Naim Uniti Atom

FOR Class-lead­ing in­sight; pre­cise tim­ing; looks beau­ti­ful AGAINST Noth­ing par­tic­u­lar of note “From the cof­fee coaster vol­ume dial to the LCD front panel dis­play, Naim has nailed the cross­over be­tween life­style prod­uct and pre­mium hi-fi”

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

There comes an age where it’s no longer a com­pli­ment to be told you look older than you are: and that usu­ally be­gins some time af­ter you’re legally old enough to buy an al­co­holic drink in a bar.

How­ever, we doubt very much whether Naim will be overly dis­grun­tled if we say that its pre­vi­ous line of all-in-one stream­ing sys­tems looks older than it re­ally is. Be­cause it’s only when we sit one next to the youth­ful Uniti Atom that it looks more than one gen­er­a­tion be­hind.

In truth, that would be the case with just about any­thing you place along­side the Atom – like the less-than-at­trac­tive friend you keep in the cir­cle to make your­self look bet­ter, only in re­verse.

While some peo­ple might pre­fer a unit that blends into the room, there’s no avert­ing our gaze from the Uniti Atom – it truly is a tri­umph of de­sign. From the plea­sure of play­ing with the cof­fee coaster vol­ume dial on the top (which is al­most enough in it­self to jus­tify buy­ing this sys­tem) to its full-colour LCD front panel dis­play which ex­hibits al­bum art, Naim has nailed the cross­over be­tween life­style prod­uct and pre­mium hi-fi.

Bad vibrations

You may find the Uniti Atom be­ing de­scribed as a streamer, but that’s do­ing it a dis­ser­vice. In ef­fect it’s a mini-sys­tem, to which you need ap­ply only a suit­ably tal­ented pair of speak­ers. The on-board am­pli­fier is Class A/B de­rived from the NAIT in­te­grated amps, which Naim says is a chal­lenge be­cause of a num­ber of technical dif­fi­cul­ties in terms of pro­duc­tion and in­te­gra­tion, es­pe­cially in so small a unit, but its ef­forts are richly re­warded in musical per­for­mance.

Naim claims it runs 40W per chan­nel into 8 ohms. It pow­ered our ref­er­ence pair of ATC SCM50 speak­ers with room to spare; so a more likely pair­ing – a pair of £600 stand­moun­ters, say – should be child’s play.

As for con­nec­tions, the Uniti Atom has a ket­tle-lead berth for the new Naim mains cable. Dubbed the Power-line Lite, it has float­ing pins aimed at en­sur­ing a bet­ter

con­nec­tion, while its de­cou­pled me­chan­i­cal de­sign is in­tended to stop harm­ful vibrations trav­el­ling from one com­po­nent to the next.

In­put op­tions

The speaker ter­mi­nals, with eth­er­net con­nec­tion and USB in­put, are next along the line, but what hap­pens next is de­pen­dent on your budget. For an ex­tra £100, you can have a Uniti Atom with HDMI in­put. Naim says this is gal­van­i­cally iso­lated to en­sure no noise from the TV power sup­ply is passed through to the Uniti Atom. Our test unit came with­out but, given the uni­for­mity of the rest of the Naim’s tal­ents, we’d strug­gle to en­vis­age it stray­ing far from the gen­eral char­ac­ter.

Naim has placed its dig­i­tal in­puts above two ana­logue con­nec­tions – one as an in­put, with three se­lectable sen­si­tiv­i­ties (1v, 2.5v and 6v), and an­other as preamp out. As for those dig­i­tal in­puts, you get two op­ti­cal be­side one coax­ial. By con­trast, the front of the Uniti Atom is rel­a­tively bare, with only an­other USB port and head­phone out­put to the left of the LCD screen.

Flashier re­mote

As well as be­ing able to store mu­sic and pick up me­dia stored else­where on your net­work, the Uniti Atom ben­e­fits from hav­ing Google Chrome­cast, Tidal, Spo­tify Con­nect and In­ter­net ra­dio built-in, with fur­ther wire­less con­nec­tion avail­able via Air­play and Blue­tooth.

Naim also gives you plenty of op­tions when it comes to con­trol­ling the Uniti. First, Naim has in­cluded its re­designed re­mote con­trol in the box: marginally larger than the one with the last gen­er­a­tion of Naim prod­ucts, it is also flashier.

From the glossy plas­tic used for all but the back and the tip – which, be warned, car­ries smears and fin­ger­prints like lip­stick on a dress shirt – to the back­lit buttons and vol­ume sig­ni­fier on the nav­i­ga­tion wheel, it's an ap­pro­pri­ate part­ner to the Uniti Atom’s own aes­thetic.

