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NaimUniti - long term view

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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Having had the NaimUniti on 'long term loan', well, long term, thought I should finally put down a few words about how i've found it to live with, as I've been meaning to do for ages. Setting up Straight out of the box and manual discarded (I'm a man), setting the Uniti up to work on my network was an absolute doddle. I used a wired connection into my wireless router, since they're very close together, and it makes things much easier and more reliable, since there are no passwords to fiddle with. I did later try it wireless (when I ran out of network cables to test some other stuff), and that was straightforward as well (as long as you know your router password, Joel). Once this is done, you need to have a server running that can access your music. I have a couple of 500GB Freecom NASes, but to be honest they're little more than glorified hard drives which happen to be network enabled. They don't have any functionality which would allow me to run a music server application on them, so I long ago resorted to using my iMac as my main source (it's on all the time anyway), and just use the drives as backup storage. To get the iMac talking to the NaimUniti, therefore, I needed a UPnP server. First one I came across (some time ago, when I was trying to get my Macbook to talk to the review Uniti last year) was Elgato Eyeconnect. It's free if you only want to use it for audio, so being the good Scotsman that I am it had a head start. There isn't much to the application: install, tell it what content to point at (it's iTunes-centric, so if you manage your music another way then you'll need to look at other options such as Twonky) and start the server. Immediately, selecting the UPnP source (PC on the remote) gave me the option of connecting to 'EyeConnect (john-duncans-imac)'. So far, so good. In Action All the playlists set up in iTunes are there, including the clever iTunes ones like Genius and iTunes DJ, so if you're having a party you can have your mates control the music with Apple's Remote app on iPhone or Ipod Touch. Furthermoe, EyeConnect transcodes on the fly, so it serves up content as 1411k PCM, which means you won't have to convert all those apple lossless files you spent long nights ripping (the Uniti won't play apple lossless natively via streaming, only from an iPod). This, however, is where it starts getting interesting. The Uniti has functionality to search for music by using the numeric keypad on the remote in a 'mobile texting' sort of way, but on the EyeConnect-produced playlists, it doesn't work. In other words, if I select the 'Artists' option on the menu, and then type the first letter on the search facility (you can't do more than one letter), it doesn't find anything. I have to scroll through dozens of artists (really rather slowly) before getting to the one I want. This is a serious PITA, and I've resorted to putting oft-played artists in their own playlists so I can get to them more quickly. I did download the n-Stream App for iPhone, which solves some of these issues, but more of this later. In a bid to try to get the Uniti to play a bit more nicely with HDD-stored content, I bought a 250GB Western Digital USB drive from Tescos (yes really) and loaded some bit-perfect FLAC on it (ripped via MAX/EAC). The usb drive plugs in the front slot on the Uniti, and luckily is powered by it, so there are no trailing power leads to mess up the lines. Now we're getting somewhere - the directory structure of the drive is immediately visible, and the search facility now works. Having set up the folder structure in an Artist/Album hierarchy, there's still a bit of a bugbear, in that once you drill down to a particular album's folder, it all continues to appear in alphabetical order. Fair enough, that's how computers work, but I had to resort to numbering all the tracks ('01 - track name' etc) to get an album to play in the right order, which I hate doing (in an OCD sort of way), and once again search is a bit buggered (since you can only search for first letter, which is usually 'zero' [:)]). However, I guess once you're down to the tracks on an album there aren't going to be that many of them and they're fairly easily negotiable. Of course, the USB drive route doesn't give you playlists or random shuffle (except within a given album), so there are still some foibles to overcome - I think a combination of the UPnP server and USB drive may be the way to go, or it may just be a case of finding a UPnP server which behaves rather better than EyeConnect is doing for me - if anyone has a server working better (preferably for Mac), do let me know and I'll give it a whirl. Either way, my point is that you may have to settle for losing some functionality (either search or shuffliness) depending on how you want to store and serve up your music. One point worth mentioning is that the Uniti - following an upgrading of the streaming board when it was back in the office around Awards judging time - now accesses iPod content at a digital level, so acts as a true DAC for iPod content, only this time without having to resort to the proprietary nLink cable which cost 90 quid or something. So anybody bringing their iPod round can plug it into the front using the standard iPod cable, and you have immediate control over it with the (rather nice) Uniti remote. Amaze your friends! Make them sell their Bose SoundDocks! EDIT – this just in: writing about Twonky earlier made me think I’d better try it to see if it played nice, so I downloaded and installed. Now we’re talking – it picked up my iTunes playlists and organization in exactly the same way as EyeConnect did, but search WORKS and it’s by far zippier at finding content. On the downside, it doesn’t transcode on the fly, so if I come across content which the Uniti can’t play (like all my apple lossless stuff), it just says ‘Can’t Play’. Hence my search in another thread for a media manager that will work with Twonky, so that I can load all my important content as FLAC and use that as my main source, which kind of makes all the issues I’ve raised so far go away. Here’s hoping… n-Stream iPhone App Weighing in at a fairly eye-watering 22 quid, the n-Stream app for iPhone was obviously still mandatory for me to try. I initially had qualms about it since it didn’t seem to add much any much-needed snappiness to the user interface, but I’m now beginning to think that this isn’t the fault of the Uniti or n-Stream per se, since having added content into Twonky, they both work much better. The app picks up the Uniti’s content much more quickly, and I can browse artists and albums at will without (as was the case to begin with) having the urge to say “to hell with it all” and stick a CD in the drive. I haven’t really got album artwork working with it yet, because running EyeConnect it was such a painful experience that I gave up and unticked the ‘sync artwork’ button long ago. I will now, however, give it another go, though how I do that with Twonky I’m not entirely sure yet! No doubt I’ll be coming back for help from the Twonkophiles in the coming days, now that I’ve seen the light. Just as an addendum, I’d say that the n-Stream app is absolutely necessary if you want to use the Uniti’s internet radio content, since it makes it so much easier to negotiate the hundreds of stations available. I know it’s a bit steep but, hey – you just paid two grand for a stereo, might as well get the best out of it [:D] In Summary All in all, the Uniti is an amazing thing. I’ve said elsewhere that, in tandem with Neat's Petite SX, it has the finest sound – from each and every source you can throw at it, moreover - that’s ever graced my living room (though this is such a subjective thing, please do go and hear it, don’t just take my word for it). If I were being fussy, I’d ask for two things: a video out on the back to plug in the telly so I don’t have to squint at the display, and moving the USB
slot round the back (or simply adding another) in place of the now-redundant nLink slot, so I can add a hard drive more neatly. Other than that, it’s compact, tweak- and clutter-free, beautifully built, and even Mrs JD thinks it looks ‘OK’. The Duncan household Unitied over a piece of hi-fi - who could ask for anything moooooore? When they want it back, the phrase "cold dead hands" springs to mind...
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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You did. And I've just realised that I forgot to add the bit about the speaker cable faffage, which the man from Chord kindly sorted for me. Get the shop to make up your cables with the Naim plugs on the end, people!
 

