The new Nativ Vita is a world class music server, streamer and touchscreen control all wrapped into a perfectly engineered and beautifully finished package. It combines digital music replay – storage, delivery and control, and is the best sounding digital source we’ve heard.
Nativ Vita – The epicentre of your music.
The Vita is the solution we have long been looking for to bring our digital music collection off the various computers, phones and CDs scattered around the house. It gets over a whole series of annoying compatibility and control issues. But most importantly, the Nativ Vita is the best sounding digital source we’ve heard. It delivers both the perfect foil for our best analogue systems as well as making an ideal match for the entire NuPrime range of DACs and digital amplifiers. Not to mention the new Vifa speaker systems.
The standard Nativ Vita is a streamer-preamplier for playback of online sources such as Spotify. Or order it with built-in storage for your music library as well as streaming.
Nativ Vita – and the other matching components within their range – have broad compatibility and so will enhance many systems. So whether you are an early adopter of digital and computer audio, or looking to finally move from CDs, or wanting to level the performance gap between a serious analogue setup and digital, Nativ Vita could well be the perfect product.
And finally having it here for ourselves, we’re thrilled with how it looks, how easy it is to use and set up, and how great it sounds.
Nativ Sound approached us earlier this year and we’ve been working in the background towards making it happen in New Zealand. Like NuPrime they are part of a new generation of specialist companies – in Nativ’s case they are an indiegogo startup having launched in 2016.
Nativ’s own website is a stunner – for a new company they have a firm grasp on how to not only comprehensively show all the good points of their products, but also deliver answers to almost any question you might have – it’s made our choice and setup far easier.
There is nothing else out there that is quite like the Nativ Vita, so it’s understandable that you’ll want to be given a clearer idea of what it actually is and how it works.
Given interactions with many clients and our own experience, the digital journey from CD to streaming and storage systems has been less than straight forward.
The big problem with many computer based audio systems is that they are just too complicated. This gets in the way of actually playing and enjoying music. Sure you can use a smartphone to access and stream just about any song ever recorded, but this sets a very low bar in terms of quality. In both cases – computer or smartphone – the greatest compromise is the fact that these devices are now expected to do a vast number of tasks and playing music is far from a primary purpose.
The Nativ Vita is a dedicated high resolution music playing source component that covers all the digital bases – it is a server, so stores all your music. The Vita is also packed with connectivity allowing multiple sources to be accessed via both wifi and wired networks, bluetooth and physical connections including analogue. Outputs are likewise both cabled and wireless. And on top of all this it covers all the streaming bases so you can access music from the entire world.
The Vita is designed to be at the heart of your hifi system – it looks stunning with a 11.6″ touchscreen. Hand-built in small production lots and only using exclusive materials, including premium-grade 7000 series aluminium with fine anodized finish, Japanese-made Asahi® glass and solid American wood for the table stand or wall mount, Nativ is built to last.
It combines the 3 critical aspects of digital music replay – storage, delivery and control in a single beautiful package. Let’s look at these 3 aspects in more detail.
The Nativ Vita is ordered either with storage built in or can be fitted with off the shelf drives of up to 10TB capacity. So it is directly comparable to audiophile server systems such as the Antipodes models. I have seriously considered these in the past but am glad I waited for the Nativ.
There is a choice between conventional drives and the new Solid State Dives – SSDs. The use of SSDs not only makes things much faster and more reliable, but musically you get improved dynamics, high frequency sweetness and speed. While Nativ ship from the factory with nothing less than a 2TB drive I’ve found that we can easily fit a 500GB SSD which is more than enough for many users and keep the total cost below NZ$3000 for the Vita. And if you need more storage it’s a snip to just pop a second drive in the available slot do double capacity.
This is why we’ve been using one of the little Questyle players as our primary digital source up until now. The Nativ Vita improves on this in every way – it sounds much better, has much greater capacity, connects in a multitude of ways and just looks so cool.
It doesn’t take much to work out that having to feed music across a network from another computer or drive has negative effects on both quality and ease of use. Likewise and computer is a hostile environment in terms of audio with vast amounts of RFI and power supply compromises. Like a smartphone, the computer is designed to do a plethora of tasks but high quality audio is very much an afterthought at best.
To put music on the Vita couldn’t be easier – it took me less than 15 minutes from opening the box to happily dragging and dropping many of my favourite albums on to the Vita. The exercise of transferring all our assorted music libraries makes it the perfect time to perform a bit of digital housekeeping and while this will consume some hours, I really like the idea of having all our music in the one place, ready to go and presented in a visually appealing manner.
