NEW From Naim! The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition

Naim Audio announces this morning that their latest addition to the Uniti series is now available. The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition premiers with an MSRP of $3,290.

You can read more at the Naim site here:

Years ago we raved about the Uniti Qute, put it on our cover, and even gave it a product of the year award. The level of performance and functionality it offered was well ahead of its competitors and Naim only continues to widen the gap, despite “me too” attempts by other manufacturers. Merely adding a touch screen to the front of the box does not make for a solution that has been engineered from the ground up.

Recently the Uniti Atom took the functionality of the original Qute, added a fantastic DAC, and the lovely volume control of Naim’s flagship components. A bigger, more crisp screen on the front panel, and ROON readiness (along with the ability to stream every other thing you can think of) kept the Atom at the top of the class.

Now, for those not needing a built in power amplifier, or wanting a mega personal listening station, Naim’s engineers have gone back to the lab, designing a purpose built, high quality headphone amplifier in place of the audio amplifier to drive speakers that is in the standard Atom.

We can’t wait for a review sample, and can only imagine that the new Atom will be a perfect match for Focal’s full line of headphones.

What might even be the bigger surprise, is with line level outputs, will the $3,290 Naim Atom Headphone edition prove to be this year’s killer DAC/PRE, waiting for a power amplifier and speakers to go along? You’ll know as soon as we get one in for review.

Stay tuned.

Should curiosity get the better of you and you HAVE TO HAVE ONE NOW, you can click on this link to purchase immediately. (In spirit of full disclosure we DO NOT receive commission for this transaction should you buy your Atom from this link. TONE does not participate in affiliate programs of any kind, whatsoever.)

The Naim Atom!

Time flies when you’re having fun. Ten years into their existence, Naim introduced the original Nait integrated amplifier, which was about the size of a large hardcover novel, and produced about 13 watts per channel. Today they give us the Atom.

A Quick recap

The original Nait offers a built in phonostage, revered to this day and though it has relatively low power, the power supply offers tremendous reserve current, delivering wide dynamic swing. Many audiophiles still prefer the original Nait as their amplifier of choice for a pair of Quad 57s. The cost was 253 pounds, which translated into about 350 dollars in US currency. (approximately 850 dollars in 2017)

The entire Nait range has always been excellent, but Naim has kept up with the wacky world of streaming and computer audio, and on a parallel track has produced some incredible DACs as well as the stunning CD555 CD player, which was my reference for years. It’s safe to say that Naim knows how to build them well,  within a diminutive form factor without sacrificing quality.

In 2009, Naim introduced the Uniti, a full sized box, combining an integrated amplifier and CD player. Cool as this was, the UnitiQute, brought to market a year later proved the game changer, eschewing the CD transport for streaming capability – a technology then in its infancy. Once again, the Salisbury manufacturer showed its willingness to be fashion forward.

The Qute and its next iteration, the Qute 2 were fantastic, but the engineering staff at Naim never rests, bringing us to the Atom you see here. At $2,995 there is no better choice to anchor your music system if you value engineering, aesthetic and functional excellence, yet want all of this in a compact form factor.

If you’ve had a chance to experience Naim’s flagship Statement series, before the first note of music plays, you notice the sculptured heat sinks that wrap around the power amplifier and the massive, weighted and well-lit volume control. Naim has carried this functionality to the MuSo range and it has to be the best-implemented volume control in all of hifi. It powers up with a spectacular light show and glows a pale blue. It’s so enticing to use; you might never use the remote or the app. This is MOMA permanent collection stuff, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these Naim components gets added at some point. The same level of attention to mechanical detail present with the Statement series is lavished on the Atom, giving it a look suggesting a much higher cost.

Getting down to business

Coolness is not worth much without functionality and performance. Queuing up the last Infected Mushroom album and cranking the Focal Sopra no.3 speakers is breathtaking. Thanks to their (91.5db/1 watt) high sensitivity, the 40 watts per channel produced by the Atom is more than enough for all but those needing to blow the windows out of the house. Swapping the Sopras for my vintage Klipsch LaScalas (105db/1 watt) provided the front row concert ticket annoying a few neighbors in the process. Good as the original Nait is/was (and of course, I found a great example, thanks to Mr. O’Brien who keeps everything).

Comparing an original Nait to the Atom side by side is like comparing the original Porsche 911 to a current model; the lineage and house sound are instantly apparent, yet all the additional power and functionality of the Atom is truly welcome. And the new amplifier sounds absolutely lovely driving my current vintage Quad 2812s.

The extra power on tap with the Atom, combined with its robust power supply and discrete design makes for a level of sonic sophistication that so many of the Atom’s competitors lack, succumbing to cutting cost and using chip/op amp based designs. Whether listening to a solo vocal track or a small scale instrumental ensemble, the sheer delicacy that the Atom is capable of comes through loud and clear. When called upon to play louder, more complex music, the Atom is equally adept. Van Halen is just as enjoyable as Infected Mushroom, and in case you aren’t familiar with Naim, they are masters of capturing the pace of whatever music you enjoy.

