Active Olive SBLs disappoint

Looking for advice - apologies for the long post.

I’ve eventually got there - full active Naim system - but its not what I hoped for!

System is…
XPS2 (Powerline)
Supercap (Powerline)
SNAIC 4 (Grey)
Supercap (Powerline Lite)
135s (All Powerline Lites)
SBLs Mk1

All sits in/on an IKEA TV cabinet (BESTÅ BURS for those interested :wink:

Prior to installing the SNAXO & latest 135s the sound was very satisfying - lots of musicality & often made me dance about the room (thankfully, no videos are available)
Since installing the active components its all a bit flat. Very hi-fi but boring! No dancing since.

So my question is where have I gone wrong?
Could the cable dressing make this much difference? (I admit to just getting it all connected tbh, & pushed the IKEA cabinet back without doing any cable messing!)
Or is this how it should be?
Yes, there’s more of stuff - more bass, more distinct, more definition. But less music. It no longer boogies :disappointed:

The other annoying thing is the balance/soundstage. Its all to the left. Its as if I’m sat in a sound hole - move slightly either way & I hear more. Moving the balance control to the right helps a little but vocalist all seem to be on the left.

Anyone had similar issues?

Have you got it all connected correctly. Are all four speakers cables connected in phase (+ to + / - to -) for a start.


I had considered phase but assumed if I was getting decent levels out of both speakers it wasn’t phase - but thanks I’ll put that on the list of things to check.


Sorry to hear of your troubles. You have a superb system and going active should have made vast improvements.

If I could make a couple of suggestions? Active systems tend to be extremely critical of set-up details - far more so than their passive equivalents. The first thing I would be looking at is the system support. Really an Ikea cabinet is just not good enough for a system like this. Maybe before going active you got away with it, but not now. I suspect that if you place the system on a proper rack, preferably Fraim, but whatever is within your budget, then you will bring back the performance that you were expecting. Secondly pay close attention to cable dressing. Again active systems are very critical of this. If you are using a mains distribution block then make sure it is a good quality one.

I cannot stress enough the point that active systems are far more susceptible to set-up details than their passive counter-parts. Everything is placed under a microscope. Get it wrong and the results - as you are finding - will disappoint.


Yes, cable dressing will make a big difference here. But that’s just for starters. As Pete has alluded to above, active systems will expose any shortcomings in the system chain and in set up. Passive is more forgiving here so maybe this is the problem. The late great and much missed Malcolm Steward wrote at length about this back in the day.

Speaking of which, change that grey SNAIC to a black one ASAP.

The balance/soundstage issue is a concern; It might also be a good idea to get the SNAXO checked over and serviced if necessary. Has it every been re-wired in the past?


There’s something fundamentally wrong there. I would revisit the connections as they are so easy to get wrong. I know I’ve done it myself!

Having it on less than ideal supports wont get the best out of it but it shouldn’t have the impact you describe.

Hope you get it sorted because when you do you should really appreciate what all the fuss is about. The older Naim and Linn speakers are totally transformed by taking them active IMHO.


I didn’t know… saddened to learn this… When did he pass on, Richard… sorry been away… Malcolm was another Naim stalwart and music lover whose reviews many enjoyed, as I did. He and Paul Messenger’s feedback from their reviews - I’d always looked forward to.

Gold for you, Lerxxst. You’re gonna have some fun with uplifts in sound quality as you start to tinker and tidy things up in your active set-up… Embrace and enjoy the journey, Sir!

Richard, thank you for helping us on the Forum and for “policing” to keep the Forum a saner place… :upside_down_face: :sweat_smile: :sunglasses: :muscle:t3: :+1:t3:
I appreciate your posts and feedback from your experience. Cheers and keep well.


Phil, Malcolm was involved in a car accident back in 2015 during which he suffered a stroke. He passed away in January 2020.

Here’s the forum thread from back then, started by Paul Stephenson;



Thanks for the feedback.
I agree, the IKEA needs replacing but at that point I hit domestic harmony head on :roll_eyes:

I’m not sure I can get away with Fraim in the living room - especially enough for 11 black boxes!
Any suggestions for more aesthetically appealing system supports?