If you have a large CD collection, consider Nativ’s dedicated CD ripper . A 2TB Vita has the capacity to store around 6000 CDs in full lossless original quality. So storing large libraries aren’t a problem and if you don’t want to go through the tedium of doing this via your computer, the Nativ ripper makes it a much easier transferring bit-perfect FLAC copies to your Vita.
In terms of data security, there is far less to go wrong with the Nativ than any computer – so in many ways, this is the ultimate backup system for your music. And as you have two drive bays in the Vita, you can use one of these as a duplicate back up for even higher levels of security.
It’s also very easy to back up the music library on your Vita as portable USB drives can be plugged straight in and you can also restore from these. This is all controlled from the Vita’s menu system.
Have a closer look at the internals and connection array of the Vita above – this is a serious piece of audio by anyone’s standards. The layout is clean with quality components – it’s all on one PCB with no extraneous wiring. You can see the storage drive area is screened off and the power supply is external.
Unlike many server systems there is a full compliment of connections over and above USB and ethernet – so you can choose to use Vita with almost any DAC or amplifier with digital inputs including Coax, Optical and AES as well as USB.
As the name suggests, Nativ Vita stores and deals with a multitude of digital formats including high resolution and DSD in their native format and can output them as such. For this alone we see it as the perfect front end for all our NuPrime models.
This is where the Vita really stands apart from any other system – as a long time Mac user I really appreciate an intuitive and visually pleasing interface and the Vita design is a thing of beauty – from the initial set up menus through to the more detailed options, they have made a massively comprehensive feature set easy to navigate and select. The music library itself is presented in a way that is all about the music and how to find your way through it.
By comparison, iTunes is now just a conduit to push you into the Apple Store and horribly busy by comparison. The 11.6″ screen also provides plenty of real estate to spread out menus and information – rather than having a dumbed down ap that has to fit on a phone. I especially like the ability to see details of format, bit-rate, depth and sample rate for any song as you play it – I’m struck by how I can now tie what I hear to these numbers.
Roon is the gold standard for digital music library management – and The Nativ Vita makes the most of this if you have a subscription – the touchscreen menu allows you to simply jump over to Roon and from there on in, the Vita becomes your front end controller.
That said, there is a Nativ Ap for both iOS and Android that gives you control over the Vita. Plus an included IR remote control which is really nice when you can’t be shagged with networking – chances are it’s a whole lot more reliable too.
Of course being software controlled, the Vita is an evolving product – they are still adding and refining features at a frenetic rate so unlike traditional components, the Vita gets better and does more with time.
In a year were we have seen some really significant improvements made – The Monitor Audio Studios, NuPrime Evolution Ones, Dynavector P75Mk4 phono stage and new DV17DX moving could cartridge – the Nativ Vita has produced a digital upgrade that is both qualitatively and quantitively comparable.
Over the first weeks listening, I’ve been thrilled and re-engaged with the sound of my digital library. The Vita is delivering a level of sound quality and involvement that is directly comparable with our best analogue options. This is not a comparison I make lightly but the Vita now sits side by side with a Well Tempered Versalex and the previously mentioned Dynavector products. Both are running into the NuPrime DAC-10.
I quickly worked out that the Vita sounds best connected via USB in this set up – while I started with a good coaxial connection, the playback of higher bit-rate tracks really came together on with the USB.
Like many people, my digital collection covers 3 tiers of quality. There are many free MP3 downloads that have accumulated over the years, often as coupons with vinyl LPs and a good number of iTunes Store purchases. Then there are ripped CDs – these are almost all in Apple Lossless so are 16 bit and at higher data rates. This covers everything from the decades where vinyl came perilously close to extinction and much since. Finally there are the higher resolution files – most of the recent music I’ve accumulated at bandcamp.com is in 24 bit and this is certainly my preferred source. You’ll no doubt have interests in other genres and there is a whole world out there of high quality downloads and streaming to explore.
The Native Vita works across not just these three types of file, but virtually every format. And as the names suggests, these are all stored and played back in their native format with no loss or degradation. You’ll understand that with anything in audio, the quality of sound heard is fundamentally tied to the quality of the material being played – things like production, the actual playing medium and setup all feed into this.
When playing high resolution files – ie better than CD – the Vita is in a class of it’s own. The clarity, imaging, low level detail and evenhanded tonality is equal to anything I heard in analogue. I’ve been captivated by albums I thought I knew well, yet now I hear layer after layer unfolding with sound staging that rivals any vinyl based system.
Nativ Vita supports playback of DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DXD and PCM signals up to 32bit/384KHz, including AIFF, WAV, FLAC, and ALAC audio file formats. Vita also supports the new Meridian Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology.
