Naim Atom versus Atom Headphone Edition. Any SQ improvement?

Hi All

Has anyone done a comparison between the two Atoms with respect to SQ?

I use my Atom more as streamer than as a Streamer Amplifier (although I do use the latter from time to time) so am posturing whether I do a swap before the price rises come into effect. I have a feeling the analogue electronics have been updated in the headphone version so am thinking there maybe a possible improvement? Also I am not totally happy running the Atom with no speakers plugged in as there is no means of turning the amplifier off. In reality running the amplifier side open circuit won’t cause any problems but part of it doesn’t sit well with me.

Anyone out there done a comparison yet?

You have already similar threads running actually. See in the search part.

Couldn’t see anything directly comparing the two models with regard to SQ

Apologies if I missed something here

How exactly do you use your Atom? What is the rest of the system?

Hi Mark

I use the Atom predominantly as a streamer pre amp. Sometimes I use the internal Atom amp but mostly an external amp, DIY high current/power, think NAP300 equivalent. Speakers mixture of B&W and also DIY.

Any experience of a sound comparison between the two boxes?


No experience needed. The Atom HE IS better than the standard Atom when used as a streamer pre. It has an upgraded pre-amp section, as stated by Naim and will perfom better than the standard Atom when used as such. Obviously the downside is that it doesn’t have an power amp section. :+1:t2:

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About 1.5 month ago I upgraded from an Atom that I was using as a preamp/streamer to an Atom HE. My power amplifier and subwoofer can be connected through balanced cables, so the Atom HE was a logical upgrade.

To answer your question: yes, the Atom HE does sound better than the Atom as a preamp. However, the Atom is a fantastic preamp already and I could for sure live with it. The Atom HE adds more imaging, relaxedness and detail to the sound. It is like the Atom as a preamp, but better. The headphone listening experience differs like night and day between the two. I actually appreciate headphone listening now like I never did before with any device I had in the past.

I traded in my Atom and the extra investment in the Atom HE has already been long forgotten.



To the above, I’d also add this from the What Hi-Fi review of Uniti Atom HE, where they directly compared it with Atom:

"The soundstage is broader and more refined, detail levels go up a notch, and rhythmically things are that bit tighter and more disciplined.

These sonic advancements improve upon a performer that is still a class leader in its more traditional field, making this an even more impressive achievement."

There are a lot of upgrades inside the Atom HE - it’s not just a case of adding more headphone sockets.


I looked for an online manual for Atom HE but could not find. Can unbalanced pre-amp output of Atom HE be fixed for it to be paired as a source with an integrated amp, e.g., Nait XS2?

I think not, but you are free to turn up the volume to 100% and leave it like that. I did the same with my Chord Hugo back in the day.

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