Naim Audio Uniti Atom All-In-One System

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Naim Audio is one of the high end companies we have begun to take for granted. Founded back in 1973 in beautiful Salisbury, Wiltshire by the late, aristocratic Julian Vereker MBE, Naim Audio has become synonymous with the very finest in modular and single components and loudspeakers. A true legacy company of our avocation. British audio royalty. 

With the company's success, the vibe has become a little more corporate, a long way from the beginning where Vereker would shout from the rooftops the benefits of beautiful, if austere, design and the unending benefits of power supplies (the more, the merrier).  

I have been a huge fan of Naim Audio almost since its inception. I heard my first Naim products in London way back in the late 70s/early 80s when I was studying music there. Along with Cyrus, Arcam, Rega Research, Audiolab and others, Naim Audio began making its name producing very high quality components, eschewing the huge box, huge power, American high end audio design philosophy. You got the MG/Spitfire/Austin Healy power/design acumen, but with reliability. I remember being thrilled with an Arcam integrated with a whole 25 watts per channel, and loving it. 

Over the years, Naim Audio has stayed true to its ethos, flowed with the times as all progressive companies do, and has continually garnered very positive reviews from its most inexpensive products to its benchmark (and, dare I say it, very 'corporate' an un-Naim-like) 'Statement' behemoth, coming in at over $250K! 

Much more keeping with Naim's original spirit is the Uniti Atom All-In-One System. A magic box of musical tricks conjured by superior design, parts, and engineering. All for a reasonable price (USD$2995), and the subject of this review. 

This all comer includes a 40-watt integrated, Class A/B amplifier, with high-resolution music streaming (supporting Google Cast, Spotify and Tidal HiF via Wi-Fi or Ethernet; and from a mobile device via Bluetooth or Airplay) with Burr-Brown DAC chips. It features a substantial transformer, hand-wired analogue and digital circuitry, a very becoming full colour 5 inch LCD display with proximity sensor, a bidirectional remote control and much more, all controlled by the iOS or Android app. Hard drives containing all your FLACs, etc, can be plugged in to one of two USB ports. And as of last week, the Uniti Atom is Roon Ready and can be used as an endpoint directly rather than by AirPlay. The magic box just got merrier. 

Basically, plug in your favourite speakers (I used the wonderful and also relatively inexpensive, Totem Acoustic Sky Loudspeaker) and you're good to go. 'What about my vinyl?', you say. RCAs out back, my friend. Just don't forget a phono stage. All this in a package no bigger than an English biscuit tin (cookie jar in the Colonies). 

Donald Fagen lighting up as you get close. A superb LCD. Why can't all digital boxes have a screen like this? 

Donald Fagen lighting up as you get close. A superb LCD. Why can't all digital boxes have a screen like this? 

Naim says: 

Whatever the source, our revolutionary Uniti Atom player combines seamless digital technology with analogue soul for a sound that’s unmistakably Naim. Play and stream in flawless high-resolution. Then use our custom-designed software to bring out every note of your music with true high-fidelity sound. New Uniti series also gives you the option to sync up to six Uniti systems or other Naim streamers and play music from any source in multiple rooms simultaneously. Or, play different music in every room.

The mighty little Atom is inspired, in design at least, by the massive Naim Audio Statement, with its finned aluminum heatsinks, brushed black aluminum casing, and a base that is illuminated.

Rear panel. 

Rear panel. 

The Uniti system, including the Atom, is upgradeable. 'In true Naim style, the new Uniti Atom can be upgraded with one of our external power amplifiers, such as the compact NAP 100. You can also add a subwoofer for deeper bass extension. And for those with extensive CD collections, you can add a Uniti Core music server to your system to store and stream thousands of albums to your Uniti player and back up all of your music in one place.'

Sound

The review unit in question had considerable hours on it and will take a good 100 to sound best out of the box. I have found Naim to echo what many quality solid state components prefer--leave them on. Or, be prepared to wait 24/36 hours to hear them sounding their significant best. The same was particularly true for the Atom. The little bugger likes it warm. As such, just keep it on. 

One of the best value remotes you'll ever use. 

One of the best value remotes you'll ever use. 

I loved the app, the very stylish remote even more. How can Naim make a plastic remote that exudes quality and is intuitive? You'll be proud to own it. While my $14K, stunningly designed, gorgeous sounding integrated comes with a mini, plastic lump. Every time I pick it up, it seems to denigrate the magnificent silver box it's controlling. High enders, learn from Rega and Naim. (High quality) plastic can look and feel good. 

Even better than the unit's remote? The stunning backlit, volume control on top of the Atom. Of course, that means hauling your ass off the couch, and we know audiophiles will not be doing that! MInd you, if anything gets you off the couch, this volume control will. 

At this price, I've never seen or used a better volume control. Simply stunning!

At this price, I've never seen or used a better volume control. Simply stunning!

