The Naim UnitiServe is a high resolution 24 bit/192kHz music storage (hard drive) solution
This is my review of the Naim UnitiServe which is a slim CD ripping, hard disk music server and CD player. The version I have has a 2 terabyte hard disk, enough for storing 2,400 CDs in a lossless format. The UnitiServe requires a dedicated Ethernet connection, however once it is on your home network it does not matter that it is not in the same room (or floor) as your Hi-Fi setup. This is relevant if your BT Home hub (or the like) is groaning like mine is with connected boxes, broadband phone boosters, wireless NAS drives etc.
This also means that you can use it as a single multi-room source in conjunction with other network streaming devices. The UnitiServe is a high resolution 24 bit/192kHz music storage (hard drive) solution that you will be able to grow your future audiophile listening without relying on Apple (in other words it is a move away from iTunes which maybe an issue for some). You may need to re-rip your CD collection to put the CDs you own onto the UnitiServe but if you choose a lossless format, like FLAC, you should never need to do it again in your life,
it is not necessarily the pain you might expect. Once you have done it you can access the hard drive and copy or backup the files in a simple drag and drop way.
The CDs themselves take just a couple of minutes each to rip and, in my experience, it has been completely painless. I have had no artwork issues to speak, save a rather obscure Julia Fordham collector’s CD, but there is a PC application with the box that allows you edit the CD data, artwork and the like, indeed you can choose your preferred reference music database. There is also an app called n-serve from Naim that allows you to play music from the Naim UnitiServe to a DAC or other music steamer. I’m using the UnitiServe and associated n-stream app to stream on my Wi-Fi network to the Naim Uniti2 that I recently reviewed here.
Naim UnitiServe or NAS?
The key issue here is if you are streaming music from a standard NAS (network attached storage) drive on your home network is it worth spending the two thousand pounds on a Naim UnitiServe? Comparing the Naim UnitiServe with my NAS drive there is definitely increased stability which means I no longer having to turn on and off my NAS drive to get it connected to the streamer. I am also benefiting from having the music ripped to the highest quality possible by a dedicated ripper that does not suffer distortions from computer peripherals which even the highest spec iMAC will do. The issue of interference from computer peripherals is one of timing which is more important in digital files than is apparent from casual understanding. Timing essentially adding to the quality of the digital music you listen to.
One of the issues with starting again with ripping CDs again is you lose playlists built up over years however this is not such a bad thing and using the n-stream app from Naim allows you to re-establish these lists if that is what you want.
The sound delivered from the UnitiServe compared to a CD is certainly as good based on playing the same tracks back to back. The sound from the Naim Uniti2 is rich, detailed and powerfully delivered as always, it really is a beautiful sound.
Finally, it looks good too; this is an important point if you are negotiating with your partner for lounge or dining room space.
Retails at £2200, go to your nearest HiFi dealer for full support in this price bracket.
A list of Naim’s premium, independent retailers can be found here: http://www.naimaudio.com/find-a-retailer