Setup and connection is easy, thanks to three digital inputs, an analog input, wireless and an HDMI input (Available at an optional cost), so everything from your Walkman to the PS4 can use the Atom as its audio hub. With a lack of rear panel real estate, should you not use Naim’s own speaker cable, bananas are required, there are no binding posts.

Multiple personalities

The Atom substitutes the original Nait’s excellent onboard phonostage, for an incredibly capable DAC section, able to decode files from standard 16/44.1 resolution all the way up to 2x DSD. Everything at my disposal, which runs the gamut, (though most of my library is 16/44.1) is rendered superbly. One of our staffers has the two chassis Naim DAC with PS555 power supply, and again, the lineage is clearly traceable. The overall sound of the Atom is clean, crisp and dynamic, with a lifelike presentation. I have always been a fan of Naim’s digital hardware.

As our first test unit was pre release, but final production, all of the wireless and streaming functionality had not been ready to roll, but we have a new test unit on premise and will reporting back shortly with a full outline of those capabilities.

Those with a turntable will not be left out, as the Atom does have a single analog input. Using it with the new Shinola Runwell turntable, featuring an excellent on board phono preamplifier makes for a perfect match. Stepping up the game to the Audio Research PH9 and Technics SL-1200G with Kiseki Purple Heart underlines just how good this little amplifier performs. It is not out of character, even though this analog front end costs nearly six times what the Atom retails for! Again, the level of pace and tonal contrast is sublime, with the Atom creating a huge sound field in all three dimensions.

In addition to that sexy volume control, Naim has done all of us over 25 years old a major solid by incorporating a display that is large, colorful and contrasty. Even across the room, it is incredibly easy to read, and once you are playing/streaming digital music, the album cover and track information comes to life. This comes in handy when friends are over and wondering what happens to be playing now. Finally, a front panel USB socket allows you and your friends to plug their favorite tunes right in. It doesn’t get more user-friendly than this.

If your emphasis is on functionality and you don’t need a ton of output power, the Atom is a killer choice. You’d spend more than $2,995 just buying power cords and interconnect cables for a preamp, power amp, and headphone amp. Stay tuned for part two, where we concentrate on all of the different options and functions. (manufacturer) (NA distributor)

Naim Mu-so Tabletop System

Naim Mu-So review by Rob Johnson TONEAudioThe hifi press was abuzz last year over Naim Audio’s massive Statement stack: an amplifier and preamplifier capable of over 700 watts per channel with an equally huge price tag that is in Aston Martin territory. However, being the clever engineers that they are, the folks from Salisbury had something equally compelling and more approachable at the Munich High End show – the Mu-so. Standing alone in the Naim room, the Mu-so was introduced rather quietly, but every time we checked it was mobbed with onlookers.

This elegant tabletop system features a plethora of style cues, with the polished case, clad in sculptured black grille material, a clear acrylic base and a single multifunction control on top. Sure, you can use the app or the remote control, but this begs to be touched and interacted with. The Brits have outdone style leaders Bang & Olufsen this time – the Mu-so is as understatedly elegant as the Bentley Continental that Naim also happens to supply the hifi system for.

Queuing up Florence + the Machine’s latest disc hints at the Mu-so’s capabilities, filling the living room with her sultry, luscious voice in a way that suggests a pair of Quad 57s. Airy and much bigger than the small enclosure suggests. Moving to more rocking faire, a quick playlist of classic Little Feat proves that the Mu-so can rock with the best of them, its 450 watts of power and six bespoke drivers handling the low bass line in “Long Distance Love” with ease. The only remaining question is how you will interface with Mu-so. And perhaps whether to stick with the standard black grille, or swap for the optional Burnt Orange or Deep Blue.

Convenient Controls

The user has several interface options. The four-inch recessed disc on the top left of the unit enables several functions. The outer edge of the wheel is silver in color. The center is an obsidian black touch-screen from which simple, white, lighted controls emerge from the dark. When plugged in, the default view is a simple, lighted power symbol. Once touched, lights around the edge of the circle cycle indicate the status of the power-up process.

Additional controls surface from the darkness when Mu-so is ready to play, giving a user the option of selecting Naim iRadio or an external input. Pushing on either option activates that functionality. When pressing the input button to choose an external source, repeated presses select UPnP, USB/iPod, or Bluetooth inputs. Three lighted sections of light at the top of the wheel activate in turn as the touch screen cycles among the choices.

Depending on the input source, the Mu-so also makes available other touch controls to advance tracks, play, pause and more. It’s nice to see only what’s useable, and not a lot of other control options that have no impact in a given mode. The disc acts like a volume control when twisted to the right or left, and lights around the circumference of the wheel light up corresponding to changes in volume, temporarily commandeering the input lights and others around the edge to indicate the full volume range. All of this is easy to do up close and personal or via the included remote or free iOS and Android apps from Naim.

Naim Mu-So review by Rob Johnson TONEAudio

Simple Setup

Naim offers detailed instructions on every aspect of Mu-so setup in the included manual; for the sake of brevity, this review will hit only the highlights of the process. Even without touching the manual, though, I find it highly intuitive to get the Mu-so up and running. Naim has produced an excellent installation video that you can watch here: .

