Atom to Nova or Star?

So, thinking of giving in to the upgradeitis disease and moving up from the Atom, the Nova would be a natural choice but then I got thinking about the Star, funny it seems to be the poor relation somehow and going by this forum probably the least popular of all three unities, even online there’s not many reviews compared to the other two. It’s got a lot going for it though - a CD player and ripper, more clout then the Atom with 70w, possibly sweeter sounding too and then there’s the cost which is significantly less then the Nova, with the price difference I could buy an RP2 deck and phono stage to listen to my old vinyl. With the Atom I listen almost exclusively to Tidal and iradio but the ability to rip cd’s and not be totally reliant on a music subscription and internet is attractive. I haven’t auditioned a Nova or Star as yet but I have a niggling worry I may feel short changed with the Star and regret not going the extra mile for the Nova and then spending a bit more later on to address the cd’s and ripping if I still want to. Then again I could just stick with the Atom which is sounding rather nice these days. Anyone out there with a Star that might offer some thoughts? 

Original Post

I don't have any of these new Unitis except Core, but I have travelled down the same road only a few years ago and it took six months from me buying a Unitilite for my office before I started regretting that I hadn't bought a Uniti 2. Fortunately I did nothing about it until I could afford a SuperUniti and bought that instead, which I am well happy with.

As you obviously have a fairly established case of upgraditis (!), I think that if you buy a Star, within weeks, maybe days, you will be wondering about Nova and if I were you I would just go straight for Nova.

best

David

You really need a good dealer to take you through the options, if you have any idea of upgrading.....work it out. The New Uniti range is great.......I would save for the Nova, or if you have other aspirations, ask about ex demo or second hand.

I think the key issue is how much the CD/ripping facility means to you. The provision of this in a Naim box must take up a large part of the cost that is not therefore being allocated to things that will affect the overall sound quality. I am a happy Nova owner and found it to to be very significantly better than the Atom which itself was very good. I haven't heard a Star.

If I were you I would get the Nova - I rip on a laptop and use a Blu Ray player to spin the odd CD when I have to (a musician friend insists on recording on CD and wants to hear it on my system).

Mercky posted:

It’s got a lot going for it though - a CD player and ripper, more clout then the Atom with 70w, possibly sweeter sounding too and then there’s the cost which is significantly less then the Nova, with the price difference I could buy an RP2 deck and phono stage to listen to my old vinyl. 

I have no knowledge of vinyl, but recall that it was mentioned a few times that the new Unitis digitise analogue inputs -- doesn't make this vinyl somewhat pointless with the new range? 

Re Star vs. Nova -- personally I would jump as high as you can, or stay put... The "what if" is terrible, and it becomes more expensive...

Tastiehastie77 posted:

I love my little atom, so much so, rather than upgrade to a star/nova...I added a Nap 200DR

So how did that work out for you? I've heard even a NAP100 works wonders and I did have an offer of a used one at a good price. Having said that a 200DR will cost as much as a Nova upgrade or thereabouts. Thanks everyone for the guidance above and it sort of concurs with my instincts too, either stick with the Atom or go the whole hog with the Nova!

I started with the Nap 100, Bi amped...It was amazing, but I hankered for more power, so switched out the 100 and added the 200. (not bi amped...didn't make much sense)

It is insanely good.

I have a front end I love (aesthetically and sound wise) with enough power to get my speakers under control.

Tastiehastie77 posted:

I started with the Nap 100, Bi amped...It was amazing, but I hankered for more power, so switched out the 100 and added the 200. (not bi amped...didn't make much sense)

It is insanely good.

I have a front end I love (aesthetically and sound wise) with enough power to get my speakers under control.

Thanks, so how do you connect to the 200? have you some sort of RCA adapter cable?

