Naim Uniti CD player/receiver Page 2

As it turned out, the Naim Uniti wasn't supplied with a user's manual per se, but rather with a curiously big booklet that provides, in a great many different languages, the most basic and presumably legally mandated information: Don't dispose of this product with the rest of the trash. Don't bring this product into the bathtub with you. Don't put to any foolish or evil use this product's laser light. A great amount of paper has been devoted to the unlikely, the unfathomable, and the impossible, though that's hardly Naim's fault.

The booklet does, however, contain one indispensable directive: To get hold of the real manual, one must download it in PDF form from the Naim website and, if desired, print it out oneself. I have no choice but to approach this from the perspective of the irritable middle-aged man that I am: If I were a newcomer to perfectionist audio, and if someone told me that my first purchase in that field, to which I've just applied a not-inconsiderable $4000, cannot be enjoyed until I download a manual for it and I print it out, I'd be mildly peeved. If there's a good reason for not including a printed manual with the Uniti, Naim might at least cook up a nice, simple "For Those in a Hurry" sheet, just to get newcomers up and running. Again: For whom is this product intended?

That said, the real manual was fine: dry but conspicuously thorough, and very well organized.

Much more to the point, the Uniti's built-in setup and control software was superb: clean, unambiguous, helpful, and, insofar as I could tell, glitch-free. Once I'd acquainted myself with the setup program's conventions, I found it surprisingly easy to: name the various analog and digital inputs; trim the gain of those inputs, relative to each other, for equal loudness at a given volume-control setting; limit the maximum allowable loudness level (a real boon for people who don't want their Quad ESL panels—or their hearing—damaged by volume-control accidents, offspring, or dumb guests); adjust the dimming of the Uniti's front-panel lights; and myriad other tasks.

Of course, there were at least as many setup functions that I didn't use, but that others may find equally useful: tailoring the frequency response—coarsely but usefully—of the amplifier output to the main loudspeakers in systems that include subwoofers; trimming the signal level on the (mono) outputs that feed those subwoofers; configuring the manner in which the Uniti connects with local networks; and so forth. Throughout all of the setup tasks I performed, the only software convention that seemed less than intuitive was the fact that, in order to adjust the left/right speaker balance, one uses not the left- or right-hand arrow buttons but the up (left) and down (right) buttons: kooky, but no big deal.

Physical setup was utterly without event. The Uniti performed well on a variety of tables (it led a nomadic existence in my home, being tried out in many different rooms), and although it became distinctly warmer in use than Naim gear of Christmases Past, that warmth was never excessive. Neurotic high-enders will doubtless observe that the Uniti's extruded aluminum sleeve, like those of so many other Naim components, does indeed ring when rapped with a knuckle; also like other Naims, the sound of the Uniti was never improved by additional isolation or damping tweaks. Just leave it alone: It sounds fine. (And be thankful that, for music lovers if not for reviewers, knuckle-rapping is not a normal part of listening.)

Finally, a few words about speaker-cable alerts: There aren't any. Naim Audio, which once warned users to use only Naim cables—or else—now writes, reasonably, "A range of speaker cable types may be used without risk of damage to the amplifier." We've turned a corner. That said, both Auditorium 23 stranded copper and Naim NACA5 stranded copper worked well. But by a slight margin, the latter sounded better.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I did most of my listening using the Uniti's CD player as the source. Given my rural home's lack of a high-speed Internet connection, iRadio was not an option. Also, my lack of an iPod prevented me from trying that, but I'll report back soon: I'm giving my daughter an iPod Touch for Christmas—two weeks away as I write this—though she doesn't yet know that. I think.

Nor did I use the Uniti's UPnP interface. Computer-based music sources have become a regular part of my listening during the past two years: My Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player has been banished to background-music duty in the living room (footnote 3), and my Apple iMac is now the primary digital source in my listening room, with iTunes as my digital music server, streaming to various different USB D/A converters. I admit that I expected that the Naim Uniti would itself be able to stream iTunes music files from my computer's USB bus—a function that, among serious audio hobbyists, almost certainly has more appeal than memory-stick playback—and was surprised and disappointed that the Uniti can stream iTunes files only for the Mac user who has purchased and installed such UPnP digital media software as Allegro ($50) or EyeConnect ($40). Even then, the Uniti can't be used at all with the popular AIFF music-file format.

That said, I did use and enjoy the Uniti's memory-stick interface. My bandmates and I have grown into the habit of passing among ourselves a Maxell USB stick, to which we all contribute WAV files of old and new bluegrass songs, for enjoyment as much as for our repertoire. The Uniti played these with very good clarity and color, and with a surprising lack of smearing or obvious signs of compression. The software component of this function was sensible and clear: The Uniti's USB function was easy to learn and easy to use.

Footnote 3: The Sony has also begun acting up again, occasionally failing to distinguish between having a disc on its hub and having nothing. I do not relish the thought of dealing once again with Sony's cavalier service department. Next stop: Doorstop.
Naim Audio, Ltd.
US distributor: Naim Inc.
8481 Bush Street, Suite 1800
Indianapolis, IN 46250
(317) 842-7224

brightonrock's picture

Excellent review, I have recently plumped for the revised Uniti2 which has a little more power than the original, very pleased with the musical performance despite it being a one box system.