Uniti Atom vs Atom HE - Headphone and TV usage

Hi community,
I am thinking of getting the Atom Headphone edition. Initially I was only planning for getting a small form factor device for my desk in the office to stream music and listen via headphones. Something like the Limetree network. Then I stumbeled over the Atom and read a lot of reviews. Now I´m a little torn apart between the classic and Headphone edition.
My use case would be 50% headphone usage, but I also would like to set up a small system for the TV and would love to connect it via HDMI-Arc. Unfortunately this seems to be missing in the Headphone Edition, right?
Is there a workaround you could suggest or would it be better to go for the classic version to also have some more freedom in the choice of the speakers? I read that the headphone output in the classic version is not the best.
Thank you.

If your TV has an optical s/pdif output then I would suggest using that. The Atom HE has s/pdif inputs.


HDMI ARC connections are notoriously unreliable. Optical, as Richard suggests, is a safer option. You don’t have the convenience of automatic input switching and volume control via the TV remote that you get with HDMI ARC, but it tends to work consistently. So the Atom HE could be worth it for you, but obviously you will need either a power amp or powered speakers.

Thanks…I have to check for an optical output on my LG OLED from 2019. And yes, I would need some speakers in the future. The question here is, if I should go with powered ones or better add an power amp, as you already stated. Hmm…is there Pro and Con for both solutions or a red flag for either of them from your opinion? I have to add, that I have three little ladies and that´s why I don´t want to get larger floor speakers. They can´t keep their little hands from stuff like that.

Most TVs have optical out (Toslink) so you should be OK there.
Personally I would probably go for a separate power amp and speakers for flexibility, but Naim don’t currently make an amp to match the Atom. Powered speakers are an increasingly popular option though, and there are small standmounts such as the Acoustic Energy AE1 Active that might be worth a look.

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Do you know whether there are some reviews dealing with the headphone output of the normal atom? I mean that would be the other option, not to go for the HE

Sounds like you’d be better off with just a normal Atom!

What are your headphones? IIRC, the headphone output of the normal Atom is not great for demanding ones. See here:

and also here:

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I have just some beyerdynamic T5p2 they are low ohms portable. So from the powert side it shouldn’t be a problem?

It’s not spectacular, rather functional. I’d expect the HE being a dedicated system for headphone listening to be vastly superior. It only takes a 3.5mm plug as well, high impedance headphones would be very difficult to drive efficiently and you just won’t get the best out of them. I have found the Atoms output via headphones very lacking and that’s with low impedance models its why I have a separate rig. Some are happy with it though it’s what you prefer and need that’s important.

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Those might be a very good fit for the normal Atom, being easy to drive. Though of course nothing beats trying them out on both, there are cans that are nominally not too hard to drive but still benefit a lot from a very good headphone amp. Of course if you get the HE, you are already well on the path to a headphone upgrade :wink:

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:grimacing: I’m afraid that might be true. I really love my t5p it such a difference to listen to music compared to cheap cans or even devices like the apple airpods. I would love to have a solution for my living room maybe in combination with acoustic energy ae1.
I read a lot about the focal utopia but I guess they are out of my price range. Maybe I have the chance to test them somewhere

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I am not a headphone person but I loved the Sennheiser HD800S with a warm-sounding headphone amp (Violectrix). Might be a good fit with the Atom HE as well

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I think you are right about the paring of the Sennheiser HD800S. I bought an RME ADI-2 Fs and it could drive them properly but there was no synergy between them (a least for me) : it was too agressif, too crispy highs, the large soundstage of the HD800s was gone and it was lacking musicality. Maybe the Sennheiser needs a warmer amp to balance it.
I’ll return this amp and try to find a better paring.

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I can totally imagine that with amp that in itself has the same properties as the 800S, it can be too much. I thought it gelled really well with the Violectrix. Maybe even tubes

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That’s why the RME has adjustable filters as well as DSP/EQ, you should use them. :slight_smile:

There is not really such thing as a warm amp inherently, warm just means that it has emphasized bass response, and possibly attenuated highs.

I disagree. Different amps can all have the same totally flat frequency response (and in fact all modern amps more or less do), and still sound different regarding what is colloquially described with terms such as “clean”, “crispy”, “warm”, etc.

In my example, the Violectrix 280 sounded distinctly “warmer” than other headphone amps I tried, but has a 5 Hz - 70 Hz (-0.5 dB) frequency range

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Yes but how does the response curve look? Because that is what determines how warm or cool the amp sounds:

The RME has adjustable curves so you can tweak the response to better match the headphones you are using:

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I didn’t find a diagram for the 280, but if it has a max. deviation of 0.5 dB from 5 Hz to 70 kHz, it is essentially flat. The curves in your diagram have more than +/- 3 dB at 20 Hz,+6-9dB at 2 kHz, and ~-9dB at 20 kHz. These curves look either EQ-ed or are not actually measuring the amp but what comes out of attached headphones. No modern amp has default curves like this.

Edit: Found a curve for the 281:

The curves are headphone response measurements for the Focal Clear and Elex, compared to the Harman curve. The Harman curve is what we as humans generally find most ‘pleasant’ to listen to.

What the chart shows is that by default, the Focals have a slightly attenuated bass response, which makes them sound less warm. If you pair this with a amplifier that is completely neutral or also on the cool side, this could sound unpleasant to some people. So a warm-neutral sounding amplifier could be a good match.

The RME allows you to make these kinds of adjustments (2nd image), by increasing the bass response slightly it will make the headphones sounds slightly warmer.

Other amplifiers such as the Violectric and the Atom HE are using the same kind of adjustments internally, but they are not user adjustable like with the RME.