While many of the companies wheeling and dealing in the digital music space are modern creations, built around customized chips and wireless technologies, let’s not forget about the old-school hi-fi companies who laid the foundation. Naim Audio has been building amps and other stereo equipment for almost 50 years, and the English company is hardly resting on its laurels when it comes to designing sophisticated, modern music systems.
Naim’s Uniti Atom is the latest example. This integrated amplifier is married to an all-in-one wireless music platform that allows you to stream mega-libraries of music from your computer or phone to your whimsical delight.
The first thing that jumps out about the Atom is its stylish, modern profile and compact size. The case is about the same size as a DVR, but narrower. There’s a full-color, 5-inch glass LCD display on the front of a brushed aluminum casing, with exposed aluminum heat sinks on either side. And then there’s the mondo volume knob, with an LED light ring that lights up as you crank up the system. Nice touch.
Setting up the Atom is a tad more complicated than plugging in a few RCA jacks and a power cord, but the benefits make it well worth the effort. You can use the glossy, backlit black remote to set up and navigate the system, or better yet, download the Naim app (iOS and Android) and use your phone to drive. After linking the Atom to your wireless inputs (Bluetooth, Airplay, Wi-Fi, UPnP), you can start streaming Spotify Connect, Chromecast, Tidal, and a crazy number of internet radio stations from around the globe. The Atom also has a coax input and two optical inputs for plugging in digital components, and analog RCA jacks for connecting analog gear. The front of the unit has USB inputs for attaching external drives, and there are analog outputs as well, including a nice headphone amp. All its missing is a bottle opener.
The Atom is an amplifier and does’t have speakers built in. Naim does make self-contained units with their own speakers (the Mu-so and the Qb, both excellent) as well as other amp units in the Uniti line. If you own other Naim wireless products—or if you aspire to—then you can string them together with the Atom to create a multiroom wireless system.
With a class AB integrated amplifier rated at 40 watts per channel, the Atom can comfortably power a wide range of loudspeakers, but is probably in its sweet spot with medium-to-large bookshelf varieties. It can also handle any style of music without compromises on the low or high end, and you don’t need to crank it to 11 to get a big, beefy sound. Its balanced and clean output is evident when you play music with wide frequency ranges. The Atom is able to give every instrument and vocal its full effect, while providing a wide, vivid soundstage. With bass-heavy tracks, the Atom delivers plenty of power and control, absent of any distortion or muddiness.
It’s normally a good policy to spend the bulk of your hi-fi budget on a high-quality amplifier and speakers, so the Atom gets you halfway home. And while that price tag is no joke, the Atom delivers a sweet combination of learned hi-fi engineering with an all-in-one, tech-savvy sound system.