This was a LONG time coming! Naim Audio announced the new versions of the Uniti products in the middle of 2016, with a view to rolling out the first products in October or November. And that’s precisely what happened, except no-one asked Naim precisely which October or November. Reviewers who had bought products from the previous Uniti line were first in the queue for reviews (so my UnitiServe pushed Hi-Fi+ up to the head of the line), but even so, we were asking after our Naim products at the Bristol Show in February, Munich High-End in May, and all points between.
Such is the power of Naim in the UK, there have been droves of people who have adopted an “It’s OK… I’ll wait” stance, when lining up for their new integrated streaming amplifier or server. Although a number of brands (most notably Hegel and Moon) have taken advantage of the Naim-shaped hole in the market for such products, Naim’s faithful have remained wholly true to the cause, quite possibly because the products looked as if they were worth the wait.
Oh boy, were they worth the wait!
We received two products from Naim’s Salisbury HQ; both in essence direct replacements of what went before. The Naim Uniti Core is a disc-ripping networked music server, directly replacing the UnitiServe that has been providing sterling service in that task for several years in my system, regardless of DAC or streamer. The Naim Uniti Nova is the top of three one-box streamer/amplifiers from the brand: the Atom is the half-sized pocket rocket integrated (replacing the UnitiQute 2), the Star is the full-sized does-it-all device, complete with ripping or live-play CD drive (which replaces the Uniti 2), and the Nova is the big kahuna SuperUniti replacement. Those who obsess over the Naim catalogue will note the UnitiLite one-box player is not being replaced and has been quietly dropped.
The whole Uniti range has now moved from the traditional matt black livery with green lettering, to the more modern-looking brushed black with the logo laser cut into white back-lit clear acrylic. In the Nova and the other players, it also moves the volume control from the front panel to the top plate. These styling cues are part of a direction that works so well at the super high-end (Naim’s Signature amplifiers) and at the entry point (the two Mu-so models). Only time will tell whether a similar stylistic change takes place in the Classic line. Personally, I think it’s extraordinarily elegant and brings Naim’s designs bang up to date, where arguably green on black is a bit ‘1990s’ in approach.
If the Uniti products were merely reboxed versions of the older designs, gift-wrapped, and given some 2017-era production control techniques, the review could end here and many would still be happy. The legacy Uniti products still perform perfectly well and are as entertaining today as they were half a decade or more ago. But Naim took its time to make the new Uniti so much more.