Unity Audio is a small British company that has made a successful transition from high-end audio gear distribution into high-end monitor manufacturer. They currently make a range of four near to medium field monitors with accompanying subs and accessories and they were kind enough to send me a pair of their Super Rocks to review.
Unity Audio Super Rock
The Unity Audio Super Rock is a two way sealed speaker enclosure, meaning there are no bass ports. I am a great fan of sealed cabinets. To me, the bass end always sounds tighter and you don't have quite so many issues when putting speakers a little closer than you might like to walls and corners. In short, the sound that is coming out of the front of the speaker is pretty much what you are going to get, with no messy out of phase bass bouncing off walls from the bass ports.
As I said the Super Rock is a 2-way design featuring an 8" (220mm) woofer made by Norwegian company SEAS. Unity Audio design and build the cabinets but they buy in their drivers. The tweeter is German Mundort Air Motion Transformer (ATF) folded ribbon design and I have to say the two are matched together very well indeed.
The Super Rock monitor is powered by a pair of internal Esoteric Audio Research amplifiers with a total output of 100 watts. Agreed, this does not sound like a lot, but when you are on the receiving end of the Super Rock at full tilt it is plenty. I would much rather have 100 quality watts over 500 cheap and nasty watts any day of the week.
The Super Rock is not a small speaker at 354mm deep, 268mm wide and 406mm high it will fit on your desk or meter bridge but I would look at a serious pair of stand for these babies because they are not light. I can't find an official figure for the weight but these are some serious beasts.
The back, sides, top and bottom of the enclosure are built from 18mm Baltic birch plywood but the front baffle is somewhat different being made from 30mm Corian (yes the stuff very expensive kitchen worktops are made of). Corian is very stiff and is the Unity Audio monitor unique factor (KSP). The shape and design of the Corian front baffle is obviously key to the monitor sound but it also looks very cool and helps the Super Rock to not look like yet another black speaker. There are quite enough of those on the market already.
Connection & Control
Unlike many of the new breed of monitors we are seeing, the Super Rock has no DSP on board. So plugging in and setting up is very easy. Input to the monitor is either via RCA Phono or balanced XLR. All you then need to do is connect the power via a standard 'kettle' style plug and turn it up. For my testing, I set the volume pot to the 12 o'clock position. I like it loud but no need to induce pain, as I said, the Super Rock can move some air when it is asked too.
I could quote the Super Rock specs to you and bore you to tears with frequency response curves but what you really want to know is how they sound? As I have said in previous studio monitor reviews it can be very difficult to get across how a monitor sounds as one person's warm is another person's woolly and one person's bright is another's harsh so I'm going to tell about my listening experiences with a number of different tracks across a broad selection of styles of music.
The soundtrack to the movie Gladiator scored by Hans Zimmer features some massive percussion. The Super Rocks translate this very well. The bass was powerful yet not overpowering. I love big orchestral movie soundtracks and I was not left wanting. At one point it felt like I was in the battle, these things will go loud!
Moving onto more common speaker test material (Toto and Steely Dan) the kick drum in the 'Rosanna' shuffle groove felt punchy and tight and the hi-hat sounded really nice and bright, but not harsh (there I go). The vocals on the Steely Dan track 'Peg' sounded beautifully clear but with both these, let us call them 80's classics, I felt there was a lack of mid-range in the sound. In switching back to me normal monitors I noticed it return. Now, this could be because the top and bottom end of the Super Rocks are quite prominent but I do like to hear what is going on in the middle of a track.
Getting heavier with some Iron Maiden again I noticed a slight dip in the midrange, but once again the kick drum and bass sounded fantastic.
One of my favourite rig testers of late is the amazing sounding Mick Guzauski mix of Jamiroquai's 'Cloud 9'. The bass on this is so massive but the entire track just grooves. The Super Rocks took this pounding in their stride. In a more 'modern' I did not notice any missing midrange information.
One of my guilty pleasures is proper modern country music and for me, Lady Antebellum are making some of the finest music to come from the USA at the moment. The vocals on 'Need You Now' sounded just stunning and the guitars fit around them just perfectly and again, no lack of mid frequencies.
My final listen choice was 'So What' from classic Miles Davis album Kind Of Blue. Now I know the Super Rocks were not specifically designed for this style of music, but wow, to my ears Miles sounded damn fine.
The Unity Audio Super Rocks are great sounding speakers. If you like a full powerful driving bottom end and a clean crisp top end then you should seriously check them out at a pro audio dealer near you. I have been fortunate to be able to listen to some truly amazing sounding monitoring systems in some of the best sounding and tuned rooms in the world, so I would like to think I know what 'good' sound is. That said, sadly, my studio is not one of the best tuned and sounding rooms in the world. In my studio, I would have to say that the Super Rocks felt a little lacking in the midrange so I'm not sure they would be my first choice, however, none of the music I listened to on them sounded unfamiliar to me. I was hearing what I was used to and with classic tracks that is a good thing.
You may have noticed in the studio images of the Super Rocks they are positioned on top of my usual monitors. When conducting the critical listening test I had to stand up to get my ears directly at tweeter height which I believe to be the optimum position for listening. When I sat back down there was a real change to the top end tone, indicating that vertical position the Super Rock is very important to optimal reproduction. However, these folded ribbon tweeter do offer a very wide sweet spot. I was able to move from the left to the right of my console and still get a very accurate stereo picture. So basically, make sure you get your monitors at the correct height and sit back and enjoy the listening experience.
As far as value for money goes a pair of Super Rocks will set you back around £2949 inc VAT. Now there are some other very good monitors in this price bracket but if you are looking to drop some fairly serious cash on, let's face it, one of the most important elements of your studio you really should get to a Unity Audio dealer and check out the Super Rocks.
You can find out more about the Unity Audio Super Rocks at the Unity Audio website.