Fast forward to today and Naim's hotly anticipated new and improved Uniti range is coming to Audio Junction as an exclusive event! Here's what we have in store;Uniti Atom
This system is the star of the show. With plenty of features and the ability to play, rip, store, and serve your treasured music collection, Unit Star offers infinite possibilities. Since includes a CD player alongside streaming and amplification technology. The custom-integrated CD drive also doubles as a ripper, making Uniti Star the most versatile all-in-one in the range. Ready to go with practically any speaker set-up. Explore the new world of digital audio and stay connected to your CDs turning up the volume effortlessly.
The Nova is proof that audiophile quality can be achieved with an all-in-one player. Whichever source you choose; your music will be transformed into incredible sonic experiences. The reference player in the range, Uniti Nova has been configured to offer the very best solution that Naim can implement in a single box, compact enclosure. All the available space has been used to provide 80 watts per channel of class A/B amplification capable of driving the most demanding loudspeakers detail and depth you'll hear in every note, riff, and chorus.
Uniti Core represents the essence of digital music. It's a seriously powerful machine that will store up to 100,000 tracks on an HDD or SSD; serve up to 12 streams and allows you to fit the hard drive of your choice.
The new Uniti Core is a state of art piece of audio technology. Every element of this dedicated music server from the customised operating system, the enhanced ripping engine, and the linear power supply to the low-vibration aluminium casework has been engineered to deliver consistent, reliable performance and highest sound quality.
Unit Core is a fuss-free, no-compromise solution to ripping, storing, cataloging and playing all of your music in one place.
Command Your Music
The custom Naim app gives you effortless control over individual or multiple Unit products. Access all your music including favourite radio stations, streaming services, and playlists, explore artist discographies and biographies and update your system wirelessly with a single tap.
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It's a well-known fact that we're able to listen to music because the speakers' drivers vibrate back and forth forcing the air all around them to vibrate as well. These vibrations are what stimulate our ears, permitting our brain to interpret it, and us to enjoy the music! To produce this physical movement, the loudspeaker drivers require energy in the form of amplification power, and the more power available, the more accurately the drivers are controlled by the amp to reproduce music in high fidelity sound, and with greater detail.
Of course, power isn't everything - the complexity of design and quality of parts used in the manufacture of any component is also crucial to achieving great sound.
This hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier is then equipped with 2 optical and 2 coaxial digital inputs, Bluetooth with aptX® support and optional Bluesound network streaming module. All this digital connectivity provides an ample range of possibilities:
- An optical input provides a connection for your TV digital out achieving a far greater quality sound performance than a Soundbar and can even learn your TV remote.
- Bluetooth with high the quality apt-X codec allows you to push music you have on your smart phone or tablet.
- A Bluesound module installed into the C368 gives you access to one of the most advanced Hi-Res Audio multi-room wireless systems available, opening the window to a world of music streaming from a variety of music online stores such as Deezer, Spotify, and Tidal. In fact, if you subscribe to Tidal or Deezer-Elite, you may not need to buy CDs ever again, as these online music stores can stream in CD quality or better.
Looking back to the future, however; Modular Design Construction (or MDC for short) is a magnificent feature not seen in other manufacturers' products, allowing you to customise your NAD amplifier with additional capabilities and features, now or in the future. The two available MDC slots can accommodate a variety of upgrade modules including 4K video capable HDMI switching, additional Digital Inputs, additional Analogue and Phono Inputs, and one of the best multi-room streaming platforms available. BluOS connects to your network and is controlled via smartphone, tablet or desktop to manage your music collection and connect you to a growing list of high-quality streaming music services.So, the C368 ticks all the boxes: traditional and future ready, digital and analogue, customisable, superb stereo sound, a stereo system just for your music room or in your living room, an excellent substitution for sound bars, and able to match the widest range of speakers even those with difficult loads.
As you can see, the C368 is an absolutely extraordinary value for money!
