NAIM UNITI ATOM WIRELESS MUSIC PLAYER REVIEW

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Now the Naim Uniti atom is an all in one streaming music integrated amplifier and there are a lot of these types of products on the market right now; in fact we have reviewed a number of them or a number of similar products on this blog. 

Why is the Naim Uniti Atom so unique and special compared to the competition having lived with it?

I don’t know, intangible quality that the Andover audio products have that we’ve also reviewed and that it’s a product that gets used. It just is. It’s one of those things that when it’s out in the open, and this is a product that is a display quality piece; this is not a product that you necessarily want to hide away or tuck away in a cabinet.

Now the Naim Uniti Atom demands to be seen and as a result, it demands to be interacted with. The byproduct of both of those things is that it gets used and enjoyed. That comes down to not only its design, its compact footprint and its materials, but just the fact that I really do think that the designers over there started from the user experience and then worked their way out from there in terms of performance; rather than focusing solely on performance and then worrying about the user experience long, long afterwards.

Naim Uniti Specs

40 WPC 8 OHMS

HDMI ARC (Optional)

BUILT IN WIFI FOR WIRELESS MUSIC STREAMING

HIGH RESOLUTION PLAYBACK

PLAYS MP3, FLAC, ALAC, AAC, AIFF, OGG, VORBIS AND WAV AUDIO FILES

CHROMECAST BUILT-IN

BLUETOOTH APTX TECHNOLOGY

APPLE AIRPLAY

NAIM CONTROL APP

TIDAL, SPOTIFY CONNECT, INTERNET RADIO, UPNP, ROON READY, QOBUZ

Everything about the Uniti atom is about how you engage with it and how it enriches your life rather than screaming or being, you know, all audiophile all the time. Before I go into too many details over the performance of the Naim Uniti atom, you know that we don’t do a lot of deep dives into specifications because honestly as this device will prove, It’s not about specs.

You don’t necessarily listen to specs, you listen to music and you enjoy that experience; not what’s on paper but I understand that specs are important to many of you. Let’s not mince words, everything about it screams premium because this is a premium high end product from the moment you take it out of the box, set it up and live with it day to day.

Everything about its performance, everything about its usability has been carefully and meticulously thought through and it shows, even down to the remote control. I know I’m gonna do a little bit of a sidebar but the remote control that comes with the Naim Uniti Atom is amazing. And what’s made all the more amazing by it? Never mind the fact that it’s completely motion sensor backlit. Awesome!

But what’s amazing about it is it’s probably the one aspect of its performance or usability that’s not going to get used because, let’s face it, the Naim Uniti atom is designed to work in conjunction with your smartphone. In fact, setting one up for the very first time even requires a smartphone and even requires you to download the control app which is totally free and amazing, absolutely amazing normally.

Normally when a brand or a manufacturer touts their sort of proprietary app and the way that their app integrates all of these music services in it, I don’t gravitate towards those apps because well, I’m not gonna mince words, they’re garbage. 

They are garbage, and I always end up using the native app like Spotify or Tidal and simply using Bluetooth or airplay in order to, I guess, cast my music to a device. But the Naim control app in the way that it integrates things like Spotify and Tidal or whatever you’re into is phenomenal.

And it’s just another example of what I think the designers did with this wireless music player by starting with the user experience and working their way out from there as opposed to starting with a performance specification and then worrying about how you use it later. 

Everything about this wireless streaming device is just about how you use it. So when the large top mounted centre volume control that lights up brighter the more you increase the volume to the large LCD display on the front that shows cover art, how it was meant to be seen and that is readable from several feet away; everything about it is designed and put there for a purpose.

It’s meant to enrich your user experience and as a result, I have to tell you, since its arrival, streaming music consumption has probably doubled. If anything, the presence of the Naim Uniti Atom and the Andover at the same time has cut our TV viewing in half; because between those two brands, between those two products, we can’t stop listening to music.

I think this is the whole point and one of the ways that I am going to justify the Uniti atoms’ asking price. I know I’ve been avoiding it because it’s not cheap. It’s not cheap. And that likely is going to mean that this all in one player isn’t for everyone; even though I feel in my heart of hearts, it is a type of product that everyone should experience. But at around $3000 retail, Let’s face it, it’s going to keep a few people away, which is a shame because it is that good. 

So how does the Naim Uniti atom sound?

Well starting with its base performance at 40 watts per channel into eight ohms this all in one wireless streaming device isn’t all that exciting on paper and yet in the low end or bass department, this amp, this tiny little lifestyle oriented amp has more control over almost all speakers drivers than some of the more powerful amplifiers we have in house, which was rather alarming.