 

Despite I have a SACD player hooked up to the Nova, since I discovered streaming audio with the Nova (sorry I know I am a late starter), I have not listened to much CD. I ripped many of my CDs using computer and I found myself not even listening to them that much. Therefore, personally, if I were you, I would go straight to Nova for the superior SQ. That said, aesthetically Atom is a work of art, really love its screen and volume control. Nova doesn't quite have the same magic on the looks department. Looks a bit like two parts joined together. But hey I bought it for its SQ (amongst many other things) and weighed that above looks. And please don't get me wrong, Nova is beautiful. 

Timo posted:

I have no knowledge of vinyl, but recall that it was mentioned a few times that the new Unitis digitise analogue inputs -- doesn't make this vinyl somewhat pointless with the new range? 

 

Not at all - my LP12 sounds better through the Nova than it did through my previous Superuniti, which did not digitise analogue inputs. I guess the ADC in the Nova must be rather wonderful!

Sloop John B posted:
Tastiehastie77 posted:

I had a company I found make me one up...Din to RCA....he can make them at whatever quality you like.

In the recent posts I read it as a company you founded, which certainly proved click bait for me. 

.sjb

seriously?

Mercky posted:
Tastiehastie77 posted:

I love my little atom, so much so, rather than upgrade to a star/nova...I added a Nap 200DR

So how did that work out for you? I've heard even a NAP100 works wonders and I did have an offer of a used one at a good price. Having said that a 200DR will cost as much as a Nova upgrade or thereabouts. Thanks everyone for the guidance above and it sort of concurs with my instincts too, either stick with the Atom or go the whole hog with the Nova!

I wouldn’t buy a new 200DR for this, when you could get a good used non-DR version for half the price. The DR version only supplies DR power to a Naim preamp, which you are not using, so there is little or no benefit to it in this case. 

Lots of opinions on ripping and streaming of ripped CD’s.  One thing I agree with HH about is they sound better than Tidal and consistently better than Tidal. 

You don’t say how many CD’s you have and I think this is a key consideration. I don’t really see the point of using the Star as a CD player as adopting streaming is generally strongly correlated with reduced playing of CD’s. So the question is really about ripping and serving and do you go

all-in-one  Star

all-out       Nova + Core

half-arsed Nova + NAS

Olly

'Lots of opinions on ripping and streaming of ripped CD’s.  One thing I agree with HH about is they sound better than Tidal and consistently better than Tidal'

I wonder if there are variables involved that would give different user experiences. For me, I can't detect any difference whatsoever between Tidal and ripped CD's, my CDX is not quite as smooth maybe [which I prefer, smoother that is], but I wouldn't be able to identify one from the other without very close comparing flipping back and forth,  they are all very good.

I find I hardly play a CD these days, Tidal is so good and so easy there seems little point. However there are so many here who think it doesn't compare favourably I wonder if Tidal can be compromised in some way? I'm also confused by some who can't hear a great difference between Tidal and Spotify which I thought was night and day, again something compromising the Tidal stream would explain this. So can there be anything that would downgrade a Flac file?

Oh I should add I'm playing through a 272/250 PMC Fact 8's

I was wondering what was compromising Tidal... compared to Qobuz and local playback it is usually inferior. I have set up Qobuz to sound the same as 44.1/16/2 media transfers from my local NAS, by effectively using the same server for my Qobuz proxy and UPnP media server... it really is very good and liberating ... but it does require some effort in setup and using an offboard DAC on my NDX.

However in this setup, Tidal, (ie through the proxy) still often sounds notably inferior and sometimes tracks appear louder through Tidal... so I got thinking as to why... and these were the main possibilities I came up with.

  • Tidal normalises or compresses (or is provided with via the distributors ) some of the replayed masters to provide more consistent loudness levels... if done at 16/44.1/2 this will almost certainly deteriorate the sound.. 
  • Tidal uses audio water marking on certain  masters that effects the overall fidelity  
  • Comination of the above two, hence providing the variability.

 

Simon

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

I was wondering what was compromising Tidal... compared to Qobuz and local playback it is usually inferior. I have set up Qobuz to sound the same as 44.1/16/2 media transfers from my local NAS, by effectively using the same server for my Qobuz proxy and UPnP media server... it really is very good and liberating ... but it does require some effort in setup and using an offboard DAC on my NDX.