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The problem is now well known: there is a sudden change in mechanical impedance where the wave passes from the cone to the surround, which itself radiates sound and has a "boomerang" effect, causing deformation of the cone. Many attempts to resolve this have been considered by Focal's competitors but none is satisfactory, since all are detrimental to cone travel and cause dynamic compression.
Following the discovering of these issues, Focal had to conceive the approach to solve them. The solutions already known for increasing the damping properties of the suspension all result in an increase of the mass which consequently alters definition. The answer came from a technology used in earthquake-resistant skyscrapers and which is also used for the suspension on racing cars! This technology is called a "Tuned Mass Damper": an additional mass oscillates in opposition to the resonance frequency to control it.
It was used with great success in the suspension of the Renault R25 F1 car in 2005 and was quickly banned because it was considered anti-competitive by the FIA. It is also the basic principle of anti-seismic systems for modern skyscrapers. This device offers major advantages. The speaker engineers were able to:
Thus Focal are able to combine benefits which were previously irreconcilable: low mass, optimum damping and extension of the frequency response. This leads to several benefits at the listening level:
To clarify the last point, the resonance of a conventional surround blurs the soundstage, especially when the resonance is marked. TMD suspension eliminates the problem at its source.
Focal's Tuned Mass Damper (TMD) consists of two tubular rings moulded onto the surround. This simple solution, perfected thanks to new software, stabilises the dynamic behaviour of the surround according to resonance, thus avoiding deformation of the cone without afflicting the dynamics.
Two moulded circular beads in the surround form the tuned harmonic damper. While this appears to be a simple solution, over a hundred different configurations were tested to optimise the result.
A committed research project thus enabled Focal to develop a remarkable solution by addressing the problem at its source, without limitation of cone movement, using a "TMD" suspension for which a patent was filed in the third quarter of 2014.
VISUAL ANALOGY OF THE SURROUNDS- Left shows no TMD or default configuration, Right shows with TMD suspension
The precision and detail of audio reproduction depends on the stability of the drivers magnetic field. This stability is compromised by three factors which tend to modulate the magnetic field:
To implement this solution Focal developed a new midrange driver magnetic circuit for the Sopra line. A central Neodymium magnet is topped with a ferromagnetic pole piece brought to saturation by a second Neodymium pellet above it. The field is looped by a ferromagnetic circuit dimensioned to avoid saturation. Finally a Faraday ring is carefully positioned further to reduce distortion below 1kHz.
Focal have now applied two major developments to the Sopra's midrange driver: the harmonic damper suspension "TMD" and the new magnetic circuit "NIC".It is interesting to see the combined effect of these two innovations on overall performance. The results can definately be heard in listening tests:
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The tweeter remains central to the design of the Sopra, it is the "eye" of the product that captures the eye of the onlooker. Its positioning is not just aesthetic, it is highly critical to the sound as it predetermines the speaker's spatiality, what Focal call "Focus Time".
Due to its incredible rigidity, Beryllium represents the ultimate material for a tweeter dome. Focal, after two years of research and development, produced a world first: a pure Beryllium inverted dome, able to cover more than five octaves (1000Hz 40kHz). You may ask yourself, why strive for an extended response at 40kHz, if the human ear can only hear up to 20kHz? If you can extend frequency response, you will improve the perception of transients and other micro details. As well, the linearity of the speaker's response curve is mainly a function of three opposite parameters: lightness, rigidity and damping. To this day, Beryllium is the only material which permits a joining of these three parameters. The result is a sound wave propagation three times faster than Titanium and two and a half times faster than Aluminum. In the end, the linearity of the frequency response curve, the acoustic transparency and the impulse response of the Beryllium tweeter are maximized and offer near-perfect sound.
The inverted dome tweeter is perhaps the perfect transducer. This design permits very high-efficiency, precision and energy. The particular advantage of the inverted dome tweeter is the optimisation of the mechanical coupling between the voice coil and the dome.
