Recently I ripped my CD library using my new Naim UnitiCore. In addition to the standard ripping, I wanted to embed the metadata created by Naim Core directly into the resulting WAV files so that a non-Naim audio server could use the metadata, and to integrate my rips with my existing audio files stored on a NAS.
Being new to this, I had a lot to learn and I couldn’t find a comprehensive primer on the topic, so I kept notes. The following are things I wish I knew, or had considered, in the beginning. I hope these notes can help someone avoid the searches and floundering experimentation that I went through . . .
1. Music vs Downloads Folder
The Naim UnitiCore (“Core”) CD ripper and audio server stores audio files in two directories, one for music containing Naim-proprietary metadata, and the other for music files with conventional metadata:
1.1. “Music/MQ” folder contains only Naim rips, with Naim metadata.
- Naim Rips are WAV or FLAC audio files (per your setting) created when a Naim ripping device like the Core inhales a CD.
- Album folders under the Music/MQ folder must contain a Naim-created metadata file. (meta.naim for the newer Naim device rips, and cddbinfo.txt for older Naim device rips)
- The meta.naim file incorporates your edits made via the Naim app. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you edit Music folder contents ONLY via the Naim app.
1.2. “Downloads” folder holds all other audio files that you wish to store on the device.
- Downloads content can be imported/copied directly to the internal drive manually, or by restoring from the backup, which you have edited.
- Downloads can be audio files in any format that is supported by Naim.
- Audio files with metadata that is not Naim-proprietary must be edited by a third-party program such as SongKong or MP3Tag.
- If you have difficulty configuring a metadata on an album in the Music/MQ folder, it might be easier/faster to make manual edits using a third-party app like SongKong or MP3Tag and move that album to the Downloads folder where the Naim device does not rely on Naim metadata files.
Metadata is information about the music – album name, artist, composer, track titles, etc.
2.1. Naim WAV rips store the metadata in a file named “meta.naim” under the album folder.
- You can edit that meta.naim file using only the Naim app. (It’s very user friendly to do so using your phone or iPad.)
- Some audio file formats like FLAC, MP3, and many others embed metadata information directly within in the audio file format. WAV files do not, normally.
2.2. However, WAV files can be fitted with ID3Tags to hold the metadata. These can be added or edited by third party metadata editors such as SongKong (paid) and MP3Tag (free).
- Most non-Naim audio servers cannot read Naim metadata files directly.
2.3. Each Naim-ripped album folder contains a Naim-created metadata file that is proprietary to Naim - i.e., it is in non-standard format, readable by a Naim device but not much else.
- Naim audio servers are designed to use that meta.naim file – most other audio servers (Plex, Sonos, for example) cannot read it. However, there is a program available to create the WAV ID3 tag and populate it with the contents of your meta.Naim file, including your edits. (That is SongKong, Melco license version.)
2.4. SongKong FOR NAIM USERS
- SongKong (SongKong Music Tagger) has a feature included in its “Melco license” version that use your Naim-proprietary metadata to embed standard ID3 tag metadata in your Naim-ripped WAV files. This includes metadata edits you may have made via the Naim app and creating an album coverart file named “folder”. This will enable audio servers other than Naim (Plex, Sonos, for example) to read the metadata in your Naim WAV Rips library.
- The SongKong feature that reads Naim metadata works only on WAV files. Therefore, if you want to convert your Naim-ripped WAV library to FLAC for use with other audio servers, you should first use SongKong Melco License version to tag your WAV files, and only then convert the WAVs to FLAC format.
- Caution: Be sure to use SongKong Version 8.8, build version 1142 (date Jan 11, 2023) or later. Prior versions had a bug whereby tracks were being mis-labeled on some albums because the often the meta.naim metadata file did not have the track information listed in exact sequential order. That problem was fixed in release 8.8.
