SQ issue! Chord qutest vs uniti atom


I have a dilemma which I am trying to resolve! I have both a Naim uniti Atom and an innuos zen mini my 3 hooked up to a gryphon Diablo 300 which feeds B&W 802 d3s. I use hi res steaming via quboz and tidal.

I have been wanting to upgrade my SQ and realised that I can’t get a digital output from my uniti atom so decided to try the separates way.

I got an innuos zen mini mk3 as a streamer and hooked it to a chord qutest external dac via usb ( have tried optical digital as well). I was expecting the SQ from the innuos+ qutest to be better if not just as good as the atom…But the sound quality from the atom sounds much better, has more sharpness, depth and the music feels more engaging. The sound from the qutest ( rca output) sounds in comparison dull and flat…

I am a bit gobsmacked as I have heard so many good things about the qutest. I have a LPSU powering the qutest as well but it’s still not as good as the atom…

I am now planning to sell off my innuos and chord but can’t get my head around how to improve my sq…

Any thoughts which don’t involve breaking the bank? The other thought I have is to stick to using the atom as a dac streamer.


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The Diablo is a very high quality amplifier and really merits an equally fine streamer. An NDX2 plus power supply should be ideal. There is a lot of hot air about Innuos and Chord products, but they are not to everyone’s taste.


The Atom seems a bit wasted if you’re just using it as a source. Your system also seems rather source-light - that’s a lot of amp and speaker to be running from such relatively modest sources. I would change it for a better dedicated streamer such as at least something like the NDX2. Sounds like it’s time to make a appointment with your dealer to discuss the options and take a listen to some streamers.

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if the current streamer only needs a naim dac, ndac would be the obvious cheap choice. I do not know the features of the zen streamer so maybe you need a dedicated streamer to get access to tidal//qobuz.

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Why don’t you take the optional Diablo dac, a module, which can be inserted inside the Diablo 300. It’s a 3k option but much better vs the Atom.
As HH said, the Diablo, a 20k euros integrated, deserves a much better source than the Atom. And why did you bought the atom, as you need only a dac and a streamer?
With the additional Diablo dac, you just need a transport. Like the Innuos Zen mini, but the Diablo deserves more.
Or you can also have an Ndx2/ Xpsdr as source, and keep the Innuos as a ripper and Nas.

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I think the optional card for the Gryphon Diablo is more around 6K (5750€ on a dealer website).

To answer to the topic question, it’s very strange, I have an Hugo 2, it’s basically a Qutest with headphone amp, and it sounds very good when used alone (I am more reserved when I plug it into the Nova). Maybe you need to burn it a little bit.

If the budget allows it, according to reviews there are many great DACs that can match the quality of your amp around the 10k (DCS Bartók, Chod Dave…etc.) and around the 6K (Chord TT2, APL DSD-AR, Auralic Vega G2.1, Naim NDX 2…etc.). You have a pretty high quality amplifier / speakers that, maybe, deserves a better source to sound their best.


Thanks for the suggestion. I might need to send back the innuos, atom , chord and then try an ndx2

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Yep :+1:

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Hi, to further @frenchrooster query, how come you bought the atom…? In theory the Qutest should be a ‘better’ DAC to that which you’ll find in the Atom but these things often aren’t based on listening reality. The Atom is brilliant on its own. It’s a one-box solution and the components are designed to work in harmony. I borrowed a 200 to try on mine and it made it considerably less fun to listen to, to my ears.

This is my dilemma. The vocals on atom is more forward, clearer, detailed and punchy. The qutest sounds dull and a bit flat in comparison. Perhaps it’s the innuos zen mini my 3 streamer that’s below par? I connected the digital output from an old NAD CD player to the qutest to see how that sounds. The atom shines better again, on a non hi res recording. Am puzzled as to why the qutest is not matching up. Asked a couple of mates to have a listen and both of the, felt that the atom was clearer with more front vocals and sharper!