As a first step, when a location for Mu-so is decided, be sure to head into the iOS or Android app and select whether Mu-so is within 25cm of a rear wall or not. The selection allows the Mu-so to self-optimize sonically for its location and avoid bass loading when too close to a rear wall. After selecting the appropriate toggle, it’s still worth moving the Naim backwards and forwards a bit and do some tuning with your own ears.

With that done, a recessed area on the underside of the unit has three physical connections to make. First, Mu-so’s included power cord must be connected. Secondly an Ethernet socket enables a direct connection to an internet connection, although a wireless connection serves equally well. Finally, an optical input offers a hard-wired connection to complement other wireless streaming options.

The side of the Mu-so enables a few other input options. There’s a standard USB cable connection and a 1/8-inch analog input. Finally, a small, multi-color capable, LED status indicator delivers a dizzying array of information about the unit status and setup process. Depending on the color, and referring to the Mu-so manual, the LED informs the owner about status of internet connection, firmware updates, and other items. Simplicity is a good thing.

When attempting to pair an iPhone with the Mu-so, the first question asked on the iOS app setup screen is the color of the status LED. Clicking on the corresponding toggle, and with only a few additional touches on the iPhone screen, Mu-so and iDevice are fully paired. The process takes only a few seconds, and works seamlessly.

With the needed connections made, Mu-so offers playback via Bluetooth, Spotify, Airplay, internet radio and others. While all the wired and wireless playback options work very well through the Mu-so, much of my testing, a Mac Mini delivered the bits via Airplay. Whether exporting music to the Mu-so using iTunes, jRiver, or Roon, each came through with ease.

Super Sound

As it turns out, this little box packs a lot of surprises. From the get-go, the sonic balance of the Mu-so proves enjoyable. As with other Naim products I’ve heard over the years, the sound is plenty detailed, and a bit to the warmer side making long-term listening sessions fatigue free. Regardless of input choice, the Naim makes the best use of the digital signal.

While soundstaging prowess is inherently limited by a single-box design, the height and width of the sonic wall portrayed by the Mu-so remains surprisingly huge. Because of the perceived size, some guests visiting my home while the Mu-so played between my larger reference speakers made the assumption that the bigger boxes were responsible for playback.

Vocal reproduction is very good as with the rest of the midrange. On tracks like k.d. Lang’s “Tears of Love’s Recall” vocal crescendos lack grain or sting, while portraying the power of the performance.

Strengths and Scrutiny

The Mu-so is a really slick system that is fun to use. At $1,500 there’s a lot of capability and a lot of value packed into a small enclosure. After living with it in my home for some time, and trying it in different rooms which don’t have a quality sound system of their own, the Mu-so proves an addictive piece of kit.

A potential buyer should be aware of some caveats, however. Music fans desiring to approximate the left-to-right, and back-to-front soundstage of a realistic performance will be better served with a full Naim system and speakers.

Mu-so is certainly no slouch in the sound department. I find the sonic balance very enjoyable for long listening sessions. Naim did a great job creating the versatile Mu-so, but there are a few sonic compromises that should be expected from a one-box unit.

Mu-so is designed to fill a room with high quality sound, and equally importantly, offer a plethora of input and digital playback options. If one member of the house prefers streaming music via Bluetooth from an iPhone, another prefers to stream radio over the internet, and another prefers to connect directly via USB from a computer, each person gets exactly what they want given the Mu-so’s extreme flexibility. Also, the Mu-so’s elegant and modern look will fit well into any room without drawing a lot of attention to itself.

If the Mu-so’s strengths appeal to you, do yourself a favor and head to your local Naim dealer to check it out. As a one-box solution from a company with a long-standing history of great gear, that Mu-so does amazing things as expected.  –Rob Johnson

Naim Mu-So review by Rob Johnson TONEAudio

Additional Listening

Much like the iPod, one-box hifi is a rapidly developing area of the hifi world. About six years ago, we were blown away by the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin, and there have been a number of challengers, both more and less costly. Naim has chosen to take the high road, going after the stratosphere of the market – with excellent success. My personal favorite has been the now discontinued Meridian F80, which sported a $3,000 price tag.

The Mu-so eclipses my former one-box reference in every way, albeit with a larger footprint. The extra speakers and power really come in handy, and I can’t stress strongly enough that placement with this device is critical to get it to really rock. The wrong EQ settings and casual placement will leave you cold, but set it up properly and spend ten minutes placing it in just the right spot to get enough bass reinforcement, and you will be highly impressed.

I spent a lot of time using the Mu-so as the home theater system in my bedroom, using it to both stream music from Tidal via an iPad and provide movie sound, hardwired, via an Apple TV. In this situation, the Mu-so proved highly impressive, offering up room-filling sound in a 12 x 14 foot room, placed on a dresser, just below a 65-inch TV set.

