Naim Audio is, like most of the best audiophile companies, a small outfit producing super high-end gear at dear prices and building up fan loyalty through a fanatical commitment to over-engineering. Its latest product line is called the Uniti and keeps up that pedigree while making it somewhat more attainable, with prices starting at £1,600 ($2,037), and a lot more convenient, with practically every wireless streaming option supported.
So what is the Uniti? Well, its simplest definition might be to call it a hi-fi without the speakers. It has all the audio processing and amplification hardware necessary to drive some rather large and impressive floor-standing speakers — as I can attest to, having listened to it in London ahead of today’s announcement. And it has support for Apple AirPlay, Google Cast, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth AptX HD streaming, making it pretty much universally compatible with whatever music source you have on hand. There’s also an HDMI port on the back, so it can upgrade the sound coming out of your TV or gaming console as well.
The middle child of the Uniti range is the £2,999 ($3,820) Uniti Star pictured above, which also includes a built-in CD player and ripper. It can put out up to 70W per channel to your choice of connected stereo speakers. Should you require a little more headroom, there’s the £3,800 ($4,840) Uniti Nova, which drops the CD drive in order to maximize space for its amp circuitry and raises the limit to 80W per channel. Both of them weigh in excess of 12kg (26.5lb) thanks to a thick aluminum frame that serves as both the case and the heat dissipation system. They are mighty, formidable beasts of audio burden, but the most intriguing option will likely be the entry-level Uniti Atom.
Half the size of the Star and Nova, the £1,600 Atom also has roughly half the power, at 40W per channel, but doesn’t lose out on Naim’s signature high quality. Paired with some floor-standing Focal speakers, it impressed me with its loudness, clarity, and spatial imaging. I don’t foresee circumstances where I’d want much more power than the Atom provides, though it does miss out on a couple of neat extras of the beefier models: there’s no HDMI port or SD card slot on this smaller unit.
All three Uniti models come with a Zigbee remote control, which communicates in both directions: the illuminated volume indicator on it adjusts in real time when someone raises or lowers the volume with the big knob integrated into the main unit. That volume knob is quite the tactile delight, borrowed as it is from Naim’s well received Mu-So and Mu-So Qb music systems. Naim has integrated the wireless antennae into it as well, making for a neat, minimalist design without any protruding parts.
The typical idea of an expensive hi-fi music system invokes visions of cables, a lot of typically expensive cables, whereas wireless streaming tends to be all about good-enough convenience. Naim’s decision to combine the two has already proven popular, as the company has found success with its Mu-So systems, which have proliferated even inside Apple stores. The new Uniti range won’t hit the mainstream audience quite so effectively, since it requires the extra investment and knowledge to procure a matching pair of speakers, but it’s certainly a positive, future-facing approach from a company that’s eager to evolve with its users.