£10k upgrade, speakers or amps

My former system was a Rega Isis, Nac 282, Hicap, Nap 250 DR and Focal micro utopia be. My dealer had an ex-demo B&W 802d3. I asked him if my 250 would be underpowered for the B&W’s. He encouraged me to have a demo. I was impressed. V. Williams 5th Symphony, which is a favourite, sounded sublime. Bought the speakers.
A few months later I wanted to explore the Naim upgrade path to the next level. The speaker was a B&W 804d3. Started off with my existing amps and the in progression introduced a Supercap DR, Nac 252 and finally a Nap 300DR. Each upgrade produced a noticeable but smallish improvement. I told the dealer the overall sound was quite a bit short of my existing system. So £10k extra on amplifier costs was , in my experience, clearly beaten by £10k extra on speaker cots. I have upgraded my amps since but should better speakers come before better amps?

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Welcome… to the Madness… :crazy_face:

Round here, in NaimWorld, more amps always beats more speakers… Sometimes to a crazy degree… At one point I had a 250 driving Linn Kans… Some people had 135’s doing the same. My current speakers are Kudos X3’s, which when new were around £2100. I still use the same Naim 250 to drive them.

I will admit to no knowledge of (any) B&W speakers, but quick searches suggest both those you mention are in the high £1000’s…? As I said, thats - generally - not the way peeps go on here…
But… YMMV, etc.

Hi RWC and welcome.

The “party line” around here is: electronics before speakers and my own experience tallies with that. But I found your story interesting and I suspect it would be regarded as normal on a number of other forums. Your experience is just as valid as anyone else’s and the main thing is that you enjoy your system, which you are obviously doing.

So read with interest, but don’t take any posts here too seriously, including this one.



Conventional wisdom is that source, then amps and finally speakers and it is normally the best way. But there are many times when taking a different path gives someone a system that works for them. If you are happy with the sound, enjoy it and don’t worry overly about slavishly following the “rules” about the correct path to good hi-fi.

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SYNERGY, nothing else.


In my view, based on experience, the answer is a resounding yes, provided that the amp is capable of controlling the speakers adequately for you. (Some speakers are more demanding on amps than others - and it is not directly related to cost or any obvious measure of sound quality.)

I feel much the same with source and speakers, especially if the bottom end if the frequency spectrum is important to the listener (again provided an reasonable basic level of source, not lo-fi)


Thanks. I have been a Naim owner for over 25 years and love their equipment. I was surprised at what I heard. But my wife and the Naim/B&W dealer, I believe, agreed with me. I guess all I am saying is trust your ears. The upgrade to Nac 252 and Nap 300 substantially improves the SQ. Jason Kennedy in a review said the 802d3’s should be compared to speakers costing two times and more which would put it into 500 series territory (!) perhaps this was a one off.

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in the 20+ years of ownership I have only owned 3 sets of speakers Spendor S6e’s, B&W 805N and current and moreover end speaker Kudos Titan T505

my first AMP NAP 200 powered the Spendor and B&w 805’s but when I moved to 300 and then 300DR the B&W really came on song - pres were 202. 282 and then 252

IMO the speakers will only reproduce the signal they are given - source first always and then a balance in the system - B&W are very good but the need to be controlled well

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Yes I agree. Naim amps with their high current control speakers supposedly that need huge watts. I was surprised that the 250 produced a great sound with the 802’s in my room. The 300 is quite a bit better. Part of the reason for my blog was to suggest that big speakers with high sensitivity, such as the 90db 802 can be driven really well by the 250 and 300. If you read US reviews nothing less than a 500w behomoth will work with the 802.

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You don’t need many watts to drive sensitive speakers. If you would choose to use a Uniti Atom to drive the 90db 802’s:

Around 100dB SPL is plenty loud:

Jet take-off (at 305 meters), use of outboard motor, power lawn mower, motorcycle, farm tractor, jackhammer, garbage truck.

Loudness is quite different from controlling difficult speaker loads! And 100dB at the listening position - which requires higher at 1m unless listening pretty close. If that is on peaks it eon’t satisfy anyone who likes to listen to music at ‘realistic’ levels, however occasionally.

But I think you know that!

(Realistic to me is achieving the same impact as being in a good seat in concert hall listening to an orchestra play dramatic music.)

And a listener will only hear whatever signal from the source if or as well as the speaker reproduces it…. But there are other threads on the source first philosophy, this one is about amp vs speaker (to which my argument above also applies!).

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And not forgetting that different speakers will reproduce the signal differently with varying flavours.

True, with a 100dB sensitive speaker that would perhaps be feasible when driven by an Atom :wink:

Steel mill, auto horn at 1 meter. Turbo-fan aircraft at takeoff power at 200 ft (118 dB). Riveting machine (110 dB); live rock music (108 - 114 dB)

Speakers are peculiar. Some frequencies could only need a few watts to reach a 100 dB output. whilst other frequencies might need 300 + watts to reach a 100 dB output.
That’s if your looking for a flat response at 100 dB with capable speakers. Most sensible folk are looking towards a flat response at a maximum of 70 ± dB which still means useable output of 250 watts into some loads.

You’ve got all the amps you need, and the Rega Isis is a good player. I don’t buy into front end first. I believe Balance is the key. I thinks its time to change speakers. ProAc, Kudos, Magico, Wilson… 4 of the best.

4 very good speakers but apart from Proac they are all expensive if matching the 802 d3’s performance (20hz to 20+ khz) eg the Kudos 808 would cost double what I paid for the 802. Wilson and Magico are even more expensive in the UK

From what I read in this very forum, we all (me included) tend to spend a lot of money in electronics.

I had 3 different systems

  • nDAC - PS555-DR / SuperNait 2 / HiCapDR /
  • nDAC - PS555-DR / NAC 252 DR / NAP 300 DR /
  • ND555 , 2x PS555-DR / NAC 552 / NAP 500 DR

In order of magnitude, my best upgrades were :

  • Room treatment (amazing upgrade!)
  • Speakers
  • Electronics

You have a fine system, your speakers are good as well.

I’d suggest to take into consideration your room first.

Once the room acoustics is sorted out, and you still feel the need for a change, then speakers will give the best uplift for your money (IMO).


imho, well - definitely the speakers! they don’t need to cost the earth but they make or break whether you love your system and your music, or may be just like it and can never quite stop wondering what’s missing and which cable is wrong (and btw it’s never the cable at such fundamental level in my experience!)

I would say your source and DAC should ideally be at least slightly overindulgent and the amplification adequate (and it’s not about the numbers so much).

So … one needs to love their speakers and they need to love your system, it’s all tuneful love really! :heart: :two_hearts: :heartpulse: :sunglasses:

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Yes I agree speakers seem to have such different individual characters and sound. Sometimes I struggle to hear a change or improvement with an amplifier and can look completely blank when listening for a change with a new cable. But with a new speaker the reaction, good or bad, is immediate. Improvement or changes with amps can take longer to appreciate but are important.