I must confess a bias in favor of Naim’s timeless design, so I can’t really be objective here. I love the look of the Mu-so and feel that they’ve even outdone Devialet in the control elegance department. That part will be up to you. But for the music and movie lover who doesn’t want a rack of gear, yet still wants high quality sound, Naim’s Mu-so is pretty awesome and worth a trip to your Naim dealer for an audition.  – Jeff Dorgay

Naim Mu-so

MSRP: $1,500

Naim Mu-so – PREVIEW

While Naim’s Mu-so might fool the unfamiliar that it’s a sound bar, it’s anything but. Other than kind of looking like a sound bar, albeit a very cool one with a gigantic volume control and moody underlighting, the rectangular shape is where all comparison ends – this is a full blown, mega, desktop audio system.

With 6 bespoke speakers and 450 watts of power on tap, the Mu-so builds on what Naim learned when developing the audio system for the Bentley, in terms of complexity and creating high performance digital audio in a compact space.

Working wired or wirelessly, there is nothing you can’t connect to the Mu-so. And while you can control it all via your phone and the Naim app, you really want to walk up and interact with the Mu-so in person. It’s main control is the best in the industry. Check out Rob Johnson’s full review in Issue #72! – Jeff Dorgay

Naim Mu-so


Naim UnitiQute 2 All-in-One Player

When Naim introduced its all-in-one UnitiQute player a couple years ago, everyone here went bonkers over the damn thing, drawing the obvious references to the legendary Naim Nait. The original Nait, with only 15 watts per channel, came packaged in a similarly sized (i.e. small) chassis and had the ability to drive a pair of moderately sensitive speakers to musical heights not experienced for that price tag. Back in the mid 1970s, a Naim Nait fetched about $699 at your favorite hi-fi dealer, but it was worth every penny to those who owned it. Today, a spotless example still commands nearly the same price and loyalty. That’s product longevity.

The original Qute substituted a high-quality DAC for the phonostage and allowed streaming, in addition to providing an FM tuner and a sweet sounding 30-watt-per-channel power amplifier. Adjusted for inflation, this is still a bargain at $1,995—especially if one takes into consideration all those power cords and interconnects that you won’t have to buy. You can read our review of the original UnitiQute here.

The Qute 2 nudges the sticker price up slightly, to $2,195, with a substantial increase in power. It’s more robust 50-watt-per-channel amplifier gives this mighty product even more system flexibility in terms of the speakers it can power.

The Qute 2 is a perfect solution for anyone wanting a compact yet high-performance component, essentially a receiver, that can power your favorite pair of speakers and call it a day. It is tastefully styled, well built and highly functional. And best of all, it’s easily expandable, should you desire to build a more elaborate system at some point—a hallmark of Naim products. Those living in a small space will appreciate the subwoofer output, making it easy to add a sat/sub speaker system with a powered subwoofer. This is almost always ignored on even more expensive all-inclusive components.

A Little System Matching

As part of a compact high-performance system, with the KEF LS-50 speakers, the Qute 2 proves impressive, however, it does require a few days of constant play to sound its best. Right out of the box, the sound is slightly constrictive, but it opens up quickly. I push the Qute 2 even harder by replacing the LS-50s with a pair of 3-ohm MartinLogan Aerius i speakers, which are notoriously tough to drive, and the Qute 2 doesn’t miss a beat.

Listening to Graham Parker’s 2001 release Deepcut to Nowhere quickly reveals the Qute 2’s ability to create a believable three-dimensional soundstage and maintain rock-solid pace, which are Naim hallmarks. A similar effect is realized when listening to the last set of remastered Beatles CDs. At the beginning of “All You Need is Love,” the violins, horns and chorus all have a distinct placement between the speakers, while John Lennon’s vocals stay anchored slightly stage left and McCartney’s signature bass brings up the foundation of the track.

It should be noted that, for the Qute 2, you will need a pair of speaker cables with banana plugs on at least one end, as the Qute 2 is pressed for real estate on the rear panel. Like the Wadia Intuition we recently reviewed, the Qute 2 only has space for a pair of banana plugs. On one level, this pays homage to Naim’s past and keeps the setup tidy. There wouldn’t be any room for massive audiophile plugs behind this petite amplifier even if the clever Naim engineers could squeeze a pair of binding posts back there. We ran the same pair of AudioQuest Meteor cables that were used on the original Qute review with excellent results. Long gone are the days that you have to use Naim’s own speaker cables to properly interface with your speakers.

When keeping things at a reasonable pace and volume level, there is nothing in the TONEAudio arsenal (or my own collection of speakers) that the Qute 2 can’t push effectively. Bringing back a friend’s Qute reveals that the original still possesses a bit more midrange sweetness (which can easily be taken for coloration, depending on what side of the fence you’re on), but the extra power far outweighs a smidge of midrange magic for this reviewer, who really does like to rock.

Broadening the perspective and taking advantage of the Qute 2’s analog input, I add a Naim StageLine phonostage and a Rega RP6 turntable with Exact cartridge to the system, nearly doubling the cost of the Qute 2/LS-50 combination—which will also double the pleasure for the analog lover. Spinning the recent MoFi remaster of the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach is a ton of fun, and the Qute 2 delivers more than enough resolution to provide a great analog experience.

