Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: an impressive headphone amplifier

0
79

Winner of an EISA Award 2021-2022, the new Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition headphone amplifier incorporates the features, technologies and design of the Naim Uniti Atom stereo amplifier. A true all-in-one model, the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition offers direct access to thousands of Internet radio stations as well as Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify through its WiFi and Ethernet connectivity. It also includes a Bluetooth controller for pairing with any compatible source, such as a smartphone, tablet or DAP.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition headphone amp and network player benefits from the tried and tested design and build quality of the Naim Uniti Atom.

In terms of connectivity, the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition features digital and analog inputs, a pre-out, and USB-A ports. It also has two headphone outputs, one 4.4mm mini-jack and one 6.35mm mini-jack, on the front panel, as well as a third 4-point XLR connector on the back. Finally, its Texas Instrument DAC allows it to support 24-bit/384kHz and DSD 128 audio files. Marketed at €2,899, will this very high-end headphone amplifier be able to compete with the leading models on the market?

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: packaging & accessories

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition comes packaged in a brown box with a handle on top for easy transport. The box opens from the top. After removing the outer packaging, we find a white box decorated with the brand name and the “Uniti” logo.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition comes in a cardboard box with a handle for easy transport.

Once the box is opened, we first discover two grey polystyrene sheets. The one on the left contains a black cardboard sleeve with the brand name, inside of which are a warranty card, a Spotify leaflet, a soft cloth, a quick start guide and a safety manual. In the right-hand sheet is a sleek black remote control with a glossy front panel reminiscent of the headphone amp, and four LR03 batteries.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition comes with a remote control, two power cables (one of which is in European format), a soft cloth and all the documentation necessary for its use.

Once these two sheets have been removed, we discover the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition correctly wedged by two other polystyrene plates as well as a small black box containing two power cables, one in European standard, the other in UK format.

  • 1x remote control
  • 4x LR03 batteries
  • 2x power cables: one UK standard and one EU standard
  • 1x soft cloth
  • 1x quick start guide
  • 1x multilingual safety manual
  • 1x warranty card
  • 1x Spotify leaflet

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: presentation

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is part of the Naim Uniti range which includes the Naim Uniti Core audio server (with CD player and copy function), and the Naim Uniti Atom, Naim Uniti Star and Naim Uniti Nova network amplifiers. The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is based on the same design and general concept as the Naim Uniti Atom stereo amplifier. Like the Naim Uniti Atom, the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition benefits from high quality electronics and Class AB analogue amplification. It differs, however, in that it has three headphone outputs, two of which are balanced, replacing the Naim speaker terminals. Its large power supply providing 1.5 watts of power into 16 ohms enables it to efficiently power all hi-fi headphones on the market with energy and musicality. Once connected to the internet, the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition offers access to a range of music streaming services as well as thousands of internet radio stations and podcasts through its Naim interface and control application.

Iconic design

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition catches the eye with its elegant and understated design. Handcrafted in the UK, this headphone amp features an attractive matt black finish all over the chassis and a glossy front panel (watch out for fingerprints!). To the left of the control panel are two headphone outputs and a USB type A port. On the other side are four control buttons for basic operations. The front panel features a backlit version of the brand’s logo on the lower left-hand side for a touch of elegance. On the top, we find the iconic backlit potentiometer, which is also found on the entire Uniti range and on the famous Muso and Muso QB connected speakers.

On the top of the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition we find the iconic backlit potentiometer for headphone volume control.

The design of the Uniti Atom stereo amplifier and the Naim mu-so and Naim mu-so Qb loudspeakers, inherited from the famous Naim Statement amplifier, have undoubtedly inspired Naim.

Texas Instrument DAC: 24-bit / 384kHz, DSD64 and 128

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition offers audiophile grade performance and is compatible with high resolution audio files. It is therefore possible to enjoy FLAC, WAV, AIFF and ALAC (Apple Lossless) content up to 24-bit / 384kHz, DSD64 and 128, but also files in lossy formats such as MP3, AAC, OGG and WMA.

Connections and connectivity

Balanced and unbalanced outputs

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition features a Pentaconn 4.4mm mini-jack output and a 6.35mm unbalanced output on the front panel. It even features the highest quality balanced connector with a 4-pin XLR headphone output. With an output power of 1.5W into 16 ohms and two balanced connectors, the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a great ally for enjoying the power and stereophonic sound of the best hi-fi headphones on the market.

