Music

Music: Naim UnitiQute / Naim Nap 100

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A look at Naim's UnitQute and NAp100

I’ve had the Naim UnitiQute for about a year now.  Here are some impressions of life with this wonderful slice of audio nirvana.

Music Evolved – the end of the CD era

Listening to music has evolved hugely since CD made it’s commercial debut way back in 1983. Since then, digital file encryption, high bandwidth networks, cheap storage,  file-sharing and Apple’s eco-system, have collectively relegated CD to obsolescence.  I recently unplugged my Arcam CD92, once the prize component in my system, ready to sell it (though letting go of 1000’s of CD’s will be a harder decision).

One of the main reasons for finally giving up on CD, is not only the convenience of playlists, and access to millions of tracks on demand through services such as Spotify, but the emergence of a new breed of high end hi-fi products, that can trounce CD in sound quality.  New resolutions, normally in AAC or FLAC, can take music resolution  into 24bit 192khz clarity and beyond, leaving the highly compressed CD sound for dust.

Enter the Naim Uniti

The Naim Unitiqute is one such product –  an integrated amplifier and network streamer that can happily reproduce a wide variety of file formats, from connected and networked devices, and more importantly, present them with a huge dollop of Naim musicality.

Naim, a by-word for British excellence in hi-fi equipment, were once a rather staid company, happy to furrow it’s own particular path of quality amplifiers, and giving scant regard to the trends of the day.  That image and stance began  to change rapidly when Naim launched it’s first streamer product, the Naim Uniti, in 2009, to wide acclaim and healthy sales.

It seems to be like a new religion for them – now they’ve discovered it, there seems to be no stopping them.  Since 2009, Naim have developed this new market with enthusiasm,  launching a wide variety of high end, all in-one systems under the “Uniti” moniker.  Currently there are 6 models in the Uniti line (including an updated ‘Qute, the ‘Qute2), and a further three stand alone streamers (NDX, NDS and NDx5).

The ‘Qute – high end in a small package

I have lived with the Qute for almost a year now, as a second system in the main bedroom.  It’s so damn good, that my main system (an Apple Mac feeding an Audiolab MDAC, with Arcam amps powering B&W 805D’s) has begun to sound a little flat by comparison.  In fact, I’ve switched alot of my music listening to the bedroom, so involving is the sound quality.

Give the Naim a digital source, whether a Spotify feed, an attached iPod, or uPNP, and the diminutive ‘Qute will jump on it with gusto, converting clinical digital bits and bytes, into a wonderfully coherent sound, with buckets of detail resolution, pace, authority, bass control.  One of the characteristics of listening to a great bit of hi-fi, is the desire to go back and listen to many of your favourite tracks and artists, and re-discovering what drew you to them in the first place.  I’ve spent many happy hours downloading higher res formats of old favourites, and sitting down and just revelling in the fresh presentation of the music the little Naim brings to them.

Minor Niggles

Very little in life is perfect, and so it is with the ‘Qute.

The N-Stream app, which allows control over volume, source selection, and playlist browsing, feels very much like a first attempt – it kinda works, but isn’t really intuitive or particularly pleasurable to use.  Some of the UI design looks very basic, and UX controls need some more thinking through for it to be worthy of the Naim brand. Still, I’d rather have it than nothing, and many competitors, such as Classe, are nowhere near even launching their first app controllers.

The connectivity by wi-fi is patchy.  This is inconvenient as it forces the user to use the ‘Qute’s on screen menu, rather than the N-Stream app.  This is OK for simply switching sources, but altogether harder when navigating through thousands of songs.  The unit frequently drops it’s connection, and no amount of patience will see it restored without resorting to a hard re-boot by powering off/on.  Even assigning a fixed IP address on the router, and manually entering this on the N-Stream app, while improving matters, does not cure it completely.  I currently have to hard re-boot about once a week – liveable with, but annoying.

But these are minor issues when measured against the superlative sound quality, convenience, and compactness of the ‘Qute.

NAP100 – a Naim thoroughbred amp in a half width box

Part of the appeal Qute, is that it gets you away from the constant Audiophile compulsion to upgrade.  Or at least it did until Naim released the NAP 100.  This is destined to become a new classic, and is reminiscent of the older, but still highly regarded,  series of Olive amps Naim used to produce.  I was a little sceptical whether it would bring much to the already excellent “Qute, but my friendly Naim dealer here in Singapore (the very helpful Vik at Absolute Sound) brought around a unit.  Using the ‘Qute as a pure pre amp feed, and the NAP as a dedicated power amp, the sound is taken one notch up.  The bass in particular has more low end, and the overall sound stage opened up further, with a more dynamic presentation.  The UnitiQute is great on it’s own, but if you’re after an extra 10% of performance, then the NAP is worth considering.