It certainly resolves enough musical detail to easily discern the difference between the $2,000 Rega table and the $500 Pro-Ject I also have on hand. With the Rega in the mix, the soundstage is more expansive in all three dimensions, with a more airy, fleshed out and better-defined upper register. Don’t let this compact package fool you; the Qute 2 has far more substance than its small size suggests. It’s a full-bodied Naim component in every sense.

The Qute 2 is Apple friendly, so it will snag the digital bitstream from you iPod or iPhone, making it easy to take advantage of your music collection. MP3s with 320 kbps play back with startlingly good clarity. Upping the game to CD-quality files demonstrates just how good the iPod can be in an audiophile environment when loaded with better software.

Taking advantage of the Qute 2’s high-resolution DAC makes listening to high-res audio files via the Astell&Kern AK100 and AK120 portable players a real treat, and this arrangement is in keeping with the compact ethos of this component. Listening to the slinky vocals on the recent HDtracks download of Joni Mitchell’s Hissing of Summer Lawns reveals layer upon layer of detail when compared to the original CD rip.

A Joy to Use

Even though the Qute 2 features a wide range of functions, it is surprisingly easy to use. While it is critical that you don’t lose the remote, as none of the functions can be accessed from the front panel, the app that is available for iPhone users is far more handy and convenient to use, giving a graphic display of the Qute 2’s functions. When synced with your home network, the Qute 2 app allows you to control inputs and volume anywhere within range. This comes in handy when the phone rings, and it also means you can have one less remote control lying around.

Once the Qute 2 is powered up, a quick run through the front panel allows you to optimize its settings. You can select relevant sources and choose big or small speakers; the bass rolls off a tad for small speakers, giving you some extra headroom in the process. Should you be leaving the Qute 2 unattended, I suggest taking full advantage of the maximum volume setting, which will save you from blowing a tweeter or upsetting the neighbors.

If seven digital inputs and an analog input aren’t enough, you can also use the USB socket on the front panel to play music from a USB flash drive. You can also summon files from an UPnP music server via a hardwired connection or via the built-in Wi-Fi. Naim suggests a hardwired connection for best digital performance and we concur, especially if your music collection consists of CD-quality and HD-quality digital music files. Those with large collections of low-res MP3s will not suffer terribly from the wireless connection, should a wired connection not be convenient. Those not streaming digital files, or if you’re just listening to music via a CD player (like Naim’s excellent CD5si, which we currently have in for review), can still use the Wi-Fi antenna to connect your iPhone to the Qute 2 for full remote functionality.

Running the Qute 2 through a gaggle of different headphones reveals that the on-board headphone amp is up to snuff and that it will drive all but the most difficult headphones with ease. The only ones we really had trouble with are the HiFiMan HE-6 headphones, which are notoriously tough to drive with even some of the world’s best dedicated headphone amplifiers, so no fault there. Those of you with Sennheiser, Grado, Audeze and Beats phones will thoroughly enjoy the headphone performance of the Qute 2.

Last but not least, the built in FM tuner (DAB for our European friends) does a spectacular job foraging for signals, providing high-quality sound in the process. Those having decent FM stations nearby will be pleasantly surprised at just how good the Qute 2 sounds in this mode—far better than satellite radio any day. Adding a modestly priced Terk antenna to the Qute 2 further improves performance.

Little It Can’t Do

After living with Naim’s UnitiQute 2 for a couple of months, I have found that its luster remains. The quality of sound provided is utterly fantastic and the range of functionality is tough to beat.

Though not packaged in as sexy of a shape as the Wadia Intuition, or the Devialet 110 also featured in this issue, the Qute 2 is mega-affordable and keeps with the easy-to-use yet high-performance ethos that we think the high-end audio industry desperately needs. For less than a top of the line Bose system, you can pair the Naim UnitiQute 2 with a great set of speakers and have a serious hi-fi setup. And for all the same reasons we found the original UnitiQute worthy of merit, we award the Qute 2 one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2013.

Naim UnitiQute 2

MSRP: $2,195 (company website) (U.S. Importer)


Digital Sources Meridian Media Source 200    Astell&Kern AK120 portable player    Naim CD5si
Analog Source Rega RP6 turntable    Exact cartridge    Naim StageLine phonostage
Speakers KEF Blades    KEF LS-50    Harbeth Compact 7    MartinLogan Aerius i
Cables AudioQuest Colorado interconnects and Meteor speaker cables

Naim DAC and PS555 Power Supply

With the race on to build bigger, better, more powerful gear, Naim has entered the field with its first standalone DAC. In the past, the company took a closed-architecture approach to digital, with its players claiming neither a digital input nor output. One uses them the way they come from the factory; the only available upgrade is a larger power supply.

If you aren’t familiar with Naim, it certainly follows a different approach than other manufacturers. In the case of its $3,695 world-class DAC, performance upgrades come in the form of more robust, external power supplies. This strategy (also used with its SuperLine phonostage) works well in the sense that you buy the DAC once, getting digital decoding ability along with a top-range product’s input and output flexibility—and the same tonality—for a reasonable price.

