Naim Uniti Atom Review – Little big one…
The fact that Naim Audio Ltd. has named the smallest of the Naim Uniti series of all-in-one hi-fi systems the Naim Uniti Atom is an indication that, whilst it is extremely compact, it is also a remarkably flexible system of this type. “Atomic,” i.e. indivisible, it combines elegance, quality and versatility into a single unit in a minimum of space.
There are many manufacturers who have succeeded in building up a certain reputation, a certain image over a long history, which is inseparably linked to their name, their products. For example, the English hi-fi manufacturer Naim Audio Ltd, which is certainly one of the most renowned in the entire industry and whose name stands like no other for the finest systems of the “English school”.
There are, of course, countless companies that have been developing and manufacturing the finest solutions for years, but few companies have succeeded in building up such an exquisite image as Naim Audio Ltd. Many hi-fi enthusiasts almost automatically associate the name alone with a clear idea of design and sound, which is probably also due to the fact that the company, founded in 1973, has always pursued a very independent philosophy and a very clear strategy based on this philosophy, which has sometimes been maintained against many a trend, has always focused on the basic features of high-quality hi-fi, and has viewed many a development in the industry very critically. This was the guarantee that over the decades Naim Audio Ltd. has been able to build up a loyal customer base that relies “blindly” on solutions from the English. Yes, one can certainly speak of a company with cult status…
Pioneer for audio streaming in the high-end HiFi segment
It is all the more astonishing, however, that Naim Audio Ltd., of all companies, is one of the pioneers in the field of high-end audio streaming systems.
Back in 2008, Naim Audio Ltd. presented the first audio streaming solution that clearly belonged in the high-end segment, the Naim HDX Hard Disc Player. This was all the more remarkable as at that time music streaming had long since become a distinctive market segment, but only in the consumer segment. Naim Audio Ltd. was therefore one of the first classic hi-fi companies to devote itself to this topic.
In retrospect, this was of great significance for the entire industry, because it was obviously necessary for a company of the calibre of Naim Audio Ltd, which has an impeccable reputation in the hi-fi and even audiophile community, to consolidate confidence in streaming and ultimately enable it to achieve the importance it has today in the marketplace. What used to be a disdainful arithmetician who shouldn’t be trusted with music, almost at a stroke became a serious solution where there were no concerns about quality, thus bringing the previously unknown potential for flexibility and convenience to the forefront.
All the more so when Naim Audio Ltd. followed suit a short time later, in 2009 to be precise, with the NaimUniti, and even more so in 2010 with the Naim Uniti Series, a complete product line that presented itself as a versatile all-in-one system with a focus on music streaming.
The new generation
Naim Audio Ltd have nurtured the Naim Uniti Series in an exemplary manner over the years, but by the end of 2016 it was felt that the time had come to announce a new generation, with the actual launch taking place successively over the last few months.
The latest generation of Naim Uniti Series consists of four products, three of which are all-in-one systems, one of which is a music server. The Naim Uniti Atom is the entry point, followed by the Naim Uniti Star and the flagship Naim Uniti Nova. The fourth product in the Naim Uniti range, the Naim Uniti Core, is the only product in the Naim Uniti range that is not an all-in-one, but rather a music server with a CD ripper that can be used as a reliable data provider for Naim Uniti All-in-One solutions and other streaming systems.
Discreetly adapted concept
Naim Audio Ltd. has so far clearly been targeting the traditional customer base with the Naim Uniti Series. With the latest generation, this may have changed somewhat, although it is clear that the company’s high standards have not changed at all. However, there is some evidence that Naim Audio Ltd. is much more aware than before that solutions such as the Naim Uniti Series have the potential to reach completely new target groups that could not previously be reached with conventionally designed hi-fi products.
The latest generation of Naim Uniti Series solutions are, of course, at first glance recognisable as solutions from the English hi-fi industry. The design language used for the new Naim Uniti Range is the design language first established with the Naim Wireless Systems Naim Mu-so and Naim Mu-so Qb, and which has already caused a stir with the latest high-end solutions Naim NAC S1 Preamplifier and Naim NAP S2 Power Amplifier.
New target group in sight…
This is of crucial importance for the Naim Uniti Series, as it seamlessly completes the range of Naim wireless systems Naim Mu-so and Naim Mu-so Qb with the newly launched Naim Uniti Series. The transition from consumer-oriented solutions to the high-end hi-fi segment is therefore fluid, and this is of immense importance in the environment of high-quality streaming systems in a multi-room environment. As already mentioned, it is not only possible to appeal to the loyal existing customer base, but also to tap into a completely new target group, namely quality-conscious, design-oriented consumers, for whom high-end hi-fi becomes the focus of interest when these solutions can be seamlessly integrated into the living environment.
