Pairing Speakers “The Always Question”

In need of some basic counsel for a music listening space in my home. Will sit about 15 feet away, carpeted, windows, various angles. Budget $10,000. Music preferences include classical, folk, popular, jazz, and occasionally rock n roll. Loudness not a priority, whereas nuance, clarity, detail is key. Input sources will be CD and Tidal or Spotify; no phonograph, and this is not the home theater space.

My inclination is to pair the Nail Uniti Atom with two Focal Aria 948 floor standing speakers and then add in a good CD player. I’m looking not to have to add a subwoofer here and have no room for speakers behind the sitting area. This space, at the ‘other end,’ is a dining room area. As I used to say to my counseling clients, you can be married or you can be right. So, compromises always exist, the goal is never quite attainable to the ‘nth degree,’ and good enough can be obtained.

ANY thoughts are welcome.

I don’t think the Focal Aria 948 are going to be at all a good match for an Atom; they are rather a difficult speaker to drive with an 8Ω nominal impedance and 2.5Ω minimum impedance. This implies very wide impedance swings and probably a large phase angle; combined with the low minimal impedance, this makes for a very difficult load for any amplifier, never-mind something small like an Atom.

In terms of avoiding a sub, what are the dimensions of the room? (This strongly affects the resonances and hence how speakers with extended bass response will interact with the room). Also bear in mind that the Atom isn’t the last work in controlling the lower bass response from speakers that already have a tendency to cause ‘boom’ or ‘one note bass’ in a room.

You also need to be aware that speakers are the part of the replay chain that have the single greatest effect on the ‘overall sound’ of the system - they primarily need to be selected not on technical grounds, but by listening to them (in demos, and then if at all possible set up a shortlist for a home demo, to hear the interaction with these speakers your own room).

I think it would be better to get the Atom HE with active speakers. If budget allows, rather than getting a CD player, have you considered a Uniti Core and ripping all your CD and playing from the core.

You may want to consider buying pre loved boxes. It might allow you to use separate sources for cd and streaming together with an integrated amp plus a set of loudspeakers. Just a thought.

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I would more advise something as Naim Uniti Nova and Proac tablette signature. Should be around 10k dollars, and well balanced system. You even don’t need a CD player in that case.


Thank you. Could you work it the other way? Assume the Focal Aria 948 or 936, what integrated amp might you pair that allows adequate power and control?

I’m open to the Naim Nova.

I’m actually open to a wide variety of options but would like to have an amp with the streaming capacity built-in.

Or Atom HE and active ATC , as Paul suggested.

Hi Tdoc,

Welcome to the forum. This will be shifted into the HiFi Corner by Richard I am sure.

How big is your room? What is the construction? Is it regular in shape?


If you want the 948, or similar speakers, then a Nova is a far more viable proposition. The point of these all in ones is that you really don’t need a CD player. You can rip your CDs and either keep them on a nas or plug the hard drive into the back. It keeps everything tidy, means you can access all your music via the Naim App, and crucially saves you some cash.

I’d suggest you keep an open mind on speakers. Listen to a few to see which you prefer, then try to borrow them to use at home for a few days.

The Nova would do a much better job with the 948s or 936s, but even then they’re still not ideally suited, in the Naim range the 250DR (or even 300DR!) is a much better match for these difficult speakers.

Unless you’re absolutely welded to the idea of the Aria 948s or 936s, I think auditioning a much wider range of speakers would be a very good idea.

As I said:
“You also need to be aware that speakers are the part of the replay chain that have the single greatest effect on the ‘overall sound’ of the system - they primarily need to be selected not on technical grounds, but by listening to them.”

The room is shaped roughly like a rectangle. When one comes into the front entrance to the house, if one looks left, there is a large opening to this ‘rectangle.’ To the right a supporting wall and then another large opening and then a short wall. The end of the rectangle at which I want to put the speakers has a bay window with small seating area. The other ‘side’ of the rectangle has windows with wooden and/or plastic plantation shutters, and wooden bookcases. The space is carpeted.

If I imagine the ‘bay window’ end and measure out the space for listening to music, that space would be about 13 ft by 13 ft. The width of the rectangle is 13 ft. The true length of the rectangle is 40 feet, but at the opposite end of the bay window is a formal wooden dining table with chairs.

