Naim Uniti Star – HiFi Review

Naim Uniti Star – HiFi Review


This is my HiFi Review of the Naim Uniti Star, it came out a couple of years ago but it is still worth a proper review as it is the must consider single box solution if this is where your thinking of spending some money on some proper HiFi in this lockdown.  Basically, if you want it all, this is the goto place to start: the Naim Uniti Star is high quality, has all the flexibility you may need and has a solid amplifier so you’re just looking for a decent pair of speakers and you’re well on the way to audio heaven, the point of this website.

Design – What is it?

Naim Uniti Star

5″ LCD Screen

The Naim Uniti Star box has the lot, a high-performance CD,  UPnP streaming, aptX Bluetooth; AirPlay, a 24-bit/384kHz, and DSD 128-capable DAC, it has Chromecast, Roon ready features and recently announced Qobuz built-in to compliment Tidal & Spotify.  Also included with the Naim Uniti Star is the amplifier section with a claimed power output, of 2x 70W RMS (8ohm); all you need for a fantastic sound are a pair of speakers.  I note on the site Naim recommends Focal’s Arias which I’m sure would do the job.  I’d be pushing the boat out for a pair of Focal’s Kantas if it were me ( a bit more expensive though!)!

The Naim Uniti Star CD slot also rips CDs to WAV or FLAC to a given location of your choice, electronically.  There are 2 digital, coaxial and 2x optical and 2 USB slots front and rear and an SD card slot (that I’m finding very handy).  Also in the package is a set of analogue phono-type inputs and an HDMI ARC facility.  There is also a 5 pin DIN input, though this is not compatible with my Naim Phono Stageline because the Star has no onboard power supply out.  This is a shame but I’m used to it as my NAC-N 272 has the same issue.

Quality

Naim Uniti StarI’m sure I’ve said this before, but, being Naim, the quality is of the highest order, from the boxing to the brushed and anodised black aluminium casework.  The Naim Uniti Star is weighty with its huge toroidal power unit inside.  The characteristic Mu-so fins are pronounced, classy and sharp.  Gone is the iconic mechanical ’round the corner’ CD tray with a screw to keep everything in place when you’re moving things around.  I guess life moves on but I am on my third magnetic dongle weight thingy so I guess I would benefit from this CD slot mechanism.  I’m used to this slot-loading mechanism as I have a Naim UnitiServe and I’ve ripped nearly 2,000 CDs in this lockdown with little fuss.

The Uniti Star rips CDs for you and does this to a nominated Music location, such as a UnitiServe or, now, the matching (latest) Naim Uniti Core Server.

The 5″ LCD screen is one of the nicest in the game and it is beautiful; as is the remote, though I use the App mainly for setting up the USB slot and other features, such as the CD player/ripper.  I really do like the signature Naim, or naim, logo in lights in the corner, I’d love it to be Naim green though!

Naim Uniti Star

Performance

…the Naim Uniti Star… is musically very dynamic, highly functional and extremely stylish and has the heritage to match

Set-up

I’ve got the Uniti Star on a sideboard in the kitchen, powered by the provided Naim Power-Line Lite cable.   It is placed on a granite tablet (Wilko £10!!) for a bit of isolation and it is flanked by two Paradigm Persona B loudspeakers on spiked stands connected with bi-wired Atlas Hyper speaker cable, that is beautifully run-in (it’s old in other words!).  I’m sat about 3m away with no obstructions apart from a rug and a wandering dog who is now heavily into Radiohead’s Hacked Mini-disk series from bandcamp.com (particularly MD 125 with the several versions of Subterranean Homesick Alien) poor thing.  I do have a USB stick full of 24-bit recordings for particular critical listening, also, I’ve set-up an SD Card and I have a back-up copy of the Naim Uniti Serve on the network, for USB comparison.  I’m using an Atlas Equator ethernet cable directly connected to the router via an extension I had put in (so I’m not using WiFi, though that is inbuilt).  I noted my review sample is a refurbished model, no big deal for me and performance has been faultless.

CD ripping and Playback, SD Card

The Naim Uniti Star has a ripping facility.  I needed to set up a Music Store with the Uniti Star which involves formatting a USB or other media.  This is fine but if you wanted to add to an existing source, it doesn’t really work, for example, I would not wish to reformat my Uniti Serve having just completed a full 2000 CD rip on it.  Nonetheless, I used a spare micro 32GB Sandisk Ultra (moderately fast writing speed, 100MB/s) with its adapter and ripped ‘1989‘.  It took about 13 minutes to rip to a WAV, this is no quicker than the UnitiServe but it wasn’t crushing slow either.  Playback wise, it sounded fine compared to the CD, indeed the Star accessed it (notably) rapidly and without fuss.   Taylor Swift’s Style had its characteristic thump, bounce and rhythm and I was very happy.

