The Atom vs Star or Nova - is it worth the upgrade?

Hello - I recently purchased an Atom, which I have paired with KEF R3’s. While I do enjoy the sound very much, I am now wondering if it is worth the rather significant budgetary upgrade to the Star or Nova. The CD functionality of the Star would be great - but at roughly €2000 for the upgrade, that is a rather expensive CD player. Given that the Nova upgrade would be €3000 more than the Atom, it is a very big price difference. (Note - these prices are Swedish prices, which include 25% VAT). The system is placed in a relatively small living room of roughly 24 square meters. So my question is, given my speaker and small room, will the improvement in sound be worth the high price? Thank you very much.

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You need to work out what you are prepared to compromise longer term.
The Uniti range focuses on getting as much out of one box but there’s a limit to what is possible so if you have the space and want to focus on improving performance then moving to a NAIT and an ND streamer will give you more.
If you want to go further still then you eventually end up increasingly seperating out the sub systems by using external power supplies and putting the pre and power amps in their own boxes.
If however your preference is to stick to only one box then chose the product that fits your budget.
The Star will perform better than the Atom and the Nova will perform better than either the Atom or the Star.
If you’ve got the itch and want more performance and don’t want to start spending serious cash, a NAIT XS (2 or 3 will do) and an ND5 XS2 will give you equivalent functionality to the Atom but with improved performance, using two boxes instead of one. Later you can chose to add a HiCap power supply to the NAIT XS or move to the Supernait and then even the NDX2.
You need to factor in an analogue interconnect as well, one is included with the source products but many users will add a Hi-Line as an upgrade at some stage.

DependS on your future use. When i bought my UQ2 i thought that, from the moment that streamIng was consciously adopted, the CD would be Redundant . I would prefer give the investment on a better dac/ amp (of a Nova) then an transport (cd of Star)

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If your Atom has no issue driving your current speakers, the difference is probably not worth it. The Star will be a nice step up though, and allow you to get better speakers, but if you don’t foresee yourself upgrading those any time soon, be satisfied and stick with what you have.

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Ive listened to all 3 and own both and Atom and (2) Novas. On modern well produced music you will find the Atom holds its own very well and the Star is nearly as good as the Nova. On older recordings though the Nova is way ahead, it gets much more from the music.

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Really? Now that’s something I had not heard. So as someone who listens to lots of Jazz, what would the Nova bring out that the Atom can’t?

Evening, I’m afraid I’m not as Jazz fan so don’t really have an opinion regarding the Atom / Star /Nova. I do find with older Rock, Punk and Alternative its the Nova that shines.

As a Nova owner for almost 2 years now that was new to Naim at the time that listens to a lot of jazz along with lots of rock and lots of acoustic guitar instrumental music and the Nova handles “jazz” and all of the above great if you are using Naca5s , but really shines when you add a Powerline (FF) into the mix. Once you do that there is no going back. I was all set to get an Atom, then thought about a Star and at the last minute decided to wait a few more months and get a Nova waiting was the best thing I did because of the performance on the Nova. But will say that i am now looking ahead in the coming years to upgrading to Naim Separates because I really love the Naim sound !

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Cewheelock

Some background. I own more Naim than you can shake a stick at. Equipment includes a peamp, two amps, an integrated amp, two CD players, two HiCaps, a Supercap, a SuperLine, two Stagelines, Fraim, and a lot of cable. I own other stuff as well. I mention this because I need to be in Audiophiles Anonymous or at the funny farm and because you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. One, how much money do you have? Two, how much space do you have? Three, are you anal retentive and just love to have the latest greatest that you can afford. Four, do you just love to tweek and enjoy the hobby you select. So, if you answered, I have lots of money, I have lots of space, yes I am anal retentive, and yes I just love to tweek, then separates are for you and Naim makes some world class examples at several price levels.

If, on the other hand, you purchased your Atom because you just love music and for you that’s all that’s important then stick with that Atom. It’s brilliant as is the whole Uniti range. It is great sounding, flexible, and easy to use. If you change speakers and need more power or more connectivity, the Nova is awesome.

For Naim and for others, Uniti like products are the future. Older crazy people like myself are, shall we say, transitioning.

Sorry for the long response but as soon as you asked, well meaning folks were moving you to complication. There is an alternative.

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I had an early Atom, the Nova was unavailable.

The Atom developed an unfixable dispaly issue and was RMA’d.

By the time a replacement Atom was available at the dealer they had the Nova in stock.

I demoed their Atom vs Nova with my own speakers.

The difference was substantial in so many ways, but primarily significantly more detail on the Nova as well as consdierably better handling of complex musical passages which were muddled on the Atom.

I think this has less to do with power output than simply the fact that the cost difference has allowed a better power supply and accessory circuitry to lift an already excellent platform on the Atom to a different level.

Don’t get me wrong, the Atom is excellent value, and much of this may depend on your starting point as having always had high-end analogue playback which digital still doesn’t match in my view, apart from convenience, the Atom and Nova were the first digital players at a moderate pricepoint I’ve been happy using instead of vinyl.

With the Nova I’d probably describe it rather than ‘lifting a veil’ that it adds an extra layer of sound and tidies up what’s already there.

YMMV, but I’d really recommend an A/B demo if you can with your own music.

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In my case the Naim Atom sounds so amazingly good on my Dynaudio Contour S 3.4 LE loudspeakers, that I cannot imagine that it can sound that much better. Of course I hear that complex music sounds a bit muddled now and then. Also I do hear that adding more power would get a stronger grip on the loudspeakers. But boy, does it make music! There will be a point in time where I will audition a Nova, but until then I am just afraid that I will trade musicality for detail and resolution. Any thoughts on that?

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Traded my Atom for a Nova and never regretted it. Soundstage increased considerably with much better bass control and no loss of musicality

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No I’d be surprised if it was less musical, as I mentioned it almost felt as though it added a layer of detail onto excellent bas performance and sorted out muddy bass lines and complex rhythms were easier to follow.

Ideally try to A/B them with you own music if you decide to look at an upgrade, though the Atom is highly capable and had my display not failed I might still have it!

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I have found claims from several Atom owners that Atom is the most musical of the Unity series.

Well Atom owners would say that, wouldn’t they!

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You are Atom owner?

I did have an Atom but now have a Nova. Both v good pieces of kit but would not say Atom is more musical than Nova. As Nova owner I would say that wouldn’t I !

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Does anyone have experience with sound quality between the Nova and Star?

I’ve heard them both, own the Star. I’d say they sound very similar, Nova being slightly better in every respect. But for me it wasn’t worth the difference in price. Nova does have a bit more power, so with some speakers that could be a factor.

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It is so hard to demo anything now with lockdown. I have an Atom, and even when my dealer came over (a brand agnostic place and the best in town in my view), he was blown away by my system synergy, my extremely quiet electricity, and how well it meshes with the room. He kind of discouraged me from touching the system, but you know, I really want to hear the difference with the Nova.

I wonder, in part because of the electricity, whether part of what distinguished the Nova for some is better power filtering for dirtier juice? I mean, I imagine that it is all around better, but sometimes the areas of improvement may not apply to the use case.

I wish Naim were more forthcoming about what they put under the hood. But that is not their way.

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