Naim Audio Uniti Nova integrated amplifier-media player Page 2

When it comes to setting up digital components, I'm no Michael Lavorgna, but I've reviewed enough CD players, USB DACs, and the like to know my way around. Still, I was mildly apprehensive about the many options and functions possible with the Uniti Nova. After ditching the Quick Start Guide, I found Naim's online support section to be a logical, orderly, and essential guide to understanding every aspect of the Nova's setup. Click Playing Music for in-depth instructions for setting up Internet radio, streaming, USB and HDMI, analog, multiroom, Roon, preamplifier out, and more. Pairing the remote-control handset to the Uniti was child's play, as was downloading Naim's app to my iPhone.

The Uniti Nova acclimated to my Greenwich Village crib for two months, streaming tunes from my iPad mini. I then inserted it in my network with a CAT6 Ethernet cable between Nova and router.

Listening to the Radio
First I played MP3 files from iTunes on my PC. After I'd connected it to my router, the Nova's display showed the outlines of a pyramid against a rectangle: Nova to PC, I presume. That stark image looked rather ominous, like a biohazard warning. But tunes played; all was well. I moved on.

Much to my surprise, I quickly became addicted to what at first seemed the Uniti Nova's most meager asset: Internet radio. There are many options within the Nova's Internet radio menu; choosing by genre and country, I found hundreds of stations, each identified by station logo and streaming rate. The sense of discovery was thrilling, station after station, from a meager 64kbps to a quite righteous 320kbps. As I cruised, I added stations to Favorites; highlights included electronica from Brazil's Acidic Infektion Radio (128kbps), and classical from Germany's SWR2 (256kbps) and TwentySound (128kpbs), the latter playing Slovakian composer Vladim°r Bokes's rousing Symphony 3. Choosing soundtracks from Croatia's Digital Impulse (320kbps) surprised with "Train to Florida," from Ry Cooder's score for the film Geronimo: An American Legend; India's Radio City Love Guru (64kbps) greeted me with more film music, "Goom Hai Kisi Ke Pyar Mein," from the 1972 Indian film Raampur Ka Lakshman. Norway's NRK Jazz (192kbps) delivered guitarist Terje Rypdal. The sound quality varied with the download rate, but I was too busy virtually trotting the globe to notice unless the quality was excellent—as it was from Poland's RadioZet broadcasting Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing Gershwin (192kbps).

I briefly roamed Tidal and Spotify: the Nova delivered the goods, each time.

Moving on to AIFF files, when I attached my Western Digital hard drive to the Nova's rear-panel USB input, the entire contents of my hard drive's music library popped up on the Naim app on my iPhone. Again, I was surprised by the Nova's ease of setup and practically instantaneous response.

Listening to Files
Now the real fun began. My hard drive organizes music alphabetically, and I had so much fun with the Nova that I barely made it past "A." Throughout my listening time, the Nova was supremely transparent to the source, with little personality of its own beyond a delicious liquidity as it projected lifelike aural images on a large stage with a consistently rich demeanor. The Nova didn't sound as tonally saturated and realistic as my Shindo separates, but it was one of the most musical, fast, flowing, and tonally rich solid-state amplifiers I've ever heard in my apartment. It delivered serious jump factor, and was also what I believe Art Dudley would call a toetapper. Anyway, file after file drove my jaw floorward as my ears reveled in the Nova's beautiful sound: more meaty and rich than filled with light and repeatedly allowing music a welcome, natural quality that was reliable, source to source.

Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced (AIFF rip from CD, Columbia/Legacy 88765-45584-2) jumped out of my system with shocking clarity. The Nova didn't use its 80Wpc to wow with dazzling feats of dynamics—I've heard "blacker" backgrounds and more astounding dynamics through my Shindos. Rather, its power was used to create fully fleshed-out aural images and superior detail retrieval and resolution. "Purple Haze" sounded like a different song, as did the driving boogie explosion of "Fire," Hendrix's nasty guitar solo freed from the loudspeakers and floating in front of me like a ghost. Hendrix's snarling solo in "Red House" was glowing, alive, and truly revelatory.

Even as the Nova's DAC resolved AIFF files to deliver every scintilla of information, its steely resolution was always easy on the ears, contributing to a musical, entirely nonanalytical sound. Music swung like an untethered beast, offering good ambient detail and decent air around images, but never entering the dreaded realms of a "hi-fi" sound covered with a glassy, artificial sheen.

