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ESi uniK 08 – Active Monitors Review

In some ways, the timing of this review has been less than ideal. I’ve had the speakers at Criminal Towers since the Scalford show, and in that time I’ve really struggled to listen to much else other than the utterly wonderful CD from Mr T.G. Elias. It’s an absolute corker of an album, but it does not provide enough material to give even a remotely comprehensive workout of a system for review purposes. In the last week or so I have somewhat reluctantly had to force myself to listen to other music in order to actually write something coherent for this piece; I just hope that doesn’t end up reflecting badly on the kit!

Today we are looking at the uniK 08, a medium sized active stand mount from German manufacturer ESi. It features an 8” Kevlar main driver, and a custom ribbon tweeter for the high end. The built in amplifiers are specified at 90W per side, which provides plenty of oomph for most domestic settings.

As these are pro monitors there are some nods to the studio side of things, in particular the presence of full sized jack, XLR and Speakon connectors all combined into a rather impressive combined socket. They also feature individual volume controls as well as some switching for low frequency roll-off if required. The fronts have a rather fetching gloss finish, which makes them  more visually appealing than your average studio monitor.7

And now the all-important question is how do they sound? Not too surprisingly for studio monitors, they come across as being very neutral across the board. The only bit that sounds at all different is the bass, but that is mostly due to my listening room being somewhat enthusiastic in its support. The ribbons in particular have a particularly sweet and clear sound to them that’s preferable to some speakers I’ve heard at 10 times the price (and yes I have a specific speaker in mind, and no I’m not going to say what it is!)

So to some specific samples, and given the introduction we really must start with the self-titled debut album from Mr T.G. Elias. It’s a very simply made album, with most tracks featuring little more than vocals, a single acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Especially when sat in the sweet spot of those ribbon tweeters you really do get some very precise positioning of instruments in the image. The vocals are particularly luscious sounding which suits the style of music absolutely perfectly.

They’re also very well suited to things with big fat, funky bass lines. I’m a relatively recent convert to the wonderful world of Yello, but the uniKs love getting down to tracks like the race and having a proper boogie. It’s not the tightest of bass notes ever, but it’s certainly fun and full in its sound.

For a lot of people on here, I suspect the uniKs may not be contenders for main system material, but I think they’re absolutely perfect as part of a compact second system. There are plenty of people with setups in studies, kitchens and bedrooms, and the uniKs along with the diminutive Dr DAC Prime (review coming soon) make for an extremely competent and compact system; just add a laptop via USB and you’re away.

ESi uniK 08 – £470

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