I don’t use a distribution block - just 8 unstitched MK sockets on a dedicated mains line.

I’ll add Fraim & alternatives to the list along with cable dressing.

Look for MK II drivers… worth some particularly in an active set-up.
The SNAXO 2-4 as Richard shared, is a sensitive component, best to
have Naim service it just in case. Same with the 52.

For me, particularly for the requirements of an active Naim system,
the source-first rule will reign supreme.

The NDX is just not on par with the rest of the active system
which acts like a sonic microscope… can’t afford to compromise, Sir
so when you can, getting at least an NDS (a compromise to an extent
in the context of your active monoblock set-up) though what you would
really need to be gunning for is the ND555 to provide you with that
more audible, appreciable boost for your active set up to really fly.

The better the feed quality, the better the active sound particularly,
source and electricity included.

Last thing to help you, is to keep the brains well away from the brawn,
with the latter always on the right stack, so the distance to the brain electronics
is maximised as far away from those brawn transformers located on the right side
of all Naim power supplies.

Enjoy your upgrade journey and it would be nice to have you share
it as you get on…! :slight_smile: Cheers

Hi Richard,

I’ll get the SNAIC replaced as soon as possible - it’s what came with the kit.
The recent 135s & SNAXO have not been serviced as far as I know & the SNAXO hasn’t been re-wired. The seller had run it with a pair of 250s into SBLs & it came with blanking covers on the upper two outputs.

I was already planning to send them all to Darran at some point - that may now be more urgent :wink:

List is getting longer!

1 Like

Hi Marksnaim

Yes, I think the plan for the weekend is to re-build it all again. It did take most of Wednesday but I was taking my time with getting the connections correct. Or so I thought.

1 Like

Hi Phil,

Yes, a second pair of SBLs MK2 are on may buy list. I’m concerned that the ones I have may need attention at some point so would like a “spare” set. They are a truly wonderful speaker when set up correctly.
The Brains/Brawn issue comes back to the support. What I currently have doesn’t allow me to separate in that way unfortunately. TBH, there’s barely enough space for all of it anyway.
Will bear it in mind when I look at supports.


Imperative particularly for active set-ups.

Always loved them, always will. I wish you maximal enjoyment when you’re finally done.

No rush. :slight_smile: The fun is in the journey and gradual build up.


When I owned Fraim I found that it actually looks rather better 'in the flesh" than in pictures. It’s actually quite smart. Failing that Quadraspire SV is very good and is what I own now. Coincidentally I believe it’s what Malcolm Steward used (I remember seeing a picture of his set-up) so what better endorsement than that? Another quite different looking option is Isoblue but I have no idea how it sounds. Find some nice pictures of set-ups using these racks in smart rooms and show them to your other half!

OK, great. If the SNAXO and the 135s have never been serviced then they are waaaay past due.


Have a look at the other ‘favoured’ alternatives. I have Isoblue - and I like it… Replaced SF Tripods. Sounds OK to me… :crazy_face:

1 Like

That’s blasphemy here… ha ha ( horsing )

The Fraims are a matter of taste for sure… but they’re quite nice in pitch black…
modern, almost alien in their mysteriousness, but rather sexy…
I think you’d be hard pressed to find something else that complements and brings
out the real and full Naim flavour compared to the Fraims for the price paid,
especially pre-used. I have been searching… still back to Fraim for Naim equipment. :man_shrugging:t3:
It just works synergistically for sonic quality, and I am resigned to that in some
manner as it means Naim have gotten me by the b*lls yet again and I have to
(“happily”) pay.

Medium / tall spacers will create more “air” around the electronics for the sound to
breathe that much better. 11 boxes is plenty for sure. :sunglasses: :sweat_smile: :upside_down_face: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: You asked for it, Sir! LOL

I guess I am sharing all this with you because I feel your “sonic pain” - and wish to help
you as an active set-up should really be singing to heaven and back.

Thanks Phil,

I may have to start leaving Fraim brochures around the house & commenting on how nice they look!

1 Like