However in this setup, Tidal, (ie through the proxy) still often sounds notably inferior and sometimes tracks appear louder through Tidal... so I got thinking as to why... and these were the main possibilities I came up with.

  • Tidal normalises or compresses (or is provided with via the distributors ) some of the replayed masters to provide more consistent loudness levels... if done at 16/44.1/2 this will almost certainly deteriorate the sound.. 
  • Tidal uses audio water marking on certain  masters that effects the overall fidelity  
  • Comination of the above two, hence providing the variability.

 

Simon

It might depend on what Naim does with Tida compared to Roon. 

From looking at my system analysis whilst trying to get a handle on another issues it would seem that Roon buffers the full track from Tidal and then plays from the buffer. There is a big download spike for the first few seconds of a track and then minimal inward data.

Also Roon computes track and album gain and uses these values to “normalise” volume (if selected). It has computed album gain values for Tidal albums and in a subset of one there does not seem to be any Tidal normalisation as it has the same -14 value for local and Tidal track  

4B61FCD8-616D-4432-ACA2-7EEA21E328FB23B2B15A-CF10-49DE-A5CB-A6B567AD27AF

.sjb

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Photos (2)

 

  • Tidal normalises or compresses (or is provided with via the distributors ) some of the replayed masters to provide more consistent loudness levels... if done at 16/44.1/2 this will almost certainly deteriorate the sound.. 
  • Tidal uses audio water marking on certain  masters that effects the overall fidelity  
  • Comination of the above two, hence providing the variability.

 

This would be consistent from user to user though, I was suggesting there possibly was a difference in user experience. 

 

Sloop John B posted:

From looking at my system analysis whilst trying to get a handle on another issues it would seem that Roon buffers the full track from Tidal and then plays from the buffer. There is a big download spike for the first few seconds of a track and then minimal inward data.

 

ahh - you have possibly discovered the different TCP transfer profiles that I have mentioned before on this forum.. on the classic streamers at least there are two basic modes of TCP operation. There is the use of TCP Zero windows size semaphoring method.. this tends to happen on the home network sources when wired. Here the data transfers it bursts with quite a  space between bursts.  This sometimes happens on internet streaming with faster links or less busy servers at the other end. The alternative method is more of dynamic flow control of confirming TCP window segments.. this is where the data rate throughput is slower and or longer round trip delay latency. I have found this two different TCP behaviours on the Naim streamers can subtly affect the sound - as the latter requires more processing of the protocol machine. Both methods aggressively work to fill the buffers at the start of the media TCP transfer.

By using a proxy server for my internet streaming providing a protocol break I can typically transfer the data by the former method into my streamer which sounds better - and I can also get a more consistent inter frame spacing over the ethernet into my streamer whilst transfer is active and this tends to sound subjectively better to my ears. Also my proxy has larger TCP segment buffers so can better handle variable greater latency from internet sourced transfer than the original Naim streamers. This has changed in the newer streamers as the buffers have increased so latency should be less of an issue with drop out.

However all things being equal I have found the masters on Qobuz more typically match the masters of my rips, and less so with Tidal. I have noticed a greater propensity for loudness levels to be higher on Tidal. But this is not general - and varies - its a case of probabilities.

However (un scientific warning flag)  i have noticed when I discretely watch my family  (who listen to the Naim)  when  listening to local stream or Qobuz proxy stream  feet will often tap to the music - when Tidal played  (via proxy) with same artists - but cant confirm master version - this happened  very rarely.... 

bobbyrab1 posted:

This would be consistent from user to user though, I was suggesting there possibly was a difference in user experience. 

Possibly - but one thing I have learned on this forum and elsewhere when it comes to subjective assessment of SQ in almost all  cases there is no universal consistency. 

I can’t wait

My Star arrives on Tuesday, I almost bought an Atom but feared I’d soon want more, I’m not worried at all that I didn’t choose the Nova, (not that I could afford it anyway!)

