There has been such an avalanche of music servers and rippers recently that it’s a bit hard to keep up with them all.
When I heard that Naim Audio was coming out with a new model, I was especially intrigued. The British company is known for making some of the finest high-end components in the world, a reputation I have personally verified through listening to many of its systems at shows and dealers.
Naim, however, offers equipment across a broad range of prices — a very broad range. I’ve auditioned systems made up of primarily Naim-branded gear that cost anywhere from less than $20,000 to more than $400,000.
After noticing that Naim’s new Uniti Core hard-disk server also carried the “reference” badge, I braced myself. I suspected the unit would be good, but could a lowly audio scribe afford one?
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to encounter the Uniti Core in one of Chicago retailer ProMusica’s rooms at AXPONA, feeding a system that had a total price of less than 15 grand. A second rig with higher-end electronics — but the same server — was $30,000.
The Uniti Core’s portion of those totals came to $2,600. Smiling, I took out my notebook and began asking a lot of questions.
“The Uniti Core is a server and a ripper,” said ProMusica’s John Schwarz. “It can rip a CD in under 5 minutes.”
Users can fit a hard-disk drive or solid-state drive with a capacity of 8 TB — enough to store 100,000 tracks. In addition, it has a folder for downloads and rips made to other devices.
“The Uniti Core also has an awesome-quality digital out,” Schwarz said. “You can hook it up to almost any DAC and get great sound.”
The Uniti Core allows owners to serve as many as 12 independent music streams to other all-in-one players in the Uniti line or other UPnP-capable streamers with up to 32/384 resolution.
I especially liked the interface for the Uniti Core, which was displayed on a tablet. It was simple and intuitive.
The $14,400 system had, in addition to the Uniti Core, a Naim DV1 DAC/preamp ($2,500), Naim NAP 100 amp ($1,500) and ProAc Response D30SR speakers ($7,800 a pair).
I listened to several jazz selections on the room’s second system (the $30,000 rig). Along with the Uniti Core, this setup also featured other Naim components, including the NAC-N 272 streaming DAC/preamp ($6,000), XPS DR power supply ($6,600) and NAP 250DR amp ($7,000). Speakers were the ProAc Response D30SR.
The presentation was pleasing and non-fatiguing. Piano sparkled, bass was tight and cymbals sounded like a wood stick hitting metal rather than a constant splash. Pacing — long a Naim strong point — also was first-rate.
Overall, the sound had the clarity of the best digital, with no obvious weaknesses. It was different than an all-analog rig, of course, but for those looking for an extremely low noise floor, great micro- and macro-dynamics, and fingertip access to a nearly unlimited supply of songs, the Uniti Core and other Naim gear makes an attractive package.