"Rock Steady," from The Best of Aretha Franklin (AIFF rip from CD, Atlantic 7567-81280-2), lavished on me the Uniti Nova's bountiful bass extension, and while the Naim wasn't uniformly impressive in that regard such quantity and quality of bass did appear with several recordings I played, and with power to spare. Conversely, the Nova graced Aretha's own "Day Dreaming," from Young, Gifted and Black (AIFF from CD, Rhino R2 71527) with light and lightness of delivery, the lush sound of Donny Hathaway's Fender Rhodes piano shimmering like a halo.

In These Shoes, by pianist Arturo O'Farrill and singer Claudia Acuña (AIFF rip from CD, Zoho Music 880956080826), knocked me down, then had me up and dancing, the Nova resolving the large brass ensemble and Acu§a's sly vocals in bravura performances that charged my listening room like a thunder-and-lightning storm. Every track offered stone soul jumpin' jive, file after file.

Sonny Rollins's music from the soundtrack for the film Alfie (AIFF rip from CD, Impulse!/GRP B000003N9Q) sounded more contained and less thrilling than I recall from vinyl, but the Nova's soundstage was well layered, with a particularly fine rendering of Walter Booker's walking bass. The general sound was drier, less immediate, and smaller of stature than I recalled, but again, the Nova was transparent to the source, this being perhaps a less-than-extraordinary digital transfer.

Finally, with the help of the Heed Quasar phono preamplifier, I took some vinyl for a ride: Hank Mobley's Dippin' (LP, Blue Note 4209) and Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, and Shelly Manne's Poll Winners Three! (LP, Contemporary S 7576). Both revealed better senses of air, dynamics, and openness than any of the AIFF files. Dippin' is tenor saxophonist Mobley at perhaps his playing and compositional zeniths, supported by a mighty Blue Note cast. The music pops and practically cajoles, the overall tenor of the disc a mite dry, yet with drummer Billy Higgins's beautiful, shimmering cymbal work, and Larry Ridley's tight but toneful double-bass perambulations. Both LPs presented a large soundstage, but Poll Winners Three! was off the chart, bestowing on me incredible bass extension from Brown, and fine tonality from Kessel's guitar. Here the Nova nearly matched my Shindo gear for purity, and bettered them in extension and sheer power. Poll Winners Three! sounded lush, liquid, and enormous, with depth and rock-solid images.


As noted, I approached the Naim Uniti Nova with not a little trepidation. I'm no fan of playing computer audio files via a computer, NAS, and outboard DAC. Connections can go awry, you're often required to sync remotes and apps—sometimes the mechanics of playback outweigh the joys of listening. But with a little homework and a few dips into its online manual, I got the Uniti Nova up and running without a hitch. Its ease of setup startled me at every turn, thanks in no small part to the manual's orderly presentation of instructions and connections.

Most important, the Uniti Nova sounded fantastic with every recording format, whether I used its remote, app, or front-panel controls. Particularly transparent to sources, the Nova dependably re-created powerful, palpable, thoroughly engaging sound. Internet radio still sounded engaging, and vinyl retained its place as my favorite playback medium. The Nova only heightened my thrills, presenting practically 3D aural images with sumptuous tonality, good dynamics, and superb flow. The Nova communicated the essence of music, and the joy of listening to it, as well as any brushed-aluminum box I've toted up the seven torturous flights to my New York City apartment.

If you're a fan of getting your music all possible modes of delivery, Naim's Uniti Nova must be on your short list. You can easily spend $6995 on an integrated amplifier—but will it sound as good as the Nova? When you add up its many features and functions—its DAC, amplifier power reserves, Internet radio, streaming capability, and exceptional build quality—and compare it with other offerings costing in the neighborhood of $7000, the Uniti Nova is practically a bargain. Definitely, effusively, highly recommended.

Naim Audio Ltd.
US distributor: Audio Plus Services Inc.
156 Lawrence Paquette Drive
Champlain, NY 12919
(800) 663-9352

fetuso's picture

nice review. I was just downtown this morning, wish I had known about Hi-tech hifi. I was recently in the market for a new integrated and toyed with the idea of a vintage receiver. I also considered some used naim amps. I ended up getting a great deal on a used Yamaha as2100 integrated and I love it.

supamark's picture

that the Guardians soundtrack sales were as much about collectors and novelty as anything. I still can't get my head around a cassette revival. I get vinyl, it has a sound that's appealing. Mass produced cassettes are just awful sounding - cassette is to vinyl as mp3 is to CD, and very few cassette decks ever had the azimuth adjustment (and bias adj. plus 3 heads for recording) needed to get the most out of the medium.