Wired Sources and Active Speakers

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition has three S/PDIF digital inputs, two of which are optical, for connection to an HDTV or Blu-ray player. A stereo analogue input is provided, as well as a pre-out for connecting a power amplifier. Two USB type A ports (one on the front, the other on the back) allow you to connect a USB flash drive or an external HDD/SSD for audio file playback.

The Naim Uniti Headphone Edition benefits from extensive connectivity for easy pairing with a wide range of analogue and digital sources.

Although the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is primarily designed to power hi-fi headphones, its XLR and RCA outputs make it compatible with active loudspeakers (which have their own amplifier).

WiFi, Ethernet and Bluetooth aptX HD

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition also offers wireless internet connectivity via its WiFi controller and wired connectivity via its RJ45 Ethernet port (cable not supplied).

Connecting the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition to our WiFi network took a matter of seconds.

It also incorporates an aptX HD compatible Bluetooth controller for wireless connection to a smartphone, tablet, laptop or even an audiophile DAP. Note that this type of connection is recommended for occasional use as it is a lossy transmission. Any Bluetooth transmission involves signal losses, however small they may be. For wireless connections, WiFi via Chromecast is the best way to get the most out of your equipment and your music.

Controlling the amplifier: interface, remote control and application

Interface Control

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition features a large 5-inch LCD screen on the front panel. This displays the main menu, current playback operations and audio file metadata (cover photo, file name, etc.). It is not touch-sensitive, which is why there are four main control buttons on the left of the screen. These four buttons are used to turn the unit on and off, start and pause music, select the desired audio input and directly access saved favourites.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition displays the current album cover.

Remote Control

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is fully controllable using the supplied remote control. It can be used to switch the headphone amp on and off, control volume, change tracks, select analogue or digital inputs, access favourites, control a multi-room setup and adjust the backlighting of the amp (three settings are available, from dimmest to brightest). The remote control is designed to match the black colour scheme of the amp: matt on the back and sides, and glossy on the front. Like the amp, it offers a useful backlight for use at night or in general darkness.

Control Application

The free Naim control app, available for iOS and Android, allows your smartphone to act as a remote control. While the remote control is required when setting up the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition for the first time, it can be replaced by the Naim app later on. The Naim control application offers a slightly more comprehensive interface than that found on the device.

In addition to controlling your music, the app incorporates a wide range of controls from source selection to standby settings, and also offers direct access to the amp’s registration on the brand’s website. The Naim app also allows simultaneous control of multiple Naim products such as Naim Mu-so or Naim Mu-so Qb speakers, which is useful for multi-room set-ups.

AirPlay 2, DLNA and Google Cast

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition incorporates the most advanced audio streaming protocols.

Apple AirPlay 2

The Apple Aiplay 2 protocol is useful for streaming audio from a Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad in CD quality. Simply select the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition as your playback device.

DLNA

Using the DLNA protocol, the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition can play music shared over the local network via software such as Foobar. In this case, audio files up to 24-bit / 192kHz are played.

Google Cast

The Google Cast protocol is built in for listening from the Chrome browser and any Android audio application for audio or video files, making the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition compatible with Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, Google Music, YouTube, etc. To take advantage of this, simply open the Google Home app, add the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition and then select “Cast Audio” directly in the Google Home app or from your usual streaming app.

It is therefore possible to enjoy all your audio and video content, regardless of the website or application you are using. This configuration will allow you to enjoy lossless direct playback with the headphones of your choice connected to the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition.

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: key specs

  • Texas Instrument DAC
  • 24-bit / 382kHz, DSD64 and 128
  • WiFi and Ethernet
  • Bluetooth aptX HD, AAC, SBC receiver
  • Airplay 2, DLNA and Google Cast
  • Spotify connect, Qobuz and Tidal
  • Headphone outputs: 4.4mm, 6.35mm and XLR 4-pin
  • Analogue and digital audio inputs
  • Analogue stereo pre-out
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 245 x 95 x 265mm
  • Weight: 7kg

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: testing conditions

For this test of the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, we used the Meze Empyrean (read the review of the Meze Empyrean here) using the XLR connector. We also used the Focal Utopia (read the review of the Focal Utopia here) and Focal Stellia (read the review of the Focal Stellia here) headphones via the 6.35mm jack output.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is correctly calibrated to work with all hi-fi headphones on the market, even the most demanding models.

We listened to HD files stored on a USB stick as well as our Qobuz playlists in CD and Hi-Res 24-bit /192kHz quality.

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: listening impressions

Acoustic music

Chris Jones – Roadhouses & Automobiles

We literally rediscovered this (much-listened-to) track thanks to the combination of the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition amp and the XLR-connected Meze Empyrean hi-fi headphones. The soundstage was incredibly wide and the details were plentiful. The Naim amp serves the music brilliantly, a nice relaxing moment!

