Defunct Audio Manufacturers -- U

Underground Sound

A hi-fi and later AV store located on Central Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, USA and founded by George Merrill in 1974. In addition to retailing the company offered repairs and modifications to audio equipment and soon became quite well known for the modifications and replacement parts they offered for Acoustic Research (Teledyne) turntables under the Merrill brand, by the early 80’s the company offered anything from simple modifications such as stiffer suspension springs to complete replacement plinths, motors and sub-chasses, the inevitable conclusion came in 1982 when the company introduced its own turntable.

That was the Merrill Heirloom, a turntable that married the use of AR compatible parts and an insights gleamed from a paper written in 1976 by Brüel & Kjær’s Paul Ladegaard (he of the Ladegaard Arm fame) that analysed the effects of mechanical resonances have on the sound of a turntable. The Heirloom was a bit on the expensive side and never gained the distribution that other high end turntables had at the time but it did generate some interest in the USA hi-fi press and if nothing else re-kindled interest in modifications of AR turntables.

UGS appears only to have made the Heirloom for a few years but the store continued to thrive and the company offered AR turntable modification parts until 1999 at the least and upgrades and repairs even longer, during the last few years the upgrades listed on their website in a couple of sentences, but in 2000 the AR upgrade parts disappear from the UGS website and a new site for Merrill Audio had no mention of them, the only products offered there were a turntable setup booklet and an audiophile rack and by 2004 the only product offered was the booklet.

The company name changed through the years even though the name of the store did not, by the time it was sold it was known as “Home Theaters Inc.” and the store had been moved to Trinity Road, in the Cordova suburb of Germantown, we think the formal name of the company when it started was USG and we are sticking to it until we know better. The company was sold in August 2007 to a home theatre chain called Audio Dimensions and they still operate at store at the trinity road address

We have not managed to get fully rid of George Merrill however, he formed a company in 2007 with Anthony Scillia called Merrill-Scillia Research that manufactures a couple of high end turntable models that show a direct lineage to the Heritage, a year or two later he teamed up with a local studio owner Robert Williams to form another company called Merrill-Williams Audio that manufactures, er, a high end turntable model that show a direct lineage to the Heritage (deja-vu) and from the Merrill-Williams premises he also runs a company called “George Merril’s Analog Emporium” that services hi-fi’s, in addition he appears to have given permission to a company called Vinyl Nirvana to manufacture and sell some of the AR modifications that UGS sold, although the more complex parts like the plinths are missing from the VN catalogue.

Trademark used by Standard Radio for their tape recorders in the 1960's.


Polish centralised trading company set up by the government in 1972 which had a similar arrangement going on regards to Polish electronics manufacturers as RFT had in East Germany except where RFT was the sole distributor of consumer electronics in East Germany the Polish sector actually had a number of such “unions” each divided into a market sector.

The Unitra union had inside it the bulk of Polish consumer electronics manufacturers and had by the late 70’s more than 20 members employing over 50.000 people in total, operated almost 100 factories and in the budget sector of the market were doing some impressive numbers, between 1972 and 1979 they manufactured 72 million radio sets for instance. At the peak of its size in the late 70’s early 80’s the company had grown to a size that meant it had to split itself into 5 subdivisions, sales, MERA was their computing and business electronics division, Unitradom handled consumer electronics, Telecom did communications equipment and Unitraelectron did component manufacturing and professional electronics.

The most notable of the companies that were made part of Unitra were Zaklady Radiowe Kasprzaka (ZK - ZRK), Fonica, Radmor and Diora Świdnica, and while there was some continuation of the usage of those companies original brands the bulk of them was by the mid 70’s sold under the Unitra name both in Poland and internationally except in the USA where the products were sold under the Unitronex (See below), Audio Lab, Two For The Road and Impact brands.

It may come as a surprise to some but Unitra was by that time mostly an export company, it did sell to the west, and was particularly strong in selling electronic components in western Europe, loudspeakers in France and for a time sold them to the USA and a few other markets, all in all the company was exporting to over 80 countries. But their largest customer were poorer countries and Russia, but by the 70’s the Russian consumer electronics industry could not keep up with demand for its products and Unitra filled the gap both with Unitra branded products but also more importantly as an OEM and component supplier. It gave some western companies, primarily European and Japanese an access to the Russian market via proxy, but unlike other East European companies that designed their own equipment Unitra licensed most of their more complex CE designs from foreign companies and used a lot of specialised western parts. The Russian market was so important to the company that they sometimes sent out economic data in Roubles rather than Dollars.

The company was privatised in the early 90’s and still exists, primarily as a holding company.


USA based company founded in 1974 and owned by Polish “industrial unions” Unitra (above) and Metronex and the name of the company is simply a combination of the 2 owners names. The company initially distributed sundry Polish industrial, lighting, computing and scientific apparatus in the USA and Canada but in 1978 started to import loudspeakers that they sold under the Impact and Audio Lab brands, although they had problems registering the Audio Lab brand as it was considered too generic and close to other existing brand names so they in the end registered it as “Audio Lab Consort” but continued to brand the speakers with just the Audio Lab name and logo.

This was successful enough an endeavour for the company to expand into the car audio market with the Two For The Road brand in 1980, like with the home audio speakers Unitronex choose to combat perceptions of inferior East European products by offering a limited 5 year warranty for the brands line-up, but at that time it was an almost unheard of warranty length for a consumer electronic product. All of the loudspeakers sold by the company appear to come from Unitra and the bulk of them, at the least the more expencive models to have originated at the Diora Świdnica factory.

The company appears to have exited the home loudspeaker market in the mid 80’s although the actual timeline is not known to us, but sales of car audio speakers seem to have gone on a little longer possibly even to the break of the Polish communist economy in 1989. The company is still around but these days acts mostly as an OEM and ODM agent for Eastern European companies.
Homepage: -- Unitronex Poland

Ursa Major
Pioneering USA based manufacturer of digital reverbs, originally founded by Christopher Moore in 1978 and based in Blemont, Massachusetts. Sold to AKG in the mid 80's.

Utah American Corporation
Loudspeaker manufacturer based in Huntingdon, Indiana, USA, originally founded by Francis Lester Pyle (1912 – 2001) in 1962. Went out of business in 1971, but Frank Pyle then went on to found Pyle Industries in 1973. The Utah name comes from a trademark used by the Detrola corporation that was based in the same town a few years earlier and for whom Mr. Pyle had worked.

The company pretty much specialised in supplying cheap drivers and sometimes fully built speakers to companies looking for alternatives to established brands although you will find both loudspeakers and drivers with the Utah brand on them that were sold separately. But quite often you will find drivers from Utah in musical instrument amplifiers and cheap home loudspeakers from companies such as Olson Electronics that were below the specifications of anything you will find in any catalogue from the company.

Utility Research
Tiny loudspeaker manufacturer based in Lindgö in Sweden that also distributed a series of French audio products locally, by all accounts they appear to have been a part time concern. Disappeared from view in early 2002.

U-Vola See --> Syn Factory

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The site was last compiled on Sun Nov 10 2013 at 9:15:00am