Also, Naim's Mu-so Qb facinates me, though I've no idea how it sounds.

ok's picture

Ten years ago someone stole my beautifull red hatchback, newly serviced, freshly washed and filled up with my decades-old, obscurely sourced collection of cassette tapes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really missed that car; but what I wished for back then was that the scumbag who stole it had been kind enough to return those precious cassette tapes.

ken mac's picture

I feel your pain.

jporter's picture

No practicality at all. The NAD C368 is a bargain. I think there has to be a # Me too movement for these kind of reviews. "he said it was a bargain, but I felt violated and small"...Shame, Shame, Shame...lmfao..and Cheers!

ken mac's picture

The NAIM is extremely practical, does everything well and sounds fantastic.
The NAD 368 a giant killer? We shall see, review forthcoming.

supamark's picture

the tension building music... dun Dun DUN!

tonykaz's picture

I mean : instead of a Mono Phono Cartridge, for gods sake.

I raaaathhhhre like this design.

This brit stuff is decidedly not "hair shirt" type gear, which will probably make it a 'slow seller' on the Audiophile Shop Sales Floor.

It's ( pretty ) like a nice vintage B&O tabletop piece.

Now, all we'd need is a brushed al-u-mini-mum Plinth for our LP-12 and we'll be all-set.

I could love this thing sitting near-by my Green Leather Lazyboy and Book Reading gear.

Thank you Stereophile for this Review, you remind us that there is another viable music system World ( Planet ) out there.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

I would have purchased a Naim 'digital' box years ago.

But except for the DAC-V1 (which is a DAC only), they consistently refuse to put a 'computer' USB socket on any of them including this one.

So, sadly, very nice but no thanks.

tonykaz's picture

this naim has two USBs, one on the Front and one on the rear.

Wudea think about those Woo Fireflies?

Tony in Michigan

ps. a weak attempt to spell out a Yorkshire pronouncing of "What do you"

ps.2 are you lads "allowed" to get PS Audio Electronics ?

spacehound's picture

We once imported a PS audio preamp that COULD be made to sound good but it was very sensitive to varying inputs and outputs so you had to be careful what you connected. Not even their own power amp worked well with it.
Few bothered so PS Audio wasn't here long.

A UK distributor now half-heartedly imports the modern PS Audio stuff but none of it has received notably good reviews.

And the UK mags are fairly honest, particularly 'Hifi News and Record Review' which does very detailed measurements too. But only afterwards so the reviewer is not influenced.

Woo Fireflies. I'm not interested in headphone stuff.

(Only Boeing, IBM, Ford, and Harley-Davidson seem to make any significant 'US effort' in the UK.They all do quite well. GM recently vanished, as did Jeep. Apple try, but can't really be said to 'succeed'. I think all that applies to most of Europe)

mrkaic's picture

Predictably, the comments ignored the elephant in the room -- the fact that the unit overheated so badly it had to shut down. Was that just a bad unit or a systemic/design issue? (Even one bad unit seems quite bad to me, though.)

tonykaz's picture

This isn't a Miller Welding Machine, is it ???

It's just a little 80 Watt'r with an Engineered Thermal Shut-down to protect the owner from having to ship the darn thing back to Wales.

Of course they could've used Fuses instead of Breakers but they probably couldn't afford "Proper" German Audiophile Fuses.

My Cuisinart Coffee Grinder overheats ( and shuts down ) when I grind more than one Pound of Beans.

Thermal shut-downs are a very good thing, no Thermal shut down quickly destroys lots of things.

Tony in Michigan

mrkaic's picture

They should have used bigger heat sinks and/or (a more powerful) fan in the first place. Shutdown is a preventive measure and it's fine they have it, but the unit should never overheat under normal(!) operation, i.e. setting any combination of inputs by the user.

I suspect the class AB amp inside is biased too hot to reduce distortion. But they seem to have gone too far with it. In this context, the review could have said what kind of circuit design measures and components they used to guard against thermal runaway. (For example, ThermalTrak transistors were most likely not used, were they?)