The only other HiFi Systems I’ve had are my two MuSo’s, so the Star will be a big leap for me, i agree it’s hard to find a decent review, but I have read that the Nova being the reference system, isn’t as musically entertaining and is more transparent compared to the Atom and Star which are a little more fun musically.

Course I may never know, but I’ll be sure to report how I get on with it, especially CD Rips vs Tidal

 

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:
Sloop John B posted:

From looking at my system analysis whilst trying to get a handle on another issues it would seem that Roon buffers the full track from Tidal and then plays from the buffer. There is a big download spike for the first few seconds of a track and then minimal inward data.

 

ahh - you have possibly discovered the different TCP transfer profiles that I have mentioned before on this forum.. on the classic streamers at least there are two basic modes of TCP operation. There is the use of TCP Zero windows size semaphoring method.. this tends to happen on the home network sources when wired. Here the data transfers it bursts with quite a  space between bursts.  This sometimes happens on internet streaming with faster links or less busy servers at the other end. The alternative method is more of dynamic flow control of confirming TCP window segments.. this is where the data rate throughput is slower and or longer round trip delay latency. I have found this two different TCP behaviours on the Naim streamers can subtly affect the sound - as the latter requires more processing of the protocol machine. Both methods aggressively work to fill the buffers at the start of the media TCP transfer.

By using a proxy server for my internet streaming providing a protocol break I can typically transfer the data by the former method into my streamer which sounds better - and I can also get a more consistent inter frame spacing over the ethernet into my streamer whilst transfer is active and this tends to sound subjectively better to my ears. Also my proxy has larger TCP segment buffers so can better handle variable greater latency from internet sourced transfer than the original Naim streamers. This has changed in the newer streamers as the buffers have increased so latency should be less of an issue with drop out.

However all things being equal I have found the masters on Qobuz more typically match the masters of my rips, and less so with Tidal. I have noticed a greater propensity for loudness levels to be higher on Tidal. But this is not general - and varies - its a case of probabilities.

However (un scientific warning flag)  i have noticed when I discretely watch my family  (who listen to the Naim)  when  listening to local stream or Qobuz proxy stream  feet will often tap to the music - when Tidal played  (via proxy) with same artists - but cant confirm master version - this happened  very rarely.... 

Thank you for the detailed explanation, can you share which proxy are you using? also any other details as of switch type? flowcontrol on/off? mtu size?

I haven't done any packet captures but thought and would have assume audio streams was UDP protocol with low size packets (10 bytes or so) but you mention TCP framing in your post.

Thank you

 

Tastiehastie77 posted:

I started with the Nap 100, Bi amped...It was amazing, but I hankered for more power, so switched out the 100 and added the 200. (not bi amped...didn't make much sense)

It is insanely good.

I have a front end I love (aesthetically and sound wise) with enough power to get my speakers under control.

tastie, im interested in your experiences with the 200 plugged into the atom. I have been considering this also, as I drive a pair of naim allae currently and it sounds very good, but I feel the allaes could do with a bit more power and I know that 200' work well with them from a previous older system. has the sound of the atom changed at all, or has it remained but with more power?

longmanjon posted:
Tastiehastie77 posted:

I started with the Nap 100, Bi amped...It was amazing, but I hankered for more power, so switched out the 100 and added the 200. (not bi amped...didn't make much sense)

It is insanely good.

I have a front end I love (aesthetically and sound wise) with enough power to get my speakers under control.

tastie, im interested in your experiences with the 200 plugged into the atom. I have been considering this also, as I drive a pair of naim allae currently and it sounds very good, but I feel the allaes could do with a bit more power and I know that 200' work well with them from a previous older system. has the sound of the atom changed at all, or has it remained but with more power?

To my ears....and as Iv'e stated before, I'm no audiophile, I just like what I like....

Adding the 200 did change the sound, but for the better, more clarity, deeper bass, and of course....more power.

I have B&W CM10's and possibly like you, they just needed something more.