To the point, faster

How­ever, we would mostly ex­pect peo­ple to use Naim’s con­trol app, through which you can con­nect to your stream­ing ac­counts and root around your mu­sic col­lec­tion held on other de­vices.

It is also through the app you can con­nect the Uniti Atom as part of a multi-room sys­tem. So, for ex­am­ple, you could plug a turntable (you'll need a phono stage) into the ana­logue in­put and have the same record play­ing in up to five rooms through­out the house.

We have plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence us­ing this par­tic­u­lar app to con­trol our ref­er­ence Naim NDS/555 PS streamer, and now sup­port has been added for this new­est line of mod­els, we are happy to say we find it equally in­tu­itive. Only now it shows more op­tions in line with the Uniti Atom’s ex­tra ser­vices and func­tions.

The new colour screen, which is around twice the size of that of its pre­de­ces­sors, serves only to make the menus easier to nav­i­gate and get­ting to the point of play­ing your mu­sic faster.

We be­gin play­ing The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free, and a cou­ple of min­utes later we’re trying to work out how we could get our hands on al­most dou­ble that so we can take a Uniti Atom home for our­selves.

Open­ing the door

The most im­me­di­ately no­tice­able up­grade from the Uni­tiqute 2 is the level of clar­ity and in­sight. The for­mer is still a ca­pa­ble prod­uct, which has found a per­ma­nent home on our per­sonal hi-fi racks since we re­viewed it two years ago, but even com­pared to the Uni­tiqute 2, this is like open­ing a door and lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic from in­side the room.

From the open­ing brass parps of It Was Sup­posed To Be So Easy to the hazy tremolo syn­the­sizer hook of Blinded By The Lights, via per­cus­sive snaps and Mike Skin­ner’s iconic con­ver­sa­tional vo­cal, you can al­most feel the tex­tures run­ning through your fin­gers.

And to say it sounds lean here does not mean the Uniti Atom is lack­ing in weight, it just doesn’t carry any ex­cess fat. Okay, so the kicks don’t quite thump you in the heart, but the bal­ance is spot on and there’s more than enough low-end here to in­ter­rupt your neigh­bours’ view­ing of Corona­tion Street.

Tim­ing was a forte of the last gen­er­a­tion of Naim’s all-in-ones, so we’re pleased to find none of that is sac­ri­ficed this time around. The steady kick and snare rhythm in Blinded By The Lights is so pre­cise you could set your watch to it, as it’s en­twined with those off-kil­ter tremolo synth chops.

Go­ing swim­mingly

Mean­while, sim­i­larly ac­com­plished dy­nam­ics act as mid­wife for the sub­tle in­flec­tions of Skin­ner’s vo­cal – a level of ex­pres­sion that ri­vals can so eas­ily miss, mis­tak­ing his non­cha­lantly ca­sual de­liv­ery for pedes­trian bore­dom.

Our mis­guided at­tempt to wrong­foot the Uniti Atom with a grander ar­range­ment via Tidal in Sergei Rach­mani­nov’s Pi­ano Con­certo No1 in Fsharp Mi­nor, goes down as well as a camel at a swim­ming gala. The Naim is en­tirely un­fazed by the scale of the record­ing, the speed or in­ten­sity at which the mu­si­cian's fin­gers are work­ing or with or­gan­is­ing an orches­tra around him. Even though we've cho­sen two such di­verse pieces of mu­sic as these, the Uniti Atom treats them both with the same level of in­sight, reg­i­men­tal tim­ing and con­tour­ing dy­nam­ics.

High stan­dards

The only method of in­put we could say demon­strates any true dif­fer­ence in char­ac­ter is the ana­logue. Us­ing that, the level of clar­ity is marginally less sharp, and in­stead the Uniti Atom of­fers up a per­for­mance which could gen­er­ally be de­scribed as warmer over­all.

But this is fun­da­men­tally a prod­uct built to a dig­i­tal blue­print, and those who covet what may be de­scribed as a more tra­di­tional ana­logue sound from such com­po­nents will see that only as a pos­i­tive.

In a way it would be easy to play down the sig­nif­i­cance of just how great a per­former the Uniti Atom is, in that it’s what we have come to ex­pect from Naim. But even given those high stan­dards, if you end up buy­ing one and you fail to be at least a bit ex­cited once you’ve got it home then, frankly, there’s lit­tle hope left for you.

We can’t stop gazing at the Uniti Atom – it truly is a tri­umph of de­sign

Naim's re­designed re­mote con­trol is larger and flashier than pre­vi­ous ones

For an ex­tra £100, you can have the Uniti Atom with an HDMI in­put

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.