The £3785 Naim Superuniti is an all in one box streamer, DAC and amplifier, but is it a Jack of all trades and master of none? John Scott finds out for Hifi Pig.
After thoroughly enjoying Naim’s all-in-one Mu-So player at the end of last year, I thought it would be a good idea to try out their Superuniti streamer/DAC/amplifier combo. The Mu-So is a great piece of kit but it’s not quite a replacement for a “proper” hifi setup. The Superuniti, however, does set out to provide a high quality system in one box – just add your own speakers. I had heard the Superuniti doing its stuff in a couple of shop demos in the past and had been pretty impressed and so I was keen to put it through its paces at home.
UNBOXING AND APPEARANCE
The Superuniti arrived well protected in a large Naim branded box. As a previous owner of a Naim 250 power amp, I was unsurprised at the weight of the box but I was grateful that I did not have to carry it far before laying it gently on my living room floor. Accompanying the Superuniti inside the box were a power cable, wifi and Bluetooth aerials, a comprehensive instruction booklet and a remote control.
If I was asked to sum up the appearance of the Superuniti in three words, those words would be: solid, understated and classy. It is available in a Henry Ford choice of colours – any colour you like as long as it is black – and that is just as it should be.
The Superuniti weighs in at 12.8kg. Its front panel is reasonably minimalistic; the left hand side features a large, smooth volume control, mini toslink and USB inputs and a headphone output. The centre of the panel contains a Naim logo which glows green when the unit is powered up and functions as a mute button when pressed. Immediately to the right of this is a small multi-function display, featuring green text and this is flanked by an arrangement of 9 backlit – guess which colour – buttons that control input and a host of other functions. While the display panel and the buttons provide flexibility in allowing the user to control the Superuniti from the front panel, as well as from the remote control and an iOS app, I personally never found the need to use them and arguably the Superuniti could be made to look even more classy if they were omitted.
The back panel is where all the action is with more inputs and outputs than you can shake a stick at. These are listed in the specifications below so I won’t go into great detail here but they include S/PDIF, RCA, and toslink. HDMI is not catered for, however. Other outputs include a preamp out so that the Superuniti can be used with a separate power amplifier and a subwoofer out. Aerial connections for FM and DAB radio are also provided. Surprisingly, there is no phono input.
The supplied remote control is Naim branded and clearly designed to be specifically used with the Superuniti. It is intuitive to use but, for me, was rendered redundant by the iOS app. As this is the same app that controls the Mu-So, I was already familiar with it but first-timers will get to grips with it quickly, and it will soon become your default means of controlling the Superuniti.
If you have read my Mu-So review you will know that it was a piece of cake to set up. Unbelievably, the Superuniti was even easier. All I had to do was connect my speakers, plug in the Ethernet cable and the power cable, switch it on and use the app to select the UPnP input and we were off and running.
Before I really get into how the Superuniti sounds, indulge me, if you will, while I get all philosophical for a second or two. It is a well established truism that hifi equipment needs some time to run in before it sounds at its best – indeed the instruction manual that accompanies the Superuniti states that this is the case. When the Superuniti arrived I was informed by Naim that this particular unit had been run in and aside from a short period of settling in should be good to go. So, I left it switched on for a day and when I did listen to it, it sounded horrible. There was an unpleasant stridency in vocals and the soundstage seemed non-existent. I retired to bed with a headache and exactly the same thing happened the next night. This was worrying and was completely at odds with the sound I had experienced on the other occasions that I had heard the Superuniti do its stuff. What I need to point out now though is that at this particular point in time I had just recently recovered from a bad bout of man-flu and although I was feeling to all intents and purposes okay, I did have to wonder whether the fault lay with the Superuniti or with me. I had certainly been feeling run down but did I now need to be run in as well? After all, if hifi products are extremely complex then hifi reviewers – and other normal humans – are infinitely more so. I’m glad to say that within the week the Naim or I – perhaps a bit of both – had got back “on song” and the Superuniti was sounding much more like I had expected it to. So the next time your hifi isn’t thrilling you the way it usually does, stop and think for a while: is it maybe you that needs a bit of a tweak?
PRAT is a term that is often used in relation to Naim equipment – it has occasionally also been used in relation to our esteemed Editor [Oi, I do read this stuff you know – Ed.] Where Naim is concerned, it refers to Pace, Rhythm and Timing. Throughout the time I spent with the Superuniti, I found that my feet and fingers were constantly tapping along to the music and that I was moving in my seat. If I were the kind of person who gets up and dances, I’d have got up and danced. This sense of rhythmic engagement is where the Superuniti really shines.