Inserting another preprepared micro SD Sandisk in the read slot I was able to access the bandcamp.com copies of the Radiohead Hacked Mini-discs on the Naim Uniti Star, this is helpful for me for two reasons…  I listen to them endlessly on my phone and I have to resort to Bluetooth to hear them on my own HiFi systems.  So I am finding the SD slot really good for me now.  Playback quality is pretty decent, it is rapid access which is great and flicking around the tracks is very easy which is great for the Radiohead Mini-disks.

USB Drive back-up of my Uniti Serve box

Sadly the iPod input is not compatible in the Uniti Star, this is a shame as I have some legacy music files I often go to.  Instead, then, I inserted my SSD back-up of the Uniti Server into the USB slot at the back.  Playback is brilliant and really fast, I’m not getting the artwork in the App but I can live with that (Stop Press: I am now!).

Overall Naim Uniti Star Dynamic Performance

I personally find the Naim Uniti Star to be a very dynamic, energetic and exciting music player.  It is without fault … as it seems to me…  I really love it and will be loathed to hand it back.  Dynamically, the full range is here, it is very clear.  There’s not a hint of fuzziness or stress with this player and it clearly a more relaxing listen than my old stager Naim Uniti 2.    I think the fact that I have an exceptional pair of speakers is also not hurting the Naim Uniti Star and switching back to my own B&W CM7s confirms this.  The CM7s probably sound better than they ever have, they are usually tethered to the Naim Uniti 2, a similar, multi-function device that the Naim Uniti Star replaces, thus confirming the epic progress made by Naim in the last 5 years.

Overall Resolution (and record player notes)

I’m finding the resolution and detail to be exceptional here too.  Tracks like ‘Some’ by Nils Frahm are absolutely beautiful and the fizzing energy from his piano is revealed yet again.  Absolutely fantastic.  My goto resolution track, ‘Sylvia Plath’ on Side 3 of the Carnegie Hall records by Ryan Adams (vinyl), sounds pretty spectacular and the detail of the clunk of the pedals falls through the Persona B speakers.

On the subject of hooking up the record player, the Uniti range is generally designed for those audiophiles who are after fewer boxes, with a bit of multiroom, so the idea of a Naim Stageline-N powered by a separate power source (as designed) or a separate phono stage is not in the thinking (I’m using my Rega Fono MM, perfectly acceptable for me with my Rega Planar RP3, it’s a bit spaghetti but who cares).   Naim might be expecting a Naim Uniti Star owner to head for a built-in phono staged turntable like a Technics SL1500C.

Nonetheless, my RP3 with the Fono and an Exact cartridge sounds really nice, clear and detailed and this set-up is a good reminder of the warmth and delicacy of vinyl records versus digital, not to mention the pure pleasure of dropping a needle onto a piece of vinyl for the love of it.    I have asked Naim if the excellent MM input from the Supernait 3 might appear in a future Uniti Star 2, incidentally.  If I get a reply it will be in the comments below.

Overall Tone

I’m finding the Naim Uniti Star deep and warm by comparison to my slightly brighter, angular, Naim Classic boxes that I own (NAC-N 272, NAP 250, then separately the Uniti 2 that is usually in this position in the kitchen).  I’m broadly listening to music that is not so loud and generally vocal so the Naim Uniti Star is working nicely for me.  Often I’m cooking, so I’m after a stable platform, total App control with warm depth in the background.  However, as you really drive the Persona Bs, you can feel the low ends breathing out and 2049 by Hans Zimmer delivers the full resonant thunder from the track.

In more delicate moments female vocals (vocals in general, even Dylan!) are wonderfully delivered, for example, Ella Fitgerald’s Little White Lies is absolutely exquisite with this Naim Uniti Star set-up.

Qobuz & Tidal & YouTube

I have to say Qobuz really is very nice indeed as I’ve learnt from the Auralic products I’ve reviewed over the period.  Sadly for me, with a Naim NAC-N 272 and a Naim Uniti 2 Qobuz is not supported despite being here in the Naim Uniti Star.  The Naim App handles Qobuz with the Naim Uniti Star without any bother, indeed it is similar to the excellent Auralic Lightning DS App.  For example, if you search ‘London Grammar’ you get a choice of Qobuz answers or Tidal or both and they’re handled effortlessly.  In the App, you get the format, bit rate and depth with Qobuz and I like this a lot.  You really feel as if you’re getting the best you can get, like Tidal Masters but full fat.  I’m still on a one month trial period with Qobuz and access has been faultless with the Naim App.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know how excited I get about watching ‘The Numbers’ by Thom Yorke & Jonny Greenwood on YouTube.  Here the Naim Uniti Star with YouTube presentation is just what I wanted.  Detailed, languid, pure genius.  I’ve not played with Spotify to be honest on the Naim Uniti Star.