Our current test candidate, the Naim Uniti Atom, is almost perfect for this task, that much is clear from the outset.
The most modern interpretation of an all-in-one…
To put it in a nutshell and describe our test candidate in a single sentence, the Naim Uniti Atom is the most advanced interpretation of an all-in-one hi-fi system, focusing on streaming, but without leaving out conventional sources, making it a central hi-fi solution with enormous potential and intuitive operation in the smallest of spaces.
Naim Audio Ltd. itself describes this particular concept with the promise that it offers digital technology with an analogue soul, either as a stand-alone solution or in combination with other products in a multi-room environment.
Highly integrated in the most compact, sophisticated form
Immediately during the unpacking, it is noticeable that one is dealing with an exceedingly compact device, but that it has a relatively considerable weight. The Naim Uniti Atom is only 245 mm wide, 265 mm deep and 95 mm high, but weighs a whopping 7 kg.
The new design line can be described as minimalist. Minimalist, but for this very reason timelessly elegant. Somehow it seems as if the actual device is enthroned on a slightly inwardly offset base, whereby the front presents itself very sober and limited to the essentials. Here, the focus is first of all on a very generously sized 5 inch color display, which presents itself in a glass panel seamlessly embedded in the aluminum front. On the right, there is a standby button as well as three function buttons, on the left, there is a USB port and a headphone jack.
The rear side is virtually littered with connections, as the Naim Uniti Atom offers a large number of these, measured against its compact appearance, which crowd into a comparatively small area. In addition to the power supply for the integrated power supply unit, there is an RJ45 Ethernet socket, a USB port, analogue and digital inputs and outputs, as well as connections for the speakers. These are only suitable for Bananas convection cables. Conventional screw terminals, which can also be used for bare cables, have been omitted here, but this is not really a disadvantage. Behind a cover there is a multi-pin connector, which is intended for an optional extension, but more about that later.
The left and right side of the Naim Uniti Atom is taken up by cooling fins, which are only recognizable as such at second glance, so they are very discreetly integrated into the design concept.
The upper side is decorated with a brushed aluminium plate, which is anodised in black, just like all other aluminium parts of the case, and in the centre of which a massive encoder has been embedded.
As inconspicuous as the Naim Uniti Atom appears when switched off, it sets the scene spectacularly when activated.
Not only the display presents itself with an excellent contrast and thus clearer representation, but also the keys are illuminated, as is the encoder on the top, with a ring of light visualising the set level, and LED lighting in brilliant white surrounds the entire encoder, and the manufacturer’s logo is also illuminated. By the way, the intensity of the illumination can be dimmed in three steps.
The Naim Uniti Atom comes with a remote control, also in black, but with a high-gloss design, which takes over the elements directly on the device, such as the LED ring just mentioned on the top for visualising the volume level, so the buttons are illuminated here too. In addition, a control pad and other function keys are also located here, via which any function of the device is accessible. By the way, this is not an infrared remote control, but a wireless remote control that uses the Zigbee RF4CE standard and therefore works bidirectionally and does not require a line of sight.
Fresh to work
To make the installation of the system as convenient as possible, you should rely as much as possible on the app offered by Naim Audio Ltd., which is available for Apple iOS and Google Android in the form of the Naim app.
The first step is of course to integrate the Naim Uniti Atom into the network, which in the simplest case can be done via cable using the RJ45 Ethernet interface already mentioned. In addition, the Naim Uniti Atom also has an integrated WiFi module that complies with IEEE 802.11ac, the latest standard, to guarantee a reliable connection with a high data throughput rate. For the sake of completeness, the antennas are concealed on the sides behind the cooling fins of the device. However, for the full potential of the Naim Uniti Atom you should rely on cables.
The app essentially does the complete installation, starting with the possible integration into the wireless network, guiding you step by step through all the necessary steps. The app also explains the coupling between the remote control and the Naim Uniti Atom in an exemplary manner, so that you will have a system ready for use after only a few minutes. It should also be mentioned that the app also offers many setting options for customising the system, all of which are hidden behind a cogwheel symbol at the top right-hand edge of the app, so that they do not get in the way during normal operation. Besides general system parameters, you can assign unique names to the inputs, hide unneeded sources, set the input sensitivity or define a time offset (lip-sync).
Of course the Naim Uniti Atom doesn’t have the kind of connectivity found in conventional amplifiers, which is not the intention of the designers of this all-in-one solution. But, there is nothing missing.