2.5. Album cover art is contained in an image file (jpg or png usually) in the same album folder as the audio files, named as follows:
- Naim Rips will name it “Coverfront”
- If you changed the cover via the Naim app, it will be named “UserArtwork”
- The non-Naim title for the cover art file is “Folder”. If you want to use your library with non-Naim audio servers, copy the image file and name it “Folder.(ext)”. (SongKong will do this automatically.)
- There is no “industry standard” resolution/ file size for album art, but common practice appears to be that 1000 x 1000 pixels is sufficient to produce acceptable quality images.
3. WAV vs FLAC
The Core can rip to either WAV or FLAC formats.
3.1. You should decide at the outset which format you want to use. Here are some considerations:
- A FLAC file is about half the size of a comparable WAV file.
- A FLAC file incorporates the metadata in a way that is handled reliably by a wide range of audio servers (Plex, Sonos, etc) – an important consideration if you share your library with other audio servers that don’t work well with WAV metadata.
- Incorporating metadata into WAV rips requires some effort and special tools, whereas FLAC rips need no additional effort.
3.2. There is divided opinion about the sound quality difference between WAV and FLAC. Here are some points of discussion:
- FLAC is a file compression format, like the way that ZIP compresses the file size but recovers the exact original content. ZIP is reliable enough for downloaded computer programs, where any inaccurate reproduction can be fatal to the program. Some computation is required to create the FLAC file, but also, more importantly, to decode it on playback in the audio server.
- The recovered audio content is (technically speaking) identical to the audio content that was encoded, and therefore FLAC should, in theory, not affect the audio quality vs WAV.
- Be aware that there are strong differences of opinion on that among audiophiles.
- Personally, I find no difference in sound. As a quick test, I ripped a high-quality CD as FLAC on the Naim Core and compared it to the same CD ripped on the Naim Core as WAV. I could not detect any difference in sound. That finding appears to align with a majority of people on the Naim forum, although some people that I respect think otherwise. Perhaps there is a reason for this. Tidal is cited as an example, where I do indeed hear a difference in many cases. Tidal HiFi streams in FLAC format. Yet the Tidal stream of that CD I ripped sounds inferior to my Naim rips of that same CD. However, both my Naim-ripped FLAC and WAV files sound superior to Tidal, IMO, so I conclude that it is the Naim Core’s re-clocking, error correction and other magic during the ripping process that makes the difference - not FLAC file compression.
- Here’s a comparison of the FLAC encoding levels, with a good discussion on sound quality. FLAC compression level comparison – The Z-Issue
4. Stores vs Shares
Your complete Naim library can be comprised of multiple music directories residing in several different locations.
4.1. A “Store” is a location on a drive (local, USB, or network) that you designate for the Core to place (store) the new albums as it rips your CDs.
4.2. A “Share” is any directory location that you tell the Naim audio server to find your audio content. Shares can contain non-Naim-ripped content, such as albums downloaded from music purchase sites. Such directories may need to be set as “shared folders” using your computer OS (Windows/Mac) folder permissions.
5. Backups and Restores
Naim Core has an efficient system for backing up and restoring the content of the drive mounted in the Core to and from another location, like a local NAS.
5.1. It is fast and reliable. Backups and restores are differential, meaning that it looks for differences in the content and writes only those differences.
5.2. Backups happen automatically on a schedule to capture changes made on the Core internal drive, but you can trigger a backup manually and monitor its progress via the app.
5.3. For reference, in my experience with a library of 1263 albums /20,500 files:
- A full backup from scratch (no prior existing backup) over the LAN takes about 7 hours.
- If adding a single album to the Core, the backup takes under a minute because it finds and backs up only the one album that is different from the existing backup.
- In the event that an album was accidentally deleted from the Core and you want to restore it from the backup, restoring from the backup similarly takes under one minute.
6. Rebuilding the Database Index
“Rebuilding the database” (aka “Reset the product database”) refers to wiping and re-creating the index that allows the library content to be searched and displayed quickly on the app.
6.1. Rebuilding the Database does not affect the music stored on the Core, it just catalogues it. FYI, on my system . . .