 

23 Comments

  1. LAmitchell Reply

    Nice write-up. I bought the Nait 5i thinking I would gradually buy the rest of the system when I get the money, but there are just too many choices. The part where you said you get involved with your Qute over your main system has really pushed me to get rid of the 5i and buy the Qute. Much appreciated. Also, as a side note it seems like getting the NAP100 for a 10% increase isn’t really worth it, but I could see myself being tempted because the stack looks quite nice!

  2. Matt Reply

    I’ve not heard the 5i, but I think you’ll be very impressed with the Qute. It’s one of the most satisfying hi-fi purchases I’ve ever made

  3. I was interested in the qute to stream music from spotify. But a naim reseller told me it was not possible since the Qute can only stream music stored on your pc hardrive. Is that right. Or do I need some extra connect to digitally feed the qute from my pc?

    • Matt Reply

      Hi Thomas – There is no native Spotify functionality in the Qute, and no integration in the Naim app either. There are at least two ways of getting Spotify into the unit, one digital, one analogue. The digital way is to use a third party streamer like the Sonos system and use the coax Digital out from the Sonos, and then into the Qute digital inputs, which is what I do. The other way is to use a 3.5m cable and take the analogue out feed from an iPhone or iPad headphone socket, and then to the Qute analogue inputs. By the way, you cannot attach the iPad or Iphone directly into the front USB port,to play Spotify, as unfortunately the “Plays with iTunes” mode will be enabled, meaning you can only output what is in your attached iTunes library, and not a streaming service like Spotify. There maybe other ways to stream Spotify digitally into the Qute, for example, using a UPnP server, but I have not used that. Have a look on the Naim forums for more advice on this.

      • Hi, assuming you have an iPhone or an iPad you could use an Apple Airport Express and connect it with an optical digital cable to the Qute. From the i-device you would then use Airplay to stream Spotify (or others) to the Qute.

      • Connect an Apple Express digitally to the UQ using a Toslink cable. You can then stream Spotify using Airplay via an iPhone or Tablet.

  4. Hi I got a qute second hand for £700 I have been very impressed with it playing through a pair of old monitor audio md700s
    I had saved a bit money up and thought about getting some better speakers as I felt the Qute would sound even better with good speakers
    A pair of pmc db1 gold came up ex demo for £500 So I duly bought them Hooked them up on a pair of good stands and wow blown away. A fantastic little set up, so addictive, foot tapping music

    • Matt Reply

      I’d really like to get a pair of DB1’s as well. I demo’d them here in Singapore, and was pretty blown away by their performance for the size. Unfortunately when I went back to the dealer to buy them, they said they were discontinued and had no more stock. They would be a perfect partner with the Naim Quiute

  5. I assume there is no way to combine the power in the qute with the NAP100?

    In other words if the qute offers 30w per channel and the Nap offers 50w per channel, is there any way to get 80w per channel out of it? I assume the qute can only operate as a pre amp in this setup which is why you can’t combine the two?

    In Australia the cost of the qute and the NAP 100 is the same as the Uniti lite – so why would you go 2 boxes to get 50wpc when the uniti lite is already 50 wpc in one box for the same price?

    • Matt Reply

      You can use the two in a bi amped configuration, with say the Qute driving the tweeters and the NAP the bass, though that would not give you a true 80w output. I bought the NAP quite along time after the Qute. If you were buying from scratch then the Uniti lite might be the way to go, especially if you need higher power

    • Hi, I have added a NAP 100 to my unitiqute + pmc db1 goals It beefs up the sound and for £650 is well worth the money. a great little setup that’s looks cute

  6. Pingback: Re-discovering vinyl with the Funk Firm Little Superdeck - mattwhittingham

  7. I replaced a Cyrus system with a Unitiqute 2, I agree with your views, is probably the most musical piece of hifi I have ever used. As a bit of an experiment I added a Linn Lk85 power amplifier which made the sound more clinical, after having in my system for about six months I reckon I am listening to music less so may remove it and consider replacing it with a NAP 100.