The other nice thing about it, especially in the low end or bass department was; it’s not very critical of the types of loudspeakers that you connect to it. And so if you have a bookshelf loudspeaker or a tower and those bookshelf or tower loudspeakers are notorious for being difficult to drive, there is a good chance that the Naim Uniti atom will be able to ring the most from their bass drivers.

Take the Q Acoustics concept 500 towers; now these speakers on paper would seem to want an amplifier with lots and lots of power and yet they sounded their best or have sounded their best so far in this house when connected to the Naim Uniti atom. True story. 

When we connected it to our Focal Chora 806’s, we felt the presence of more weight and extension in those bottom octaves. And that bookshelf does have a good amount of bass for what it is and yet at 40 watts per channel, the Naim Uniti Atom managed to get just a little bit more out of it. 

But likewise when we paired this amp with our Klipsch Heresy IV which is a highly efficient loudspeaker as you know, the bass was richer, taught, more detailed and more nuanced. So it really doesn’t appear to matter if your speaker is particularly difficult to drive or insanely easy in the bass department with the Naim Uniti atom, you can expect reference level results. 

Now moving on to the mid range, this is one area where I feel this all in one player really shines because the mid range is just so, so sweet and so effortless. I know a lot of people like to throw around terms like neutral and transparent. I don’t know if this player is necessarily neutral or transparent but what I do know is it’s pleasing. And I know that it just sounds right.

There’s a certain inherent quality to it that no matter what vocals are coming through, or what mid range elements are present in the music, everything just seems to fit and just seems pleasing and nice to be listened to for hours on end. Now that’s not to say that it smooths over the detail or it’s glassy or glossy here, it’s not like that.

There is again, a lot of detail, a lot of finesse but there’s just this palpable presence to it that I just, it’s really hard for me to put my finger on and describe to you in a way that makes sense, other than; you hear it, you love it, you want it, and it becomes very very difficult to live without. 

With respect to the high frequencies, the Naim Uniti Atom is incredibly composed and what I mean by that is I listened to a lot of like Sylvan Esso or Alanis Morissette and through other types of amplifiers or maybe even other types of speakers, if you have something that’s a little bit too tipped up on the top vocals and these types of genres of music can become a little bit grating.

This wireless streaming device does not fall into that camp; in fact it’s incredibly smooth and it makes these types of albums or these artists, just a little bit more palpable. That isn’t to say that it’s smoothing over or glossing over any of their detail or inflection or better yet their emotion. It just has that top end refinement. 

And you can say that that comes down to the DAX or down to the amplifier section, I don’t know because this is all just an all inclusive package in it. But nevertheless, it is a trait, a sonic attribute of this particular integrated amp and it makes long, extended listening sessions over a wide variety of genres of music, all the more palpable and easier to digest. Sure there’s still air, there’s still texture, there’s still inflection, but it may just be a touch rolled off at the absolute extremes, but like I said, That’s okay, I don’t mind it, and it does serve a wide genre of digital music, especially well in terms of dynamics.

I did not expect an awful lot from the 40 watts per channel that the Naim Uniti atom possesses, and yet, Yes, with a little bit of volume, you can coax some truly surprising and lifelike dynamics out of even difficult to drive loudspeakers; again I am referencing the Q Acoustic concept five hundreds. It drives them brilliantly and drives them well into high levels with an incredible amount of control.

In terms of soundstage, this wireless all-in-one amp is fantastic. I’m not even going to mince words, it is. Let’s start with the centre image. The centre image that the atom possesses is rock solid; you can look to your left speaker, you can look to your right speaker, the performer is not going to move or drift from dead centre provided your loudspeakers are also good at imaging and have a wide dispersion.

The Focal Chora 806’s in this respect, are a great way of showcasing what I’m talking about because let’s face it, those bookshelf speakers are imaging monsters. In terms of the soundstage itself, this streaming player has equal parts; width and depth to its soundstage. The delineation contained within is phenomenal; there is appropriate space between all of the various performers and or instruments and just about anything that you listen to, again, provided the recording has to give in on a whole.

This just means that everything about the Uniti atoms performance screams musicality that audio files pontificate about but have such a difficult time putting into words and that’s why I’m having a difficult time trying to describe it to you because again it’s just one of those types of products that once you sit down, you start to use it and you play music through it, you just want more.

You stop overanalyzing everything, you stop worrying about, you know, is this right? and you just get back to enjoying what this is really all about which is the music. One of the unique things about the Naim Uniti atom that really does set it apart from a lot of integrated amplifier streaming music solutions right now is the presence of an HDMI input that is complete with aRC capability which enables you if you’re a two channel home theatre enthusiast, to connect it to your Smart TV and enjoy movies, and all of the same glorious sound I just described.

