Uniti Atom All-In-One Wireless Music Player
THE HIGH NOTES
- All-in-One High-End Player
- You'll Never Outgrow It
- Includes Naim Control App
Company & Product Overview
It’s interesting to look at the audio world from a historical perspective. New companies pop up almost every month, all while names we thought would be around forever have vanished. Some of the more successful brands have very outgoing founders whose egos are sometimes larger than life, while others have founders who sit quietly behind the scenes making great products. In those subsets, some owners have their hands in all of the designs, while other owners hire experts in each field and quietly steer the ship in the background.
Of the survivors, a few more variations arise. Some companies make big splashes with new products every few years that get praise and spike sales. Others make great products all the time and develop a very loyal customer following, keeping their business growing steadily rather than in large spikes.
Naim Audio is one of the quiet ones, yet they have been churning out high-performance audio products for over 40 years! They employ over 150 people in their Salisbury, England headquarters. Almost everything they do is designed and built from the ground up in the UK.
Amazingly, even though they only create two-channel stereo components, they have over 60 products and accessories on their current price list. Another really interesting thing about Naim is their owner loyalty. People who buy Naim gear fall in love with the sound and want to keep growing their system with more and better Naim gear. The Naim forum is probably the most active audio brand forums we have ever seen.
One of Naim’s founding principles is to put a lot of emphasis on the power supply. In fact, one of their very first products was an outboard power supply for the motor in the famous LP-12 turntable back in the 70s. They have kept this philosophy over the past four decades and it has served them well.
Audio Advice began carrying Naim in early 2014. We had gone on a hunt for the best value in digital playback. After testing a whole slew of products, Naim won by a mile and we immediately became a dealer.
Today’s review is a brand new and highly anticipated product, the Naim Uniti Atom. We first saw it at CES early this year and it has finally hit the streets. It replaces Naim’s UnitiQute, but it is far more than just a simple model upgrade. The Uniti Atom is an integrated amp, which means you only need to add speakers. It has the ability to stream music from your network, play analog or digital sources, and can even play internet radio and streaming services including Spotify and Tidal.
Design & Build Quality
Traditionally, Naim products were all business -- plain black boxes that sounded great but weren’t really something you would want to show off to your friends.
A few years back, however, Naim introduced the Mu-so series. First, there was the original Mu-so, then the smaller Mu-so Qb. Both of these are all-in-one pieces with everything built in, speakers and all. Unlike past Naim products, they set a new bar for this category from both a sonic and design perspective. They are simply stunning.
Naim borrowed some of the design features found in the Mu-sos for the new Uniti series. One really striking feature of the Mu-so is the large, illuminated volume knob. It is recessed in the top and almost 4” round with cool little lights that give feedback on the volume level. Naim dropped this great volume knob onto the top of the new Uniti series. They also installed a 5” high-resolution display on the front panel that can display everything from controls to full-color album art.
The Atom is roughly half the width of a standard audio component, so it can fit just about anywhere. The outer case, heatsinks, buttons, and rear connections are all totally first-class. If you lift up the unit, you’ll immediately feel the heft of that super high-end power supply Naim is known for. All in all, the combination of a gorgeous modern design and impeccable build quality make the Uniti Atom an impressive machine.
Features & Technology
You can control the Atom in three ways: a few buttons on the front panel, a handheld remote, or the Naim app. We recommend getting comfortable with the app, as it definitely offers the best experience and most control.
Naim was one of the very first companies to develop audio products that play back music stored on your network. Rather than relying on another company’s app to control your music, they developed their own. Over the years since it was first released, it has seen a variety of new features and improvements.
Start by selecting your input. Selecting a streaming service or a local hard drive provides an incredibly rich and engaging experience. For example, one of the app’s latest updates fully integrated Tidal. Let's say that you want to listen to some Fleetwood Mac albums that you have ripped to your hard drive. When you search for Fleetwood Mac, the first thing you will see is the albums you ripped. Underneath, however, you will see every Fleetwood Mac album that is available on Tidal. Each album has a detailed biography section that talks about everything from the making of the album to the musicians that contributed to the work. It’s not uncommon to see somewhere in the range of 20-50 pages of information.
Making playlists is a snap, and if you have other pieces of Naim gear such as a Mu-so, you can group players quickly and easily.
Today, there are more options than ever when it comes to ways that you can enjoy music. Sometimes it can be simply overwhelming. Often you are forced to compromise when choosing a component. With the Naim Uniti Atom, the sheer number of options for how you can get music to the system is astounding. Options include Chromecast, Airplay, Bluetooth, Tidal, Spotify Connect, Internet Radio, UPnP for your local music files, three digital inputs, and an analog input. You can even connect a USB storage drive for access to up to 20,000 additional songs.
The Atom can play back just about any file type including WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, MP3, AAC, OGG, WMA, and DSD. Naim was one of the first audio companies to support Hi-res, so there’s no problem there either. The Atom even has a great headphone amp built-in. The level of flexibility provided by this piece of gear is truly off the charts.
