Naim’s Unitiserve Music Server

‘Well, a couple of overdue cheques came in’. What other excuse could I have for spending $5000 (plus $600 on a digital cable)? And am I happy. No, not really yet as the Naim gear takes days to settle in, but I am curious certainly. I also blame the Blues.

It all started with trying to get a good control of timing on Blues recording with my present streaming set up. I just couldn’t find it.

So let’s cut to the quick. Yes Naim has still kept its great sense of timing and while not as ‘relentlessly musical’ as some of the early creations this is certainly a sound to tap the feet to. Probably one of the best companies in my mind for laying out the sculpture of the sound. For sweetness I would still go with Cyrus and for warmth there are lots of other options. For a sense of ‘detail’ I suspect however that there are some well set up PC systems that would give the Unitiserve a good run for the money.

Okay lets deal with the myth that ‘streaming sounds better than CD’. In one respect this IS true with the scientific test of playing a CD through the Unitiserve and then playing the ripped copy. The ripped copy IS significantly better. Don’t get me started on why, just ask for a demo…The sound is more detailed, better resolved and more expensive sounding.This does not mean however that all ripped recordings are simply better than all possible CD sources. Cost is still relevant. The Unitiserve stands shoulder to shoulder with the CyrusCD8SE (that I have have just sold) on a cost/performance basis . Just different thats all. So why change?

For me the change has all been about the software. Even though I have traded and given away much of the CD collection I am left with a hardcore of around 500 albums.

Without streaming barely 10% gets utilized. The streaming way is so easy. The main computer does not even have to be on. The thing is smoothly controlled via an iphone and the ripping is a quick simple and mindless activity on a winter evening.

Complaints? I have few, such as there is currently no web radio section and certainly no way to ‘shuffle’ the whole music collection. For all that Naim claims about their resources I am surprised how many of the albums are without art work. The service from Shore Hifi has been first class but given that the importer is about as flexible around the impact of the dollar on retail price rises as an oil company, something has to be offered. To top it all off there is no digital cable offered in the retail price and at the time of my purchase no other remote control device provided. I understand that as of 1st July an ipod touch is now thrown in.

This is sounding like a tough view of the Unitiserve. I just think that on the back of a recession a product like this is asking a lot and I wish there could have been a comparison with the Squeezebox Touch.

One thing is certain, the Unitiserve is not going back and that probably tells you all that you need to know.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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