Conventional Positive Dome Tweeter Inverted Dome Tweeter
The voice coil is fixed at mid-height on the dome and uniformly moves the cone entire surface. The positive dome is only joined at its edge, causing it to be inactive beyond 16kHz for a flexible surface. The inverted dome directly radiates into the air, with maximum efficiency, which is translated by an extremely precise soundstage. The dome's response curve is clearly more linear than that of any positive dome. It provides better space dispersion and very low directivity, contrary to ribbon tweeters. The inverted dome tweeter offers unequalled dynamics, enabling sound engineers to very precisely control compression. The image precision (height, width and depth) is outstanding and makes the positioning of each element very easy, as well as allows one to exactly assess the reverb tails.
The requirement for Sopra to be compact meant that as much of the cabinet as possible had to be used for the bass. The Focal Design team had to explore a new system for loading the tweeter. Their Beryllium tweeter features an incredibly light and extremely rigid dome. Its main limitation comes from the compression of air in the cavity behind it. To overcome this, the ideal would be to have a nearly infinite volume.
With the Utopia IAL 2 tweeter Focal worked on improving the flow of the rear-directed wave from the dome. In Utopia III the tweeter has its own enclosure with a large volume to absorb the back wave very gently, as would an infinite space. With Sopra, the need for compactness meant they could not devote the necessary volume for this. So their thinking has led them to imagine a rear acoustic load on the tweeter that approaches the ideal by gradually absorbing the rear radiation. Located on the back of the tweeter a progressively damped horn-shaped duct evacuates smoothly the rear radiation of the dome and has the advantage of being the most effective solution in terms of compactness, thereby preserving internal volume for the bass section.
The rear of the Beryllium tweeter is loaded via a small cavity which is connected to the exterior of the enclosure by a horn. The inside of the horn is filled with a damping material. Thus, sound waves from the rear of the tweeter are delicately and gradually absorbed. Its acoustic impedance approaches zero so that no resistance alters the movement of the dome. This pushes definition to its maximum. Moreover, a lot of effort went into isolating the tweeter from any interference from vibrations. The injected polyurethane mono-bloc tweeter frame provides the optimal mass and damping in a reduced space.
Thus, the Focal design team were able to get the most out of the woofers to enhance bass performance while having an ideally-positioned tweeter, and all this in a reasonably-sized cabinet.
In our next installment we discus the Sopra's Mid-range section.
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We all love to get excited about the "next new thing", and the latest "new thing" is undoubtedly 4K or now rebranded UHD. Unfortunately the industry has put the cart before the horse in many respects. UHD will eventually become mainstream but today it is probably only of real benefit at sizes of 80 inch and over. Future implementation of wider colour space and greater bit depth will lead to even greater benefits, but as of today it's only true advantage is resolution. If you buy a UHD TV today you are just buying and expensive upscaler. Your 4K content options are limited to a few streaming services but with our decrepit internet infrastructure the approximately 20Mbps bandwidth required to stream UHD means you will need to book your show a day or two in advance. The recently announced UHD Blu Ray player will be available late 2015, but until then upscaled SD & HD will have to suffice. My main gripe though is not the lack of content, but rather the lack of a firm set of standards, in particular something called REC2020. HD uses a standard called REC709, this specifies things like frame rate, resolution, bit depth and colour space. REC2020 is a working standard which means it is still not fully cooked. The danger is that people buying UHD TVs today may not be able to utilise features implemented further downstream. In fact the recent release of the HDCP2.2 copy protection spec has already rendered any TV or Receiver sold up to this point redundant due to them being unable to handshake with any HDCP 2.2 compliant device and therefore unable to display UHD content. Our advice is to forget UHD for the moment and buy the best 1080p HD equipment you can afford. If you have to have UHD then talk to a speacialist in order to get the best advice you can so that you can make an informed decision and then , proceed with caution......
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