- Indexing 1263 albums /20,500 files on the Core’s internal SSD ran at a rate of about 53 albums per minute.
- Indexing content over the LAN (files stored remotely a shared Folder on a NAS) ran at a rate of about 14 albums per minute.
6.2. You can monitor the database rebuilding progress in the app by watching the number of albums grow until it reaches your full album count. Go to the album view and scroll to the very bottom to see the number of albums currently indexed.
7. Accessing your library on the Core
You can access and manipulate the files on the Core internal drive directly from your computer.
7.1. It is OK to write directly to the Downloads folder, HOWEVER use ONLY the Naim app to edit and delete albums on the Core internal drive Music/MQ folder. Otherwise the Naim Core will get confused.
- That said, you can copy files from the Music/MQ folder without harm.
- To add material to the Core Downloads folder, you can either add it directly to the Core Downloads folder, or edit the backup folder, and then restore from that backup.
7.2. To access the storage on the Core internal drive
- From a Windows PC connected to the same LAN, use File Explorer and enter the LAN IP address of the Core using backslashes like in this example . . . \192.168.86.195\ . . . but of course using your own Core’s LAN address, which can be found on the Naim app under Uniti Core |Settings |About.
- On a Mac, the Core will appear in Finder under Network
8.1. Monitor your rips. After every CD rip, check that the Album appears in the Newest Music list on the app. Sometimes my Core would take the CD, whirr away for a while, then spit it out, just like normal – except nothing was ripped. The Ripping Monitor [Settings |Manage Music |Ripping Monitor] showed the album art but no tracks. I copied the CD and ripped the copy successfully.
8.2. Discogs Search for cover art. To get better album cover art search results from Discogs when using the Naim app [(album) … | Edit Metadata | Change Cover | Discogs Search]: First edit the Album and Artist fields (if necessary), then select Change Cover. In the Discogs search bar, which is populated automatically from your Album and Artist Naim metadata, remove extraneous words, like “Various” and “Disc 1”. Discogs produces better search results that way.
8.3. Unknown Artist rips. When Naim does not automatically identify the artist during a rip, it will call the artist “Unknown”. When you edit the album title and artist using the Naim app, it unfortunately does not edit the stored filename. As a result, if you look at the edited ripped files via File Explorer, the edited album will not appear in the directory under the artist that you edited, but rather will appear under “Unknown” along with all the other albums that you ripped where Naim did not automatically identify the artist. You have to inspect the meta.naim data file or the Userartwork.jpg file to see what artist each Unknown rip is.
8.4. Converting from WAV to FLAC. If you ripped in WAV and now want to convert your library to FLAC, be sure to create the WAV ID3 tags first. The SongKong Meta.Naim conversion to ID3 tags works only on WAV files.
8.5. Your NAS Share Folder Recycle Bins can end up in your library! If you are using your NAS as a Store or Share Folder location, be sure your NAS Network Recycle Bins (QNAP terminology) for those folders are empty. If you had deleted old content on your NAS but and had not emptied the Recycle Bin, the Naim App will find the Recycle Bin folder and index its contents, resulting in duplicated and/or unwanted albums showing up in the Naim app.
NOTE: QNAP Recycle bins appear in every Shared Folder. They are visible in the QNAP File Manager app, but they don’t show up in Windows Explorer when viewing your NAS folders that way.
8.6. You may need to un-power your Core occasionally. From time to time I found that some function in the Core was not responding as I was manipulating the Stores and Shares and rebuilding the database. This could be a simple “hang” where a function like restoring a database or rebuilding the index was taking way too long, or an apparent refusal to display changes made remotely from my computer. In these cases the Core seemed to be functioning, but it wasn’t doing the entire job asked of it. In every case, unplugging the Core from power for 20 seconds, and repowering it resolved the issue.
8.7. The Naim Community is very knowledgeable and helpful. https://community.naimaudio.com There is a large repository of searchable discussions in the Streaming Audio section. Also, Naim’s Customer Support is very responsive and helpful.