The Naim Atom Is a $3,000 Digital Audio Hub for Modern Times

The Naim Atom Is a $3,000 Digital Audio Hub for Modern Times

Saturday, 12 November 2016
Gadget Lab
This post was originally published on this site

If you were born in the ‘60s or ‘70s, your personal music collection is probably pretty scattered. Crates of records, a tower of cassettes, bookshelves full of CDs, a hard drive stuffed with MP3s, and a couple dozen playlists on Spotify. It’s hard to bring all that stuff together and control it from a single box. It’s even harder to find a little box that make those disparate analog and digital sources sound truly great.

That’s the mammoth job Naim Audio’s little Atom attempts to do. The roughly 10-inch-square and 4-inch-tall cake box aims to replace most of the audio components in your stack. All you need to do is plug some wired speakers into the back of it—or connect it wirelessly to one of Naim’s speaker-equipped players, the Mu-so or Mu-So Qb—and you have a robust mission control for all your tunes.

Let’s Play

The Atom box itself supports streaming music over Google Cast, Spotify Connect, and Tidal, which you can control with Naim’s app for iOS and Android. You can also stream music to the machine from a mobile device over Bluetooth or AirPlay, as the Atom works as an aptX-enabled wireless receiver. If you’ve got a computer or NAS loaded with jams, you can set it up as a UPnP media server for the machine. Portable hard drives plug into one of the box’s two USB ports. Large, high-res formats like FLAC, WAV, AIFF, or ALAC work fine.

Around the back, you’ve got RCA inputs for your turntable, CD player, or cassette deck, as well as optical TOSLink inputs and HDMI (for ARC audio only, though; the Atom doesn’t handle video). It can stream music directly from supported services over Wi-Fi, but there’s an Ethernet port around the back if you want to keep your connection more stable.

In other words, it can handle myriad sources both digital and analog, and its wireless multi-room capabilities with other Naim speakers mean you can do things like play your 45s and cassingles in other rooms via Wi-Fi. If you want to plug in your own speakers, the Atom pumps out 40 watts per channel with built-in class A/B amps and Burr-Brown DACs. If these terms are Greek to you, just know: Boz Scaggs will sound amazing coming through your vintage KLH loudspeakers.

The control scheme is pretty neat, too. A proximity sensor on the front of the Atom lights up its front-facing button array as soon as your hand reaches for it. On the top, there’s a giant volume dial and playback controls in case you want to crank it up with an old-school knob. For any digital tunes, the five-inch display on the front of the unit shows album art and artist information during playback. The unit wakes up when you lift the Bluetooth remote off the table, and there are presets on the remote for quick access to your favorites.

Money Changes Everything

Premium features and premium audio always comes at a high price. The Atom may be the smallest, cheapest model in Naim’s high-end Uniti lineup, but it’ll set you back $2,995 when it hits shelves in December. Keep in mind the Atom doesn’t have any internal storage for your digital tunes; you’ll need to stream files from a networked computer or drive, plug in a storage device, or plop down an extra $2,595 for the matching Uniti Core 8TB mega-server.

If those prices don’t scare you and you want even more power out of your music hub, consider the double-wide, CD-ripper-equipped Naim Uniti Star ($5,595) with two 70-watt amps. And the top-of-the-line Naim Uniti Nova ($6,995) ditches the CD ripper boasts 80 watts per channel, along with the most expensive internal components Naim could piece together.

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