Naim Uniti Atom Wireless Music Player Review


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding sound quality
Very high standard of fit, finish, and industrial design
Generally excellent ergonomics with well-conceived app
Minus
Premium pricing may scare off some buyers
Occasionally slow volume-control response via iOS app

THE VERDICT
An excellent solution, for those who can afford it, for a streaming/computer-audio system where sound quality is as important as features or user interface.

Is it an integrated amplifier with onboard wireless and network streaming, or an audio streamer with built-in amplification?

Yes. The Uniti Atom, from British iconoclast Naim Audio, is both of these, as well as a quarterback for the company’s Mu-so wireless- multiroom ecosystem (and a few other things mixed in). Like all Naim products since the brand’s inception in the mid-1970s, the Atom is distinctly different from most competing designs in both appearance and operation; the company’s proximity to the powerful vibrations of Stonehenge doubtless has something to do with this tradition. That said, the Atom is less different from its competition than many a previous design, because this sort of streaming amp is what the classic stereo integrated amp seems to have morphed into, here in the post- physical-media 21st century. But perhaps the rest of the world has simply caught up, or caught sideways, to Naim.

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Still, the Atom has its distinctions. It exploits the digitally governed analog volume control Naim uses in their preamps and integrated amps for maximal sound quality, along with the same sort of massive toroidal transformer and meticulous power- supply design. It’s also packed with a high-zoot power cord that the maker relies on for noise decoupling. More important (in my book, anyway), its digital-to-analog hardware is capable of up to 384 kilohertz/24 bits resolution and decodes every important hi-res format up to and including DSD128.

Setup
The Atom is the “all-in-one wireless player” member of Naim’s Uniti line, which includes hard-disk library and CD-player/ripper companions, among others. It’s a machined-aluminum art object with the kind of fit and finish that few other brands can equal—sort of Bang & Olufsen but for tech nerds rather than interior-design geeks. From the side-inset heatsinks to the front panel’s gorgeously high-resolution color display, the Atom’s quality look and feel are unmissable.

518naim.rem.jpgAround back, there are three digi- tal inputs (one coax, two optical), an analog-stereo line input, and an analog-stereo line pre-output. In addition, there’s a sole, ARC-ready HDMI port meant for TV-audio reproduction—stereo-only, of course. You also get an RJ-45 Ethernet jack (Wi-Fi is built in, too, with internal antennas integrated into the heatsinks) and a USB port for fixed storage, such as on a hard disk or thumb drive. (A second USB jack lives up front, along with a headphone minijack.)

The only tricky installation bit is the speaker-cable hookup: The Atom provides stereo banana-plug sockets set into the rear panel, but these aren’t spaced for U.S.-standard (½-inch) pairs. The unit comes packed with matching dual-pin plugs to be affixed to your speaker wires, but despite the stern warning printed on the back panel (probably a liabil- ity issue in the U.K., where their AC-mains plugs are similar), the individual bananas I used worked just fine, and my house has yet to burn down. I also know not to connect my speaker wires directly to a wall outlet. Otherwise, setup of network, libraries, rooms, and so on is self-guided via clear, step-wise, onscreen instructions, and unlike a few other such products I’ve experienced, every- thing proceeded without a hitch.

Listening
The Uniti Atom may provide only 40 watts per channel of rated power, but apparently Naim watts are like U.S. dollars in Australia: At no point in my listening did I feel shortchanged in level, dynamics, or slam, compared with my everyday 150-watt-per-channel power amp. And everything I played through the little Atom sounded simply great. I added a handful of 320-kilobit- per-second internet-radio streams to my list of “Favourites” (British, remember?), and almost every one sounded unexpectedly hi-fi. (In doing so, I stumbled across a wonderful Arnold Bax string quartet, hitherto unknown to me, that sounded exactly like a bastard child of Elgar and Bartók—precisely the sort of discovery that makes me love internet radio.)

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COMMENTS
BoonDoggie's picture

You can buy a decent laptop and DAC, save $2g

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