Singslinger

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Jul 31, 2010
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Brilliant stuff John, thanks for that. So far I'm only using two of the Uniti's inputs - CD and iPod - but I've been wondering how to set about tapping the others. Your post has certainly answered many of my questions. The only remaining one is this: how does the Uniti sound with Naim's recommended upgrade, which is the addition of a NAP 200 power amp?

Thanks again.
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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Well my immediate response would be: if they want to give me one on 'long term loan', I'll tell you


I'm not sure I would though, certainly in my house. It has loads of power and grip and, with the right speakers, I think you'd be hard pushed to improve on it. Furthermore, I'd argue it's not really the point...
 

Singslinger

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Jul 31, 2010
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Actually, the only reason I asked was because in a review of the Uniti I read recently, it was mentioned in passing that the addition of a power amp as an upgrade was ''well worth considering''. If I'm not mistaken, it was a WHF article a couple of months ago on what it was like living with the Uniti after a year. Anyway, it set me thinking that maybe it might be an upgrade worth thinking about, though the article didn't go into further detail.

Still, I'd agree that the device is fantastic as it is and your review will definitely help readers save time when - like me - they start exploring the Uniti's full potential.

Cheers
 

Gerrardasnails

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Sep 6, 2007
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JohnDuncan:Well my immediate response would be: if they want to give me one on 'long term loan', I'll tell you


I'm not sure I would though, certainly in my house. It has loads of power and grip and, with the right speakers, I think you'd be hard pushed to improve on it. Furthermore, I'd argue it's not really the point...

I have to ask John, if you already have the functionality (like I do with my Popcorn Hour), do you think that for the cost of the Uniti, you could beat it with a separate DAC and amp?
 

plastic penguin

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Apr 28, 2008
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Gerrardasnails:JohnDuncan:Well my immediate response would be: if they want to give me one on 'long term loan', I'll tell you
I'm not sure I would though, certainly in my house. It has loads of power and grip and, with the right speakers, I think you'd be hard pushed to improve on it. Furthermore, I'd argue it's not really the point... I have to ask John, if you already have the functionality (like I do with my Popcorn Hour), do you think that for the cost of the Uniti, you could beat it with a separate DAC and amp?

Very good point. Would like to know, in pure sonic terms, how the Uniti stacks up against the Primare? But from reading JD's summary, he seems pretty hooked....or is he?
 
A

Anonymous

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A great reveiw JD It looks like a very interesting solution. But above my tech ability with all the set up!
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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Gerrardasnails:....do you think that for the cost of the Uniti, you could beat it with a separate DAC and amp?

...and an FM/DAB/Internet tuner and a CD player and a direct to digital iPod 'transport' (a seperate CD5i costs over £900 and the Naimuniti has a slightly better DAC derived from the old CD5X), oh and built in wireless.

Just in terms of a seperate DAC and amp I could do a little bit better with something like my Nait 5i and a seperate £500 DAC (maybe) and save a packet. But that is not the point.

The NaimUniti is not just an amp with a DAC. It is a complete package with very little compromise in quality compared to buying seperate equivalents.

To match the 'Uniti - roughly speaking - you would need at least...