The Atom's sound is reminiscent of Naim's lineage--smooth and refined. You'll get zero digital fatigue listening for hours on end (I did not listen to vinyl through them) and the 40 watts (paired with appropriate speakers) pack quite a punch. The Totem Sky is a remarkable loudspeaker-- very coherent for a low price. I just saw owner/designer Vince Bruzzese of Totem last week at a shindig here in Victoria, BC. He remarked how much he enjoyed the Sky's review. I remarked how underpriced they are! If set up right, you wont believe the lovely treble, musical mids and value bass coming out of the small boxes. The connected Uniti Atom was a very musical marriage. 

One of my new demos for power handling, Muti's new Chicago Bruckner Ninth Symphony, passed with flying horns and trumpets. The majesty of this incredible masterpiece is sometimes left for dead by small electrical footprints. The coupling handled everything, from the opening horns to heaven, to the unison, powerhouse fffs, and every bit of Bruckner's beautiful counterpoint in between. 

Voices also benefitted from the Naim treatment. Even turned up well past ear pleasantries, sopranos, especially, sounded focused and never undernourished. Sir John Barbirolli's stunning EMI of Vaughan-Williams' Serenade to Music, featuring 16 solo voices (four of each tessitura) with large orchestra, sounded quite divine. Much of the divinity comes from the incredible setting of Shakespeare's prose and the sheer beauty of the music, but the Atom deciphered the musical lines with ease, and when the chest tones of four soprano heavy hitters got going, the Atom didn't flinch. You know the difference between Mazda HP and BMW's, right? Well, Naim's musical horsepower is spot on. You'll be getting the full 40. For anything less than headbangers with Apogee Scintillas, the 40 watts should do just fine. Drive the unit too hard, and it'll bow out gracefully, but as a proud Naim Audio owner, I don't think you'll be doing that. 

One of the joys of owning Naim equipment is how they reveal inner musical detail, like the Bruckner counterpoint mentioned, or how a trumpet emerges beautifully and softly from the orchestral fabric in the Vaughan-Williams. 

Modern tracks from albums by Yello and Ledesi sounded infinitely effective as demos and hugely uninspiring as music. That said, if Electronica and House float your boat, you'll have a ticket to the party. 

The streaming tech specs are fine; no dropouts, no sizzle, just good time music. The DAC is top notch and with the pre/amplifier derived from Naim's legendary Nait Integrated, what you have here my friends is a technological marvel. Headphone geeks can plug in, too. Naim's got everything covered. 

Did it better my 25K amplification/digital setup? Nope. Attached to the truly special 10K Raidho Acoustic XT-1 Loudspeakers, my Jeff Rowland/Bel Canto/Antipodes Audio setup has killer synergy, definition, and superlative inner detail with accurate bass. And at 35K compared to a 5K setup, it damn well should be better. But I was so impressed with the Atom, I'm going to request the top of the line Naim Uniti Nova ($6,995) doubling the power and upping the internal component quality. That should be a hell of a shootout, and I will be happy to report back to you. 

Summary

If you are in the market for an all-in-one solution, and price is an object, then this wizard of a player should be at the top of your must listen list. For fit and finish, sound quality, value, a happy significant other, and adaptability, you will not find better. Very highly recommended. 

Further information: Naim Audio

Specifications

Audio Inputs
2 x Optical TOSLink (up to 24bit/96kHz)
1 x Coaxial RCA (up to 24bit/192kHz, DoP 64Fs)
1 x HDMI ARC (optional)
1 x RCA
2 x USB Type A socket (front and rear)

Audio Outputs
1 x Stereo power amplifier
1 x RCA sub/pre output
1 x 3.5mm headphone jack

Upgradeable Performance

Audio InputsDigital (S/PDIF)

2 x Optical TOSLink (up to 24bit/96kHz)
1 x Coaxial RCA (up to 24bit/192kHz, DoP 64Fs)
1 x HDMI ARC (optional)

USB

2 x USB Type A Socket (front and rear)

Streaming

Chromecast Built-In, Apple Airplay, TIDAL, Spotify® Connect, Bluetooth (AptX HD), Internet Radio™, UPnP™ (hi-res streaming)

ConnectivityNetwork

Ethernet (10/100Mbps), WiFi (802.11 b/g/n/ac with internal antennae)

Audio Formats

WAV - up to 32bits/384kHz
FLAC and AIFF - up to 24bit/384kHz
ALAC (Apple Lossless) - up to 24bit/384kHz
MP3 - up to 48kHz, 320kbit (16 bit)
AAC - up to 48kHz, 320kbit (16 bit)
OGG and WMA - up to 48kHz (16 bit)
DSD - 64 and 128Fs

Notes: Gapless playback supported on all formats.

Internet Radio Formats

Windows Media-formatted content, MP3, ACC, OGG Vorbis streams and MMS

Power Amplifier Output

40W per channel into 8 ohms

Physical Dimensions

95mm x 245mm x 265mm (HxWxD)

Weight

7kg