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Review: Naim Uniti Nova

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Naim has hit the jackpot with the Naim Uniti Nova, a visually stunning network receiver with state-of-the-art HD audio streaming features and a high-end DAC combined with multiple digital inputs. We listened to it with undivided attention.

Could the Naim Uniti Nova be the ultimate network receiver? The question is worth asking, as it is rare for a stereo receiver to combine amplification (class-AB, 2×80 W) with extensive streaming functions. From this point of view, the Naim Uniti Nova has no competitors. Indeed, the multiplication of online music services and home music sources (smartphone, computer, set-top box, UHD television, etc.) often means making sacrifices and leaving out certain functions. The English manufacturer has clearly forbidden itself from excluding anything, and its Uniti Nova is thus compatible with the Apple ecosystem as well as with all online music services… thanks to the receiver’s built-in Google Chromecast technology. To avoid any other oversight, the receiver is multiroom-compatible and can be integrated into a wireless system of Naim receivers, players or speakers. Streaming may be on the rise, but as offering digital and analog inputs was a sine qua non for Naim, the Uniti Nova is equipped with USB, SD and digital inputs (including an HDMI ARC input for TV). This amp simply isn’t missing anything, not even an exceptional design.

An elegant design

The Naim Uniti Nova receiver is entirely designed and manufactured in England. Its silhouette is inherited from the renowned Naim Statement amp, as well as from the Naim mu-so and mu-so QB wireless speakers. As such, it features an impressive volume potentiometer combining aluminum, black glass and white control LEDs. Its design is characterized by large heat sinks with solid aluminium fins which occupy the entirety of each of its sides. Its front panel is divided into two parts, one made of brushed aluminium and the other with a large 5” LCD display fitted with a proximity sensor.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

The Naim Uniti Nova’s volume potentiometer, inherited from the Naim Statement.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

One of the Naim Uniti’s heat sinks, composed of solid aluminum.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

As is the case for the Naim mu-so, the Naim Uniti’s Naim logo is backlit.

Classic amplification

Naim has equipped the Naim Uniti Nova with a Class-AB amplifier, a proven technology renowned for its warm and melodious sound. With 2×80 Watts, the Nova is a great match for the most demanding speakers. Naim has chosen to integrate a colossal toroidal transformer in order to enable the amplifier to cope with the lowest impedances, especially those of the floorstanding speakers with bass-reflex enclosures.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

Streaming possibilities

Naim has fitted the Naim Uniti Nova with a Bluetooth receiver in order to facilitate a fast connection with a smartphone in the absence of a home network. This wireless link supports Qualcomm’s aptX HD compression, which is a lossy form of compression. In light of the receiver’s status as a high-end hi-fi device, Naim has integrated other wireless and lossless streaming protocols. For example, the amp is AirPlay compatible and works with Apple devices, beginning with the iPhone. Playback is easy from a Macbook or iPad as well, with CD quality guaranteed. However, for HD playback, you will have to turn to the DLNA or Google Cast protocols.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

Upon powering on the Naim Uniti Nova for the first time, the user is asked to accept Google’s Terms of Service in order to gain access to Chromecast streaming.

Recently renamed Chromecast Built-in, Google Cast technology is thus part of the package. An excellent idea, seeing as how it is possible to listen to absolutely all online music services without any loss of quality. Unlike AirPlay, it is the Uniti Nova receiver which connects to the servers of Deezer or Qobuz, for instance, in order to stream music, possibly in high definition. In addition, many Android apps support the “Cast” function, including TuneIn for listening to web radios, Google Music and Youtube. Even the Chrome browser (Windows, Mac OS or Linux) can “cast” music from a web page to the Naim Uniti Nova receiver. The only downside is that it is not possible to stream audio files from a smartphone or tablet.

Server and multiroom

The remedy to this is provided by the official Naim application. Playback is thus enabled for any audio files (including HD) stored on a smartphone (iOS or Android) or streamed from a DLNA server. The latter are often integrated into set-top boxes, NAS and even the Naim Uniti Nova network receiver.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

The Android Naim app with, on the right, the activation of the Google Cast function in the Android Play Music app.

In this case, it is the connected data storage devices that have their audio content indexed and shared with other hi-fi or mobile devices connected to the home network. A second Naim Uniti receiver can thus benefit from the Nova’s DLNA server. Moreover, the Naim mobile application enables multiroom management of several Naim receivers, network players and/or speakers (the mu-so and mu-so QB in particular).

Test Naim Uniti Nova

The Naim Uniti Nova’s LCD screen displays the album cover for each audio file. The display quality is excellent.

A comprehensive selection of inputs

The Naim Uniti Nova network receiver has two USB ports (for flash drives and disks) and an SD card reader, both of which can be used simultaneously. As a result, thousands of audio files (FLAC, Apple Lossless, DSD, etc.) can be indexed by the amp and played back in one of three ways: via the controls on the front panel, via the included remote control, or through the Naim mobile application. There are also five digital inputs (coaxial, optical, and BNC), all of which are 24-bit/192kHz compatible and paired with precision clocks. Very rare for a hi-fi receiver: the presence of an HDMI output whose purpose is to receive audio signals from an Ultra HD TV enabled by the ARC (Audio Return Channel) protocol. It is worth noting that only PCM signals are supported, and you’ll need to adjust the TV so that Dolby or DTS streams are converted beforehand.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

The Naim Uniti Nova’s HDMI output implements the ARC protocol in order to allow the receiver to receive an audio signal from a UHD TV.

There are four analog stereo line inputs, two in Cinch RCA format and two in the DIN format which is so dear to Naim’s heart. It’s important to point out that the gain of each analog input can be adjusted to suit different types of sources: nomad, video, hi-fi or even studio. These settings may be accessed via the Naim mobile application.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

Test Naim Uniti Nova

The Naim mobile app offers a wide range of settings options.

Listening impressions

After adjusting the receiver’s settings via its LCD screen, as well as in the Android Naim application, we listened to FLAC audio files streamed from a DLNA server, as well as streamed from Deezer (Google Cast) and from a UHD TV via the HDMI ARC output. For the occasion, we connected the excellent B&W 703 S2 (Viard Audio Silver HD12) speakers.

Let’s not beat around the bush, the restitution is exemplary. The balance between neutrality and warmth is subtle, and none of the tracks we listened to seemed to lack coherence. The sound produced by this amp is always “obvious” with a tendency toward extracting unusual details, and each layer of the soundstage is precisely positioned. Not one has been reduced or forgotten. As a result, the listening experience is thoroughly enjoyable, and this applies to listening at all volumes, from a whisper to full blast.

Test Naim Uniti Nova

The Naim Uniti Nova receiver comes with a remote control fitted with backlit buttons.

Conclusion

The Naim Uniti Nova receiver is an eminently audiophile electronic device, at once powerful and melodious, and perfectly capable of striking a harmonious balance between traditional and dematerialized hi-fi. Naim is staying (well) ahead of the competition.

This review appears in the 2017-2018 edition of the Son-Vidéo.com catalog.

This post is also available in: French

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