Here’s my Tidal Naim Uniti Star listening Playlist, the Qobuz version is equally varied but that’s what happens with these fantastic streaming services!

Headphone Output

There are few really special headphones with the smaller 3.5mm headphone jack as standard, however, I do have a pair of Meze 99 Neo headphones that are top drawer for detailed listening.  Here, the output is pretty good and the headphones cut the speaker output effectively.  The output jack is front and centre making for easy access and fiddling about.  The sound quality is very acceptable though I’d still prefer a 1/4″ jack for a better choice of headphone options and I’m not likely to use a 1/4″ adapter to fit.

Naim Uniti StarRemote

The remote is really nice and has a good feel to it, it is very angular and sharp.  The remote lights up when you pick it up which is good for ‘dark’ listening.  I’ve hardly used the remote save for turning the Naim Uniti Star off because I use the iPad for music selection.  There is the Mu-so style analogue (to digital) volume control on the top of the Star which is very classy indeed (I gather it is derived from the NAC-N 272!).

Overall

I have a Naim Uniti 2 and it is our every day in the kitchen/living space goto system.  It is a really nice set-up with the existing CM7s that I support with a subwoofer.  This Naim Uniti Star is a much superior companion in our living space and the pace of improvement by the likes of Naim, and others, are very impressive indeed if I think my Uniti 2 was a really top piece of one box kit JUST 5 or 6 years ago.  Really all of these one-box streaming products are very good indeed these days.  But the Naim Uniti Star has one up on most, it is musically very dynamic, highly functional and extremely stylish and has the heritage to match.  If it had the MM input from the Supernait 3included, I’d say it was faultless.  It’s an ‘Outstanding’ from me, again!

hifiandmusicsource.com

Love 

Dynamic sound presentation

Qobuz

Ease of Access

Bluetooth

Unboxing (Apple-esque)

Like 

SD card at the back

USB access

MultiFunction

Ripping Facility

CD player

Wish 

MM input from the Supernait 3

The was a subwoofer output

iPod compatibility

1/4″ headphone jack

My older Naim Classic stuff looked as good as this does

Naim Uniti StarSpecification

From the Naim Site.

Connectivity

Audio Inputs
2 x Optical TOSLink (up to 24bit/192kHz)
2 x Coaxial RCA (up to 24bit/192kHz, DoP 64Fs)
1 x BNC (up to 192kHz, DoP 64Fs)
1 x HDMI ARC
1 x RCA
1 x 5-pin DIN
2 x USB Type-A socket (front and rear)
1 x SD card

Audio Outputs
1 x Stereo power amplifier
1 x RCA sub/pre output
1 x 3.5mm headphone jack

Streaming – Chromecast Built-In, Apple AirPlay, TIDAL, Spotify® Connect, Bluetooth (AptX HD), Internet Radio, UPnP™ (hi-res streaming), Roon Ready

Multiroom – Serve up to 4 network-connected players via UPnP™ at full CD quality.  Party Mode Streaming: Sync up to six Uniti all-in-one players or other Naim streamers and control via the Naim app.

Audio Formats – WAV – up to 32bits/384kHz, FLAC and AIFF – up to 24bit/384kHz, ALAC (Apple Lossless) – up to 24bit/384kHz, MP3 – up to 48kHz, 320kbit (16 bit), AAC – up to 48kHz, 320kbit (16 bit), OGG and WMA – up to 48kHz (16 bit), DSD – 64 and 128Fs

Notes: Gapless playback supported on all formats. All formats to 384kHz maximum over a wireless network.

Dimensions – 95mm x 432mm x 265mm (HxWxD)

Finishes – Brushed and anodised aluminium

Weight – 12kg

Power – Auto Standby time, user selectable: adjustable from off up to 2 hours

Amplifier Output – 70W per channel into 8 ohms

CD Ripping – Create bit-perfect copies of your CDs, store them on the local storage and playback.

Front Panel – 5″ colour LCD display and rotary volume control with proximity sensor and four buttons

App Control – Naim App for iOS and Android

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