It has three digital inputs, an unbalanced RCA input, balanced and unbalanced outputs to use it as a preamplifier, and two USB inputs. And it has a Class A headphone amplifier with three separate kinds of headphone outputs. This one component does quite a few things. Its MSRP is $3799 USD. Let’s talk about what you get for that price.
The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition (HE)
- Exceptionally attractive with excellent view screen
- Combines the functionality of quite a few components into one attractive package
- Can be used as a preamplifier to drive an amplifier or powered speakers
- Can act as the control center of a multi-room configuration
- Three digital inputs, two USB inputs, and one RCA input make it extremely versatile
- AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and WiFi capable
- Will stream Chromecast, Internet radio, Qobuz, Roon, Spotify Connect, and TIDAL
- Two pairs of headphones can be listened to at once
- Supports music file formats up to 32-bit/384kHz
Naim calls its line of all-in-one streaming devices “Uniti.” These devices combine several functionalities previously found in standalone components into a single relatively compact and network-capable device. The Naim Uniti Atom is its streaming player, and it includes a 1/8” headphone jack but with a less sophisticated headphone amp than the Atom HE. Naim added advanced headphone capability to the Uniti Atom and dubbed it the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. And the Uniti Atom HE is both a marvel to behold and experience.
Standalone music streaming system with built-in Class A headphone amplifier, music streaming software, wired and wireless network connectivity, digital-to-analog converter (DAC) with three digital inputs, an analog input, and RCA and XLR outputs to use it as a preamplifier. Includes a wireless remote control. It can be configured and controlled by an application on Android and iOS devices.
AAC: up to 48kHz, 320kbit (16-bit)
ALAC (Apple Lossless): up to 24-bit/384kHz
Bluetooth: AAC, AptX, AptX HD, SBC
DSD: 64 and 128Fs
MP3: up to 48kHz, 320kbit (16 bit)
OGG and WMA: up to 48kHz (16-bit)
AIFF, FLAC, and WAV: up to 24-bit/384kHz
Digital: two optical S/PDIF up to 96kHz, Coaxial RCA (up to 24-bit/192kHz, DoP 64Fs)
Analog: one stereo RCA pair
USB: 2x USB 2.0 (Type A connector)
Streaming: Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Chromecast Built-in, Internet Radio, Qobuz, Roon Ready, Spotify® Connect, TIDAL, and UPnP
4.4mm Pentaconn (balanced)
4-pin XLR (balanced)
6.35mm (1⁄4”) jack (unbalanced)
1.5W RMS per channel into 16ohms
Suitable for headphones from 16ohms and upward.
Balanced XLR preamp output
RCA preamp output
Network: Ethernet (10/100Mbps), WiFi (802.11 b/g/n/ac with internal antennae)
Multiroom: Sync up to five Naim Streaming products and control via the Naim App.
Typical use: 17W
Network Standby mode: < 2W No-network Standby mode: < 0.5W Auto standby time, user selectable: adjustable from off up to 2 hours
115V, 230V; 50 or 60Hz
3.7” high x 9.7” wide x 10.4” deep
Product: Front panel buttons and rotary volume control
Handheld: Zigbee remote handset included and optional control app for Apple and Android devices
Naim, DAC, digital audio converter, headphone, XLR, amplifier, streaming, Bluetooth, headphone amplifier reviews 2022
The Naim Uniti Atom HE is a gorgeous machine. It’s finished in black metal with a brushed finish that somehow absorbs the light you shine upon it. Inset into its top is a large, round volume control dial with white LED lights that visually indicate how high or low the volume is set. It has a glass screen and a series of selection buttons arranged vertically on the right. There’s also the “Naim” logo on the lower left of the unit. All of the buttons are backlit with white LEDs, which gives the entire unit a very modern, purposeful, architectural appearance. Naim did not skimp on the finish with this product. It looks and feels luxurious, as well as it should, considering its price.
