Naim Uniti Atom HE streamer/headphone amp review: Sublime soud

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Naim Audio is one of the UK’s most venerable high-end audio-electronics manufacturers. After nearly 50 years, the company continues to offer many of the finest amplifiers, streamers, CD players, and digital-to-analog converters on the market today.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition (HE) is the latest member of the company’s Uniti family of products. These all-in-one streamers provide access to a wide variety of audio sources, including online high-res-audio streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz. The Uniti Atom HE is virtually identical to the older Uniti Atom, except you get an amplifier for your headphones instead of a power amplifier for your loudspeakers. After spending some time with it, I found its sound to be spectacular, although it does have a few quirks.

Uniti Atom HE feature set

The Uniti Atom HE is a seriously hefty piece of gear, packing 15.4 pounds into a box measuring just 3.7 x 9.6 x 10.4 inches (HxWxD). The build quality is obviously of the highest order, with a black, brushed-aluminum casing that includes integrated heat sinks on the sides.

Naim Uniti Atom HE internal Naim Audio

The Naim Uniti Atom HE’s innards include a newly designed Class A/Class AB headphone amplifier and a pure Class A preamp.

Inside, a new amplifier was designed especially for the Atom HE. Drawing on a range of technologies, including elements of the company’s flagship Statement amplifier, the new design is said to deliver outstanding amplification for headphones as well as exceptional performance as a line-level preamp that can drive an external power amp or active speakers.

Interestingly, the headphone amp behaves in Class A mode up to a point, at which it seamlessly switches to Class AB. It remains in Class A mode when driving 600-ohm headphones all the way to full volume; at 300 ohms, it switches to Class AB only for the last few decibels. As the headphone impedance drops, so does the point at which it switches to Class AB mode; for example, at 32 ohms, the amp is Class A up to about 3.2 mW, after which it switches to Class AB for the top 25dB. As a line-level preamp, it’s pure Class A all the way.

The amp delivers 1.5 watts/channel into 16 ohms, and it can handle impedances from 16 ohms on up. In addition, it delivers that power to all three headphone outputs simultaneously. Those outputs include a 6.3mm (1/4-inch) unbalanced and 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced jacks on the front of the unit and a 4-pin XLR balanced jack on the back.

Naim Uniti Atom HE front Naim Audio

The front of the Uniti Atom HE is dominated by a large display.

The only other connector on the front is a USB-A 2.0 input. Another USB-A 2.0 input in the back is joined by two optical digital-audio inputs and one coax digital-audio input as well as a stereo pair of RCA analog-audio inputs. In addition, the rear panel provides a stereo pair of balanced XLR preamp outputs and a pair of unbalanced RCA preamp outputs. Rounding out the rear panel is an ethernet port (10/100 Mbps) and a ground-lift switch.

Naturally, there are plenty of wireless options as well. The Atom HE connects to your Wi-Fi network (802.11b/g/n/ac) with Chromecast built-in and AirPlay 2. It also provides Bluetooth connectivity, though that is considerably lower fidelity than Chromecast or AirPlay 2.

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