REVIEW: NAIM UNITI ATOM WITH FOCAL ARIA 906
Recently we shared the news about some Focal / Naim system deals running for the next few weeks. Well, we like to know if we're actually talking sense from time to time, so we got one of the systems in to listen to.
Naim Audio and Focal
Uniti Atom and Aria 906
Compact Audio Player and Standmount Speakers
Package Deal - £2750
You know how it is - you don't review any Naim equipment for months and then, all of a sudden, two arrive at the same time. That's what happened this month.
You may recall our review of Naim's Mu-so 2nd Generation all-in-one. Well, today we're focusing on the Uniti Atom paired with Focal's Aria 906 bookshelf speakers. Why this combination? Well, it just so happens to be System One in a range of deals these stablemates are running during September and October, while stocks last.
The reason for the deals is that Naim and Focal got hitched eight years ago - all together now, Aaaaawwww!
So, before things start getting totes emotes here let's press on with the review, eh?
Naim Uniti Atom
For those unaware, the Uniti Atom is the most compact of the Uniti series. That said, it's not found wanting in connectivity, power or looks.
The mighty Atom offers compatibility with pretty much every music source available - wired or wireless.
Measuring a mere 95mm x 245mm x 265mm it's large enough to be taken seriously but still easily able to be placed on a decent shelf or tucked away in a corner, should it need to.
We wouldn't want it hidden away too well, mind as it is a pretty little thing sat there in its black anodised aluminium jacket. The black, however, is tastefully broken up by a slick, bright 5-inch LCD colour screen. As well as helping you hook up to your home Wi-Fi network and select your music source and track, the screen also displays album artwork it pulls from the ether - OK, the player's software and an internet connection.
Atop the player is Naim's signature volume wheel that turns with a satisfyingly smooth action. It also lights up to show volume levels through a snazzy LED array. Other controls are in the form of a row of buttons down the right-hand side.
Finally, there is an illuminated Naim logo which can be switched off if so desired.
Substantial heat-sink fins adorn the sides while, at the rear, is where you'll find the majority of the wired connectivity options.
Firstly, Naim's trademark loose-feeling power port - don't worry, it's designed that way to reduce any vibration issues. Also, there's the speaker cable terminals, an Ethernet network input if you don't want to go Wi-Fi and a USB port.
Then there's an HDMI port and Ground selector. Finally, there's a pair of optical ports and a single coaxial. Two banks of RCA takes care of preamp out and stereo input.
It's not only the inputs that give you a wide choice as there are multiple ways of controlling the Uniti Atom.
We rarely say this, but the bundled remote control is rather lovely. Although glossy plastic, it is a joy to hold and use. Once you pair it with the Atom it works well, lights up so can be used in total darkness, and is aesthetically pleasing.
Naturally, there's Naim's app too which we have already loaded on our phone after the Mu-so came to visit. For us, the app gives us more options in fewer presses, and so became our go-to.
The app certainly makes navigating through the myriad of playback options more intuative - you can grab your NAS-stored tracks, play from USB, use Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Google Chromecast, Tidal, internet radio and Bluetooth aptX HD.
If all that isn't enough, why not a CD player or even a record player, there are enough inputs?
Focal Aria 906
Focal is based in St Etienne, France, and that is where they build their own drivers. From there they wrap the drivers up in their own designed cabinets. It all makes sense as the company knows exactly what they're dealing with at every stage.
The Focal Aria 906 is a two-way, front-ported bookshelf speaker. The mid/sub drivers are made with the ancient material - flax.
Flax (Linum usitatissimum), or linseed as some may know it, has been used by the ancient Egyptians, amongst others and has cropped up in the French firm's F (F=Flax) Cones sandwiched between two layers of fibreglass. The hollow Flax fibres are light, self-damping and have the same rigidity as Kevlar, especially when bolstered by the fibreglass.