Not ideal of course. The home was built in 1995. My goal is to create a listening space at the ‘bay window end’ and put two speakers there, on either side of the bay window, floor standing. My thinking is that floorstanding speakers will allow a wider range of tweeter, midrange and woofers. However, my interest in music has never been loudness. I live in a neighborhood and with a wife who disdains very loud music of any kind. So, classical, folk. Think Ed Sheeran or Clara Mae or Coldplay or Bright Eyes or John Coltrane or Chick Corea or movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer or John Williams or James Horner with the occasional The Who, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Janis Joplin, and David Bowie when my wife is out.

I’d like to be able to stream TIDAL and / or pop a good CD into a decent CD player, and not have to spend countless hours ripping music onto an SSD. I don’t believe I need a subwoofer in this space. I am drawn to the Atom or Nova and recognize that the latter is twice the price. For speakers I am considering pairs that together run around $5,000 USD – so perhaps a Spendor A4, Peiga Classic 5.0, Focal Aria, Paradigm Founder, that kind of thing.

I am absolutely out of my league when choosing speakers and an integrated amp, but have been told that the Atom’s 40W per channel would be sufficient, and also told that the Atom would be insufficient. I don’t want to purchase pre-loved equipment. An overall budget of $10,000 to achieve lovely music in a space shared by other uses, including family who might walk by.

My current soundstage in this space is a Bose Wavetouch radio/CD player on a wifi/bluetooth base. I often am listening to this via a set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. I recognize that this simple man’s approach is woefully inadequate when compared to the views of people in a Naim discussion forum, but reality is what reality is. So I asked the basic question of whether to stay with the Atom, or move to the Nova, and for suggestions as to speakers to pair.

Thank you for your ongoing kindness in responding! I do appreciate it and want you (all) to know that.

I am not wedded to any particular set of speakers. In fact, I am looking to have any or all of you suggest specific speakers that are floorstanding. I think we all recognize how difficult it has become in the pandemic to find decent audio stores in which to listen; the closest ‘high end’ store to my location pushes the Paradigm brand out of Canada, and my gut sense was that if I didn’t propose to spend $30,000 per speaker, I should not waste their time.

Do you have specific speakers recommendations for consideration?

Again, thanks to all, but perhaps this is not the right forum for me to ask questions? To the possibility of doubling the price of the Atom to the Nova, some are suggesting the Naim 250DR – about the same price if not higher than the Nova. And seemingly an older if updated product (first introduced in 1975) which does not have streaming capacity built-in. Or, the suggestion of the 300DR? I am terribly sorry I have apparently miscommunicated. I do not have the resources to invest $14,000 USD into a Naim 300DR.

I am simply looking for recommendations to which pair of floorstanding speakers someone may have experienced working successfully along with the Atom or the Nova. My goal is to keep the overall price point to around $10,000 USD. This may not be possible with the Nova.

I use Totem Hawks with a Nova, a lovely match and should be within budget too. Otherwise the Totem Tribe Towers, as the Hawks have been discontinued recently, though should be stock around.

BTW the 250 and 300 are power amps. You would also need a pre-amp, power supply and a streamer - way way over budget there!

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As Xanthe suggests, I’d be very wary of buying speakers unheard. The difference between speakers was brought Home to me many years ago when I did an audition of 13 different speakers, most the top of their respective manufacturer’s range, all having had glowing reviews, and priced the equivalent of £2.5-£3k in today’s money: 10 I disliked so much they didn’t get further than the first half track! (One of those gets rave comments even today, decades later by a few people on this forum who still own them.) If you can’t go and hear the speakers, see if anyone will send sale or return (you’d likely have to pay the carriage both ways. However with a limited budget secondhand makes most sense, especially for the speakers, to maximise buying power - also if you buy unheard you have a good chance of moving them on if you don’t like them losing only the purchase carriage cost and selling fee.

One immediate thought I guess within budget, even though I haven’t heard either, is Atom HE and active ATC SCM40A (I do know and love the midrange unit in these speakers). Not sure whether they’d go low enough for you but if they do I would expect that setup to sound great. You’d need a NAS or computer acting as one to store music, of course not necessary for just streamIng online if that is what you want.

