Uniti Core VS NAS and others for sound quality

I currently have all of my music on a Mac Mini with Asset upnp. My ND5 XS reads the files from the Mac Mini by upnp through ethernet cables.
I will have to someday either get the Mac Mini a new hard drive, or get a new machine to replace it. Would there be an upgrade in sound quality with a Naim Uniti Core or an Innuos Zen Mini?
For the price of the Core, will it actually provide better sound quality if used as a music store only?

I have a Unitiserve and a £250 Synology NAS, and the sound quality is more or kess identical between them. If you have £2k to spend on upgrading your system, I strongly suspect that you might get bigger gains by spending it elsewhere. That depends on what system you have, of course.

Uniti Core, Zen Mini, different NAS might run different UPnP servers on different platforms and hence sound marginally differently as reported by Simon-in-Suffolk in the old forum after measurement tests. But I do not think that changing the UPnP server in a standard (not directly connected) configuration can be seen as an upgrade, unless the Mac Mini is located very near to very sensitive components which should not anyway be the case for best sound quality.

You could also try to run another UPnP server on the Mac Mini. If you do not notice significant differences in sound quality, most likely you will also not notice significant differences if you replace the Mac Mini with a Uniti Core or with a Zen Mini.

Or you just borrow one of the devices and try it out!

Yes. I had my iMac running uPnP and changed to a Core with my Nova. The Core has better SQ and it’s worth it just for avoiding having to use iTunes!

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I once had a UnitiServe and discovered that a Synology nas with MinimServer actually sounded better. I now use a Qnap with Asset, which sounds the same as the Synology. So I certainly wouldn’t assume that a Core or other dedicated server will sound better. These things come into their own as an easy, though inflexible, way of ripping loads of CDs. Once the CDs are ripped, there seems little point if you are already up and running with a nas.

Everything HH sez.
I’ve never owned a Unitiserve or Core, but I’ve had a hard time with a friends Unitiserve.
It failed three times, the box itself & the PSU, finally as all his CD’s had been ripped & he was unhappy with the browsing & metadata editing of his thousands of classical albums, & after seeing what I could do with my NAS, he bought one.
I did most all the work to move the albums over to the NAS, as all the files were ripped to Naim’s way of ripping WAV, I first needed to convert each to FLAC, then after trying FLAC vs WAV for SQ, I converted all back to ‘normal’ WAV.
He said there was a small difference in SQ with the NAS for the better.

I’m a former UnitiServe owner, and now use Roon. My wife and I both find the Roon user interface preferable, and have never heard anything with the sound quality going from UServe, to Synology nas running MinimServer, to QNAP nas running Asset, to Roon running on a Roon Nucleus with the files read from the QNAP. But the Roon UI is quite nice and has been 100% reliable; zero forced reboots.

Not tried a Uniti Core at home - various forum grumbles put me off, tbh - but I did compare a Melco N1 (the first of the Melcos available here) with my Qnap and preferred the Melco by fair degree so ended up buying one. It turned out to also be so much easier to live with and a load more convenient.

I have recently tried out the Innuos Zen, Zenith and Statement and have to say they are a step up again - Zenith and Statement were both fantastic. And they were acting as a Roon endpoint so if you’re into that, it’s very handy indeed. I didn’t get to hear the Zen Mini but I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed, you just need to have a listen and see how you get on with it.

I had a serve for around 3 years during which it never put a foot wrong. I swapped to a Core around 2 years back and this too has performed brilliantly. It has an SSD drive and sits on the racks with the rest of my kit, cool running and totally silent. I’m lazy so love ripping the odd new CD withough having to fuss around with a laptop. I use a QNAP with two Western Red drives as backup. That sits in the study and similarly has always performed well.

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When considering devices like the Uniti Core, the Zen Mini or other ripping + serving stations it is also worth taking into account, beside sound quality, the implications of using brand-specific software and proprietary data formats.

I do not know the Zen Mini but with the Uniti Core the metadata associated with .wav rips are stored in a Naim-specific database. This effectively means that, when ripping to .wav with the Core, one is locked into a proprietary data format and will not be able to export one’s music collection without loosing all metadata.

Another drawback of the Core as a server is that its support for metadata is, to say the least, very limited. For classical music collection it is common to fill in tags for the specific composition or Work, for the performing Ensemble and Conductor. For opera files, one has typically to do with many artists and theor roles and other tags become relevant. While these metadata are supported by good UPnP servers like MinimServer, they are just ignored by the Core’s UPnP server. This makes the device hardly suitable for ripping and managing classical music collections.

I do not know whether the Zen Mini, the Melco D100 or other ripping stations and servers suffer from similar limitations but my general advice would be to take into account, when assessing different possible solutions, not only the sound quality but also the usability, the flexibility, the practicability and, most importantly, the software support of the alternatives at stake.

Software needs to be taken care of and it is safe to say that software systems that have been poorly supported in the past are unlikely to see good support in the future. Thus, when evaluating devices that heavily rely on software, also look at how bug reports are taken care of, how long it takes for software errors to be fixed and how a company reacts to user feedback and feature requests.

Thanks for the comments everyone. I am thinking the Core might be an expensive solution for my needs. I might just get my Mac Mini fixed when it breaks down, and keep using it. I rather like Asset upnp. I might also look at the Innuos Zen Mini. It is a bit less than half the price of the Uniti Core.

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Why not just get a Qnap? £500 with two drives. Load Asset. Job done. Keep the change in the bank.

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I am not familiar with how a NAS works. I’ve also heard they are noisy.

I think the Zen Mini is a good option to consider in many respects. Sure, you can get a NAS for less, but there are advantages. You never need to fire up a computer, and amongst other things you can rip, download, edit metadata, run Qobuz and other streaming services, so it can do a lot of things a regular NAS can’t.


If it’s in a different room, the odd clonk from the disks isn’t really an issue. Re: what Chris wrote, if you load Bubble on a Qnap you can run Qobuz quite happily. I probably rip one CD a month, so firing up the laptop is hardly an issue. Nearly all of my music is via downloads, which need the laptop anyway, and that’s no different with a Zen.

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Actually, it is, as you can download directly to the Zen and use it to edit metadata.

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A nas is simply a small case that houses a small motherboard and a drive or two…or four…and maybe a fan. Some are fanless.

My QNAP nas is fanless and all I ever hear is the faint ‘clunk’ of the hdd’s, but it’s verrrry faint. Certainly drowned out by music. (And I don’t keep it in the room with my main system anyway.) It runs Asset server, and I log into it via its ip address on a web browser. It also has it’s own OS X app that I can use to log into it.

My Synology NAS is located in a small cabinet in the listening room next to the equipment rack - I don’t hear a thing.

A NAS is just a small computer, designed to be on 24/7 and to act as a file server in a LAN. Most NAS devices support RAID protocols for redundancy and safety in the case of failures but, for music collections that are not extraordinary large, this aspect is irrelevant.

Otherwise, as far as serving music files is concerned, a NAS works just like your Mac Mini. In fact you do not need a NAS. Just keep on using your Mac Mini. If you want to add some redundancy in case the Mac Mini stops working, buy an external drive and a Raspberry Pi and set it up to do exactly what your Mac Mini currently does. There is nothing wrong in using a Mac Mini (or a RPi or any other headless, low-power computer) as a dedicated UPnP server and nothing to gain in using a Core or a Zen Mini for this purpose.

The question, though, refers to sound quality and many have found that a purpose-designed music server simply sounds better.