The flaxen driver is partnered with a TNF inverted dome tweeter constructed from a magnesium/aluminium alloy and sits in a shallow wave-guide. The suspension method between the dome and its bracket has been borrowed from the Utopia and uses a memory material called Poron. The result is significantly reduced distortion in the 2-3kHz range, which is relevant as this is where the human ear is particularly sensitive.
Our review pair look particularly smart in their Prime Walnut finished curved side-panels that contrasts well with the shiny black glass tops and leather baffles.
Naturally, we paired the Atom with the Focal Aria 906 speakers as that's the whole point of this excercise.
The Atom's Class A/B amp is rated at 40 watts per channel fed into 8 ohms and as the Aria's are pretty easy to drive, from the first randomly played track that came through Classic FM we could tell that these components were a good match.
With all the options available to the Uniti Atom, we started with the streaming services. Firstly, Internet Radio which was fine but then reminded us why we hardly listen to the radio anymore. Spotify and Tidal were a cinch to get going and sounded really good. We have a feeling that these would be the favourites for a lot of potential Atom buyers.
Chromecast built-in was also pretty slick, and we enjoyed slinging tunes from our laptop to the Naim and Focal set-up.
UPnP also worked without a hitch, hungrily gobbling up our digital tracks from SNUK's networked storage. However, it was the faff-free and welcoming user interface of Roon which saw the most use.
Within moments of opening up Roon on our old laptop it was a simple case of Settings—> Audio—> and then adding the Uniti Atom to our device list.
Between the Naim Uniti Atom and Focal Aria 906, we were getting plenty of detail presented to us with great precision as well as perfect timing.
Selecting Rite of Spring, the live recording of the American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Botstein, on Tidal and the sense of scale from the small bookshelf speakers surprised us. We certainly got the impression of being sat in the Bard Music Festival venue with the orchestra stretched out before us. It's not the widest of soundstages, but there is plenty of height, as well as depth.
Dynamics are also plentiful, especially in a piece such as this.
Selecting the latest by The Pixies and the Aria 906 were definitely in charge. We were astounded by the amount of authority these Gallic charmers could have in our room.
The low end is tight and fast but, as most would expect from cabinets this size, not earth-shattering. With a frequency response given as 55Hz-28kHz, the range is enough for most styles and most audiences.
No doubt assisted by the very able Uniti Atom, it was the detail we were hearing from our selection of tracks that kept us interested. Whether it was the samples in Selvdelizer's Human or the trippy panning in Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive, everything was placed, presented and enjoyed as it should be.
Overall, the Focals are quite level-headed when it comes to tonal balance. They're not as fun or exciting as some, nor are they as forensically clinical as others. But, hooked up to the Uniti Atom, we were more than happy with the partnership.
The Naim Uniti Atom is a Swiss Army knife of players. With myriad connectivity and source options packed in a lovely looking compact package, it is difficult to fault. The app is decent and playback detailed. The bright, colourful screen is another bonus, and the useful remote control is an illuminated cherry on top.
The Focal Aria 906 looks gorgeous in the finish we were loaned to review. Yes, there is a slight nod to a 70s colour pallet, but we didn't suffer any woodchip flashbacks.
Neither of these items would be classed as budget buys by any stretch of the imagination. However, with a saving of almost £400, if you buy the Atom and Aria together, even we are tempted and believe us when we say we are already spoiled for choice here!
Finally, did we test the speakers with a different source? Did we plug different speakers into the Atom? Yes, we did - but that wasn't the point of this review.
However, that said, The Marten Duke 2 had a better low-end response and wider staging - but they're almost seven-times more money than the Arias. The Atom did sound awesome, though. Plugging the YBA integrated into the Arias seemed to give them a bit more drive but the speakers started to lose their poise and composure at a louder volume.
Price and availability
The Naim Uniti Atom and Focal Aria 906 are available as a package deal now until October (or stocks last) for £2750.
Details of the other deals can be found here.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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