    • Matt Reply

      I think the UnitiQute is so good on it’s own there probably isn’t a strong gain to pairing it with a power amp. There is some more punch adding the NAP100 but it is not a huge gain on the stand alone Qute

  8. Dave Griffin Reply

    Matt Whittingham wrote:

    “..New resolutions, normally in AAC or FLAC, can take music resolution into 24bit 192khz clarity and beyond, leaving the highly compressed CD sound for dust.”

    CD is quality audio 16/44.1 is NOT compressed. Maximum signal-to noise ratio of CD is ~ 96dB for 16 bits compared to ~144dB for 24 bit. Both the above figures comfortably beat S/N for analogue tape. All are mute since there is very little domestic audio equipment that will have anywhere near 96dB S/N.

    The quality of the recording will have much more impact on the sound quality than its sample rate or bit depth.

  9. Just brought my unitiqute 2 with spotify and paired it with monitor audio radius 270hd’s and 360 sub, have to wait another 3 weeks until I can afford the cables and nas server so no heard it yet, can’t wait after all the great reviews 😉

    • Matt Reply

      Hey Neal, congratulations on your purchase, and am sure many years of happy listening lie ahead. Be great to hear back from you once you’ve had a chance to run it in

      • Im sure you will be impressed with your Qute It sounds especially good with high definition files either from your NAS or from memory sticks, John

      • Hi Matt & John,
        Ok I’ve finally been able to set up my new stereo and speakers (so still some running in required) so these are my first impressions which are a little mixed but not really the unitiqute’s fault . Overall I couldn’t be happier the uq2 is a great little devise, well made, fully featured, easy to use and with hd music beautiful sounding but I only have a handful of hi-res tracks that’s also my issue lies as my entire music collection for the last 10 years is iTunes feast which sounds awfully thin, flat and uninspiring which was disappointing but not the uq2’s fault to be fair just annoying, 2nd slight gripe is my speaker pairing with the uq2, don’t get me wrong they’re lovely speakers but not very sensitive so you need about 38+ volume to make the setup sing. The speakers were wife friendly due to looks so we’re a compromise as such but hardly a major compromise. Love iradio, love the iOS app, at present I don’t have an Ariel so no dab or fm but overall a great product, I’ll update you in a month once everything has settled down and I have more hd music 😉

        • Hi Neal, glad you like your qute. 38 volume is fine. I run mine at 60 and it does it no bother all day
          You are right it is not the Qutes fault with lower quality music, its just doing its job honestly It sounds great at CD quality, ie 44/16 bit but really excels with high def

          e mail me for more info on high definition music, jonny_weir@hotmail.com

          • Thanks Jon,
            I may well take you up on some hi-res music choices. You’re right a bit of volume does make it sound better 40+ Is best especially with my speakers. The kids and wife are out tonight so it’s my first night to listen properly, I have my gin and tonic poured and back early from work (bliss) 😉

  10. Hi Guys,
    Update.
    After not being completely convinced my unitiqute & style based monitor audio (2.1 setup) were the best pairing (a little disappointed). I thought I’d come back and give you an update now I’ve had some good listening time so my impressions of the unitiqute & speakers.
    You’ll be glad to hear both the uq2 & speakers have come alive now they’ve both had a good run in, the diminutive system can really sing, my initial complaint over my iTunes music still stands as the uq2 really needs hi-res to perform its best and God does it when fed with hi quality music, that said now it’s run in even my iTunes music is more spacious and open than it was before and spotify is foot tapping if not a patch on hi-res, also the system also performs much better at lower volume than it did at the beginning.
    In summary
    I’m now really happy with my choice, I find if I use my Mac for playing my iTunes music as it has a graphic equalizer that improves my old library no end. I’ve still not had an Ariel fitted so can’t comment on dab/radio. Overall this is a great unit and recommended.

  11. Anglo Saxon Reply

    I love my unitiqte. albeit the original one. I am disappointed that i can no longer use BBC iPlayer radio to listen to older shows, but have not worked out how i can record them on my sky+ box. I have to send the uniti away for a new board, essentially it is an upgrade to a Unitiqte2.

    You should notice an improvement in sound quality if you place your units next to each other as opposed to in a pile. I may consider a NAP100 for an upgrade.

    My main system is a Pink Triangle PT1 turntable/Rega RB300/Rega Elyes cartridge, Naim stageline/112x/150, Naca5 speaker cable, Neat motive2 speakers. A beautiful system. I also have a Pioneer PDR609, which is an excellent recorder, but the playback is not so good.

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