Once you’ve picked your source, the Naim’s world-class audio circuitry takes over, delivering amazing audio quality.
The power amp in the Atom is rated at 40 watts per channel, but please do not let that spec throw you for a loop. The amp is very similar to the one found in the iconic Nait amplifier series. Naim has always rated everything they make very conservatively. Even their $13,000 power amp is only rated at 90 watts per channel.
In the world of Naim, it is all about the power supply, and if you pull the cover off the Atom, you’ll immediately notice its huge toroidal power transformer. Make no mistake, this guy can drive most speakers very well.
Naim is also rolling out an entirely new streaming platform in the new Uniti series. It represents an evolutionary step as they are using a new 40-bit SHARC DSP processor. The platform is designed to make upgrades simple when changes occur in the digital music world. That is one thing we have loved about Naim. They will push out free updates that improve the audio!
Since not every desirable location for your Atom will have a hard-wired network jack nearby, Naim spent a lot of design time making sure the Atom had state of the art WiFi. It supports both 2.4 and 5GHz. There are two antennas on either side of the Atom that are cleverly tucked into the back of the heat sink, allowing them to get great reception without distracting from the design. In fact, Naim even applied for a patent on this method of hiding the antenna.
If you dive into the app, it’s simple to disengage any of the inputs you are not using. You can even turn off the power amp section of the Atom and use it as a preamp to drive a bigger amplifier if needed.
This set of analog outs could also be used to connect up a subwoofer. It’s worth noting that there is no bass management in the Atom, so in this case, you will need to use the filters in your subwoofer itself.
The Naim Atom also comes with home theater bypass. This is found on many high-end integrated amps and preamps and allows you to combine a full surround sound system with a high-performance audio system without compromising either one.
Our only real complaint with the Atom is that it would have been nice to have a second analog input. We suspect that in most cases the single input will be used for a phono stage. If you want to have both phono and the home theater bypass, you are out of luck with the one input. A minor gripe for an otherwise outstanding piece of gear -- but we think it’s worth noting.
As you may have noticed if you’ve read any of our other reviews, when we test products, we like to push them to the max. To test the Naim Uniti Atom, we decided to pair them with the Aerial 5t -- a large bookshelf speaker from one of our favorite speaker lines, Aerial Acoustics. These speakers are beautiful and sound fantastic, but can be a real challenge to drive if you don’t have a gutsy amp.
We set up the Atom via WiFi, pointed it to our trusty NAS drive full of great music, logged into our Tidal account, and we were ready to rock. And rock we did! From the first note, we could tell that this is one special piece of gear.
After playing a variety of our favorite test tracks (and being totally blown away), we just moved into enjoying the music, sitting there tapping our feet through song after song. We set the Aerials up in a fairly large room on solid stands spread about 8 feet apart, roughly 2 feet out from the rear walls, and 6 feet from the sides. We sat around 8 feet away. The first thing that was obvious to us was the bass control. The 5t has great bass for a bookshelf speaker, but if the amp is not up to the task, it can get out of control and not sound as tight as it should. We were hearing the type of bass control we would expect were we connected up to an $8,000 Mark Levinson power amp! Simply amazing.
The soundstage was also very impressive. This system could float a vocalist front and center while layering the instruments all the way across and behind them -- the image extending out beyond the speakers. The sound was smooth and effortless. Never a sense of hardness or stress to the music.
Many really great British HiFi products seem to get the timing of the music just right. It’s an experience that almost forces you to tap your feet to the music.
Using the app is a breeze and we really like the way the 5” display works. When you choose a song, you’ll first see the name and title info with a small picture of the album cover. After a few seconds, it will switch to just the cover. If you touch the volume control, a very large and easy to read display pops up that perfectly tracks the movements on your phone or tablet. Then the cover comes back after a few seconds. All and all, this is a really nice touch that serves as the icing on the cake.
We see several use cases for the Atom. It’s a great choice if you have lots of digital music files and want to hear them like never before.
If you want a very simple compact system that sounds awesome, is a pleasure to use and looks like a work of art, you should consider the Naim Uniti Atom.
Or perhaps you are a hardcore audio enthusiast who has a great system in one room but wants really good sound in another room that does not take up a cabinet full of gear. Put the Atom on your list for that too, but be careful... We suspect you’ll find some more Naim pieces sneaking their way into your main system once you experience the Naim Uniti Atom!
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
All-in-One High-End Audio Player
The Naim Uniti Atom is a beautiful, yet compact music system from engineers who design $200,000 amps. Connect it to your favorite speakers for stunning audio quality.
You'll Never Outgrow It
The Atom has pre-amp outs (should you need more power later), an optional HDMI input, multiple digital inputs, and the ability to add external storage for up to 20,000 songs. Couple this with Naim's new streaming technology and you have a product designed to be the heart of a high-performance audio system for many years!
Includes Naim Control App
The Naim control app is the best we have seen for full control of your music library. We love the educational and exploratory parts of the app where you can discover more about your favorite artists and learn about music from similar artists.