. The Boulders can partner with an Avalanche subwoofer to make a 2.1, 5.1 or 7.1 system and can even be used with Rocks due to the consistent sonic signature.”
The Rock MKII, meanwhile, is a compact speaker “is equipped with a 100W discrete bi-polar low feedback amplifier with custom wound transformers for a fast, clean and accurate audio reproduction. The Rock uses a 50KHz folded ribbon tweeter and the 180mm woofer features a 0.2mm aluminium foil. The seamless combination of drivers delivers a frequency response of 37Hz-38kHz +/- 3db.
“As for the BABE monitor, it comes as a modular system transforming the existing 3-way Boulder into a 4-way monitoring system. The sealed cabinet is internally isolated to reduce vibration interference and uses a single 300mm driver with a 125mm voice coil, designed exclusively for low frequency reproduction. The driver employs a huge 130mm Hexatech external voice coil wound with a hexagonal-shaped aluminium coil wire – two to three times thicker than standard woofers – for accurate music reproduction, superior durability and power handling. It retains the same sealed cabinet approach used throughout the Unity Audio range and this design approach provides faster, tighter and more accurate linear bass reproduction and results in less phase rotation, reduced time domain ringing, lower group delay and a shallower roll-off slope.”
With new technologies emerging, Walker is always reviewing the Unity Audio range. “Some of the model updates and even new ideas we’re looking at now have been due to customer feedback and requests,” continues Walker. “For example, this is the reason why we came out with the updated Boulder MKII. We had feedback from America that some customers wanted higher SPL and low frequency extension and so we up-gunned the MKI’s 2x 6” woofers to 2x 8” woofers.”
He continues: “Wherever possible we offer upgrade paths for our customers across the range. This is unusual, especially for a monitor manufacturer, rather than the usual approach of ‘you just bought our speaker last year but here’s the new model’ approach, I want to reassure our customers that wherever possible we will make an upgrade path available. I put myself in their shoes; they’ve spent their hard-earned cash on our product which I’m always grateful for and this gives us confidence that we have their interests in mind.”
He concludes: “2017 was a very busy year. The past 18 months have been exciting; at the start of 2017 we brought the production in-house. This was a big move for us but it was the right time and having everything onsite and a great production team means we’re more efficient and R&D is far easier and effective. 2018 is shaping up to be equally exciting with our expansion overseas. Since our first monitor back in 2009, production has grown steadily, and we now have an illustrious client list of studios, engineers and producers including Guy Massey, David Wrench, Mike Crossey, Monnow Valley, the University of West London, Metropolis Mastering Studios, Gary Newman, Rudimental, Coldplay, Guy Sigsworth and New Order to name but a few. The Rock MKII, Super Rock and Boulder MKII, BABE and Avalanche sub-woofer monitors have received many reviews that have championed the flexibility and design of the monitors and made Unity Audio what it is today.”