Indydan's picture

I wonder if JA had the speaker cables plugged into the Naim, and the speaker cables plugged into speakers during his test.

With Naim amps, the following usually applies:

"Naim amplifiers do not have extra inductance networks in the output, Naim prefer to use the speaker cable to provide the correct inductance and capacitance."

If no speaker cable is attached to the amp (or a very incompatible speaker cable), the amp could overheat.

John Atkinson's picture
Indydan wrote:
I wonder if JA had the speaker cables plugged into the Naim, and the speaker cables plugged into speakers during his test...If no speaker cable is attached to the amp (or a very incompatible speaker cable), the amp could overheat.

I thought it clear from my text that yes, I did have the amplifier connected to the load during the preconditioning test.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Indydan's picture

Thanks for the answer. Were you using Naim's NAC A5 speaker cable? I know that speaker cable in a twisted pair design can cause problems. Naim recommends low capacitance cables of moderate inductance.

Capacitance: 16pF per metre
Resistance: 9 milliohms per metre
Inductance: 1uH per metre

It is possible to use other speaker cables than Naim's, but it must be reasonably compatible. If not, it could cause the amp to over heat. I use Naim's NAC A5 cable with my Naim integrated, and it runs cold even when pushed hard.

John Atkinson's picture
Indydan wrote:
Were you using Naim's NAC A5 speaker cable? I know that speaker cable in a twisted pair design can cause problems.

No, but I was using a similar spaced-pair cable with moderate inductance and low capacitance. The overheating with the 1/3-power test, which is maximally demanding on a class-AB amplifier's ability to rid itself of heat, was due to the Uniti Nova's industrial design undersizing the heatsinks.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

Someone from Naim should be explaining things by now.

This is a rather good example of where PS Audio's Paul McGowan "shines".

We consumers no longer have well informed Dealers to walk us thru the Ownership experience.

Of course, Stereophile's technical people seem to be reaching-out with "helpful" information.

Still, where is Naim when we need them ?

Digital 4K Video Cameras ( some ) are overheating and shutting down.

We might have a Case where this Naim Digital Device's Computer is what's overheating and stopping as a result.

Hello Naim, what's going on?, is there an V2.7 upgrade?

Tony in Michigan

audiodoctornj's picture

Ken first of all I want to thank you for such a glowing review of one of our favortie products, namely the Naim Uniti Line.

One of the things that makes the Naim Uniti line so special wasn't mentioned at all and even if it was, it was not spelled out in big bold letters.

Yes we agree that the Nova sounds fantastic, and is a joy to use, the Naim sound hits all the factors that we find important, the gear is extremely practical, and sounds engaging, the Nova as well as the Star and the Atom all draw you into the music in a way that many more expensive brands and products just don't.

The point that comes up with the entire Uniti line as a retailor, is that this is a line of real high end products that are highly enjoyable, elegantly styled, easy to use, and that these products can get non audiophils into our hobby and into the passion of hearing the joys of realisitc music reproduction in their lives.

I can imagine how many audiophiles with big rigs of separates with tubes and vinyl and no digital sources miss the point that their neophyte friends would never go down that same path no matter how good that type of system performs no matter how hard they try to convince them.

Is is any wonder that Sonos is a Billion dollar company? Even though their products are under performing compared their higher end varients?

We actually start our showroom tour with the Naim Muso a $900 all in one streaming box from Naim, and then show people that a Uniti Atom, $3,000.00 streaming amp/dac with a pair of $1,000.00-$2,500.00 loudspeakers makes a real music system and they can easily hear the difference.

The fact that the Naim app can control a Muso a $900 streaming box, an Atom a $3,000.00 streaming box, going up to as high as a NAC 272 streaming dac/preamp along with a NAP 250 power amp a $13,000.00 package, is a very powerful tool that can transform a starter music lover into a true audiophile!

I know of no other company in the high end audio industry that offers such a wide range of products that are all tied together into one echo system.

So a perspetive client can start with a Muso and then build up to a Naim streaming amp, or conversely they can start with a Naim Streaming Amp/DAC live the Nova and then decide to add a room such as a Kitchen or a Study and just purchase a Naim streaming speaker.