When more performance is needed, an external power supply is easily added. Enter the $5,595 XPS and $9,345 555PS. While the uninitiated might pause at the concept of an external power supply costing more than an actual component, we’ve been to this dance with Naim before, and the proof is in the listening.

The Naim DAC provides a great digital experience in standard form, but if you can make the jump, opt for the PS555. Like every other Naim component into which we’ve plugged a massive power supply, it makes for a stunning experience. Once you hear it, you will never go back. For those that keep gear for long periods of time, it’s reassuring to buy the DAC and know the job is done. When you get the itch to upgrade, adding a power supply is a simple task.

Regardless of output or file resolution, the Naim DAC plays flawlessly with every digital source we throw at it. No matter your digital arsenal, the user-friendly nit will improve its sound While Naim would, of course, like to see you purchase one of its music servers, if you have someone else’s server in your system, integrating the Naim DAC with a current setup shouldn’t be an issue. In addition to the Naim HDX, we used the QSonix, Meridian Sooloos, Aurender, and Squeezebox servers with all file resolutions without a glitch.

The DAC proves equally compatible with a wide range of transports. The MSB universal transport works particularly well with the Naim DAC, allowing audiophiles invested in physical media of all types—SACD, DVD-Audio, or even Blu-ray—to play their files from one source.

Different Approach, Similar Sound

Even though the Naim DAC takes an alternative modus operandi to the digital decoding process, the company’s CD555 uses old-school, 16 bit/44.1k architecture. The Naim DAC upsamples incoming data to 768khz, using a SHARC 40-bit floating point processor, which also handles the digital filtering.  Audio data is then dumped into a RAM buffer before going to the actual DAC chips for D/A conversion. For a more in-depth overview of this process, download the Naim white paper here:

Such methodology is not necessary with the CD555 because it only plays 16 bit/44.1khz files from CD; remember, however, the Naim DAC is compatible with all high-resolution digital formats. Credit Naim’s engineering staff for making the DAC/PS555 combination sound nearly identical to the CD555. Under the hood, the models couldn’t be more different.

The Naim DAC employs a plethora of inputs: a pair of RCA SPDIF, a pair of 75-ohm BNC inputs, and four toslink inputs. A USB port rests on the back and front panels; however, these inputs are not intended for direct connection to a computer. And forget about balanced XLR/EBU or FireWire inputs. Naim believes that a computer via USB doesn’t constitute an optimal way to transfer data to its DAC, so the USB input is for an external drive or memory stick. We found this handy when a friend brought over a few albums for a listening session.

Since the DAC is Apple compliant, you can use an iPod, iPhone, or iPad to stream music (up to 48kHz sampling rate) without the need for an external high-performance dock. Merely connect your iPod via the standard USB cord that goes to your charger, and experience the upgraded sound the iPod possesses when you bypass the onboard DAC. Listeners with multiple iPods will find this method goes a long way towards enticing the rest of their family to share in the hi-fi system fun.

Standard and Super-Size

Listening sessions began with the Naim DAC by itself, and without the external power supply. The former exhibits the same character, or “house sound,” that we’ve experienced with the other Naim players. We experimented with an iPod Touch, vintage Denon 3910, MSB universal transport, Naim HDX, and Sooloos music server, as well as a dCS Paganini transport.

By itself, the DAC proves highly competent and exhibits a very natural tonality. Naim gear always excels in the areas of musical pace and timing. However, that PS555 is like connecting an afterburner to the DAC. While tonality remains the same, dynamics take a major jump with the extra power. The rim shots in Lee Morgan’s Riggarmortesfrom the Tom Cat XRCD are breathtaking. And when Morgan’s trumpet enters, it punches through the mix with authority and more texture, the tune now sounding like a high-resolution file.

Bass weight and control also soar with the PS555. Listening to the classic electronica album, Kruder and Dorfmeister, The K&D Sessions, confirms these findings. “Bomb the Bass—Bug Powder Dust” features a deep, loose bass track that can easily get away from a modest system and overwhelm the diaphanous mix. The Naim combination paints a massive sonic landscape, simultaneously offering potent bass that shakes the listening room but never loses control.

More Power

Aside from reproducing music in a natural way—acoustic instruments played back through the Naim DAC/PS555 possess the right amount of texture and decay to convince you you’re hearing the real thing—the PS555 produces a much larger soundstage. Cue up Frank Zappa’s “Penguin in Bondage” from the live Roxy & Elsewhere album. Listening to only the DAC, Ruth Underwood’s percussion effects are buried in the mix, and the CD feels somewhat compressed. Once the PS555 is engaged, room boundaries expand in all three dimensions, allowing Zappa and his cronies to reveal themselves in greater detail.

The additional dynamics that the PS555 brings to listening sessions are invaluable. As nicely as the Naim DAC/PS555 combination renders top-notch recordings, the additional detail and overall listenability it brings to average-sounding records separates the pairing from lesser DACs. Music lovers whose interests venture beyond the same old audiophile standards will be delighted.