I’m moving a UnitiCute/NAP100 to a new media room and upgrading the lounge system. I was heading to a Star with my Totem Hawks, but have decided on Nova and Core as an end game. Can then upgrade speakers later on and move the Hawks to the. Edit room. I currently rip to my Mac, but want a higher quality and stand alone ripping system.

I went for the Nova in the end and have it a week now, very happy and bar the slightly dodgy display panel fit its better then the Atom in every way, it’s got about 90 hours up on it now so it should continue to improve. In terms of value for money though, I suspect the Atom wins easily, you could buy two for the price of a Nova and matched with the right speakers it’s a brilliant little box and perhaps all you need. 

Mercky posted:

So, thinking of giving in to the upgradeitis disease and moving up from the Atom, the Nova would be a natural choice but then I got thinking about the Star, funny it seems to be the poor relation somehow and going by this forum probably the least popular of all three unities, even online there’s not many reviews compared to the other two. It’s got a lot going for it though - a CD player and ripper, more clout then the Atom with 70w, possibly sweeter sounding too and then there’s the cost which is significantly less then the Nova, with the price difference I could buy an RP2 deck and phono stage to listen to my old vinyl. With the Atom I listen almost exclusively to Tidal and iradio but the ability to rip cd’s and not be totally reliant on a music subscription and internet is attractive. I haven’t auditioned a Nova or Star as yet but I have a niggling worry I may feel short changed with the Star and regret not going the extra mile for the Nova and then spending a bit more later on to address the cd’s and ripping if I still want to. Then again I could just stick with the Atom which is sounding rather nice these days. Anyone out there with a Star that might offer some thoughts? 

I had an Atom bought rather impulsively as it was in stock - there was a display fault so I had it RMA'd - my dealer was happy to consider a refund/replacement or upgrade to a Nova which by this time was also available in stock.

The Atom is fantastic, but the Nova adds so much more details and layers to the music, hence my decision to go for the Nova.

The problem was I'd got the Atom as a one box playback unit to use as a lifestyle product until I got my 'proper' hi-fi out of storage - basically moderately well-specced LP12, old NAC-72, assorted Hi-CAPs and active SBLs powered by 2xNAP250.

The trouble is you soon get the 'what if' feeling when you're switched on to hi-fi.

So my next question was where do you go with the Nova?  I think I surmised this could be a replacement for my NAC-72 pre and added a NAP 250 and it sounds extremely good (Nova firmware dependent!) with old Epos ES14s.

Now therein lies the problem, other 'upgrades are limited without replacing a 'box' - I've tried fancy Ethernet cables (worth exploring) and considered fibre bridges.

The issue for me is that I want more - better streamer, better pre-amp and newer DR power amps - grest for my dealer and Naim!

While the Nova is considerably better than the Atom in my view, I've realise dI use very few of the inputs at the moment - basically Analogue 1 for LP12 (digitised but you'd never know as it sounds better than streaming), Qobuz or Apple Music via Chromecast/Airplay, Roon and NAS playback over the LAN.

So where am I going with this?  The Nova is a one-box solution but has many many digital and analogue inputs - I wonder how many of the target audience will actually use more than a few of these?  Perhaps these inputs are cheap to add if there's space but I think I will ultimately go for something like the NAC-272N with new power amps or maybe a NAC-282 so I can use spare Hi-Caps with that and a new streamer and power amps.

I'd maybe ask your dealer to A/B an Atom vs Atom with NAPxxx vs Nova and maybe a NAC-272 and power amp solution - that might push you towards Atom with external power amp as a setp to something beyond Nova in the future.

No correct answer here.

The Star to me looks a real all-rounder if it were your first purchase, but if you want SQ upgrades, while it may better than the Atom, I can't see it'll match the Nova.

 

Mercky posted:

I went for the Nova in the end and have it a week now, very happy and bar the slightly dodgy display panel fit its better then the Atom in every way, it’s got about 90 hours up on it now so it should continue to improve. In terms of value for money though, I suspect the Atom wins easily, you could buy two for the price of a Nova and matched with the right speakers it’s a brilliant little box and perhaps all you need. 

Oops - missed that !

