Naim Audio Uniti Atom Headphone Edition Streamer/Headphone Amp

hfnoutstandingThe evergreen Uniti Atom all-in-one platform, complete with custom streaming solution, is adapted to service the needs of the most demanding headphone users

Never let it be said the product name isn't long enough – in the 12 years since Naim launched its network audio all-in-one, to which the buyer need only add speakers, it's grown from the simple NaimUniti of the initial model, all the way to this, the £2399 Naim Audio Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. And yet here, less is more.

This new arrival, despite being the same price as the existing Atom, which continues in the range, has shed the power amplification of what is the company's most compact streaming system, slotting in below the full-width Nova and Star models. Here the unit is re-purposed as a dedicated device for followers of the 'head-fi' trend, complete with a choice of conventional and balanced headphone outputs. Well, that's almost the whole story…

Stream City
This is the latest evolution of Naim's in-house streaming platform first unveiled with the arrival of the current Uniti models [HFN Nov '17], and which has gone on to underpin not only the Uniti range, but also both the Mu-so lineup and its latest-gen ND-series of network players [HFN Sep '18]. The intention of futureproofing has been borne out, not least with the inclusion of Chromecast built-in, along with both Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2.


Alongside wireless [inside] and wired Ethernet ports are USB-A, coax, two Toslink optical and one pair of analogue inputs (RCAs). Preamp outs are offered on RCAs and balanced via 3-pin XLRs, with a balanced headphone output on a 4-pin XLR 

Just about anything you want to stream from your computer, phone or tablet is accommodated here, along with a high-res UPnP/DLNA interface able to handle files up to 384kHz/32-bit and DSD128. There's also Roon-ready capability for those who swear by it, such as myself.

But back to the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, and having had good experiences using both Uniti and Mu-so systems as part of multiroom set-ups – another facet of the Naim eco-system, although the company is no longer unique in this respect – I was interested to see how this unit would adapt to the headphone world.

The Atom HE may not be the company's first foray into headphone listening – that was the Headline headphone amp. Also, the DAC-V1 was designed in part as a bridge between PCs and 'phones. Similarly, much play was made of the quality of the Supernait 3's integral headphone amp a couple of years back – but the Atom HE is otherwise Naim's most complete offering to date for fans of personal listening.

Not only can it stream music from the user's own collection, be it located on network storage or USB devices, it can also deliver online services including Spotify Connect, Qobuz and Tidal, not to mention the 'hi-res' 320kbps AAC BBC radio streams as part of its Internet radio capability.

Preamp Too
All these services are best accessed via the Naim app, although the unit also comes with an RF remote handset. In addition there are both optical and coaxial digital inputs as well as a single set of analogue ins, the latter digitised at 48kHz.

It should be noted that one of the gains made in the development of the current Naim platform was greatly improved Wi-Fi capability. Despite the absence of any external antennae for this or its other wireless modes, the Atom HE is fully capable of handling hi-res PCM or even DSD given a reasonable home network signal strength, although many will want the reassurance of the wired Ethernet connection located on the rear of the unit.


So regardless of input, all signals pass through Naim's long-refined SHARC-based digital signal processing, and the company's favoured TI PCM1791 DAC, and thence to the output stage – which is something Technical Director Steve Sells and his team have reportedly spent much time fettling.

Yes, this is a headphone amplifier, with both 6.35mm unbalanced and 4.3mm Pentaconn balanced sockets on the front panel, plus a four-pin XLR balanced headphone output to the rear, but it can also be used as a preamp, thanks to both RCAs and XLRs round the back.

In The Balance
Now this is rather interesting, as there's no sign of Naim's usual DIN connectivity here, although the company is at pains to emphasise that the current Uniti models have never offered such provision. However, balanced XLR preouts – and matching power amp inputs – are only currently found on the company's flagship Statement pre/power [HFN Jun '15], alongside the familiar DINs used for unbalanced working. So it will be interesting to see whether Naim launches more mainstream power amps (and indeed preamps) equipped with balanced XLRs.

Naim Audio Ltd
Supplied by: Naim Audio Ltd
01722 426600