Naim Audio Uniti Nova PE Streaming Amplifier Review

Posted on 12th June, 2024

Naim Audio Uniti Nova PE Streaming Amplifier Review

Simon Lucas auditions the latest, power-packed version of a popular one-box streaming system…

Naim Audio

Uniti Nova PE Streaming Amplifier

US$9,999 RRP

Although Naim Audio launched its first Uniti all-in-one player in 2009, it's fair to say that 2017 was the year that the range came fully into its own, allowing the Salisbury-UK hi-fi specialist to reinvent itself somewhat. That was when the company launched its Uniti Atom, Uniti Nova and Uniti Star models. There was an obvious hierarchy, nicely judged pricing differentials, and, it seems safe to say, something for everyone as long as what 'everyone' wanted was proper hi-fi sound with a decent serving of convenience along with it, anyway.

Honestly, the Uniti Nova didn't strike me as noticeably underpowered. But that hasn't stopped Naim from going ahead and giving it a significant power upgrade anyway – and it's taken the opportunity to make some changes elsewhere, too. The upshot – at first glance, at least – is a product that looks mightily similar to its seven-year-old sibling but costs comfortably double what the original Uniti Nova sold for – and continues so to do. By adding a two-letter suffix, Naim likes to call this the Uniti Nova PE, and we have moved from proper money to serious money!

It's the 'P' that's the main story here, of course – as the original Uniti Nova's 70 watts of Class AB power has been ditched in favour of 150 watts of Class D. In fact, the Nova PE can twist out 250 watts into a 4 ohm load. Either way, that should really a) be sufficient to drive even the most truculent loudspeakers, and b) tick off those purists for whom Class D is, just on general principles, an affront. Other under-the-hood changes extend to the deployment of Naim's new NP800 streaming card, with Low Voltage Differential Signalling to keep noise levels to an absolute minimum.

External changes are similarly discreet. Along with a host of other inputs and outputs, the rear panel now features an HDMI ARC socket to allow your AV system to reap the benefits of all that power. A couple of stereo RCA and a pair of five-pin DIN analogue inputs, two USB-A slots (one on the front fascia), two digital optical, two digital coaxial, an Ethernet connection and a digital BNC socket, make up the rest of the physical inputs. Outputs run to a four-pin DIN, a pair of stereo RCAs and a 3.5mm headphone socket on the front of the machine.

Naturally, wireless connectivity is similarly extensive. Dual-band Wi-Fi is available (the antennae are neatly built into the heatsinks), as is Bluetooth with aptX Adaptive codec compatibility. The Uniti Nova PE is Roon Ready, has Chromecast built-in, and is compatible with Apple AirPlay 2, UPnP, the 'Connect' versions of Spotify and TIDAL, and features internet radio (most easily accessed via the 'Focal & Naim' control app). There's compatibility with all worthwhile digital audio file types, up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD128 resolution. And by way of a wireless encore, the Naim can serve as many as four network-attached players via UPnP for a simple multi-room system. 

The Uniti Nova PE is built around the same 116x432x265mm [HxWxD] brushed aluminium chassis as its predecessor, and that's emphatically no bad thing. It looks good, it feels good, and at over 15kg, it's got that 'expensive audio equipment' heft that's so important too. And the control options are no worse for being so familiar, either – the control app is usable, stable by prevailing standards and tricky to confuse. The 'ZigBee' remote control handset feels good and needs no line of sight to operate. A bright, high-resolution 5-inch LCD lets you know what's what. And that big volume control dial remains a visual and tactile delight, one that will have you making tiny output adjustments simply for the sake of it.

THE LISTENING

Sometimes, in a review, the good news outweighs the bad news by a fair margin, and at other times, it's vice versa. But with the Uniti Nova PE, there isn't any bad news in sonic terms. The tonality of the new Naim is impeccable; this amplifier introduces no discernible character. Instead, it lets the characteristics of the recording you're listening to take centre stage. So if you're playing Two Weeks by FKA Twigs, then the sound is edgy and chilly everywhere except through the midrange, which is warm and intimate. On the other hand, if it's Way Down Now by World Party, then the sound is organic and neutral. In fact, in every circumstance, the Naim sounds utterly convincing.

The aforementioned FKA Twigs tune also allows the Uniti Nova PE to demonstrate the depth of its low-frequency extension, the remarkable detail and variation it imbues into bass information, and the straight-edged control of attack that allows for both confident rhythmic expression and outright wallop. At the opposite end of the frequency range, it is just as detailed, just as agile where attack and decay are concerned and just as willing to deftly combine speed and substance. Once through the clattering treble-fest of The Sad Skinhead by Faust, it is enough to tell you that this one-box system knows exactly what it's doing.

The Uniti Nova PE's midrange is the show's real star, though. The extraordinarily potent and moving rendition of Tsintskaro by Ensemble Marani sounds thrillingly direct and communicative, even if the language in which the words are sung means nothing to you. The finest details of tone and timbre, and the secrets of technique, are all made apparent – but not in any analytical way. Instead, the Naim brings all the character, attitude and vocal interplay to life in the most articulate and entertaining manner.

Indeed, it unifies the frequency range in the same way that it unifies the individual elements of a recording – which is to say, confidently, evenly and with no apparent sense of effort. The same can be said for its dynamic ability, both where the vanishingly rapid transients in Das Spiegel by The Chemical Brothers and the huge shifts in intensity apparent in Dawn of the Iconoclast by Dead Can Dance are concerned. It's an assured, direct and eloquent listen, no matter the circumstances. And yes, there's more than enough grunt available in this new Power Edition to bring even the most demanding and uncooperative of loudspeakers to heel.

The system creates a large and confidently described soundstage and gives the gaps and silences within it their due prominence and weighting relative to the actual sounds. The stage layout is coherent, and every part of even the most complex recording gets enough space to stretch out and express itself. 

The Naim is no fan of heavily compressed or otherwise low-resolution content, and is frankly not prepared to tart it up for the sake of politeness. It doesn't have the same kind of audible disdain for music streamed from, say, Apple Music as some alternative streamers I could mention. Yet, at the same time, it's not really able to hide its impatience very convincingly. But if you remain on the side of the angels, and give the Uniti Nova PE the sort of quality of content it deserves, then it is never less than a thoroughly rewarding listen.

THE VERDICT

Naim Audio's new Uniti Nova Power Edition is a clear upgrade over the original, but here's the thing – unless you're running hard-to-drive loudspeakers, I'm not sure it is comprehensively better. So, if you already own its predecessor, I wouldn't be binning it in favour of this. However, on the other hand, if you are starting from scratch – or at least, from a much lower base – then this new system is quite compelling. Beautifully built and finished, it is aesthetically interesting, an ergonomic pleasure and – last but not least – a virtuoso musical talent.

For more information visit Naim

    Simon Lucas's avatar

    Simon Lucas

    Simon was editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine and website and has since written for Wired, Metro, the Guardian and Stuff, among many others. Should he find himself with a spare moment, Simon likes publishing and then quickly deleting tweets about the state of the nation (in general), the state of Aston Villa (in particular) and the state of his partner’s cat.

    Posted in:Amplifiers Integrated Amplifiers Sources Streaming Hi-Fi
    Tags: naim audio 

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