While very few, if any, pieces of audio gear are completely transparent without some variations from absolute harmonic purity, I found the Uniti Nova remained remarkably close to ideally neutral. While its overall sound was not quite as relaxed or lush as the AVM 8.2 that had been in one of my systems previously, it was purer, more revealing, and less mechanical-sounding than the Sony HAP Z1ES media player ($2000) and Simaudio Moon 230HD DAC ($1500) connected to the Parasound P7 pre ($2000), feeding two Bel Canto M300 monoblock amplifiers ($2000/discontinued) and an Aperion Subwoofer ($399).
When I placed the Uniti Nova into my main room system, which had previously been set up with the Mytek Manhattan II feeding the Pass Labs X150.8 power amplifier, I noticed that the Uniti had a comparable level of dynamic drive and contrast. I was also immediately aware of how similar the harmonic balance was between the Uniti Nova and the Mytek/Pass combination. The Mytek/Pass did generate a slightly larger soundstage in overall width and depth than the Uniti Nova, but the difference was subtle. On commercial recordings the detail resolution and image focus of the two setups proved to be remarkably similar. I needed to rely on my own live concert recordings to hear that the Mytek/Pass combination had a slightly more dimensional presentation with a greater sense of distance on hall reflections as well as a bit more low-level detail.
Obviously your choice of speakers will have a major effect on the Uniti Nova’s sound. When connected to the Spatial X-2 loudspeakers I was aware of the Uniti’s excellent lateral imaging specificity and dimensional cue retention. When the Elac Adante AF-61s were the transducers of choice, Uniti’s lack of electronic grain and impressive midbass dynamic drive came to the forefront.
The amount of midbass energy generated by the Elac Adante AF-61/Uniti Nova combo was impressive, and in a room with space and form to absorb all that bass energy the results can be extraordinary. In some rooms, such as my downstairs main listening room, the Elacs’ midbass power was a mixed blessing. On some music I felt a lot like the guy in the famous Pioneer poster. ButI digress. My point is if you have a loudspeaker that has the drivers to deliver bass, the Uniti Nova has the drive and power to rock your world.
Audiophiles who gravitate toward tube-based electronics often complain about the electronic grain and artificial texture they hear from solid-state electronics. While I would never accuse the Uniti Nova of having a “lush liquid midrange” I did find it to be grain-free and lacking in anything that could be interpreted as artificial electronic texture. Compared to the tube front-end of the AVM 8.2 the Uniti Nova was not quite as “forgiving” of peakier razor-edge pop recordings. They weren’t rendered unlistenable, merely a bit harder and more in-your-face. Rather than “everything is beautiful” the Uniti Nova portrays music in the more immediate and matter-of-fact manner not uncommon among solid-state amplifiers.
At slightly under $7k the Naim Uniti Nova has plenty of competition. For this kind of money you have your choice of a myriad of excellent preamps, power amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, and DAC/preamps that you can mix and match for a similar final cost. And I don’t doubt that most of the combinations of current competing products you can come up with, while not sounding identical, will all perform at similarly high sonic levels. So, sound isn’t the thing that makes the Uniti Nova special. For me the thing that separates the Naim Uniti Nova from the competition is summed up in its name, Uniti.
The combination of input flexibility, almost universal format acceptability, compact size, and perhaps most importantly the Uniti Nova’s well-integrated ergonomics and control functions separate it from 99% of the cobbled-together solutions currently available. Including Roon endpoint options (so you can run it from your Roon Control app) means you easily incorporate the Nova into an already-existing Roon-based system. But the Naim control app is so good that if you don’t already have and use Roon (which is quite addictive), you may feel less inclined to become a Roon user, because the Naim app is so comprehensive.
Some audiophiles will never give up their separate component systems. I get that. Flexibility, interchangeability, tweakability are all deeply ingrained in the audiophile ethos. And much as I, as a card-carrying audiophile, love to get down there in the dirt and swap out components into the wee hours of the morning, there are times when what you really need for that safe-space called a multi-purpose living room is a modern one-box solution that can play from dad’s NAS drive or sis’ smartphone, and be controlled from any smartphone in the house.
Welcome to the 21st century. The Naim Uniti Nova can make the transition from hair-shirt audiophilia into a thoroughly modern musical world a painless, musically expansive, and completely audiophile-approved experience.
Specs & Pricing
Type: DAC/preamp/power amp/streaming source
Formats supported: WAV (up to 32bits/384kHz), FLAC and AIFF (up to 24bit/384kHz),
ALAC (up to 24bit/384kHz), MP3 (up to 48kHz), AAC (up to 48kHz), OGG and WMA (up to 48kHz), DSD (64 and 128Fs)
Power output: 80 watts per channel into 8 ohms
Analog inputs: One RCA, one five-pin DIN
Digital inputs: Two optical TosLink, two coaxial RCA, one BNC, one HDMI, two USB, one SD slot
Streaming services: Tidal, Internet radio, Chromecast, Airplay, UPnP
Dimensions: 214mm x 95mm x 265mm