Orchestra & Symphony

Ennio Morricone – Chi Mai

This emblematic track was rendered with a perfect balance between authority and softness. Each register was perfectly layered. The highs were clear and the lows incisive.

Josh Groban – You Raise Me Up

This track did indeed lift us higher than the mountain tops! Every instrument was perfectly rendered, we discovered details that we had never heard before. Josh Groban’s voice sounded unparalleled in its clarity, we could even feel the pressure of the guitarist’s fingers on the strings. If this song had a tendency to give us goosebumps, it is probably at this moment that it delivered its full potential!

Jazz

Louis Armstrong – Cheek to Cheek

Once again, we were treated to a simply perfect reproduction, including in the higher frequencies. The husky voice of the jazzman benefited from a nice emphasis.

Pop / Rock

Dire Straits – Money for Nothing

The stereo effect seized us from the very first seconds, then was further magnified with the arrival of the drums, starting at one minute and fifteen seconds. The percussion and electric guitars were also perfectly sustained and impactful. The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition scored yet another point with this track.

Warhaus – Dangerous

The physical impact was simply insane. The bass was hard-hitting and seemed to take us with it into the deep abyss. The sensual duet was accompanied by a striking instrumental line. We felt truly at one with the music.

Rap

Kofs – Bande Organisée

On this track we were able to test the smoothness of the registers. The Naim/Focal set managed to reproduce both the highest and lowest frequencies with incredible precision. Once again we were treated to punchy bass and clear, detailed highs.

Electro

Glass Animals – Heat Waves

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition/Focal Utopia duo struck again. We literally rediscovered this track that we knew by heart. We heard details that we never perceived before, the slightest echo was perceptible and the instrumental line benefited from a beautiful clarity.

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: compared to…

Mytek Brooklyn Bridge: almost €100 more expensive, the Mytek is compatible with 32-bit / 384kHz and MQA files. Its control screen simply displays the resolution of the music being played. As for connectivity, both models adopt a WiFi and Ethernet network controller. The Naim has a Bluetooth aptX HD receiver, a main menu screen for easy navigation between settings and a control application.

McIntosh MHA200: this tube headphone amplifier from the famous American brand is sold for around €200 more. It benefits from an outstanding audiophile design. The advantage goes to the Naim when it comes to connectivity, as it is the only one of the two to offer streaming, network playback and, more generally, Bluetooth, WiFi and Ethernet connectivity.

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: who is it for?

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition headphone amplifier and network player is for anyone who wants to power a set of high-end hi-fi headphones such as the Meze Empyrean, Focal Utopia or Sennheiser HD-800S. The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a relatively compact amplifier that can easily be placed on a corner of a desk, on a small table or in a hi-fi or TV cabinet. The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a highly musical amplifier that will appeal to the most discerning audiophile looking for a versatile, high-performance source to power their favourite headphones.

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition: conclusion

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a great amplifier. In addition to being a headphone amplifier, it doubles as a network player and can be used as a connected audio source within an existing system. It can be used by itself with hi-fi headphones, or with a smartphone, tablet, computer or even a portable DAP as a source. With its 1.5 watts into 16 ohms, it is capable of powering the most demanding headphones with great energy and musicality.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition amplifier and network player is capable of bringing out the best in every hi-fi headphone on the market.

This audiophile grade headphone amplifier is compatible with high resolution files up to 24-bit / 384kHz and DSD128. Its WiFi and Ethernet connectivity coupled with Airplay 2, DLNA and Google Cast make it a perfect match for most people, whether your preferences lie with iOS or Android/Windows devices. Its versatility is further enhanced by the fact that it can also easily act as a hi-fi preamp for use with active speakers or a power amp.

We liked

  • Its musicality, precision and balance
  • The design and compactness
  • The great versatility
  • The control application

We would have liked

  • A 4-pin XLR output on the front panel

Previous articleHFR: the future of cinema?
Next articleEISA Awards 2021-2022: discover all the winners
C’est tout droit sortie de la fac que j’ai embarqué dans l’aventure Son-Video.com. Bercée par le monde de la hi-fi et du cinéma depuis ma plus tendre enfance, cet univers m’était familier. Alors j’y suis allée. Côté installation, j'ai choisi de jeter mon dévolu sur une paire d'enceintes compactes Q Acoustics 3030i montées sur leurs pieds dédiés, et épaulées par un ancien mais très bon ampli Kenwood KR-V7070.

Share your opinion!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.