The Uniti Atom HE is just one of the members of Naim’s Uniti line. There is the Uniti Atom, which is a compact music streaming player. There is the Uniti Star, which plays both CDs and music streaming. Both the standard Atom and the Star have headphone amplifiers built in, at 40W and 70W, respectively. There is the Uniti Nova, which is a music streaming player with a built-in amplifier. And there is the Uniti Core, which is a music hub with bit-perfect CD ripping functionality. And they can all be controlled with the Naim App for Android and iOS devices.
You may think the Uniti Atom HE does not weigh very much because it’s essentially a computer, but this would be a mistake. The Uniti Atom HE is a computer built around a Class A headphone amplifier with a considerable power transformer. This is why it weighs over fifteen pounds and has heat sinks on its sides.
The included remote control is made of black plastic with both matte and glossy finishes. Its buttons are backlit with white LEDs, and there’s a motion sensor that will illuminate the buttons when you move the remote. A very nice touch is that the white LEDs surrounding the circular selector button on the remote mirror the white LEDs on the volume selector dial on top of the Uniti Atom HE unit.
Out of the box, the Naim Uniti Atom HE is a single component for playing almost any kind of digital music source, and then listening to that music with headphones or through a stereo system or powered speakers. This is my first time experiencing such a component, and I must admit, I quickly came to like it quite a bit. To begin with, it showed me how I could eliminate quite a few components and their requisite cables. Putting the Uniti Atom HE into my system, and removing a big Oppo BDP-105, a Benchmark DAC1, and a RaspberryPi streamer removed two power cords, a DC power brick, two pairs of interconnects, and three digital cables all at once. That was very liberating, to tell you the truth. I’m not a big fan of clutter, and we all know the more cables you have, the more likelihood for feedback or DC noise you have. The Naim Uniti Atom HE enabled me to replace a lot of clutter with a single beautiful black box.
And if you want to play music based on black or silver discs, you can plug those particular players straight into the Uniti Atom HE. You can start with simplicity and add complexity later if you’d like.
One of the reasons the Uniti Atom HE is so versatile and compact is that it is a network-enabled device. You can listen to many sources of network-based music through the Uniti Atom HE, and all you need for that, other than subscriptions, is Ethernet or WiFi. And with WiFi, you don’t even need a cable. This opens a huge world of music source possibilities without a single extra cable or interconnect.
As of this writing in July 2022, the Naim Uniti Atom HE will stream Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Chromecast Built-in, Internet Radio, Qobuz, Roon Ready, Spotify® Connect, TIDAL, and UPnP. And there are USB ports in the front and back to play music off of sticks or drives. And that includes music in resolutions up to 32-bit/384kHz.
I auditioned the Uniti Atom HE in two ways; first, as a player dedicated to headphone listening, then as a preamplifier in my main listening system. But first, in order to use its network streaming capabilities, I had to get it configured for my WiFi network.
I use a password-protected 300MB WiFi mesh network in my home, and the Uniti Atom HE had no problem finding it. First, you use the Uniti Atom HE’s remote control to work through the menu on the unit’s view screen to find your network name and enter the password. After that, you can install the Naim App on your mobile device of choice and further configure the unit. The application will find your Uniti Atom HE on the network, you select it, and then you can enter your credentials for Qobuz, Roon, or other such streaming services.
And after I had configured it, it just worked. The Naim representative was good enough to send me a pair of the excellent Focal Clear MG headphones to listen to the Uniti Atom HE with, and that was a match made in heaven. It just so happened that I also had the HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet headphones, and those also sounded great.
Through the Naim App on my iPhone, I could control all functionality of the Uniti Atom HE. If the Uniti Atom HE has a USB drive attached with FLAC files, you can see those files listed on the app. It’s the same if the Uniti Atom HE is linked to a DLRN server. You can even remotely power it on. When you’re playing music through a streaming service, like Qobuz, the app will show you the album’s cover and details, as you’d see when using the Qobuz app.