The only other contender is NAD with their Blue Sound line which is excellent but aims at a less lofty world than the ultimate levels of sound quality that the higher end Naim products represent.

Ken if you are in our area, Jersey City NJ, you should come in and visit our store, we have the Naim Muso, the Naim Muso QB, the Atom, the Nova, the NAC 272/250DR setup throught the store in one seemless room to room streaming display. Our clients love it.

Thanks again Ken, I am delighted that you appreciate just how speical the Nova is.


Dave Lalin,
Audio Doctor NJ

Indydan's picture

Please address the overheating, or forward it to Naim for a reply. Is Atkinson's test a reliable indicator of how the Nova will be used?

John Atkinson's picture
Indydan wrote:
Please address the overheating, or forward it to Naim for a reply.

Naim were sent a preprint of the review prior to publication. They didn't comment on the Uniti Nova turning itself off during the preconditioning due to "over temperature."

Indydan wrote:
Is Atkinson's test a reliable indicator of how the Nova will be used?

This test is a worst-case situation for a class-AB or -B amplifier. It was introduced by the IHF in the 1970s and reveals how effective an amplifier's heatsinking is. If all you play is wide dynamic-range classical music, the Naim will never turn itself off. But if you play music with limited dynamic range such as modern rock at party levels, an amplifier that fails the preconditioning test may well be stressed.

The heatsink is one of the costliest parts in an amplifier so the designer has to decide whether to use a large (and costly) enough heatsink so the amplifier will never shut off or compromise on the assumption that the amplifier will be okay for 95% of the situations it will face in normal use.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

When talking Naim, everyone misses many key points.

Naim is not an Entry level type Company.

I keep hearing about how Naim lets each of it's builders complete the assy. of every individual piece. ( something like Aston engine builders building and signing the completed engines ).

Naim has a fascinating Story to tell.

as do LINN and Focal, PS Audio and a good number of other outfits.

You might pass along Paul McGowan's YouTube daily Vlog work as a useful example of keeping your customer base enthusiastically informed about all things.

Naim is one of those rare Companys we all seem to admire.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I've never owned a Naim product but would've...., Naim is like a nice Swiss Watch on the wrist of a successful Banker.

audiodoctornj's picture

Dear Tony,

You have raised some excellent points. All the companies you have mentioned have interesting stories and make excellent products.

We have been Naim fans for years, but what really got us to pursue a dealership was the Uniti products.

When you have been selling equipment for 30 years you can sometimes see paradigm shifting products. The original Naim Uniti was just that.

Nowdays there are numerous other companies that make great sounding intergrated amp/dac/streamers.

It is the complete echo system by having a streaming speaker system that is affordable the $899 Muso, a $3,000.00 Streaming amp/dac and then having upper level even greater sounding products the Uniti Star and Nova which in our mind make the Naim produt line so compelling.

We wonder why the industry is dying, too often it is the fact that we are trying to shoehorn our ideas of what is compelling to neophyes whose eyes glass over and they run away in terror at the prospect of having great sound in many large boxes which in their minds becomes something they would never consider owning.

If you show a prospective buyer that for $899 you can get a better sounding product than a Sonos okay it does cost nearly double, but one that sounds better and is made out of wood, aluminium, and acrylic.

The Muso, is simple and elegant, compact and easy to use, and sounds good, to move a Sonos buyer into a better experience and the fact that the Naim Muso offers a compelling musical sound may start someone on a journey to discover what better sound is all about.

So Naim isn't only for Bankers, Naim is for everyone yearning for better music.

Dave Lalin,
Audio Doctor NJ

tonykaz's picture

I just-now had a look-see at various YouTube presentations of the Mu-So Active Loudspeaker system.

It kinda looks like an "Architectural Digest" type of Table Top music system. Sure, I could have one sitting on my Office Credenza. Is it just under $1,500 Retail. I'll bet it plays from my iTunes or iPhone.

Naim seems to be worthy of your loyalty.

Tony in Michigan

tonykaz's picture

I just had a closer look at these Naim Products and must say that they are impressive. ( gorgeous )

Naim is now on my short list of things needing a decision.

Gotta see and hear one of these : maybe the Atom.

Tony in Michigan

hifiluver's picture

where has great sensible British engineering gone?

spinsLPs's picture

The Nova currently sells for $5990.00, not $6995.00 as stated in the article. Price on January 1, 2022, will go up to $6899.00.