The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is an excellent-sounding all-in-one digital music streamer. Yes, the price is astronomical but it stands alone in the market thanks to its gorgeous design and musicality. While you could assemble a system that sounds as good, it’s difficult to match what the Atom offers as a complete package.
Extensive streaming features
Gorgeous build and design
Clean and neutral sound
App needs some polish
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The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a unique product: on the surface, it’s an all-in-one headphone amp and network streamer, but its user experience is unlike anything else out there. By supporting so many ways to listen to music and tuning its sound quality for musicality rather than an analytical approach, the Uniti Atom rewards users with great sounding music, no matter the genre or format.
Yes, the sticker price is eye-watering, but after spending a month with the unit, it’s hard to imagine going back to another device that is as easy to use and as beautifully designed as the Atom. The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a near-perfect device for digital music and headphone enthusiasts.
In terms of the competition, there isn’t really any in the headphone space, making the Uniti Atom Headphone a unique proposition for headphone enthusiasts. The speaker-focused Uniti Atom has a few competitors like the Cambridge Audio Evo 150 and NAD M10, but if you love listening to digital music through headphones, the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is an extremely compelling, single device that can do it all.
Price and release date
The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is just one in the series of network streamers in Naims product line up. There’s the regular Naim Uniti Atom, which is for those looking to power speakers and a two-channel home theater. The two units look almost identical, but serve very different needs.
While the Uniti Atom puts speakers first, featuring a 3.5mm headphone jack on the front, the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is for headphone enthusiasts who can take advantage of various headphone inputs like balanced XLR, balanced 4.4mm pentacon, and 6.35mm unbalanced.
Priced at $3,300 (£2,399, AU$4,299), the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is not cheap, but its price is justified by its ease of use, build quality, and design. The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is available worldwide from various retailers.
The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a show stopper and begs to be the focal point of any headphone enthusiast’s hi-fi. Powering on the unit, you’re immediately drawn into the beautiful screen, which features album art and playback details prominently while you’re listening. The screen’s colors pop, and the resolution is good enough for you to read it clearly from a couple of yards away.
One let down, however, is that the display is not touch sensitive. Instead, there are four buttons on the side (power, play/pause, input, and favorites) that you have to interact with instead. Users have to navigate via the Naim app or the gorgeous remote control. It’s a shame that users will end up using the app most of the time since it provides access to all features, which is a shame since the remote control is so beautiful and features great tactical feedback.
On top of the unit is the biggest volume knob we’ve ever seen, which begs to be used. The knob’s action is buttery smooth and the unit features a proximity sensor so the knob lights up with the current volume when you approach it. The front screen also features a proximity sensor, which switches the display from album art to album art and playback info like bitrate and track progress.
The front of the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is glossy, so you’ll need to clean it regularly if you end up touching the front buttons. Front inputs include a 4.4mm pentacon balanced connection, a 6.35mm unbalanced connection, as well as a USB-A port to plug in a thumbdrive full of music. There’s an XLR output for balanced headphones, but it’s placed on the back of the unit, which makes it awkward to use. However, it’s easy to see that a full-sized XLR jack wouldn’t have fit on the front of the unit. Plus, there’s the option of getting a 4.4mm to XLR adapter to take advantage of the front balanced connection.
Around the sides are heatsink fins, which the unit needs as it gets warm with use. It’s not scalding by any means but the heatsinks are necessary for keeping the unit running.
Around the back are a myriad of inputs and outputs, including two SPDIF inputs, one coaxial input, analog RCA input, an Ethernet port (though the unit features Wi-Fi too), USB-A, full-sized XLR outputs for balanced pre-out, as well as unbalanced RCA pre-outs. This means you can use the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition as a music streaming preamp.
The list of supported digital formats and streaming services is extensive. There’s support for Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Bluetooth, UPnP, internet radio, and more.
We spent most of our time using Tidal through the Naim app, as well as a mix of Chromecast, AirPlay, and UPnP from our Plex server. Each technology worked flawlessly, and the instantaneous input switch is a game changer. You can hop between different digital platforms and technology without needing to select a different input. It just works seamlessly. In fact, the main selling point of a device like the Uniti Atom is to get you to your music as quickly as possible.
As mentioned previously, you’ll want to download and use the Naim app to browse for music as well as controlling the Uniti Atom. The app itself is stable and works well, but lacks the polish of dedicated music apps. For example, the native Tidal and Spotify apps are much better for discovering music whereas the Naim app excels if you know what you want to listen to. We’d like to see Naim integrate Tidal more seamlessly by mirroring the native app for discovery.
One thing we want to mention is that the Uniti Atom remembers the volume for each headphone input as well as preamp output, meaning you’ll never blow your ears out switching between outputs. This is such a small, yet significant feature that we would like to see on every DAC/amp.
The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition sounded excellent with any headphone we threw at it. Our testing saw us using the Focal Celestee, Focal Clear Mg, Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, Sennheiser HD 600, and Grado RS2i. Each headphone sounded excellent and revealed that the Atom Headphone Edition had more than enough juice to power any headphone.
In terms of sound quality, the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition sounds extremely musical without being too analytical. We were struck how jumping between various genres and albums of varying recording quality all sounded amazing. Some amplifiers and DACs are not kind of poorly recorded music like pop punk, but this one focuses on being musical rather than being highly detailed.
Dynamically, the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition impresses. The unit was able to stay light on its feet throughout the most challenging tracks from classical orchestral scores to bass-heavy hip-hop. Both balanced and unbalanced outputs sound excellent, with balanced giving more juice for power-hungry headphones.
We tried using the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition as a music streaming preamp feeding our KEF LS50 Wireless and the unit worked great for listening with speakers. However, we’d like to have seen a fixed volume option for the preamp feature to allow an amp to control volume rather than having to manage the volume of both the Uniti Atom and the amp.
Should you buy the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition?
Buy it if...
You’re a headphone enthusiast that wants one device to rule them all
The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is an amazing package and can likely be the last headphone amp, digital music streamer, or music hub that you buy. It sounds great, powers just about any headphone you throw at it, supports every major streaming service/protocol, and it just looks absolutely stunning.
You care about music more than the gear
Audiophiles often fuss over measurements and specs, but the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition isn’t that type of product. On paper, the Atom Headphone Edition is poor value but it’s not until you use it that you understand why so many love it. It gets you listening to music as quickly as possible and its sound quality puts the music, not the equipment, front and center.
You care about design
Just look at it! The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is one of the most stunning piece of hi-fi gear on the market at the moment. Many amps/DACs/streamers look like anonymous black boxes, but not the Atom. If you value design, the Atom is a gorgeous centerpiece for your hi-fi system.
Don't buy it if...
You want value for money
$3,300 (£2,399, AU$4,299) is obviously a ton of money, and you can piece together a similarly great-sounding system for much less money. Will it be as slick and intuitive to use or as beautiful? Probably not but you’ll have much more money in your bank account.
You want an analytical sound
The Uniti Atom headphone edition sounds great, but it skews towards a more musical and smooth presentation than outright resolution and detail.
- Want to take your critical listening gear anywhere? Check out our guide to the best portable DACs