Rock Steady! Unity Audio on designing brutally honest loudspeakers

June 1, 2012


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Unity Audio Ltd was formed in 1995 by Managing Director Kevin WalkerKevin’s keen interest in music started at an early age, playing drums in bands when he was 13.  He soon became very interested in how records were made and built a semi commercial studio recording many bands over a 10 year period.  During this time he also started in sales at the original Turnkey shop in Hendon, one of Europe’s first pro audio stores catering for not only the professional commercial studio, but also the new wave of more affordable equipment for the growing home recording studio market.

At 21 he decided to go into manufacturing with two friends that were also in the business and formed a company called QuPlay Ltd.  Their first and only product, the QP1, was an ingenious remote control for analogue tape machines which could be configured to work with all the major machines at the time, Studer, Otari, MCI, Soundcraft etc, and record punch in and punch out points could be programmed along with autolocate and loop points.

“ Although the QP1 was innovative, and we sold a fair few, I was young and inexperienced and I learnt many lessons!”  After a few years Kevin folded QuPlay and went back to work with original Turnkey director Andrew Stirling to work in sales for his new company Stirling Audio where he stayed for 10 years.  In 1995 Kevin felt it was time to leave and form his own distribution company Unity Audio Ltd where he secured distribution for the UK, and internationally for many top professional brands such as Audioease, Adam Audio, DynaudioAcoustics, Burl Audio, Cartec Audio, Chandler Limited, Empirical Labs, Elysia, Earthworks, Great River, GRM, Kush Audio, Little Labs, Soundtoys, Telefunken and Thermionic Culture.  Kevin still plays drums, and still loves recording great musicians!

Kevin van Green studied industrial design before embarking on a career in music, first as a musician and later as a recording engineer during the 1980’s and 90’s.  Kevin’s passion for well recorded music led him into the Pro-Audio industry; his company – then named “Go – Digital Ltd” – was formed in 1988 specializing in Pro – Audio products and later drawing commissions to design studios for artists such as Vince Clark, Terry Britten & Depeche Mode.

Now trading as Green & Green Audio Ltd, Kevin focused his design ability & technical background to the manufacture, in their West Yorkshire factory, of selective Pro-Audio products – whilst still continuing to design distinctive studios and acoustic treatments for a wide spectrum of clients. Most recently – a fabulous ground up Studio build for Rimshot Studios in Kent, completed this year.

Kevin van Green’s reputation for quality and industry experience led to a request from Unity Audio to design a range of active Studio monitors and Hi-fi speakers. By setting new standards in speaker design, and in collaboration with Tim de Paravicini, Kevin has succeeded in creating and developing truly innovative monitors: The Rock & The Boulder.  Kevin van Green is currently working on a creative project with Lee Mavers (The La’s).

Kevin Walker takes up the story of how they got into studio monitor loudspeaker design:

“I really like these monitors, I can’t stop going to them! They’re not flattering at all, so they make you work hard to achieve the results, but that’s how a true studio monitor should be. The bass detail and speed is quite staggering. The Rocks do exactly what Unity Audio claim, they are ‘Brutally Honest!” Alan Moulder – Producer. Credits include: My Bloody Valentine, Depeche Mode, Wolfmother, Foo Fighters, Death Cab for Cutie, Them Crooked Vultures, Nine Inch Nails, The Killers, Interpol, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

“We decided to design and manufacture our own range of professional monitors from scratch, to overcome the shortcomings found in most commercially available monitor systems, and that will deliver what true professionals expect.  A brutally honest tool on which you can base the most critical decisions without a second guess or hesitation.  This has been achieved by assembling a team of professionals with impeccable credentials in the areas required to produce a new standard of monitoring.  I wanted to produce something different, using new materials and designs, and so I approached studio designer and acoustician Kevin Van Green to develop the Birch Plywood cabinet and Corian front baffle; while the amplifier, rather than an off the shelf approach, is a bespoke discrete Class A/B design from one of the best designers in the business, Tim Di Paravicini, whose company Esoteric Audio Research produces some of the finest amplifiers around.

“After testing many woofers we selected reputable German manufacturer ELAC for its quality and consistency – for The Rock a 50kHz ribbon HF and 6.5-inch woofer are used.  The reason we chose a folded ribbon tweeter is because of its low distortion characteristic and this means less listening fatigue.  Also its wide dispersion characteristics yield a larger listening sweet spot.  The larger 3 way Boulder’s takes this one step further, with its unique ELAC dual concentric tweeter / midrange arrangement allowing a more natural dispersal over a wider frequency band and totally eliminating any phase discrepancies between the mid and tweeter, being a point source unit.

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