The replay of CD derived files is hard to fault – again, I’m simply hearing things I’ve never heard before on the original CDs when replayed by any means. But to keep this in perspective, when both the CD and Vinyl of the same album are stacked side by side – yes, there are some limitations I’m going to have to attribute to the 16 bit limitation -and the 44k sampling frequency. But this is academic in most cases – if you have CDs only, the performance of the music contained on these albums will be a revelation.
The reasons for this are easily understood – the act of replaying a CD in a player is fraught with issues – the physical spinning of the disc the decoding in real time, all the electronics involved. Obviously this has driven the development of better players as the NuPrime CDP-9 amply illustrates but there is a better way.
One of the big issues with computer audio that has always struck me as a huge compromise is the use conventional hard drives – they replicate many of the problems of CD drives and if anything are even less reliable. The require significant power supplies to spin them, are producers of RFI interference and the act of replay induces jitter.
The introduction of SSD (solid state drives) has changed all of this for the better. Faster, with no moving parts, requiring less power and delivering a much cleaner data stream, to include an SSD drive within your Vita is a no-brainer. While the cost of this is a little greater than a conventional spinning drive, the benefits, both practical and sonic are compelling.
So you can see how Vita makes music from CD disc sound appreciably better than if it were from a CD player working in real time.
It also follows that the performance with MP3 files – even quite lossy ones – is enhanced. You literally get more out of them because of the reduction in jitter and interference. That said, the performance gap between full 24 bit m4a or FLAC and MP3 is made more obvious should you compare differing files of the same musical performance. The Nativ Vita does encourage you to seek out better and newer recordings.
While we have concentrated on the performance from internal storage, the Nativ Vita is an exceptional product for streaming from any other networked source, attached USB drive and a multitude on on-line services including Spotify, Tidal, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Qobuz and many more. As the quality of these services rapidly improves so the contribution the Vita makes to both the sound and user experience is huge. Throw in new developments such as Roon support, and Tidal adopting MQA – Meridian’s Master Quality Assured system and it’s obvious this is where the future lies.
If you are still a little unsure about the quality and practicalities of streaming we suggest you read up on a number of the services here.
How does the Nativ Vita directly compare to other source components? The base model Well Tempered turntable – the new Simplex 2 is by far the best sounding analogue option at this level and costs just slightly more. You can equate cartridge choice on the Well Tempered with SSD storage options in the Nativ – the range in price for these is directly comparable with a 2 TB SSD being about the same as the entry level Dynavector 10X5 mk2. Given a clean new pressing or a 24 bit download, all my listening suggested these two options are neck and neck in terms of sound quality. I’d suggest that the Nativ is the perfect option for analogue enthusiasts that want to bring their digital listing up to the same level.
You don’t have to go far up the Dynavector range (the new DV17DX) to hit price parity with the Nativ Vita so it’s quite sobering to realise our tiny little cartridge is around the same price.
The Nuprime CDP-9 Pro CD player and DAC that we’ve recently reviewed is again in the same territory price wise and each offers a different take on what digital components can do. I was taken by how much better our CDs were sounding via the Nuprime, yet there is so much more that the Nativ delivers in terms of opening up the digital world.
I’m also going to make the obvious comparison with the Apple iPad – the 12.9″ Pro when fully set up comes in at NZ$2019 – it’s a very busy wee thing in terms of what it does, but the audio quality will be no different from the base model iPod touch. The Vita is dedicated to music replay, has a similar sized screen, is physically far more robust, has the solid wood table stand and has far greater storage capacity.
As a source and control system for the new Vifa speakers – especially the top of the range Copenhagen, the Nativ Vita is right in the same ballpark price wise and really makes for the ultimate modern wireless system.
Likewise if we look at server solutions such as the Antipodes options, even their entry level solution at starts at $4100 without any storage and has to be run via smartphone ap as it has no screen or front panel controls and has a very limited array of physical inputs and outputs. A fully functioning Nativ Vita with whooping 2TB of SSD gives you a complete working system for exactly the same end price.
The Nativ Vita is a unique and beautifully executed product that we think stands as one of the best sounding digital sources of any description. It takes music back to where it should be – at the heart of your hifi system. It also features a full array of useful features, unmatched connectivity and will only get better over time as the already slick operating system continues to be improved.
On looks alone, the Nativ Vita makes a real statement – the solid wood stand, big glass touchscreen and careful construction all reflect the quality and attention to detail that we expect. As a company we have found Nativ to be great to deal with – they’ve quickly responded to all my questions, shipped a perfectly working product that’s well packed and complete. Read more of our findings on our blog ‘Nativ Vita – the first 2 months.’
The Nativ Vita has transformed our digital listening experience – let’s make it change yours.
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