That team Westminster paid attention also to resonance control is suggested by these dense precision-threaded brass screws. Accessible from above beneath decorative hatches for leveling, they become hard couplers aka resonance drains to earth by (path)way of your shelf or rack.

That losses from puny circuit traces and concomitant solder pads are anathema to Unum we already knew but here see in actual closeup. Consider also the thickness of their organic polymer board.

If you still lack appreciation for why just construction and specs tripped my imagination to wondering how it all translates sonically, this background PDF fills the thru-holes and direct-couples you to what Angus and mates were trying to achieve, cost be damned. Their approach seems no less extreme than Dan D'Agostino's Relentless though the cosmetic package is rather more understated and compact whilst pricing lobs off a digit. Where Krell's ex boss is expected to go all out and has the reputation to back it up, our newcomers from HongKong still have all to prove. That this didn't prevent them to already invest the necessary R&D, energy and funds and actually produce their assault on an uncompromised amp is one more example for how our extremist high-end hifi scene is that hypnotizing light to moths. It attracts creative and artistic people who don't mind labouring at the very edge of reason, all in the pursuit of so individual an ideal as the ultimate sound. You may disagree but I find such single-minded extremism inspirational. That it's also prohibitively expensive is part of the extremism. At least the Unum monos aren't physically impractical even to space-challenged flat dwellers like a set of Relentless monos would be. Those weigh in at an entirely unreasonable 440kg and hulk like a rich man's ostentatious safe; in duplicate. Unum will blend into regular décors, not stand out. That at least was my excuse for really wanting to hear them.

Background. "WestminsterLab has three main partners. I am an architect, one is an engineer, the other a pianist. Our group formed more than 10 years ago. We started trading seriously and in 2012 launched a limited company. That's when we started making our cables commercially available and began the Unum project. The cost of the amplifier was never a focus. The project set out to create the best amplifier we could make and we had no budget to begin with. We simply tried many different things and experimented with a lot of techniques and materials which are familiar only to the aerospace industries. As an architect, I am always fascinated by design and technical engineering. We simulated every single component and created thermal models to measure the airflow around and within the amplifier. This helped us refine and optimize every performance aspect related to its mechanics. In this way we achieved a downsizing of the chassis and the most efficient use of its internal space. It proves that high-end equipment needn't be massive. Users can replace their existing stereo amp with two or even four Unums without taking up any extra space.

"Relative to Unum's circuit, there are four gain stages and BJT output transistors. There is no global feedback but 26dB of local feedback. Input impedance is 200kΩ, output impedance 0.01Ω across the bandwidth (0.0095Ω for the Edition version). S/NR is 103dB, 105dB for the Edition. Bandwidth is 5Hz-75kHz -1dB. Slew rate is ~2'000V/µs. Our approach is to minimize the number of parts to reduce loss of signal/speed and distortion. To guarantee circuit stability in the face of high speed, we don't add another circuit, monitor loop or more parts but calibrate/match our resistors, transistors and capacitors not only on value but performance. Here we pay great attention to parts choices.

"Eliminating the PCB middleman reduces signal-path solder junctions by about 45% and greatly lowers the skin effect of a circuit board. Yet none of these alone are the reasons why our product is special. Things aren't special without real care and intention. We use several systems to test our amplifier's ability with different speaker types like Vivid Audio G1, Apogee Diva, a Fostex widebander and a PMC professional monitor. Our sources include Lumin, MSB, Mytek, TotalDAC and more.

"We buy certain parts off the shelf, others are custom-made to our specs. All assembly is in-house. We twist and coat our cables by hand. We put much attention on craftsmanship and are serious when we say that we do everything by hand. We offer a 2-year labour warranty and 5 years on parts. The local distributor handles warranty logistics. If the user contacts us directly for service, we will pay return shipping."

Expectations. What will be yours, for £32'000 worth of amps? Both Clipper hard-plastic flight cases arrived reinforced with black duct tape. Once removed, it revealed major cracks in their shells. That's of course the function of all protection: to absorb life's hard knocks and take dings so the valuables inside don't. As traveling demonstrators from the UK importer, showing prior wear and tear on their packaging was fully justified. Without inner cloth or plastic liners however, the amps also unpeeled from their hard-foam cradles in the raw. This required rigorous buffing with copious Windex and paper towels to remove many marks that looked older than this shipment. The inset front of one chassis was loose. So was the XLR input on another. A recent <€2'000 shipment from Singapore had tried a lot harder to actually deliver that immaculate first impression. In this instance, I will assume that a factory-fresh shipment for a WestminsterLab buyer would meet expectations head-on. Luxury gear must walk all of its talk down to the shoe laces. It's why we nearly exclusively work directly with the manufacturers, not middlemen. With the latter, we never know what's their responsibility and what's not when it comes to such complaints.

Removing the drop-in corner inserts gains access to the loosely threaded sitting bolts for leveling.

WIth an unmarked belly-mounted toggle front right, powering up each amp elicited red backlighting in the small symbol next to the engraved WestminsterLab name. This quickly turned to white for action. With the preceding hardware our usual iMac/PureMusic, Aqua Hifi Formula DAC and Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II preamp all leashed up XLR, I had first proof of life in no time. Just as quickly, these fully preconditioned samples showed themselves to be cool, slightly bluish, very resolved but also distanced and aloof performers strongly in the 3rd-order dominant key of total harmonic distortion. Immediate very obvious talking points were extreme transparency, litheness, very low noise, supreme sorting and separation. Off the menu were the welly, warmth, density and bottom-up perspective which our various class A Pass Labs and FirstWatt amps specialize in. Even the class A/B LinnenberG Liszt, Crayon and preceding review sample of Kinki Studio EX-M1 integrated signal higher class A envelope to hit harder and project with more urgency. Unless I meant to remain more mentally than emotionally engaged, getting these into our usual circle of sonic trust required some hardware shifts. On top of my list of likeliest suspects were the Fore Audio DAISy 1 DAC and Nagra Classic Preamp, possibly even the loaner Kaiser Acoustic Furioso Mini speakers with their Kondo-inspired tuning.

... to be continued...

WestminsterLab website