Unity Audio’s Kevin Walker on the firm’s journey from distributor to manufacturer

Originally started back in 1995 as a distribution company, Unity Audio’s clients now range from Queens of the Stone Age to Rudimental, Coldplay and producer David Wrench. In this Q&A, founder Kevin Walker tells AMI how the company started and what his hopes are for the future.

How did the business start?

We weren’t doing any manufacturing then at all. We set ourselves up as a UK distribution business for high-end professional studio products (mics/outboard/software plugins and monitors from other companies.

It started with a number of different products but on the monitor side with Dynaudio Acoustics. We successfully distributed Dynaudio for a good ten years, but this came to an end when TC Electronics took over international distribution for them. We then found ourselves distributing Adam Audio and Focal for a while, too. Historically, both Dynaudio and Adam Audio represented a big chunk of our business and so I was very reluctant to spend a lot of time, effort and money with another speaker manufacturer.

At that point, which was around eight to nine years ago, I decided to start our own monitor range, and start manufacturing our own monitors under the Unity Audio brand. It was quite an ambitious, bold move and a lot of people thought I was crazy.

We had numerous third party suppliers, manufacturers and sub-contractors who helped us do it and I was heavily involved with what the product itself should be and some of its design principles. I’ve been involved with professional monitor sales for a very long time and so I knew a lot about what was good, what was bad etc. All this knowledge gave me the confidence that we could do this and do it well.

The first product was called the Rock, which we still sell and has changed slightly over the years. We now have a nice range of products at different price points for different applications.

Who are some of your most notable clients?

We’ve got a really good, diverse selection of international people using our monitors such as Queens of the Stone Age, Rudimental, Coldplay, producer  David Wrench, Jeff Foster who works out of AIR Studios and mastering studios like Metropolis. There’s a strong mix of mastering, commercial studios, composers and engineers using our monitors.

What are the biggest challenges you’re currently faced with?

It is a well-known fact that production budgets have been slashed dramatically of late and so everything has kind of shrunk down. People are still demanding incredible things but from a smaller, cheaper box which is a continual challenge.

Monitoring generally has improved from 20 years ago. With our B.A.B.E system – Rather than designing a huge new main monitor, we used this a solution. This has been well received. Although production budgets have shrunk and people are working in much smaller environments, there seems to be more of a demand for larger but good quality monitoring systems. Our angle with the Boulder BABE is that you can have all the benefits of a big high-powered, high-SPL main monitoring system, but it’s still super accurate for mixing on at any level.

What are your hopes for the company going forward?

We launched the Mini Rock at the NAMM Show– the smallest, most affordable product in the range. It shares a lot of the components and technology we use in the larger models. That’s also going to have provisions on it for contractors and installers.

There’ll be various mounting points for standardised mounting yokes and speaker brackets etc. This is something we’ve not looked at in the past. This has kind of been driven by some of the UK installer customers that we deal with. They really like the quality of our speakers when they’re spec’ing higher quality installs in clubs and restaurants etc. So there’s a bit more interest from this side of the industry and it’s something that we’ve really not addressed before, so we’ve made provisions for that market in the new product, the Mini Rock.