I love high quality audio. It brings more joy to hear well controlled bass and I like the signature sound of even modern Naim. However I also really enjoy convenience and no wires.
The Uniti range brings that and the Atom is a delightful, small bit of kit with everything I might want including being able to plug the TV into it (for some reason, if I wanted to). However it doesn’t play CDs which I consider to be a mainstay of music. Whilst I subscribe to Spotify, I still like to have CDs and enjoy touching them and putting them into the machine. Also Spotify is annoyingly expensive in some respects and I may change provider losing my playlists and history. I don’t consider it a full life replacement. (The questions here aren’t about spotify, I still enjoy and use it but it could go anywhere in the future, that’s all I am saying)
To solve this, there is of course the Star. But it’s a slot loader and doesn’t play some of my weird shaped CDs (the single of Brain Stew is brain shaped). I’m also not sure if the HDMI socket is ARC - well there’s lots of HDMI questions because some don’t have one.
Or… I could go external and get a CD player and plug it in. But naim doesn’t do a half width CD player meaning the setup will be odd and although a Cyrus would fit sonically and physically, that would use RCA sockets meaning I couldn’t plug a Phono stage in for the record player.
One of these solutions will do and I’m thinking Uniti Star really. But I’d appreciate anyone who has any thoughts, ideas or experience, maybe with multiroom systems where they have the smaller units in one room or features they never knew they needed to just butt in and say what they think. There are no wrong answers (any of the options above suit me really but I have to pick one ultimately!). Just anything you think I should consider.
I’ve not been to the dealer yet for technical questions and close ups with respect to buying (though I have heard the uniti systems in preparation for choosing against some alternatives like the Cambridge Audio). I want to go armed with things to check out to make the most of my time.
I’ve had a Star for 3 years and very happy with it, Though I play Cd’s rarely as I rip them to an external Ssd.( I’ve still got the cds as well)
I find having them rippped is the convenience of being able to select what I want to listen to without having to kneel down and rake through the cd cabinet,. ( though at my age is the getting back up!!!
I do use Spotify as well quite a bit to listen to new unheard of artists .
For the odd shaped ones can you rip them on your computer and store them on a USb or Ssd.
The first and easiest thing you could do is quit Spotify and move to Tidal. there are plenty of tools out there allowing to copy your playlists and history, so no worries here.
As for the CD player, you could get yourself a decent ripper (my favourite would be a pre-loved UnitiServe, which is half-width) and have your CDs ripped and stored while you are listeing to them. Next time you pick them from the drive, you will be surprised how much better they sound.
I have to say that a Unitiserve is a big risk. It uses Windows XP, so it’s totally unsupported by Microsoft and you have to use (the highly-deprecated) SMB1 if you want to add downloads or similar. A hard disc failure means that you have to get the hard disc replaced by Naim (at about £500) or throw the Unitiserve away. You can’t change the disc yourself or replace it with an SSD, not least because the operating system is stored on the internal hard disc and Naim will not make a copy of the software available. There are lots of alternatives to a Unitiserve, all of which are a more logical choice.
I appreciate those comments @segelmatt and I have a few counters to them - as I said feel free to respond as there are no right or wrong answers here and I could be due an update:
I tried Tidal and the interface was lousy and a lot of the songs I wanted to listen to were not available (and I’m not into especially esoteric stuff!). I found the same with Apple Music. Allegedly tidal now has more songs than spotify.
For all these privileges Tidal is also twice as expensive as Spotify unless you get the standard version. I won’t get the high res version as I’d rather have the CDs.
Spotify is what everyone else I know uses so I can see what they’re playing. I quite like that.
Checked out the playlist porting tools. I see! Nice to know these exist.
Regarding ripping CDs - yes the Unitiserve is a half width unit but I have no interest in ripping CDs. I’ve already done this with my real discs once and they’re held on my own server. I want to play them. After all if a friend puts a CD in my unitiserve then I will end up committing piracy. If the UnitiServe doesn’t just play a disc, it’s a no.
Audiolab CDT9000 is excellent. It has a tray not a slot and is transport only so digital out into your Atom. There is a cheaper one but it has the slot rather than tray. Circa 900 quid I think. I use it into my ND555 and it sounds fab.
I have a Star, an upgrade from my Uniti1 which had issues, and am very happy with it. I listen to CD and vinyl, occasionally some radio, and have no interest in streaming. Most of my listening is via phones, but still love the oomph the 70 wpc has through my speakers.
As a one box ( well, ssd drive, turntable and phono amp as well) solution it satisfies my needs, as I have been able to rip many CDs and move them upstairs, leaving those most popular ones nearby.
The front USB allows replay of older music stored on laptops or elsewhere copied to memory sticks, and it appears that that music also appears on the ssd server mode system, too. Ripped music on the SSD drive also allows virtually instant changes of track or album.
Control is effected via apps on my Kindle, phone and Naim remote.
Good luck in your search.
I’d have thought the obvious answer was to use a CD transport into the digital input of your Atom. Audiolab’s CDT6000 is well regarded, less than half the price of the CDT9000 mentioned by @Dan360 and should be more than enough for the DAC in the Atom. If that’s still too expensive and second hand is acceptable, some of the older Meridian CD transports were built like tanks and are still performing well.
Thanks @geoff_2043 - a “pragmatic” view on real use of the Star. You highlight one thing that I hadn’t noticed and that is that it clearly has a different amp in there! 70W vs 35 or 30 W or something like that. This along with a free CD player could be a swinger. I used to have a Uniti 1 and adored it. No wires and a screen I could see across the room; a true 10ft interface. The Cambridge Audio job looks nice and is for my money the only contender to the Unitis but I prefer the Naim engagement to CA. The only CA products I really liked were the Dacmagic 1 and 2 which were somewhat Naimlike in their sounds!
@PeakMan, that’s not so obvious. The 6000 is a different colour and is still a slot loader, the primary reason I am turned off the Star. It’s also twice the width which is just annoying. However @Dan360 has spotted the new 9000 which I didn’t know existed yet and that’s so understated and shiny and black that it matches the Naim quite well. I used to have the Meridian 606/602 pair before adopting Naim. They seem quite rare these days.
The Unitiserve can play CDs as well as rip them. Not that it would be my first choice of CD players but it does work.
(Ripping a friend’s CDs would be the least of your worries: in the UK it’s technically illegal to rip any CD without the permission of the license holder. Not that anyone is going to come knocking at your door to arrest you, so I wouldn’t worry about it.)
Thanks to all those who responded. Armed with your forethoughts about a separate CD player/transport, I dropped in and placed an order for the Star. It’s quite satisfactory as a product and for the limited drawbacks I will cope with the weird slot loader.
It looks like there simply isn’t very much going on in the CD world right now to make having a separate box worth the extra cabling and effort. And of course choice of streaming service is a separate debate altogether. When this is on the shelf, I might get back into that with you!
Congratulations on your purchase, and I really hope it doesn’t disappoint. Could I suggest, from my experience, that you insert CDs gently? Then, enjoy your music, whatever the source.
I look forward to your experience.
I have a Star separate to my main system and it works well; I am often surprised anew with how good it sounds for the size/cost! I have a networked Core as part of the main system and the Star plays from it as a server using the Naim App just fine. I changed from Tidal to Qobuz a few years ago and found it much better. Hi res files were more available and the yearly payment option is similar to Spotify premium I understand, but much better quality…