Unison Research S8 amplifier

Does anyone have experience of living with this amp or one like it?

I have just inherited a mix of fairly high end components of varying ages from my uncle. They include:

  • Unison Research S8 amplifier
  • Wadia 301 CD player
  • Rogers LS3/6 speakers
  • Acoustic Research LST speakers
  • Technics SP10 MkII turntable with external power supply
  • Stax UA7 tonearm with AKG P8‐ES Cartridge
  • SME 3009 Mk2 tonearm with Glanz catridge

My initial thought had been to chop everything in and to put the money into a Nova, a set of speakers and a TT of some sort. Perhaps a Roksan Xerxes 20.

However, I’m now wondering whether I should perhaps keep some of the items. The Wadia and S8 used to drive a pair of Quad ESL63s and the sound was amazing. The Quad’s have gone but should I hold on to the S8 and the turntable plus tonearms?

I’ve never owned a valve amp and keeping the Unison makes me a little nervous. It’s not a cheap item and I don’t suppose that replacement valves are two a penny either. My uncle used to listen exclusively to classical music but my tastes are a little broader and a little less refined.

Yours thoughts / advice appreciated.

That’s a question that nobody but you, and any others who live with you, can answer. Do you actually want to keep it, or feel that you should? Are you already a hifi enthusiast? Do you have space for it all? Have you tried it against the Nova? What would fit with your life best?

With respect, that’s not quite the question I was asking.

My systems have waxed and waned in size and complexity over the years. I presently have only one and it’s tiny - just an Atom and a pair of Quads. The Atom’s ok but it doesn’t hold a candle my ancient Systemdek / MF A100 / AE1 combo.

However, a expansion to the house means that I can now put a second, larger system in place.

My questions about the S8 relate to how easy a £6k valve amp is to live with and how well suited it might be to a wider fare of music other than just classical. Anything from the Cowboy Junkies to Massive Attack via The Clash and and Queens of the Stoneage.

Are high-end integrated valve amps delicate and do the valves need to be replaced regularly?

I think you need to review your question and the thread title. It’s ostensibly about a very specific valve amplifier and given Naim are not valve amplifier manufacturers most people here - like me - are less likely to have experience of valves and unlikely to know this specific amp. Beyond that you then list a whole lot of hifi equipment and begin to muse about whether to keep some of them. As HH implies, if you want specific advice you need to frame your question carefully. For a start I would advise changing the thread title to something on the lines of ‘Valve or transistor amps - pros and cons?’ or ‘Is living with a valve amp complicated?’.

From what little I know, output valves last about 3,000 hours, while preamp valves last longer. I’ve never heard of valve amps being especially delicate or hard to live with.

Probably the way to answer your question is to connect it up and try some Massive Attack. People use valve amps to listen to all sorts of music. With solid state amplifiers different people like different presentations; some like more exciting and lively, others like a more laid back presentation. There is no particular reason you can’t use valves for the sort of music you like.

It’s worth considering that the valves get really hot and the amplifier has no protective cover, so whether you have pets and/or children around comes into the decision.

You lucky guy, that’s quite a set.

I’m familiar with the S2 and S6 but the S8 is quite a step up with 845s.

My experience with valves says the speaker match is critical. A speaker which is sensitive and an easy load will sing with those precious, sweet valve Watts. But I have been with Naim too long to make recommendations.

Wow! What a set! Enjoy it.

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Getting in touch with a Unison dealer, if you haven’t already, is probably your best bet on replacement costs.

They may be able to help you, with speakers too, to match your musical tastes rather than your uncle’s.

Gorgeous set.

Apologies if I’m showing too much enthusiasm btw.

I think I’d be enthusiastic too… but I sympathise with the op’s dilemma.

It’s all really interesting kit, but a lot is pretty big and/or likely to need specialist tlc, so it’s not a decision to take lightly, no matter how enthusiastic the forum might be!

Always wondered what LST’s sounded like… :wink:

The LST’s and 3/6’s are absolute classics, and are sought after.

If they do need attention, it’s worth making sure it’s done properly by someone that understands the heritage value and knows what they’re doing.

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Thank you all.

I have got in touch with a couple of Unison dealers and I’ll see what comes back from them.

My gut feel is that the S8 will sound amazing if properly partnered (the new Closer Acoustics OGY speakers look really interesting) but that it’ll require more ongoing care, attention and expenditure than I’m realistically going to be willing to give it. It’s also massive, very heavy and Class A.

Neither the LSTs or the Rogers will have a space in what is only a 12 ‘x 10’ listening room - they’re both much too large for a start. The LSTs were certainly working fine 12 months ago but I understand that they’re quite delicate and that it’s all too easy to blow their many drivers. They’ll definitely be moved on to persons who appreciate them.

I’m looking forward to see what the Unison dealers say.


Having googled them, I think you are definitely on the right lines for the room you describe.

Please keep the thread going as you get recommendations and make decisions.

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Andy at Kronos AV has been very helpful. They sell Unison gear and his advice was this:

“The S8 is a fine amplifier and there is no need to be nervous of it, the valves can be replaced easily and for not a lot of money if something was to happen to them but they are much more reliable than those of old and should easily give 10,000+ hours of use without issue.

Powering them up/down is not a problem any more either, most good valve amplifiers of today have a switch on period which protects the valves during power up and shut down softly too.”

I’m going to hold onto it on this basis. Just need to find some sensitive speakers to go with them :grinning:


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