Synergy – when a system works in harmony to produce a sound that is as good or better than the sum of its parts – is not guaranteed. Even when two companies work under the same umbrella, that synergy is often hard-won. Such is the case here, with the Naim Audio Uniti Nova and the Focal Kanta No.2. This is a system that comes together extremely well, and while that is fully understandable, it wasn’t always the case.
There has been something of a meeting of like minds between Focal and Naim since the well-publicised Entente Cordiale between the two companies. But after the two joined forces, things were not automatically rosy from a sonic perspective: while there were Naim and Focal partnerships that worked together well, there were exceptions; Focal’s Utopia Grande EM flagship was a loudspeaker in search of a Naim amp partner until The Statement came along.
That has all changed recently, and both the Naim Audio Uniti Nova (tested in issue 153) from the refreshed Uniti line and the Focal Kanta No.2 (out of a range of one so far, tested in issue 155) are examples of that closer working relationship (or at least, Naim doing its listening tests on Focal loudspeakers, and vice versa). They are also interesting inclusions because both eschew the traditional in design terms. OK, so the Uniti Nova is still very much a black box, but the Naim following are extraordinarily traditional and the move away from green logos and matching text (as per the previous SuperUniti, the Nova’s spiritual antecedent) is the kind of thing riots are made of in Naim world. That being said, the reaction to both Nova and Kanta has been – on the whole – very positive.
Now its well-publicised supply issues are mostly behind it, the Naim Uniti Nova is settling in nicely at the top of the Uniti range, a trio of one-box streaming amplifiers with the distinctive top-mounted large volume control and clear acrylic base plate (first seen on the Statement and the Muso) range and a full colour display screen that’s a joy to read.
The Nova and the rest of the new Uniti amplifiers were the result of a four-and-a-half-year project to revise and improve upon the original Uniti platform. Given that previous platform had eight years of front-line use, it’s clear Naim could not afford to mess this up, as it would be around for years. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that high-resolution to the original Uniti was 16‑bit, 48kHz and (if you could get them) 24‑bit, 96kHz PCM files and streaming was what you did with a bad head-cold. More importantly, the original Uniti existed in a pre-iPad world, and although it ported well to that environment, the new digital platform was designed from the outset to live a world of apps. Everything is effectively powered through the app, whether it be a firmware update or complete multiroom access (see box), the Uniti Nova and its kin are made for apps. This could only happen if Naim went right back to basics with the Nova, using what went before as a loose guideline rather than a strict rule-book on how to make a 21st Century integrated device.