It's almost impossible for a British audio enthusiast to escape some exposure to Naim Audio, but I have come off relatively lightly. Until now: a white box containing a Naim SuperUniti turned up chez Ripley. It wasn’t to be a review, though. More an investigation on my part. However, I have been re-considering putting my toe in the streaming waters, and this is as good a place as any to start, as it's currently one of a handful of audio components over about £2,000 that actually sells in good numbers in the UK. It's this and the Devialet, apparently, that dominate the UK sales charts.
However, this isn’t going to be a normal review, in the sense of a lengthy description of the functionality of the product. That is both well documented (the SuperUniti has been around since 2011) and much of its raw technical description can be had from the Technical Specifications in the closing credits. Instead, it’s more a description of the journey; of how someone who was until very recently welded to CD gets into the 21st Century.
I’m not a ‘computer in the living room’ guy. I’m a ‘music in the living room’ guy. Even the goggle-box is in another room, hanging on a wall opposite the dining table in the ‘family room’, and in fairness we spend a great of time gathered round this place, enjoying food and wine and company. But perhaps we have a different relationship to most when it comes to TV; it’s a source of news, information, and entertainment, but not the primary source. Our living room is a space where reading and listening happens. My wife, it must be said, would prefer more space given over for books, and less space for CDs and audio equipment, so the motivation behind investigating next-generation disc-less audio systems has been born out of that demand.
I tried the ‘Mac&DAC’ route a few years ago, but found placing a laptop in ‘the inner sanctum’ something of an imposition. Strangely though, the Apple iPad was nowhere near as imposing in the same setting, and we soon found ourselves bonded to these tablets throughout the house. And so, the combination of a streamed music system, controlled from the iPad, made a lot of sense. Like many, I tried Sonos, which stresses the convenience and ease of installation. But, it never quite sounded as good as my CD player to me, and ultimately it didn’t make the grade. I guess I should have tried the Squeezebox while it was still a going concern, but frankly the Sonos sound quality made me discount streaming for too long.