Indeed, after swapping the power supply in and out only a few times, I became convinced the NAIM DAC makes such a quantum leap with the PS555. It’s not to be missed. Sure, there are a few excellent DACs in the $4,000 range, and while the Naim unit is highly capable on its own, the PS555 turns it into something special.

You Might Forget About Your Turntable

If we were comparing the two DACs to phono cartridges, the Naim boasts a sound similar to that of a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum: robust bass response, great stereo image, and a dash of warmth thrown in for good measure—a characteristic that never hurts digital media. In direct comparison to the similarly priced dCS Debussy, the dCS sounds more like a Lyra Titan i, with a shade more resolution and slightly more forward presentation.

For music lovers that want a digital source that is musical in the manner of an analog source, the Naim DAC/PS555 is the way to roll. Also, if you are a CD555 owner that’s a bit late coming to music servers, this DAC and power supply will provide a seamless experience. For these reasons, the Naim DAC/PS555 combination receives our most enthusiastic recommendation.

The Naim DAC/PS555 Power Supply

MSRP:  Naim DAC, $3,695

PS555 Power supply, $9,345    (factory)    (US Importer)


Preamplifiers Conrad Johnson Act 2/Series 2     ARC REF 5SE    Burmester 011
Power Amplifiers McCormack DNA 750 monoblocks     Octave Jubilee Monoblocks    Pass XA200.5 monoblocks     ARC REF 150     Burmester 911 mk.3
Digital Sources Naim HDX-SSD     Sooloos Control 15    MSB Universal Transport    dCS Paganini Transport
Speakers Magnepan 20.1     GamuT S9    B&W 802D     Sonus Faber Ellipsa SE
Cable Cardas Clear    Furutech Reference

Naim Audio Uniti Qute

It couldn’t have been scripted better:  while I was unpacking the Uniti Qute, my daughter remarked, “It’s so cute!”  But this compact marvel is much more than cute. It’s a high-performance music system in a package the size of a Steven King novel.

We awarded the Naim Uniti our Product of the Year-Overall award in 2009 because it packed so much versatility into a compact package, squeezing a CD player, integrated amplifier, DAC, FM tuner and internet radio tuner all into a standard Naim enclosure.

The Uniti has been flying off dealer’s shelves worldwide, but there are a lot of new-generation music lovers who just aren’t that into physical media anymore.  If you fit that description and can get by with 30 watts per channel instead of the Uniti’s 50 watts per channel, the Qute is the one you want.  And here’s another reason to buy the Qute: though it has less power than its big brother, the sound is even more refined.

At only $1,995, the Qute offers all of the functionality of the standard Unity, minus the CD player, and it comes in a box half the size.  A sleek little black box, the Qute has no front panel controls (though you can mute the sound by touching the front screen), just a large alphanumeric display, mini-sized AUX input, a mini headphone input and a USB port.  All the rest of the connections are around back, featuring four digital inputs (2 RCA and 2 optical), an analog input (also via RCA), a BNC digital output and a preamplifier output.  A wireless internet antenna is also included as well as a standard RJ-45 port, should you want to hardwire your ethernet network to the Qute.

Small enough to fit anywhere

The Qute is eight inches wide, three inches tall and 11 inches deep (207mm x 87mm x 314mm), so you should be able to find a shelf that will accommodate it.  As my test sample arrived with plenty of hours on the clock, I had no way of gauging a proper break in, though the full-size  Uniti took about 100 hours to sound its best.

Though most of my test listening was done with the Naim HDX music server, I did take the time to spin some vinyl with my Technics SL-1200/SME 309/Clearaudio Maestro wood combination through the Naim Stageline phono stage.

A wide range of speakers was used, but the majority of the listening was done with the new Finn speakers from Verity Audio.  These little three-way floorstanders have a 91dB sensitivity and though probably more expensive ($6,500/pr.) than what the average Qute owner would choose, this amplifier was more than up to the task.  If you were looking for a high-performance system with a minimal footprint, the Finn’s would be my first choice.  On a tight budget?  Grab a pair of Vandersteen 1C’s ($1,095/pr. and 90dB sensitivity)


The Qute is easy to set up.  On power up, it immediately looks for the wireless network from which you are streaming UPnP data, and if you have a Mac or Windows PC in place, it will find it immediately and let you stream music from your iTunes library, making the Qute a mini music server.  I tried this briefly, with great results, but having the HDX made this feature unnecessary for me.  However, those using their HDX in another room on the main system will enjoy having remote access to their library via the Qute in another room. There will be an iPhone/iPad app available shortly from Naim that will make this even easier.  Since there are no controls on the front panel, everything is controlled by the remote, though you can raise and lower the Qute’s volume by tapping the Naim logo.  A quick tap mutes the volume instantly, which can come in handy when the phone rings and the remote is out of reach.

The Qute has a wide range of analog and digital inputs, but it has only one pair of speaker outputs. They require that you use speaker cables that have banana plugs, at least on the end connecting with the amplifier.  Unlike the early Naim amplifiers, using Naim-specific speaker wire is no longer a must.  I used Audioquest Meteor speaker cable with excellent results.