An analogue input in the form of a pair of RCA sockets is available, for example, to connect a record player with the appropriate phono preamplifier. At digital interfaces, one coaxial and two optical S/PDIF interfaces are available for connecting a TV set, for example. The Naim Uniti Atom can also be equipped with an optional HDMI interface via the multi-pin interface on the rear panel. This makes it easy to connect a TV set via HDMI, as the HDMI interface supports HDMI CEC for central control and ARC, an audio return channel that carries audio signals from the TV to the Naim Uniti Atom. Most importantly, the optional HDMI port is galvanically isolated, so that no interference can adversely affect signal processing and have a negative impact on sound.
For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that the rear of the Naim Uniti Atom also features a preamplifier output in the form of a further pair of RCA connectors.
We have already mentioned the headphone jack on the front. This is a 3.5 mm stereo mini jack socket, and should not be seen as a mere accessory; on the contrary, it drives many a fine pair of headphones without any problems.
Not only network, but also Bluetooth
How could it be otherwise, of course, such a solution today cannot do without an integrated Bluetooth interface, which allows mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to be directly “wirelessly” integrated as a source. For this purpose, the developers relied on a module that also supports the aptX codec, and even aptX HD is offered, so that portable hi-res players can also be integrated without any problems and without any loss of quality.
Apple AirPlay, Google Chromecast and Spotify Connect
However, the Naim Uniti Atom is also open to mobile devices via the network, be it Apple AirPlay for the world of Apple or Google Chromecast for Google Android. One of the directly supported music services is Spotify, let’s be clear about this, with Spotify Connect also supported to provide a seamless transition of playback on the go and in the home.
Spotify, TIDAL and vTuner
As mentioned above, the Naim Uniti Atom allows direct access to Spotify including Spotify Connect. But if you value quality, you will probably choose TIDAL, because this online music service can also be accessed directly here. The Naim Uniti Atom does not offer classical radio, but thousands of Internet radio stations are available via the vTuner service.
UPnP solved in an exemplary way
If you want to access your own content stored on a central network storage solution, a so-called NAS, the Naim Uniti Atom is the ideal solution. Audio streaming, the basis of the Naim Uniti platform, is provided by UPnP, which is not limited to playback via a single device, but can be used to create a multi-room audio streaming system with other solutions from Naim Audio Ltd. Up to six systems can be combined in this way and controlled centrally with the Naim app, either individually with their own content or synchronised on all systems with identical content in party mode. All sources are available, but this should be mentioned for the sake of completeness.
The Naim Uniti Atom as a stand-alone system
What is particularly exciting is that the Naim Uniti Atom can also be used completely self-sufficiently without having to do without an extensive media library of audio files. The USB ports are used for this purpose, to which the appropriate storage media such as an external USB hard drive can be connected, brimming with audio data. Here, up to 20,000 music titles are managed via the integrated database of the Naim Uniti Atom.
With one of the latest firmware updates available from Naim Audio Ltd for the Naim Uniti Series, the Roon ready, which includes the smallest in the range, the Naim Uniti Atom.
This means that the small all-in-one will appear in the Roon software solution as an available streaming client that can be used immediately after activation.
New streaming platform as heart of the system
It took three years to develop the latest Naim Uniti series, and the English hi-fi manufacturer from Salisbury also took a lot of money. According to Naim Audio Ltd, they invested almost £4 million to create an innovative, high performance and above all flexible and future-proof solution, although this was no longer a completely in-house development, but rather a solution designed by a partner, which in the view of the British company brings decisive advantages. They can rely on a tried and tested platform that has already been implemented with third-party solutions, thus saving them this cost-intensive development, and the time and costs involved in licensing are also significantly lower.
At the heart of the new Streaming Board is a particularly powerful DSP, namely a 40-bit SHARC processor of the latest generation from Analog Devices, an Analog Devices ADSP-21489.
This processor ensures that the Naim Uniti Atom is operated with remarkable accuracy. Even large media libraries can be displayed and accessed quickly and without noticeable delay directly via the device or the app. Individual music titles, entire albums or the complete oeuvre of an artist can be accessed immediately, regardless of the source.
In addition, the high-performance platform also guarantees that the actual signal processing for all relevant data formats and resolutions can be carried out with a wide variety of signal optimization methods, such as 16x oversampling and digital filtering.
Thus, all signals, no matter from which source, are routed via the DSP, including analog sources that have previously been processed by an A/D converter.
While the Naim Uniti Atom can process signals at 24 bits and 96 kHz via the optical S/PDIF interfaces, the coaxial S/PDIF interface can process 24 bits and 192 kHz. DSD data streams are also processed via this interface, using DSD over PCM (DoP). Music streaming over the network as well as data accessible via USB are processed with up to 32 bit and 384 kHz, whereby WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC and the lossy data formats MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis and WMA are supported. DSD contents are of course also played back, up to DSD128.
The actual conversion is done by a pair of Texas Instruments TI1791A Burr-Brown before the signals are fed into the amplifier.