Alternative front end could something like a Mac Mini running Audirvana, via an isolator like Gustard U12 into a Chord Hugo DAC, feeding the active speakers direct. That gives a combined store-renderer, so no need for a separate NAS and no streaming of files across a network when playing your own stored music, but it is not as neat or instantly plug’n’play as would be the Atom HE. I used that with original Hugo(they’e now on improved Mk 2), and it was very good, good enough that I still use the same source just with a higher end DAC.

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The mention of a 250DR was just to indicate the sort of amp needed to drive speakers as difficult as the Aria 936 & 948, it wasn’t a suggestion that you buy it (your budget won’t stretch that far). I pointed this out as in the first post you seemed to have decided on the Arias, asking what electronics to pair them with, and not be considering anything other than the Arias. I misinterpreted your post and fortunately you are open to other speakers.

Unfortunately I don’t know of any way of selecting speakers other than by listening to them. My experience of buying speaker is exactly the same as @Innocent_Bystander (although we ended up with very different speakers! :grinning:).

Be wary of speakers with good bass response - they are VERY room dependent, not only in the size of the room (the lower the bass extends, the larger room is needed to deal with it), but also in the construction of the room (strong low bass can cause resonances in lightweight walls such as those made from wood and drywall, causing strange acoustic effects). I know this doesn’t help if you can’t try the speakers at home.

However, after purchase, to customise strong low bass response adjusting it to the characteristics of the room, can be done in two ways and both require a DSP:
The first is digital room correction using large speakers - this usually results in a loss of midrange clarity and nuance from the music (although sometimes less than the loss from an acoustically ‘confused’ room); how significant this loss is to you, only you can decide.
The second involves using smaller speakers and a subwoofer - this approach maintains the clarity of the system but you explicitly said you don’t want to use a sub.

I am a fan of active speakers. I have active ATC 40s with a non-Naim pre-streamer as my main system and my musical tastes are somewhat similar to those of the OP. What I look for in a system is that it creates a realistic and musically engaging representation of the musicians in my room and my current system does that better for me than anything I have heard at around the same price point.

However, I don’t know local prices for the OP, but I’d be surprised if Atom HE + ATC 40 actives didn’t substantially exceed the $10k limit. A cheaper alternative would be active ATC 19s with Atom HE and these ought to be within budget. How readily available though is hard to guess. There are an increasing number of active speakers coming on the market, but I prefer to comment on ones I’ve actually heard.


The Atom is a fantastic device and is probably the best bang for buck Naim product there is. If you like the idea of this then stick with the plan but just try to find a speaker that can be driven a little better with 40 watts. To be honest, if you don’t intend to play at loud volumes you might be ok with the focal you like. Also, then you have a speaker that can see you through the next upgrade. On this forum you will repeatedly find ridiculous recommendations. It is a Naim forum after all and everyone here buys to their own budget and maybe forgets that most people can’t or don’t want to spend tens of thousands on kit.

My last speaker was a large floorstander with 12” bass and a 6“ mid. I used this for a year with the atom with really enjoyable results. It was 89db sensitivity with 8ohm nominal impedance and a 5ohm minimum. In all normal listening levels this was great. The Atom only lost grip at really loud volumes.

My current speaker is 8ohm nominal and 4ohm minimum but 91db sensitivity and can be played at ear splitting levels with seemingly no loss of control from the atom. Although the Atom does only provide output down to 80hz as it is semi active.

Maybe a thread title of “speaker recommendations for uniti atom” might yield more useable responses. Good luck :+1:

According to What HiFi Atom HE is $3,290 in USA. ATC SCM40A are £7,400 new in UK (presumably quite a bit more in USA), however they crop up from time to time secondhand maybe around £5k - obviously shipping could add a fair chunk to that, however HiFi Shark tells me that there was a pair secondhand for sale in USA towards the end of 2020 for $6,590 - and that was the new shape, the old (more boxy) shape would likely go for less.

That would be a pretty awesome option for sure! Guaranteed value for money.