Extreme versatility

Other than the CD drive in the full-size Uniti, the Qute can still control four digital sources: an analog source, the built-in FM tuner (DAB for our friends in Europe), internet radio and an iPod.  There is a digital output and line-level output for those wanting to make the Qute part of a larger system, adding a DAC and larger power amplifier, but I think this defeats the compact nature of the whole affair.  To Naim’s credit, it can be done, and easily.

Bypassing the internal DAC of the HDX to use the Qute proved to be a slight step down in overall performance. But using the Qute with an inexpensive transport was a huge step up.  Should you not be quite finished with silver discs, your favorite reasonably priced CD player will make a great transport for the Qute.  I tried my older Denon 3910 and Pioneer 563; both sounded much better through the Qute than through their onboard DAC/analog stages.

The tuner performed admirably with my $20 Terk antenna, but since I live in a city lacking in FM diversity, the real bonus was the ability to access internet radio.  Considering how many great stations are now available, I can’t see why anyone would not want to spring for satellite radio.

At present, the review sample of the Qute was not ready to accept my iPod through the front-panel USB port, but playback from a USB jump drive was no problem.  The album’s table of contents was easily read on the front panel display, and playback then proceeded as normal.  Naim Inc’s Dave Dever assured me that on the upcoming software update, iPod playback would work the same way.  Exactly like the Uniti and Wadia’s 170i, the Qute will allow you to access the digital output of your iPod so you can use it as a high-quality (but extremely compact) music server.  I couldn’t help thinking how cool the Qute would be if it had the color touch screen of the HDX so that album art could be viewed on its front panel…

Saving the best for last, the sound

The Qute is attractive, compact, versatile and easy to use, but best of all, it sounds fantastic.  Naim has always had a reputation for producing low-powered, high-quality solid-state amplifiers.  The early Naim Nait and Nait 2 integrated amplifiers are still held in extremely high regard, and it’s not uncommon for them to fetch considerably more than their original price on the used market.

Paying homage to the form factor of the Nait 2, the Qute outshines its full-size sibling with a presentation that sounds closer to the top-shelf Naim gear than the Nait 5i amplifier that powers the standard-size Uniti.  Thanks to its big power transformer, the Qute delivers the goods.  When used with the 90dB Vandersteen’s or the 91dB Verity’s, I could rock out to my heart’s content in my 11 x 17 foot living room.  The Qute even did a more-than acceptable job of powering the Harbeth Monitor 40.1’s that have a sensitivity of only 86dB.

Refinement is the name of the game with the Qute. Paired with any number of $1,000 speakers and a modest source, Qute proves itself to be one pleasant little amplifier. The Qute is a great performer as the core of a $3,000 – $4,000 system, and I’m guessing that’s how most people will use it.  But I was not prepared for the complete lack of grain when I supersized the system and added the Naim HDX as a source (with all uncompressed music stored on its hard drive) and the $6,500 Verity Finn’s.

I felt like I was hearing the quality of the Qute for the first time, with a lack of grain that I would normally associate with much-more expensive solid-state power amplifiers.  Much as the Nait 2 sounded much better than it should have for its small size, the Qute lives up to its heritage and then some.

Vocals took on an uncanny realism (for an amplifier at this price point) and my favorite current tracks from Peter Gabriel’s latest album, Scratch My Back, had the necessary amount of grit and texture to remain interesting.  Cheapo integrateds usually lack this finesse, and Gabriel ends up sounding like Seal.  Moving to the other side of the fence, Gwyneth Herbert’s subtle vocal shadings were fantastic on “My Narrow Man” from her current release on the Naim label, All The Ghosts.

The level of bass extension and control was impressive as well and again, the concept of texture kept coming up.  It was amazing to hear an acoustic bass really sound like an acoustic bass.  Unless I exceeded the comfort level of the Qute, I was pleased enough with the presentation that I nearly freaked out whenever my eyes perceived the small size of that box.

Last but not least, Qute had a splendid airiness about its overall sound, with plenty of space between the notes.  I’ve listened to more than my share of inexpensive solid-state integrateds, and most of them are rubbish.  Not only was a healthy amount of three-dimensional space reproduced, the tonality was very natural in a way that I previously felt could be accomplished only with much-more expensive gear.


Naim’s Uniti Qute will spoil you.  If this is the core of a high-quality second system, you might find yourself spending less time with your main system. If it’s your first venture into high-end audio, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money, should the upgrade bug hit you some day; the Qute is that good.

Naim has hit the mark perfectly for a high-quality yet reasonably priced, all-encompassing HiFI component.  Add your favorite pair of budget speakers and you are ready to rock for a reasonable outlay, yet it’s good enough to up the ante considerably with higher-priced peripherals before you will get tired of it. A word to the wise: anyone who gets rid of their Nait 2 rues the day.  Should you buy a Qute, I suggest hanging on to it forever.

Just like the legendary Nait and Nait 2 amplifiers, I’m positive the Qute will still hold a special place in many music lovers hearts years from now. This is what the music world needs more of.

The Naim Uniti Qute

MSRP:  $1,995