By the way, it should be mentioned in this context that the Naim Uniti Atom uses a digital control system to control the volume, which is particularly accurate. Naim Audio Ltd. promises high sound quality and absolute channel equality.
Proven Class A/B as the crowning glory
Although all signal processing through the streaming board and preamplifier is digital, the final touch to the amplifier itself is the use of a Class A/B amplifier in the latest generation of Naim Uniti Series amplifiers, using a circuit design that was first used in the current Naim NAIT models.
The Naim Uniti Atom is capable of delivering two 40 watt 8 ohm impedance speaker systems, which is appropriate for a system in its class and sufficient to provide a typical living room with a fine sound using high efficiency speakers, particularly as an active subwoofer can be brought into play via the aforementioned pre-amplifier outputs if necessary.
From the practice
Right at the beginning of our summary, we would like to point out that the Naim Uniti Atom has a fantastic design that inspires. This may not seem essential to some people, but it is essential if you want to attract new customers.
And without doubt the Naim Uniti Atom has exactly this potential. It is precisely this target group, which is no longer prepared to implement an extensive range of equipment in its living environment, but which is certainly open to high quality and appreciates flexible concepts, that can be inspired by this solution.
The developers at Naim Audio Ltd. have managed to walk the fine line between lifestyle solutions and high-end hi-fi with flying colours. The one is achieved without compromising the other, combining lifestyle with high quality standards. The Naim Uniti Atom is a pleasure to place in your living room!
Just as important for this target group, but not only for them, is a simple installation. There is no reason for complaint in this respect either, quite the contrary. With the sophisticated app, the system can be set up in no more than five minutes, so that the first bars of music can be heard.
Another great advantage of the Naim Uniti Atom is that this can be done from a wide variety of sources, be it analogue, digital, mobile devices or the network.
Fortunately, there is no need to make any concessions here either, if you choose such a compact solution. From record players to TV sets and full network functionality, everything of interest can be integrated or used. The individual configuration of the inputs, the fading out of unneeded sources, these are further plus points that need to be emphasized explicitly.
In general, a lot of attention has been paid to a consistently intuitive operation, be it on the device itself, via the remote control or the app. The operating concept is the same for all variants, whereby we would like to praise the clear structure in this context. In addition, and this is another thing we particularly liked, the first-class display is not only used here to show all parameters and the various sources, but also cover artwork is shown on the display, regardless of the source from which the corresponding files are obtained.
In addition, the high performance of the system plays a decisive role in the operation, nothing is more annoying than when such a system cannot follow the user’s input immediately and without delay, no matter how extensive the media library is. Moreover, it may be just a detail on the side, but we believe that the possibility of putting the system into and out of standby mode using an app alone is also part of comfortable operation.
Of course, the sound is of utmost importance, although we only have to point out that this new offspring from Salisbury presents itself as a worthy representative of the English hi-fi smithy and spoils you with an almost typical sound character. Attention to detail across the entire frequency spectrum is a virtue that this all-in-one system knows how to cultivate, as well as a remarkably clearly structured sound stage that allows a wonderful spatial staggering of instruments and voices. If you are irritated by the comparatively modest watts in the data sheet, you can be assured that the Naim Uniti Atom is guaranteed not to lack performance when measured against its class and purpose.
In our test it had to prove itself with a pair of fine speakers from Italy, namely Chario Aviator Ghibli, a no less subtle and detailed loudspeaker system that the Naim Uniti Atom always kept under control and as a playing partner always filled our listening room with a convincing, no, sometimes even intoxicatingly fine sound.
Getting to the Point
It is impressive that the Naim Uniti Atom can stage music so skilfully. Particularly in view of the fact that it is such a compact yet extremely elegant all-in-one system, which can justifiably be described as a high-end lifestyle solution in the best sense of the word. The ability to access a wide range of sources, both analogue and digital, as well as content from the network and mobile devices, and even expand it into a multi-room audio streaming system, all of which makes the Naim Uniti Atom a reference in its class.
If the Naim Uniti Atom can be described in a single sentence, it is the most modern interpretation of an all-in-one hi-fi system, focusing on streaming, but without neglecting traditional sources, making it a central hi-fi solution with enormous potential and intuitive operation in a small space. The fact that all options can also be extended to a multi-room audio streaming system is another important point in favour of the Naim Uniti Atom, but also the entire Naim Uniti Series.
|Hersteller:||Naim Audio Ltd.|
|Vertrieb:||music line Vertriebs GmbH|
|Preis:||ab € 2.198,-|
|The Good||– Impressively powerful sound|
– super design
– outstanding workmanship
– intuitive operation directly on the device
– intuitive operation via radio remote control
– excellent app
– top performance
– versatile source support
– Multiroom capable
|The Bad||– No touchscreen display|