Naim Audio UnitiServe CD-Ripper and Hard Disc Music Player

Sweet Synergy

Equipment report
Categories:
Music servers and computer audio,
Storage
|
Products:
Naim Audio UnitiServe
Naim Audio UnitiServe CD-Ripper and Hard Disc Music Player

In TAS Issue 225 I wrote with enthusiasm about Naim’s Super-Uniti ($6000), which has the same 80Wpc 5-Series amplifier section found in the original SuperNait integrated amp married to network streaming and digital playback technologies lifted from the company’s UnitiQute, NDX network music player, and Naim DAC.

As I said in my review, the SuperUniti also accommodates conventional sources such as CD players and turntables routed through outboard phonostages. And I have no doubt that many users, especially those, like me, who are heavily into vinyl playback, will find the SuperUniti’s flexibility with analog and computer-derived music sources highly appealing.

Sonically, the SuperUniti is classic Naim, delivering a highly engaging sense of rhythm and pace, buoyed by a natural dynamic ebb and flow. The SuperUniti also delivers an impressively low noise floor and a sense of transparency to the recorded event. Its 80 watts seem accurately rated, but this is a component that invites you into the music rather than bludgeoning you with power, or the kind of razzle-dazzle imaging and count-the-violins level of detail that appeals to some audiophiles.

The folks at U.S. importer The Sound Organisation said that the SuperUniti’s performance would be at its best when paired with the UnitiServe, a slot-loading “bit-perfect” (Red Book only) CD-ripper/hard-disc music player that sells for $3695–$3995, depending on the configuration (see spec box). This brief, if long overdue, follow-up reports on that pairing.

By the way, besides CD formats and internal storage the UnitiServe also plays audio from USB memory sticks and will scan the network for music stored on NAS drives or network shares in WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, OGG Vorbis, AAC, WMA, and MP3 formats at up to 24bit/192kHz resolution.

Being still relatively new to—and still not entirely comfortable with—the world of computer/streaming audio, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this pairing, as, frankly, I found the SuperUniti pretty impressive on its own. But sure enough, apparently due to the greater timing accuracy that results in having the signal arrive via a quality network, the SuperUniti/UnitiServe was markedly superior.

On the excellent 192/24 download of Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman, the Naim pair brought forth a greater sense of air and resolution, dynamic, tonal, and textural complexity, as well an increased sense of “thereness,” while at the same time sounding more relaxed but also more musically in step (if that makes sense).

Another download I’ve become enamored of is pianist Peter Schaaf’s recording of Albéniz’s Iberia. Over the SuperUniti alone this was an eye-opener—a magnificent-sounding reproduction of a piano. Teamed with UnitiServe the sound took on a greater sense of percussive weight, harmonic richness, and dynamic naturalness across the spectrum. This was one of those experiences where one feels as if the instrument has been dropped into your room (as opposed to you being taken to it). Impressive.

And given the excellence of UnitiServe’s CD ripping, storage, and playback, except for special editions or box sets I now embrace the notion of ridding oneself of the unsightly clutter caused by shelves and/or piles of those ugly, and all too breakable “jewel” cases.

In short, if one is committed to the highest levels of digital audio playback in its many guises, Naim’s outstanding work in these realms must be on your short list of component choices.

SPECS & PRICING

Type: Slot-loading, CD-ripping, hard-disc music player and server
Audio inputs: UPnP (transcoding, proxying UPnP server, DLNA devicecompatible)
Digital audio outputs: SPDIF, 75-ohm BNC, and TosLink
Connectivity: Infra-red (RC 5 handset, optional); RS232; one S-video; one composite; one 15-way D VG A; one RJ45; one ps2 keyboard; one ps2 mouse; four USB
CD ripping formats: Red Book
Disc compatibility: CD, CD-R, CD-RW
Audio formats supported: WAV, AIF, FLAC, ALAC, OG, Vorbis, AAC, Windows Media- Formatted Content Files, MP3
Sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, and 192kHz native
Dimensions: 8.15" x 3.4" x 12.35"
Weight: 12.35 lbs.
Price: UnitiServe 2TB (with 2TB hard drive), $3695; UnitiServe SSD (CD ripping, UPnP server, native 24/196, NaimNet, rear USB port), $3995

THE SOUND ORGANISATION
159 Leslie Street
Dallas, Texas 75207
(972) 234-0182
soundorg.com
naimaudio.com

Associated Equipment
Naim Audio SuperUniti “all-in-one” streaming audio player/integrated amplifier; Apple MacBook Pro; Magnepan MG 1.7 loudspeakers; AudioQuest Forest digital audio cables; Tara Labs Zero interconnects, Omega speaker cables, The One power cords, and BP-10 Power Screen; Finite Elemente Spider equipment racks

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