The Uniti Atom HE’s excellent color screen is 4.75” wide and 2.5” high. It will display in color the album cover and bitrate details of the music it’s currently playing. You can use the Naim App to turn the screen off while is music is played, but the Naim logo and menu buttons will remain lit. I don’t fully understand the reasoning for that and would prefer to have the capability to turn off all of the lights. For example, the power button stays lit all of the time, even when the unit is powered off. I like to have complete darkness in a listening room, but that bright white LED makes that impossible. The only way to get around that is to remove the power cable from the Uniti Atom HE. This is a minor complaint, to be sure, and I could find no other fault with this excellent component.
When using the 6.3mm and Pentaconn headphone outputs on the face of the unit, it will automatically mute the preamplifier outputs and turn on the headphone sockets. There is a headphone symbol button on the face that lights up when this happens. The XLR headphone output is in the rear of the unit, but it does not have an insertion-sense switch like the front outputs. So, in order to listen to XLR headphones, you must press the headphone symbol button.
The Uniti Atom HE’s Class A headphone amplifier outputs 1.5W per channel with an output impedance of 4.7Ohm on all of its outputs. It drove every pair of headphones I attached to it with ease.
One of my favorite activities with the Uniti Atom HE was listening to vinyl over headphones. It reminded me of being a kid, listening with big headphones with curled cables plugged into a Marantz turntable and receiver combo. Granted, that wasn’t the best sound quality, but the ability to lose myself in a record album over headphones is something I’ve always cherished. I attached the excellent Parks Audio Puffin phono preamplifier to the Uniti Atom HE with its 24-bit/96kHz Toslink output and heard very satisfying sound output. And the Uniti Atom HE also has an analog RCA input, so you can use essentially any kind of phono preamplifier with it.
At first, I listened to the Uniti Atom HE with the excellent Focal Clear MG headphones with its 4-pin balanced XLR cable. These are open-backed headphones and retail for $1500 USD. They have a frequency range of 5Hz to 28kHz, a 55 Ohm impedance, and are 104dB sensitive. They are also quite neutral and revealing. And they both look and sound gorgeous. Focal and Naim are partner companies, so it is natural to think the Uniti Atom HE and the Clear MGs would work well together, and they do.
I then listened to the HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet headphones. These use planar magnetic drivers, have a frequency range of 8Hz to 65kHz, a 32 Ohm impedance, and are 94dB efficient. Their MSRP is $1,299USD. So, they differ from the Focal Clear MG headphones by having a wider frequency range but a lower impedance and sensitivity, which means they’ll need more power. But the Uniti Atom HE’s Class A amplifier enabled the Aryas to sound their best. I find the Aryas to be slightly faster than the Clear MGs, and the music was engaging with excellent frequency response with the Uniti Atom HE.
I then put the Uniti Atom HE in my main listening system as a preamplifier. I attached its outputs to my Orchard Audio Starkrimson Stereo Ultra amplifier with XLR cables. The speakers used were the Polk Audio Legend L600s . I then connected an Oppo UDP-205 with digital coax and my Xbox Series X with Toslink to the Uniti Atom HE. One nice feature of the Naim App is that you can rename the sources in the menu, so Digital 1 became “Oppo” and Digital 3 became “Xbox.”
Once powered up, the Uniti Atom HE found my WiFi network again automatically and I was good to go. I now had a network-capable intelligent control center in my system. And if I chose to keep this setup, I could eliminate my disc player, my preamp, my DAC, and several cables.
I should point out that the Oppo UDP-205 is also technically a network-capable player. It is Roon Ready, it can access local DLRN or SAN servers, and will pull disc information from the Internet. It also has digital inputs and outputs and will play digital music on USB storage devices. However, you must use the Oppo’s remote control to access these functions. And the Oppo does not have a built-in view screen, so it must be attached to an external monitor. I know Oppo released iOS applications, but I could never get them to work well and found them difficult to use.