Naim Nait 5i (£795), Naim CD5i (£925), Denon TU1800DAB DAB/FM tuner (£250), good quality DAC (£250 - £500), Onkyo ND-S1 iPod transport (£140 or a more expensive Wadia) and some wireless box or two.

You would also need two sets of good quality interconnects (for the DAC and the tuner) of at least Chord Crimson standard, and a rack to house it all.
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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Charlie Jefferson:Oh, and do I need one?

Charlie Jefferson:Roksan Caspian Pre Amp/Caspian Mono Power amp x 2, Arcam CD92, Chord64 DAC, Roksan Radius, B&W 805 Signature, AE/iMac, PS3.

Nope, you've pretty much got it all covered in there.
 

The_Lhc

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Oct 16, 2008
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I really don't understand the requirement for something this (apparently) sophisticated for server-side software to be running (ie Twonky and the like). I guess I'm spoiled by Sonos as all that wants is a shared directory, so minimal faffage there, so why is it, exactly, that something that appears to be much more powerful than the Sonos Zoneplayers needs software to be running on the storage device?
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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plastic penguin:
Gerrardasnails:JohnDuncan:Well my immediate response would be: if they want to give me one on 'long term loan', I'll tell you
I'm not sure I would though, certainly in my house. It has loads of power and grip and, with the right speakers, I think you'd be hard pushed to improve on it. Furthermore, I'd argue it's not really the point... I have to ask John, if you already have the functionality (like I do with my Popcorn Hour), do you think that for the cost of the Uniti, you could beat it with a separate DAC and amp?

Very good point. Would like to know, in pure sonic terms, how the Uniti stacks up against the Primare? But from reading JD's summary, he seems pretty hooked....or is he?


Well I haven't compared the two side by side, but like I say it's the best sound I've had in my house, and it's all in one box.

I have no doubt, though, gerard, that you could beat it with judicious choice of amp and DAC (or even all in one box like the Cyrus, if they float your boat). But I've been there and done that (with the Primares and DACMagic and Airport Express and yadda yadda) and, notwithstanding what I'm about to say to Chebby, I'm not sure I'd go back.
 

John Duncan

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chebby:When it goes back will you be buying another?

Nnnnngggggghhhhhhh.

Well obviously it's now ex-dem, so first I'd be seeing if a deal could be struck


The truthful answer is 'almost certainly', but I'd be looking at the Audiolab 8200 pair as well.
 

John Duncan

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the_lhc:I really don't understand the requirement for something this (apparently) sophisticated for server-side software to be running (ie Twonky and the like). I guess I'm spoiled by Sonos as all that wants is a shared directory, so minimal faffage there, so why is it, exactly, that something that appears to be much more powerful than the Sonos Zoneplayers needs software to be running on the storage device?

Dunno. Probably to do with the fact that they've implemented the UPnP standard, which requires a server running, whereas Sonos have gone proprietary (albeit in a clever and effective way).
 

John Duncan

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plastic penguin:So based on the extended demo, and trying variations such as Active speakers etc., where ya at in terms of a permanent replacement for the Primares?

Possession is nine tenths of the law.
 

The_Lhc

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Oct 16, 2008
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JohnDuncan:the_lhc:I really don't understand the requirement for something this (apparently) sophisticated for server-side software to be running (ie Twonky and the like). I guess I'm spoiled by Sonos as all that wants is a shared directory, so minimal faffage there, so why is it, exactly, that something that appears to be much more powerful than the Sonos Zoneplayers needs software to be running on the storage device?

Dunno. Probably to do with the fact that they've implemented the UPnP standard, which requires a server running, whereas Sonos have gone proprietary (albeit in a clever and effective way).

Reading from a standard CIFS/SMB share, not exactly proprietary is it?
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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Thanks for the feedback JD - really good. So I assume for functionality your findings should be the same for the Qute(?).

Oh, one solution to your ALAC woes might be to use Asset instead of Twonky.
 

John Duncan

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Isn't dbPoweramp Windows only?

In the brief couple of hours I had the Qute in situ (Mrs JD: "put the CD player back!!!!!!!!!"), it appeared to work exactly the same, yes.
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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the_lhc:JohnDuncan:the_lhc:I really don't understand the requirement for something this (apparently) sophisticated for server-side software to be running (ie Twonky and the like). I guess I'm spoiled by Sonos as all that wants is a shared directory, so minimal faffage there, so why is it, exactly, that something that appears to be much more powerful than the Sonos Zoneplayers needs software to be running on the storage device?

Dunno. Probably to do with the fact that they've implemented the UPnP standard, which requires a server running, whereas Sonos have gone proprietary (albeit in a clever and effective way).

Reading from a standard CIFS/SMB share, not exactly proprietary is it?

How does Sonos manage playlists? In its own, proprietary way by any chance?

I'm not arguing that the Sonos way is not effective, but so is UPnP. Many ways to skin a cat, I say, whether it be file share or Squeezeserver or A.N.Other UPnP/DLNA box. Would you argue that having a DLNA client in a Sony BDP-S370 is superfluous, and that all devices should just be able to read file shares?
 

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