Naim Uniti Atom Review
By Chris Heinonen on
The Naim Uniti Atom is one of the most exciting products I’ve reviewed in a long time. One of the questions I am asked all the time is “What do I get to hook up my speakers if I don’t want a gigantic receiver and don’t care about surround sound?”. Most surround sound receivers now offer all sorts of streaming content, but stereo receivers have often been left behind, or don’t offer sound quality to go with the streaming content. The Uniti Atom offers the major streaming services, has built-in support for streaming from other sources, has an analog input for your turntable, supports a USB flash drive, and can even take audio from your TV over HDMI ARC. It does all of this in a compact size while sounding damn good doing it.
Naim Uniti Atom Design
The Atom is part of the Naim Uniti line and is the most affordable model. Moving up in the line gets you most powerful amplifiers and a few extra features like SD Card slots to store music, but the overall design remains the same. Lifting the Atom out of the box I was surprised at how heavy it is despite the small size. In a world of plastic, lightweight gear where even 11 channel receivers barely weigh 30 pounds, the Atom is built to a different standard.
The sides are clad in black heatsinks with the top offering a large volume dial with indicator lights to show the current level. The front has a large color LCD screen to let you switch between inputs, as well as displaying cover art and other information for the currently playing tracks. Even the remote stands out, using ZigBee instead of IR to communicate so you don’t need to point it at the Atom. A ring of lights on the remote, just like the ring on top of the Atom, quickly indicates the volume level without needing to check.
When it comes to connectivity, the Atom is well ahead of other integrated units. There is an analog input along with three digital inputs (two optical, one coaxial), but it’s the support for streaming services and files that stands out. A pair of USB ports let you use a flash drive or hard drive to play back your albums and integrated Ethernet and WiFi support streaming from local devices or online services. You don’t need to worry about service support thanks to having both AirPlay and ChromeCast integrated, but Tidal and Spotify Connect support are both built-in as well as functioning as a Roon endpoint. There is an optional $149 HDMI input with ARC you can add as well if you want to use the Uniti to connect to your TV, and it can be added later by your Naim dealer. The only issue with the connectors is the use of BFA banana jacks in the rear, as some people will need new speaker wires, but BFA bananas have been my favorite connector for a few years now so I had a couple of pairs around.
Streams So Good
I tested the Uniti Atom in my home theater room using ELAC UniFi UB5 bookshelf speakers and my KEF THX in-wall speakers. Usually, I listened to the speakers on their own, but at the end, I paired them with an SVS SB-4000 subwoofer. Almost all of my listening was done using Spotify Connect, Tidal lossless streaming, or Roon.
The Atom supports Spotify Connect so streaming to it from Spotify is as easy as it gets. Cover artwork is displayed for the album you are listening to so it’s easy to see what is playing. Tidal doesn’t support anything like Spotify Connect yet, but the Naim Uniti app for your phone has Tidal integrated so you can start music that way. If you have a Tidal HiFi account, it means you can listen to music at lossless 16/44.1 quality, though the Atom doesn’t support MQA.
Music through the Atom sounds nothing less than wonderful. While you might say the amplifier is only 40 watts per channel, it has no trouble driving the relatively inefficient UniFi UB5s or KEF in-walls to high volume levels. I can only assume the volume control has a maximum level of 100 because I never needed to go beyond 40. Natalie Merchant’s Tigerlily album remains a personal favorite of mine, as the MFSL version offers incredible dynamics and clarity. Played back through the Naim the percussion has an impressive amount of impact while her vocals, the true highlight of the album, are clear.
Pairing the UniFi UB5s with the Uniti Atom made them sound far better than they previously did at home. I’d found that they sounded a bit thin with a peaked treble compared to some other bookshelves before, but with the Naim, their sound was full and clear without any harshness. Perhaps the Naim amplifier section adds a bit of something extra to the output, or it just offers better control than the receivers I used to test bookshelves, but it made the UB5s sound as good as they did at CES when paired with higher-end components.
Even simple Internet radio sounds fantastic on the Naim. An integrated directory of stations makes it easy to find whatever you are looking for, and the ability to save favorites makes it easy to return to them. Most mornings I begin the day with KEXP, which combines with my coffee to wake me up. Just a couple of button presses on the Naim had John Richards playing back the best in true alternative music in my room, sounding as good as it possibly can.
While completely ready for a digital future, the Naim Uniti Atom has a single analog input for those, like me, that keep a turntable around. There is no phono stage so you’ll need to provide that yourself. There is also a stereo pre-out for those that wish to use an external amplifier or, in my case, a subwoofer. There is no integrated bass management for a sub, so you’ll need to use one that lets you adjust the crossover and level, but the SVS SB-4000 integrated perfectly in my use.
One feature I didn’t get to test is the multi-room ability of the Naim audio components. You can use the Uniti Atom with their Mu-so devices much as you would a Sonos system, only with far improved audio quality. For audiophiles that want multi-room audio capabilities, but don’t want to be limited at all in performance, the Naim lineup lets you accomplish that.
If you choose to move up in the Uniti line, you’ll find a number of features that might be useful to you. The Uniti Core is a CD ripper and internal storage for accessing your whole CD collection from the Atom or another Uniti or Mu-so Device. The Uniti Star combines the Atom with a CD drive to rip your collection, along with a MicroSD card slot for storing them and a more robust amplifier section while the Uniti Nova is the reference unit, with the best amplifiers and build quality they can put into an integrated amplifier.
Naim Uniti Atom Conclusions
I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed my time with the Naim Uniti Atom. It brought out the absolute best in every speaker I used it with and made music sound wonderful and natural. It provided all the clarity and detail you long to hear but with a truly organic sound that never fatigued. I would love to pair the Uniti Atom with a pair of bookshelves like the KEF LS50, though I feel it can easily drive towers, and keep the SVS SB-4000 in the system. That system would be one that provides the ease-of-use of streaming audio from the most popular online sources or local libraries while giving up nothing at all in audio performance. I came into this review completely unsure how the Uniti Atom would justify its price to me, but have no doubt about the quality and performance you are getting. Highly Recommended.
Flat-out wonderful audio quality, full arrangement of streaming services built-in along with plenty of legacy inputs and USB connectivity.
Some people won't like the speaker plugs, relies more on USB storage than a local media server.
The Naim Uniti Atom is a wonderful sounding, fantastically built, compact stereo receiver that does everything you want it to do. It can handle audio from your physical sources, your digital library, and streaming services, while even working with your TV. Don't let the small size fool you, as it has plenty of power to showcase the music it plays.