I am tempted to just use the atom as a dac streamer and return the qutest and innuos. But also keen to try and improve upon the sq from my amp and speakers, to get the best out of them. I don’t want to spend more than 2000 and perhaps use the atom as a trade in but finding the sweet spot seems hard!

I have had all these in various combinations (ZM3, Qutest, Atom, NDX2). I still have the Atom for my second system and a Hugo2 (same DAC as Qutest, internally) with a 2Go for my portable headphone system.

Your limiting factor here is the ZenMini3, which can be improved with the external PSU, but is not on a par with the Qutest or the Atom (although it can be quite good as just a UPnP server accessed from the Atom). Part of the limitation is caused by using the ZM3 as both server and renderer concurrently (many threads on this) into the Qutest. Also your interconnects need to be of an equivalent standard to your main components.

Your choice really is whether to go:-

  1. the separates route (split the server, network renderer and DAC - feeding a pre-amp (or with a digital preamp) - which is non-Naim up to the pre.

  2. The Naim separates route, server (Naim Core or alternative), ND (*5XS2, *X2) streamer with on onboard DAC, Naim pre-amp or integrated.

3 Fully integrated one box solution such as Atom, Nova or a non-Naim e.g. from Linn.

There are variations on the above, e.g. using a Naim streamer on digital-out into a separate DAC.

Also consider whether you really need a file-store server since USB drives/sticks and microSD cards can hold a lot of music data (and many streaming devices can read one of these formats), and Qobuz & Tidal offer an increasing amount of hi-res music.

Best to find a good dealer who will enable a demo of a shortlisted set of options, or you can use the secondhand market to ‘sample’ the alternatives.


Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t really need a server as I don’t have many cds and tend to stream most of my music from Tidal and Quboz and occasionally Spotify.

Perhaps I need to also try the innuos zen mk3 , the next level up with the qutest!

The Innuos is doing nothing other than a transport. The issue won’t be the Innuos. It’s basically acting like a quieter laptop. I don’t see why you’ve got such a convoluted system, but perhaps I’ve missed something. You have the Gryphon. I agree with @frenchrooster that a DAC card in this amp makes far, far more sense than buggering about with all these external bits. The DAC is designed to match the amp.

I don’t understand where the Atom sits. Simply plug the Innuos into the Qutest, and into the Gryphon, or get a DAC you prefer. This may be the optional Gryphon or it may be something else. Again - in your system (assuming you have bypassed the DAC in the Zen…?) the Innuos is just a transport - that is, unless you have not disabled the DAC.

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I had the atom before a major upgrade of
my amp and speakers. I thought of fitting in the atom to act as a dac streamer into the gryphon. Then proceeded to get an innuos and qutest to improve the sq. Had planned to sell off the atom but the sq from qutest didn’t seem better than atom… that’s when I felt a bit stuck. The option to add a dac to the gryphon is a bit too expensive at 6 grand at the moment for me, although I agree it’s the simplest option. Was trying to find a solution, a midway point which won’t break the bank as I have blown all my money on speakers and amp! Hope it makes sense

You’ve got a £13,000 amplifier and some £17,000 speakers, and you’re wondering why a £1,200 Dac or a £2,300 all in one don’t sound that great. It’s hardly a surprise. You need a streamer that matches the quality of the rest in order to get a satisfying outcome. A Naim NDX2 or ND555, with a 555DR power supply, a Linn KDS3, Chord Dave and Innuos Zenith, DCS Rossini, or similar. You got yourself into this pickle with your very expensive amp and speakers, and it’s going to cost to get out of it and establish a nicely balanced system.


Maybe sell the atom, the qtest and the zen mini and take a second hand Ndx2 for now. Later you could add an XPS dr.


Thanks for your thoughts. I am going to scope out prices for a second hand ndx2 and trade or sell the atom and chord. I have always had a mindset that it’s worth spending on speakers and amp more than the source.


If you decide to move away from the Qutest before you do this can you borrow an MScaler from your local dealer to try, trust me it makes a big difference.

Thanks… yet another twist in the tale to consider! will try and see if there is a home demo unit available somewhere in London.