Your summary is correct - always a law of diminishing returns as we upgrade, and for the cost the Atom is a stonker of a musical device.

The Uniti range are neat one box solutions, but do sound damn fine.

The other day I heard a 272 I to a SN2 (odd) and Pants 2, for me the speakers were the real difference, I didn't think the 272 was doing it for me vs a Nova.

My plan was NDX2/SN2 to keep a less intrusive setup, but I do find with the Nova unlike any other Naim product I have had doesn't make me want to upgrade, I'm quite content and a bit of cable and setup tweaking makes a very enjoyable listening experience.

Alley Cat posted:
Mercky posted:

I went for the Nova in the end and have it a week now, very happy and bar the slightly dodgy display panel fit its better then the Atom in every way, it’s got about 90 hours up on it now so it should continue to improve. In terms of value for money though, I suspect the Atom wins easily, you could buy two for the price of a Nova and matched with the right speakers it’s a brilliant little box and perhaps all you need. 

Oops - missed that !

Your summary is correct - always a law of diminishing returns as we upgrade, and for the cost the Atom is a stonker of a musical device.

I won’t be upgrading the Nova as I’ve spent quite enough, I do foresee a Core though perhaps as a Christmas present! I also need to get my vinyl solution sorted. Listening now as I write to Radio Swiss Jazz on the Nova, sounds incredible for 128k.

Mercky posted:
Alley Cat posted:
Mercky posted:

I went for the Nova in the end and have it a week now, very happy and bar the slightly dodgy display panel fit its better then the Atom in every way, it’s got about 90 hours up on it now so it should continue to improve. In terms of value for money though, I suspect the Atom wins easily, you could buy two for the price of a Nova and matched with the right speakers it’s a brilliant little box and perhaps all you need. 

Oops - missed that !

Your summary is correct - always a law of diminishing returns as we upgrade, and for the cost the Atom is a stonker of a musical device.

I won’t be upgrading the Nova as I’ve spent quite enough, I do foresee a Core though perhaps as a Christmas present! I also need to get my vinyl solution sorted. Listening now as I write to Radio Swiss Jazz on the Nova, sounds incredible for 128k.

I don't think you need to have any concerns about the digitised analogue inputs - they sound very natural to me, so much so that I prefer vinyl on the LP12 to the equivalent album downloads from Qobuz in HD.

ChrisSU posted:
Mercky posted:
Tastiehastie77 posted:

I love my little atom, so much so, rather than upgrade to a star/nova...I added a Nap 200DR

So how did that work out for you? I've heard even a NAP100 works wonders and I did have an offer of a used one at a good price. Having said that a 200DR will cost as much as a Nova upgrade or thereabouts. Thanks everyone for the guidance above and it sort of concurs with my instincts too, either stick with the Atom or go the whole hog with the Nova!

I wouldn’t buy a new 200DR for this, when you could get a good used non-DR version for half the price. The DR version only supplies DR power to a Naim preamp, which you are not using, so there is little or no benefit to it in this case. 

Thanks CHRISU, I was looking not too long ago at a 250DR (was obsessed it must be DR) aim was eventually to swap the Nova to 272 and pair it with the 250DR. As you the DR would have been pointless.

Currently think NDX2/SN2 is a better solution.

That said I thought the 272 was 🙃

Obsydian posted:
ChrisSU posted:
 

 

 

I wouldn’t buy a new 200DR for this, when you could get a good used non-DR version for half the price. The DR version only supplies DR power to a Naim preamp, which you are not using, so there is little or no benefit to it in this case. 

Thanks CHRISU, I was looking not too long ago at a 250DR (was obsessed it must be DR) aim was eventually to swap the Nova to 272 and pair it with the 250DR. As you the DR would have been pointless.

Currently think NDX2/SN2 is a better solution.

That said I thought the 272 was 🙃

If my memory is correct, the 250 DR is a different kettle,of,fish. As the 250 is a regulated amp, the 250DR gets DR on the power amplification side with the advantages that brings, where, as correctly said above, on the 200dr the DR is for powering a pre-amp.

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