Improving my Uniti Atom setup for movies?

I have a Naim Uniti Atom with two Triangle Antal Ez speakers. Often I use it to watch movies—sometimes streaming, sometimes Blu-Rays. While my setup works well for music, I’m encountering two issues when watching movies:

(1) Not enough bass. I’m not someone who needs an excessive amount of bass, but this is definitely not enough to do justice to a movie. I’ve tried various speaker placements without much luck. I realize I could get a subwoofer but that seems excessive (and expensive) for large speakers in a small apartment.

(2) The balance among different parts of the audio often seems off. For instance, the narration might overwhelm the music or vice versa. I presume that means the different portions of the surround signal aren’t getting mixed together into stereo as well as they could be, but I don’t know what (if anything) to do about it.

I’d appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!

Hi, are you using the Atom with HDMI connection from your TV? The sound output should be set to PCM stereo on the TV, and there’s nothing you can change on the Atom to make up for any deficiencies in the balance.
I’m not familiar with your speakers, but if they can’t produce a reasonable level of bass, I would suspect that the room acoustics are not ideal. Are there any areas of the room where bass levels are higher, maybe in corners or doorways? It could also be that the Atom doesn’t have the power to drive the speakers to their full potential. A sub may be an effective solution to this, but careful integration into the room and system are important.

I use a Nova with my movie set up, moving up from the Unitiqute2/NAP100. Going up the range will deliver more bass and more separation around the sounds, but as Chris says, speaker positioning and the room will be a big factor. There is, however, a big range in sound quality from streaming and Bluray that you can’t get around. How does a well recorded Bluray compare to streaming on your system, that will tell you how good the setup is?

I don’t currently have the HDMI card for my Atom, though I’m not averse to getting it if it solves a problem. Currently I run HDMI from my Apple TV to my TV, then optical digital from the TV to the Atom. The Apple TV offers a “Change Format to Stereo” option which it says will degrade audio output, so I’m reluctant on that one…otherwise it says it’s outputting uncompressed multichannel LPCM.

The speakers (https://www.triangle-fr.com/esprit-ez-antal-en) were recommended by my local HiFi shop as a good pairing for the Atom, but beyond that I couldn’t say. The room itself is a bit large (open plan living room + kitchen, roughly 25 by 15 feet). Sadly, the way it’s shaped there isn’t really another place to put a TV setup, though I suspect there are parts of the room that would otherwise handle bass better.

I think that as one would expect, I tend to get better sound off a blu-ray (which usually I rip at full quality and serve via Plex rather than mucking with the physical disk) than streaming on average. But, I actually think the variation in quality between different streaming options or different blu-rays is even greater.

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As Chris has said you need to set the output to stereo. You are missing the center and sub output with the setting on uncompressed multichannel LPCM, hence reduced bass and narration/music being overwhelming.

Actually, there’s likely 2 options for “down mix” (from surround to stereo): in the Apple TV (before going to the TV) or in the TV (before going to the Atom).
The TV will have the option for sure; if you say the Apple TV has it as well, you may try, which one “does better”.

Whether you use the “optical digital” or the HDMI going from TV to Atom should not have any effect on sound quality. (It’s the same stereo down mix being transported over either.)
I’ve read here on the forum, that HDMI ARC allows to use the TV remote to change volume of the Atom… while in your current setup, you need to change volume on the Atom (remote/App).

I’m using a very similar setup (with an older Apple TV3; did not see a down mix option there; may it’s new to the newer models?) HDMI-to-TV and then optical-ditigal-to-Atom.
I used the optical, because it was leaner/easier to put into place than a bulky long HDMI cable. (Which I also did not have.)

For the bass: I’ve also struggled with this one. For music it’s astonishing that for some there’s surely enough “oomph” coming out; for other it does not. For most movies it’s fine; but not for “heavy action”.
I actually for a sub; but whether it’s worth the money, I still don’t know. (I use it rather rarely; maybe I still shy using it regarding the neighbors underneath my flat. :wink: )

Why is it better to let the TV or Apple TV do that downmix? I’d have assumed whatever decoding/mixing happens onboard the Atom would be better since it’s a higher-end audio device.

Oh interesting. I was under the impression that the Atom didn’t offer that. If it does—and especially if the Apple TV or TV could turn it on and/or switch input, too—that’s probably worth the $100 HDMI card.

Haha…half the time our neighbors are watching with us, so I’m lucky there. It’s just hard to shake the notion that the investment I’ve made in nice speakers wouldn’t do the trick on its own in a small apartment. Is that a limitation of the Atom? The space? Or just the way things work with nicer speakers?

The Atom only knows “stereo” (2 channels); it does not understand anything about surround.
So the audio must be down-mixed beforehand.

As said; I haven’t tried that yet myself. Maybe I should…

I’ll leave that question to the more audio-aphine users on the forum…
(I’m just not sure, whether the “Atom is too ‘small’ to drive large speakers” is something to follow. It’s true, with a sub now in the room anyway, I might have gone with smaller speakers to start with as well. In general, small rooms should be easier to fill with bass.)

Just replugged my HDMI cable between TV and Atom, enabled ARC on the TV and HDMI in the Atom, restarted the devices.

Plus:

  • TV wakes Atom from (soft) sleep when waking up itself.
  • Audio control from TV remote works. +/- and mute. (A but sluggish though and with - to my taste - non-optimal “speed”; first very slow, then very quickly getting (too) fast.)

Atom did not go to sleep upon shutting down the TV. (It doesn’t do that on other inputs either?)

Initial negotiation for HDMI/ARC was a bit shaky; 1-2 times it came up with “device not recognized/no connection”. (TV is from 2011; no clue if the cable is “proper or not”.)

Good to know; will switch cables back now.
(I’d have to buy another HDMI cable, to make it a permanent setup. And I usually don’t use the TV remote anyway, when using external “players” like Apple TV.)

Thanks for doing that research! My TV is from 2007 so I should probably investigate what it’s capable of. At a minimum, I know that turning on the Apple TV turns on the TV as well.

The Atom only knows “stereo” (2 channels); it does not understand anything about surround.
So the audio must be down-mixed beforehand.

I think there must be more to the story than that. If I send the unmodified signal to the Atom, I get dialogue and sound effects at a reasonable level—indeed, sometimes at too high a level vs. the music (as described in the original post). If the Atom only understood the left and right channels, I’d expect to lose the dialogue entirely. That suggests that either (a) the Atom is able to do something reasonable with the surround signal, or (b) the unmodified signal includes stereo-only info.

Yes, best check, that your TV has an “HDMI ARC” port. (It’s usually mentioned in the description of the port; TVs usually just have 1 of these).

I’m pretty sure HDMI Arc was introduced to TV’s after 2009 so it will make no difference if your Atom has HDMI/Arc capability.