Some systems are edgy and exciting but result in fatigue after an hour or so of listening. The Superuniti is not one of those. Hour after hour of enjoyment is guaranteed. And it’s not just about excitement: While Diana Ross’ Love Hangover is like an edge of your seat white water raft ride as the tension builds relentlessly, Shelby Lynne’s Just A Little Lovin’ is like luxuriating in a warm bath as her vocal envelopes and caresses you. There is bags of excitement when the music calls for it but plenty of elegance and refinement as well.
I paired the Superuniti with my own Linn Keilidhs as well as a pair of Audio GE Sincerus 80 floorstanders that I had for review. Both speakers retained their individual characteristics while sharing an open, detailed soundstage. Playing Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring (Antal Dorati, Mercury Living Presence), with my eyes closed, it was easy to imagine the orchestra spread out in front of me and all of that pace, rhythm and timing was out there in full force. Whatever kind of music you throw at it, the Superuniti opens it up for rediscovery.
Paired with a good pair of speakers, the Superuniti really does offer high-end hifi as a single box solution. The absence of a phono stage is a missed opportunity though and maybe something that Naim should reconsider given the vinyl resurgence since the unit was originally released. You won’t get a lot of change out of £4000 so it’s by no means a cheap option but if space, aesthetics or just personal preference dictate that a collection of boxes and wires are not for you then the Superuniti needs to be on your short list.
Sound Quality: The trademark Naim sound is present and correct with pace and excitement to the fore.
Build Quality: Reassuringly solid and built to last – it’s a Naim, and that says it all.
Value For Money: Not cheap by any means but could you put together a separate streamer, DAC and amplifier system of this quality for less? I don’t think so.
The precise, lively and dynamic sound you expect from Naim, without the hassle of individual components
Anything easier to set up would be hard to imagine
Understated good looks ooze quality
Would be even better with a phono stage
Not a con as such but this is not one for the box swappers – if this is right for you, you might never need anything else
Price – £3,785
– 1 x coaxial BNC – up to 24bits/192kHz
– 1 x coaxial RCA – up to 24bits/192kHz
– 3 x optical TOSlink – up to 24bits/96kHz
– 1 x front panel mini-TOSLINK – up to 24/96kHz
Analogue – 2 x RCA, 1 x front panel 3.5mm jack (combined optical), 1 x DIN
USB – 1 x front panel Type A socket
Input Sensitivity – 270mV at 47kΩ
Wi-Fi – (802.11 g or n at 2.4GHz), F type (plus PAL adapter)
Antenna – 802.11 b/g at 2.4GHz
Spotify Connect, Tidal ,Bluetooth (SBC, AAC and aptX Classic, aptX Low Latency)
Digital (S/PDIF) – 1 x BNC (75Ω)
Analogue – Speaker output, preamp output (RCA)
Power Output – 80W per channel into 8Ω, 120W per channel into 4Ω (0.1% THD both channel driven)
Frequency Response – 10Hz-20kHz, +0.1/-0.5dB
Signal-to-Noise Ratio – W85dB A-WTD ref 1W 8 Ω
Output Impedance – 22Ω
Load Impedance – 10kΩ min
Sub Output – 1 x RCA pair
Headphone Output – 1 x 3.5mm jack
Remote Control – Infra Red (RC5)
WAV (up to 24bit/192kHz)
AIFF (up to 24bit/192kHz)
FLAC (up to 24bit/192kHz)
DSD (single rate DSF64 & DFF64 only)
ALAC (up to 24bit/96kHz)
WMA (up to 16bit/48kHz) must be WMA 9.2
Ogg Vorbis (up to 16bit/48kHz)
M4a (CBR and VBR up to 320kbit/s)
MP3 (CBR and VBR up to 320kbit/s)
Playlists – (M3U, PLS)
Internet Radio Provider – vTuner 5* full service
Internet Radio Formats: Windows Media-formatted content, MP3, ACC, Ogg Vorbis streams and MMS
Master: Will stream WAV, FLAC and AIFF (up to 24bit/48kHz), ALAC (up to 16bit/44.1kHz), AAC and MP3 (up to 16bit/48kHz) files only as MP3 320kbps quality.
DAB Tuning Range – Band III and L Band, F Type
FM Tuning Range – 87.5 – 108MHz, F Type
Handheld remote handset included and optional Naim app for iOS and Android.
Power Supply Voltage – 100V, 115V, 230V; 50 or 60Hz
Power Consumption – 400VA (max)
Dimensions (HxWxD) – 87 x 432 x 314 mm