Naim & Focal IMHO Owners Reviews

Good day Hifi Aficionados,

Since we are all music enthusiasts who are exchanging ideas on that Naim Audio forum, i thought about a place to write your personal review of the Naim & Focal products you own. Whatever your hifi way of listening music, it would be interesting to have real owners sharing their thoughts & experiences. Thank you all!

Rickysixx8

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Naim Atom Uniti HE & Focal Stellia headphones
‘’The Umami Duo’’

Umami (うま味) means “essence of delight” in Japanese. Difficult, if not impossible, to answer clearly, consider the Japanese. Overall, the umami comes down to the famous taste of “come back to it”, in other words an exacerbated sensation of pleasure, which makes want to relive the present moment endlessly. Its fundamental effect is its ability to balance and round out the entire flavor. The umami taste sensation of these combined ingredients exceeds the taste of each of the ingredients alone.

Test System:

• Naim Atom Uniti HE
• Focal Stellia Close back Headphones with balanced XLR Focal 3m cable
• Seagate 3.0 SSD drive
• Bis Audio AC20 1.8m power cable
• IsoAcoustics Iso-Puck mini

Playlist | Test version:

• Pink Floyd, Time, 1973 | FLAC 24-192
• Holly Cole, Girl Talk, 1990 | Remastered 2013 2xHD DSD64
• Boston, More Than a Feeling, 1976 | Remastered DSD64
• Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tin Pan Alley, 1984| Remastered DSD64
• Dire Straight, Brothers in Arms 1985| Remastered 2022 FLAC 24-192
• Dream Theater, The Looking Glass, 2013 | FLAC 24-96
• Yaron Herman Trio, Heart Shape Box (K.Cobain), 2010 | FLAC 16-44
• Yo-Yo Ma, Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suite No 1 in G Major BWV 1007: I. Prélude, 2018 | FLAC 24-192
• Supertramp, School, 1974 | Remastered 2014 FLAC 24-192
• Daniel Bélanger, La Folie en Quatre, 1999 | FLAC 16-44
• Jacqueline du Pré, Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op.85: I. Adagio – Moderato, 1969 | Remastered 2023 FLAC 24-192
• Billie Eilish, bad guy, 2019 | FLAC 16-44

The Duo

With a nice prolonged and necessary ‘’breaking’’ period for the Naim Uniti HE (more than 300hrs) and for the Focal Stellia (over 100hrs) I feel ready for my personal impression of the Duo. The minimum I suggest would be 100hrs for the Atom Uniti HE and 48hrs for the Stellia. They are still getting better day to day and probably will for the next couple of month or so. With the Uniti Atom HE, I needed a pair of close back headphones for practical use of family living. There it was.

The Atom Uniti HE opened up on bass frequencies and soundstage after 5 days of continues playing. I use a Bis Audio AC20 power cable, that I find helps bass frequencies preciseness. I have also placed 4 Isoacoustics isopuck mini as isolation feet which IMO add definition. The Uniti HE is a ‘’surgical precision’’ streaming, preamp, and headphones amp unit able to handle files up to 384kHz/32-bit and DSD128. It will give you back what you feed it, so the higher quality the source the higher result you will get out of it. Bad source and poorly recorded music albums will result in an unsatisfying listening session. The unit is well built, compact; screen is beautiful and gives all the needed details of the track you are listening. The Naim app with my iPad is user friendly. Albums indexation is well done, and presentation of album artwork is beautiful, though you have to use ‘’folder.jpg’’ for it to identify them correctly. I personally chose the dark interface. Some streaming services are already built in, Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz. I have my albums on a Seagate usb 3.0 SSD connected to the back of the HE.

I chose the Focal Stellia’s to pair with it. They have well balanced and controlled bass, mids and high frequencies. Bass are tights, mids and highs not at all aggressive even with prolonged hours of listening, with no ear fatigue. The luxury build and comfort are exquisite. The XLR 3m cable is well construct and match the headphones perfectly. On the other hand, I found the too short not useful TRS 1.2m cable to be out of his league. I would have like a 3m TRS cable with the same build qualities as the XLR. As close back, one would argue about soundstage and imaging. For the good of my review, soundstage is more concerned with the sense of space and atmosphere in the music, while imaging is more concerned with the precision and accuracy of the individual sound sources.

That is where the test playlist comes into business

The Duo Atom Uniti Atom HE/ Stellia offers a refine musical listening. Instruments timbre, or tone quality, as a precision degree having me rediscovering all my albums with rich details and wonderful musicality. The Stellia’s have a nice immersive soundstage. I do not have the impression of being inside headphones. Imaging is convincing and each instrument is easy to identify. I will not go into details of all the tracks I have suggested in my test list. I invite you, if you are up to the challenge, to have fun with it.

Daniel Bélanger, La Folie en Quatre, 1999 | FLAC 16-44
This track reveals soundstage at its best; you can feel the size of the room and its reverberation. The intimate acoustic guitar, followed with the deepness of the contrabass and dynamics of the drums, are well separated, and let the vocal shines through the mix. There is a little trumpet solo and a second trumpet close out at the very end of the song that is overlaying with brilliance and with all the richness and respect of its tone and dynamic.

Billie Eilish, bad guy, 2019 | FLAC 16-44
For obvious reasons, this track shows how much bass the Stellia’s can handle. What amazed me though was not the bass rendering which is unfaulty. Billie Eilish style brings an intimate in your face smooth vocal. The back vocals she is doing, are well placed in the field and you can see a multitude of little Billie appearing in front of you and from left to right singing.

Jacqueline du Pré, Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op.85: I. Adagio – Moderato, 1969 | Remastered 2023 FLAC 24-192
I really like how dynamics shine through with the pianissimo and fortissimo passages of this track. All the sensibility and mastering of du Pré cello playing even at whispering level, in contrast of the full orchestra loudest parts. Every bit of it keeps structure and instruments tonal qualities, those of du Pré cello well overlaid in front of the stage.

Conclusion
I am so amaze by the Naim Uniti Atom HE and Focal Stellia; I had to do this review. Thanks to all of you with your post, some of you without knowing it, who help me with your advice and sharing. Here are just my two cents. At the end of the day, the way you are listening to your music is personal. For my needs, I found an Umami Duo that have me comes everyday for more musical happiness. I still wonder where it will get me…

2023-09-06 prices for Naim Atom Uniti HE $4999cad and Focal Stellia $3999cad.

Rickysixx8, September 6, 2023

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Great test track playlist. Thanks!

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I wish I had time to write something like that, as it would mean that I am happily retired and living the good life! :smile: Someday! :crossed_fingers:

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Stellia are getting better each week. I pushed the breaking a bit further with volume at 45 on the Atom HE (not while i listen…it would be too loud), for another 24 hours or so. I find that dynamic and definition opened at lower listening volume like 20-26.

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