what hi-fi here? we’re the last to need convincing of the value of a complete hi-fi system: the sight and sound of a beautiful pair of stereo speakers, powered by a revealing amplifier connected to an entertainment source, filling the room with a prized collection of music.
but we also know there’s nothing like the intimate experience of putting on a decent pair of headphones and having your music right there in your head, with no distractions. And if that’s your preferred route to audio nirvana, Naim’s latest Uniti system could very well be the box of tricks for you.
Reading: Naim atom headphone edition
the uniti atom headphone edition is a headphone-based version of the uniti atom, the entry-level machine in naim’s what hi-fi? award-winning range of uniti just-add-speakers transmission systems.
- naim uniti atom hearing aid edition in crutchfield for $3799 (opens in a new tab)
headphone editing simply swaps the original uniti atom’s speaker outputs and 3.5mm headphone jack for a series of headphone connections: 6.3mm, 4-pin balanced xlr and 4-pin balanced pentaconn .4mm.
however, the headphone edition is not only based on the atom’s individual headphone jack, but offers more options to the headphone user. naim says it’s also been “completely engineered”, benefiting from improved discrete headphone amplification, using technology filtered from the company’s flagship statement amplifier.
naim have also improved the preamp section, so while many understandably see this new atom’s home in a desktop computer, the balanced rca and xlr preamp outputs mean it could easily slip into a speaker system, connected to a power amplifier or a pair of powered speakers.
The internal parts of the atom are also based on an entirely new discrete transistor circuit design, with a new transformer design providing power to the amplification stages. Otherwise, it’s very much the Atom we know and love: the same sleek aesthetic, extensive streaming features, and intuitive app use.
as with the growing number of streaming systems on the market, the idea behind naim uniti systems is to offer a lot of network streaming from one box, plus aptx hd bluetooth and physical inputs (two optical, two usb, one coaxial) to attend external sources. and this uniti atom is just as impressively equipped for its purpose as the rest.
The naim app is a useful gateway to the qobuz and tidal music services, as well as internet radio stations. it’s also where, thanks to atom’s upnp support, you can browse and play up to 32-bit/384khz music stored on servers on your network.
we have used the naim app for many years; After all, we use the Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer in our reference system, but newcomers to the software should have no problem getting to grips with their mobile or tablet device. interface, which we find stable and one of the most intuitive.
Browsing and searching large music libraries is a breeze, and we rarely find ourselves reaching for the remote. however, we can’t help but get up from our listening position to turn the unit’s large rotary volume dial, the centerpiece of a design that’s delightful to use.
support for google chromecast is not only an alternative method to access music services directly from their native apps, but also extends support for services such as spotify (there is also spotify connect), apple music, deezer and tunein radio. Apple AirPlay 2 offers streaming from iOS devices, while room-ready status means it can be controlled within the popular multi-room music management platform.
the naim app makes it easy to group together in multiple rooms with up to four other naim streaming systems, such as other uniti models or mu-so wireless speakers. and airplay and chromecast also allow the operation of multiple devices with a compatible kit.
perhaps unsurprisingly there is no optional hdmi arc connector to accommodate a tv connection. And while Tidal is by no means the only streaming service to offer Hi-Res Audio, subscribers should note that at the time of this writing, Uniti Atoms do not support MQA (Quality Authentication) technology. master) that feeds its high resolution. catalog of tide masters.
However, it’s hard to feel bad; According to broadcast system standards, the uniti atom headphone edition is widely equipped.
trying out the uniti atom headphone edition sounds like the ideal opportunity to pull some of our favorite headphones off the shelf. after unboxing the naim, we plugged the stellia focal, beyerdynamic t1 (3rd gen) and sr325x grade open-back headphones into the 6.3mm socket on the unit’s front panel. During testing, we also tested the Focal Clear MG and Sennheiser IE900 headphones on the Atom’s rear panel balanced XLR and 4.4mm Pentacon connections on the front panel, respectively.
the atom is a clear descendant of atom, the strong gene pool characterized by impressive insight, dynamism and musicality. but thanks to the developments that naim have made to justify the existence of a headphone edition, the new model is a next-level model in more ways than one.
What is immediately apparent is how the atom it features opens up on top of the atom, allowing for greater instrument separation and additional space to fill in even more superb levels of detail. further refinement removes some of the relative rawness and directness of the original Atom, and that goes hand in hand with a greater sense of control to create a more sophisticated soundstage. the headphones we used in testing have different features and demands, and the name confidently fuels them with power and poise.
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We play the tallest man in the world, there is no way out now and the atom offers a noticeably wider window on the recording. Compared to the original Atom, there’s an added subtlety to get under the texture and dynamic rhythms of the piano keys, while also removing a layer or two of his nasal voice. the additional view of him better communicates the atmosphere of the production: the distant crackles of the space he’s recording in and the faint echo around his voice. and the piano chords that then come together to ride under his delivery are a bit more shaped as well. it’s a thoroughly enjoyable headphone experience.
Shifting to ludovico einaudi’s night, atom he’s performance captures the broader soundscape in which sounds are splashed precisely through your mental space, making listening even more immersive. the notes are better defined and sharper recorded, a bit more developed and solid in their placement. as we move on to something more punchy like kanye west’s blood on the sheets we’re reminded of the uniti family’s penchant for timing and dynamics, the ornate sample-based instrumental is utterly compelling as the naim delivers it with the musical cohesion it demands. .
it’s a similar story through the preamp, as we take turns connecting the uniti atom and uniti atom he to our reference burmester 911 mk3 power amp and atc scm50 speakers, the sonic gains that the settings of the newer model are left uncovered for listening. the soundstage is wider and more refined, detail levels are bumped up a bit, and rhythmically things are a bit tighter and more disciplined.
These sonic advances enhance a performer who remains a class leader in his most traditional field, making for an even more impressive achievement.
the naim uniti atom headphone edition is a more specialized product than its original atom sibling and no less expensive, and as such, will not have as much universal appeal. but for anyone looking to unleash the potential of a premium pair of headphones with a multifaceted drive system, whether used solely as a desktop centerpiece or also integrated into an existing hi-fi system, it’s sure to hit the spot.
- sound 5
- features 5
- design 5
read our guide to the best transmission systems
read our naim uniti atom review
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