I know that the Uniti Atom has RCA “Preamp Output” connectors and can therefore connect to a Naim power amplifier; but what I would like to do is use it as a source for a NAC 52 preamplifier.
So my question is: can I connect this output to a NAC 52 source input?
You can, but you will have to set the Atom volume to a suitable level. Note you will also be going through 2 pre-amp stages and volume controls, so it’s not as ideal as a dedicated LINE OUT.
Will it be a significant sonic difference do you think?
For example, assuming I had a CDS2 and the Atom both running through the NAC 52, how much difference would you expect from the CDS2 playing a CD compared to the Atom playing a lossless FLAC file of the same CD?
I started out with an Atom, then added a NAP200 this gave a modest improvement, but the biggest improvement to the SQ was the addition of a NAC202, even the dealer couldn’t believe the improvement. I then replaced the Atom with an NDX2.
I’d be pretty surprised if the CDS2 didn’t trounce the Atom. But it’s hardly a fair comparison.
Fair enough, I think you can see what I’m trying to do here though.
I’d like to connect a source to a NAC 52 which will allow me to play FLAC files that sit on a USB drive.
Is there anything else I can look at, a DAC-V1 perhaps, or should I start looking further afield at sources like a Chord Mojo?
An ND5XS2 costs about the same as an Atom, and doesn’t have a wasted amp in it. Or a used NDX. There are plenty of options.
I ran an NDX into 52/SC/135s, a lovely combination (now replaced by ND555 into the olives), using UPNO from a NAS rather than USB. As Chris says, they are available second-hand for less than the price of an Atom, and will sound great. The ND5-XS2 might be the better choice, it can take the USB and serve it as UPNP to itself, which for me provides a nicer interface via the Naim app in an IOS or Android device.
ND5 XS2 is more suitable for what you are trying to do. I did a similar evaluation when choosing between a Uniti or dedicated streamer, and I bought the ND5 XS2.
Of course, the ND5XS2 is Naim’s entry level separates streamer, so you could say that it’s going to be a bit of a mullet in a system that has a 52, Naim’s top preamp in its day. Perhaps what you really need is an NDS or ND555!
One of the inputs on my 52 has uniti gain.
Should I use that for the Atom?
You could do that - it would mean that the Atom would take over volume control for that input.
Sonically, is that a better solution than having the signal going through a “normal” input and therefore subject to two volume controls?
Possibly - it does mean you avoid two volume controls - but I’ve not compared one to the other in this scenario, so couldn’t say for sure.
OK, let me check my understanding here.
The signal coming into the preamp is attenuated by the preamp’s volume control circuitry before being passed to the power amp. A uniti gain input allows the signal to bypass this attenuation circuitry and proceed directly to the power amp, is that correct?
that’s essentially correct.
Honestly, just get a ND5xs2 or even a second hand ND5xs if you just want to get it working without compromises. Plonk it down; simple DIN interconnect to aux and you’re done.
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