Almost the last thing you’d expect from a high-end audio company is this, the NaimUniti – and yes, it is just the one word.
From the outside it looks like one of the company’s CD players – all black metal and glowing green logo – but the stubby Wi-Fi aerial kind of gives the game away. This is Naim’s take on what a one-box hi-fi system should be about, and what the NaimUniti does is everything. Almost.
You want? It’s got!
Inside that box are the innards of the company’s CD5i CD player, complete with classy swing-out disc loader and the 2x50W Nait 5i amplifier. Both are well respected, and together they’ll set you back the wrong side of £1,600.
But added to that you get a radio tuner for good old FM, nice squelchy dull DAB and internet radio, and you can set the 40 presets across all three radio systems – Radio 1 on preset 1, Radio Paradise on preset 2, and so on. You can even set it to play your favourite podcasts.
There’s also a five-input digital-to-analogue converter, so you can hook all your other digital things through the amplification, and – best of all – wireless streaming of music from your computer, Network Attached Storage (NAS) or wherever. Suddenly, that £1,995 price tag starts to make a little sense.
iPod is extra – and no hard disc
You can hook up your iPod to the NaimUniti but the cable to do so, which Naim calls an n-Link, is an extra £95. And there’s no built-in storage – the idea here is that the system streams from an external device, neatly getting over the problem of finite internal capacity.
But those with an eye to system-building will find the NaimUniti is no dead-end: as well as those digital inputs – four round the back and one in a 3.5mm combo optical/stereo socket on the front – it has three analogue inputs. And alongside the speaker sockets it has outputs for two subwoofers and even a meatier power amplifier for the room-shakers.
The sound of the NaimUniti playing music from CDs – remember them – or the wireless is worth the price of admission alone. Naim watts tend to be quoted pretty conservatively, and this little 50Wpc number is capable of driving even hefty high-end speakers to serious levels while still keeping things nice and pretty.
And exciting – don’t forget exciting. Naim equipment tends to be the kind of stuff that gets parts of you bod moving whether you like it or not, and bolting Uniti on the end of the name has done that ability no harm whatsoever.
But even more remarkable is that it can do just the same with decent-quality rips off an iPod, high-bitrate stations from the web, or music stored on your computer system.
It’s a clever mix of power and control, meaning the sound flatters the slightly rough stuff – admit it, you really like that 32kbps Bratislavan folk station – while really coming into its own when you hit it with some decent FLACs, WAVs or AIFFs.
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Simply the best
Best of all, the NaimUniti is a breeze to set-up, and chances are you won’t need the online instruction manual – you just get a quick set-up guide in the box … or a friend with pens in their top pocket.
We did it in all of 10 minutes from box to first streamed tune: it finds the network, you bung in the security key, it locates your uPnP server and away you go. Navigation is just as easy, and delving into that main manual will find all kinds of things to enhance your listening pleasure.
For example, did you know charging your iPod while playing music makes it sound worse? The Naim guys do, and listening shows it does, so there’s an option to juice your Apple only when it’s not delivering music.
That kind of thinking used to give high-end audio a bad name, but here it’s made sensible and simple – much like the NaimUniti makes everything it does.
This could just be the most original audio product for decades, and it comes from Salisbury, not Seoul or somewhere just outside Tokyo.
Cue Land of Hope and Glory – the FLAC rip, of course…