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Naim UnitiLite review

Kat Orphanides
13 Feb 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,650
inc VAT

Sounds great, but lacks support for services such as Spotify and Last.fm

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When it comes to home hi-fi hardware, Naim means serious business. The Naim UnitiLite is a high-end, high-resolution streaming media player with a built-in CD player, internet radio streaming, external USB device support and 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi. It can also communicate with other Naim devices for multi-room audio.

Naim UnitiLite

The UnitiLite is well equipped with digital and analogue inputs. There are two pairs of analogue RCA inputs and four digital S/PDIF inputs, two of which are coaxial and two optical. There's also a USB port at the front to which you can connect an iOS device or USB drive, and a 3.5mm auxiliary input at the front lets you connect anything else. Sadly, you can’t connect your PC to the Unitilite via USB and use it as a digital-to-analogue convertor (DAC).

The Unitilite is designed to be connected to speakers, so the only audio output is a 4-pin DIN connector to connect Naim's own external amplifier units. The UnitiLite's main speaker outputs, designed to power passive units with an 8 or 4 ohm impedance, use Naim's own right-angled variation on a banana plug connector, to which you'll need to solder your speaker wire. The 3.5mm headphone port at the front has a dedicated headphone amp.

Naim UnitiLite

Naim makes its own DAC chips with a reputation for producing natural, intimate audio and soft treble tones. This softness means that low bitrate MP3s sound conspicuously fuzzy, with very little treble detail, particularly on cymbals. There's no such problem with lossless tracks or even 320kbit/s MP3s, fortunately.

Through both headphones and speakers, the UnitiLite's sound quality is impossible to fault, and it really makes the most of sensitive, high-end speakers. That includes models with supertweeeters for high-frequency sound, such as Sony's SS-HA1 speakers. Of course, you’ll need the high-resolution tracks to match. Our high-resolution, high-bitrate test tracks, including King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man and Emmanuel Lazaridis's performance of Liszt's Grandes Etudes de Paganini, were reproduced perfectly.

The UnitiLite and a pair of good speakers is unquestionably a great way to listen to music. We were particularly pleased with its rendering of both clean and harsh vocals, which were easy to pick out in busy tracks such as Anathema's Panic and in live concert recordings such as Dark Tranquillity’s The Sun Fired Blanks. It did just as well with the deep and precise synthesised bass tones and spacious soundscapes of big electronic tracks, while orchestral music sounded as natural as it would in a concert hall.

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