And that’s just one of the ways the Naim Uniti Atom HE has the Oppo beat. The Naim App is feature rich and mobile, so I could control what I was hearing over my system with my phone from anywhere in the house. I enjoyed that feature much more than I thought I would. But Oppo no longer sells its disc players and its software will never be updated. But I am fairly confident Naim will be around for the long run and they’ll keep their mobile applications and their network-capable devices updated.
Imperial Drag “Imperial Drag (Columbia 484178 2 CD, 1996)”
I listened to this on Redbook CD played by my Oppo UDP-205’s digital output, with the Uniti Atom HE as a preamp in my main listening system. This is Maximum Cowbell Rock and Roll, and the Uniti Atom HE’s DAC did a fine job of extracting low-level detail without smearing the timing of the notes or the impact of the playing. The soundstage was well reproduced. There’s not much air around the instruments because this is a compressed 1990s rock album, but I could still hear distinctly what each instrument was doing without any blurring of notes, especially with the lower frequencies. If a DAC can manage to extrude the inherent human intent from a recording like this, it’s doing a good job. Also, I think the Uniti Atom HE was particularly well matched with my Orchard Audio Starkrimson Stereo Ultra amplifier. The Starkrimson is a Class D amp that utilizes gallium nitride transistors, and it is extremely fast and capable of resolving low-level detail. In other words, it will quickly show the deficiencies in a source component. And, in that regard, the Uniti Atom HE showed no deficiencies at all.
Beethoven “Symphony #9, Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Claudio Abbado”
I listened to this streamed via Qobuz at 16-bit/44kHz resolution with the Focal Clear MG headphones. As performances of the mighty Ninth go, this ranks high as one of my favorites. Abbado brings a lightness, speed, and optimism to the score and orchestra that I find particularly uplifting. Heard through the excellent Clear MG headphones at Redbook resolution, I still experienced the full spectrum of instrumental energy with excellent separation of instruments on the soundstage. The choral finale in particular was very thrilling, with Bryn Terfel’s rich bass-baritone voice always distinct from all the others. And the explosions of the tympani drums had me jumping out of my seat.
Mort Garson “Plantasia”
The source for this was 32-bit/96kHz .wav files downloaded from Bandcamp and fed to the Uniti Atom HE on a USB stick. I listened with the HIFIMAN Arya Stealth Magnet planar headphones. The Uniti Atom HE’s powerful headphone amplifier provided more than enough power to activate the Aryas’ planar drivers. That brought me deep into this recording, whose purpose was, ostensibly, to be played to houseplants in order to help them thrive. Well, listening to Mort’s monophonic Moog tones through the Aryas and Naim Uniti Atom HE certainly put me into a very relaxed and vegetative state. The unique timbre of each Moog tone track and the attack and decay of the notes were well portrayed, enabling me to not only experience the dated 1970s feel of the music but also its humor.
At a price of $3,799.95USD, the NAIM UNITI ATOM HE is a major investment for a lot of people.
- Sturdy, substantial, and attractive
- The Naim App is feature-rich and looks great
- Excellent sound quality for a wide variety of headphones
- Has quite a few inputs, both analog and digital, and can still be used as a preamplifier
- The ability to turn off all of the lights without unplugging the unit. A minor complaint, I know. Otherwise, nothing.
However, this single unit can act as the centralized brain of a stereo system when used as a preamplifier, but it’s also a brain that can be attached to a network, which greatly expands the capability of a typical preamplifier. I enjoyed the quality and convenience of the Naim Uniti Atom HE so much I am considering selling off older components to fund the purchase of one.
The Naim Uniti Atom HE is expensive but extremely versatile. Its appearance, construction, and materials befit what you pay for it. You can extend it with essentially any kind of source, whether analog or digital, and you can attach it to a network, whether wired or wireless. It is scalable, because you can attach other components in the Naim Uniti line to it, and you can update its operating system. The Naim App is a joy to use, it sounds great with headphones, and it can act as the control center for almost any kind of audio system. Recommended.