I have had the pure musical joy of reviewing the Naim Uniti2 that came out, upgraded from the previous model, last summer. This is an all-in-one network music streaming device that has a 70W per channel amplifier for driving a decent pair of speakers. The Naim Uniti2 also includes an FM and DAB radio, internet radio, a CD player and various input modes that includes USB to support your iPod/iPhone/other MP3 device. In summary, a high quality, very stylish one stop shop for your hi-fidelity needs.
Setting up the Naim Uniti2 was a fairly simple exercise aside from the fact the Uniti2 itself weighs in at a rather hefty, but reassuring, 12kg. At this stage all you need to is find a sturdy shelf or rack (not the floor!) to put the unit on and plug in your speakers. The Uniti2 has a built-in amplifier that happily drove my floor standing speakers (Kef r700) but for my own review and preference I used the output from the Uniti2 through my own more powerful amplifier with its own signature so that I was able to switch between different components for review purposes.
The Naim Uniti2 is a jack-of-all trades component but I would argue it is a master of all of its functions; for example the internet radio feature, iRadio, has worked crystal clear and flawlessly for me on everything from Radio 3 to WECL Rock (in Wisconsin, I think). I have been unable to test the FM/DAB functionality, for aerial signal reasons, but I have no reason to doubt its quality given the output from the other functions. To demonstrate the mastery of the various functions in the Uniti2 the CD player demonstrates the quality of playback you would expect at this price bracket. There is a precision to the CD player that is clean and crisp. Whether it is the rasp of Jamie Cullum’s
voice or the brush of a finger on a guitar string in Jake Bugg’s ‘Country Song’, all the detail you want is there. The same accuracy comes from the Network Streamer that is a key feature of the Naim Uniti2.
Why do we want to stream music on our home network? Well as music storage gets cheaper, downloads become more frequent and of higher quality (with the demise of HMV) and Spotify and Napster improve their offerings network streamers become more attractive. Coupled with our growing obsessions with playlists, streamers are becoming more mainstream and affordable. The streaming solution offered here is of a very high quality and the same detail in a brush on the strings is evident from higher quality, or preferably lossless music files.
Storing Music Files
It is worth a quick word here on storing your music files. A network streamer relies on you having your music files stored on the network, rather than your computer, and if you use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device this is easily achieved. I use a 2 TB (2 terabyte, about £110) Western Digital MyBookWorld which is readily available and fairly plug and play. I store my iTunes files on this device so it is central to my musical experience. All I have to do is ensure the files are ripped properly. My choice is the (slightly inefficient) Apple Lossless encoding and, although true audiophiles will sniff thisis not FLAC (a non-Apple lossless encoder), this is a perfectly acceptable level of lossless encoding that is supported by Airplay, Airplay does not support FLAC. If you have your music stored at a bit rate of less than 256 kbps then you’ll need to start re-ripping your music CDs again if you want to get the full benefit of network streamers like this one. You should note at this stage also that lossless music files are about 6-8 times bigger in size than 320 kbps ones and this may cause you storage problems on your phone or iPod as the files get updated (You can crunch them onto an iPod though). The Uniti 2 supports the following file formats; MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, WMA and Apple Lossless, and FLAC up to up to 24-bit/192KHz and uses the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) connectivity that is common in these network attached storage devices.
The Uniti2 comes with a functional remote control (also reassuringly heavy) that allows you to select, for example, albums from your library using the numerical keypad and makes accessing your music relatively easy if you have really good eye-sight for the small front facing display. Associated with the Uniti2, however, is the Naim n-Stream App, available free from iTunes, which makes the whole interface with the Uniti2 a pleasure, particularly on the iPad. Although slightly cumbersome in some aspects the App can be used to control most aspects of the Uniti2 from CD control, volume control, if you have your speakers directly connected to the Uniti2 , network library control, iRadio an DAB control, etc. There is a really interesting feature where you can read biographies and information about streamed artists through the App which I really like and there is all the control you would need. This App is only available for iOS I’m led to believe, the remote control is fine anyway.
The Uniti 2 does not support AirPlay, however if this is your thing you can still plug the Apple Airport into a USB slot or the network, select the correct input and AirPlay or Spotify at leisure.
Naim has a reputation for British high fidelity at its best and the Naim Uniti 2 certainly enhances this deserved reputation. With accurately ripped lossless music files or CDs the Uniti2 is a superbly defined sound that is unforgettable in the context of a music listening experience.
Retails at £2795, go to your nearest HiFi dealer for full support in this price bracket.
A list of Naim’s premium, independent retailers can be found here: http://www.naimaudio.com/find-a-retailer
Simon Wilce, @simonwilce