This is a huge, huge benefit and one of the ways in which not only do I justify this device’s price but one of the ways that it got used even more because earlier in this review, I did say that the presence of the Naim has cut down on our television viewing; Well, when we did watch, we watched more intently, and with more ease because of the presence of an HDMI port. 

Because let’s face it, when we have other integrated amplifiers in this house, It’s not like we stop watching movies but we usually have to go to lengths in order to get the sound from our Smart TV to using converter boxes and things like that. But being able to make a single HDMI connection to a modern two channel audio centric piece is just amazing. Thank you! Thank you!

Another thing that I loved about the Uniti atom is it is an actual integrated amplifier and it did enable me to connect our turntables to it. And so it really did become the centrepiece of my music and movie experience albeit in two channels, and I love it. I absolutely love it from the app, and I normally hate apps, but from the Naim control app all the way down to the Uniti atom itself, there’s actually very little, if anything that I could find fault in. 

So What don’t I like about it?

Well to be honest with you, not much. This integrated streaming device in my opinion, is near as perfect could be. Yes, I am going to nitpick because that is all I have left when describing the performance or functionality. For starters, the screen is beautiful, It’s big, It’s legible from several feet away and I kinda wish it was a touchscreen. 

It is not. It looks like it should be a touchscreen, but it’s not. It is not a touchscreen, it is just there for the purposes of being able to see information and not interact with the unit. The manual nature of the top mount and volume control just seems like the Uniti atom on a whole is a device that you are meant to interact with and touch, and yet the screen itself is not a touchscreen. 

Another thing that I don’t like about this device and this is again nitpicking and not exclusive to the Naim, but in the few months that we have lived with this product, every single day there have been a few times where I’ve had to power cycle in order for the HDMI handshake to be completed between my smart TV and the gadget itself.

What do I mean by that? Well sometimes the two just don’t want to talk to each other and when that happens, either you’re treated to no sound or you’re treated to an error. The easiest way to go about fixing this is to simply power cycle both your television and the Naim, and just restart everything. 

And usually, in fact I think with 100% success rate when doing a power cycle, everything works as advertised. But, yes, I think there have been four instances in four or five months that we’ve had this thing where I’ve had to do a power cycle in order to complete the HDMI handshake, which I know is so silly that this is even still a thing in 2021. Nevertheless, it is. Outside of that, the Naim Uniti atom does not have traditional binding posts and so if you are looking to connect anything other than certain banana terminated wire, you are going to have to use the included adapters that Naim gives you. 

But those are my nitpicky problems that I have with the Uniti atom and none of them, absolutely none of them would keep me from putting this on a short list of products to “must audition”, in 2021, or for me, must own.

Cambridge Audio network music streamer combined with the CX 81 integrated amplifier vs Naim Uniti Atom vs Cyrus One Cast

We found that pair gives you a lot of this same functionality as the Naim Uniti Atom; maybe it doesn’t give you the same sound, but it does a lot of the same functionality. It obviously does it at a far lower price point. I think, in fact, it came in at $1200 last time I checked. 

There’s also the Cyrus one cast  which we will also be reviewing here.On paper the Cyrus One Cast has a lot of the same functionality as the Naim. It does not have the same fit & finish and in my early goings with that particular product, I am going to say it does not have the same usability or ease of use that the Naim has. 

So there is a certain premium that we have to accept and allow for in the user experience that the this all-in-one wireless amplifier provides because nothing that I have encountered so far in my travels, not only in 2021, but arguably in all of my years of doing this has been as easy and as enjoyable to use as the Naim Uniti Atom.

When it comes to streaming digital music, I don’t care which platform you use, it’s just easy and what makes it all the more special is the fact that as an integrated amplifier, it is not picky. It really doesn’t seem to care what you pair with it in terms of loudspeakers and other source components; you’re going to get the best out of them and out of the Uniti atom all the same. 

It’s not judgmental of the music that you listen to, the genres or quality with which you stream to it. Because the DAX  inside are capable of kind of smoothing out the rough edges if you will and as a result, you’re just treated to a complete and whole music experience.

If you’re into two channel home theatre, the presence of the HDMI input, i mean, it just makes this thing a game changer and what I argue is going to be the future of not only high end audio but mid Hifi entry level audio components as well. This may be the mould that got broken for others to follow in its footsteps. That’s how important I think this product is and that’s how forward thinking I believe the designers at Naim had to go in order to bring us something as special as the Uniti atom.

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