Focal Arche vs Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition

Hi all,
I’m looking for an headphone amp to be connected to my Nac252+Nap500.
I have a Focal Utopia Headphone.
I had the opportunity to test the Focal Arche headphone ampli which should fit with Focal Headphone but I’m not excited about the final result. Furthermore Focal Arche doesn’t provide a remote control so you need to get up from the chair anytime I need to set up the volume.
I saw the latest Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. Even though it seems to replicate what I already have with my NDX2, it seems the only solutuion NAIM provide as headphone amp.
Do some of you already use this device with a NAC pre-amp? Any feedback / comment?

The Atom HE is designed as a standalone all-in-one device. I can’t see much point in trying to link it to a Naim preamp, especially as it digitises its analogue input.

If you want a headphone amp to connect to your NAC252 and NAP500 then your best bet is a Headline 2, powered by either a HICAP or a Supercap. The Headline 2 is now discontinued but you should be able to find a nice one ex dem or secondhand fairly easily and without having to wait too long.

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Thanks Richard,
Can the Supercap I’m already using with 252 be used to feed also the Headline 2 at the same time, or do I need to buy also another Supercap?

No, you would need a dedicated power supply for the Headline.

Ok. And does the Headline has a remote controller or can it be controlled by the Nac 252 remote controller?

No, it’s strictly manual.

Second hand Headline 2 + Hicap is a great bargain compared to what you would could get new for the same price.

I own the Focal Utopia’s and they sound remarkably better when driven balanced. There are a handful of headphone amps that offer a balanced output. Or just get a Atom HE and enjoy a stand alone streamer-amp that can drive your Utopia’s balanced.

However it has already been determined that the 4 pin balanced XLR on the back of the Atom HE is not TRUE balanced. The Atom HE is not a true balanced headphone amplifier.

"A journalist asked the same question. This was Steve Sells’ excellent answer:
“The pre-amp output is pseudo balanced i.e. balanced impedance. Great for long runs (for example, to active loudspeakers) and cancels noise pick up. The headphones are actually single ended.”


Hi…just a little info on balanced connections for headphones:

The primary advantage of ‘balanced’ for headphones is the separation of the left and right headphone grounds (i.e. have 4 connections, just like speakers)
Traditional 1/4 inch and 3.5mm headphones sockets have 3 contacts. The ground connection is shared for left and right. This single shared ground can degrade the sound quality.

The Atom HE has Pentacon and 4 pin XLR for separating the left and right grounds.

Headphone drive unit coils are electrically floating and don’t need a hot and cold feed. There is NO noise advantage using two amplifiers unlike long XLR runs used in high-end or the studio. It could be argued in this application the single ended approach can be theoretically made 3dB quieter. In the real world this noise floor is too low to hear.

By keeping the amplifier drive single ended it keeps the simpler harmonic structure of distortions


Gregg , since the old Violectric thread is closed, I’m hoping it’s ok to ask you here where your headphone amp journey ended: did you for the Benchmark or stick with the V281?

You can connect your headphone amp of choice direct to the RCA output of the NDX2, then switch outputs in the Naim app and use variable volume to enable use of the NDX2 remote or the app for volume control. I use a Heed Canalot with the Obselik PS like this.

Hi @Michaelb

Ah - quite a bit of water has passed under that bridge :grin:

Putting my memory cap on I believe I went from the Luxman P750 >V281 > Benchmark > new Violectric V550 > HeadAmp GSX MK2 (which is still here along with my GSX Mini) until I finally took a left handed turn and pivoted to this end game Tube amplifier which is a commission build. I ordered it in August 21 with ETA June 2022. It is the Donald North Stellaris - google is your friend.

Since Stax are my preferred daily drivers, and we are already at end game status with the Donald North, I threw caution to the wind and pulled the trigger on the acknowledged end game Stax amplifier - the T2. This is also, obviously, a commissioned build which was ordered in May 21 and should be with me in March 22. There are not 1, not 2, but 3 toroid transformers in the separate power supply!

Sorry for the thread derailment - simply responding to @Michaelb question



Many thanks: quite a journey! Hope that T2 beast brings you many happy hours…

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