Adding tube amp to Atom


Being an Atom owner for almost two years now, I’m looking to get more of a tubey/organic sound from my setup. I’m wondering if plugging an integrated tube amplifier to my Atom (from the preamp out, to preamp in of the tube amp) will give me good results. Probably a dumb question, but I’m definitely not an expert…

I really love the Naim app and the convenience of my Atom (gorgeous screen and design), but it sounds a bit “digital” at times with some of my music out of my speakers (Focal Chorus 726). I’m looking for a bit more of a organic touch with the famous holographic soundstage that comes with some tube amps. So I’m looking for budget-friendly amps to begin with (like Willsenton R8, Doge 10 MK3, which have a preamp input).

Is it a good (and feasible) plan?
Thanks a lot in advance.


Do bear in mind that the Atom does not have a line out, it has a post volume control pre out. If you were to use the Doge, with its pre in, you’d still be using the Atom’s preamp. If you want a tube amp to use with the Atom, you’d probably be better with a power amp than an integrated. As the preamp has a huge effect on the sound, a pure Naim source, such as an ND5XS2, used with a tube integrated, may be better.

It’s also worth considering that the Chorus 726 is a large multi driver speaker, but also a cheap speaker, so its absolute quality may be questionable. Alternative speakers are worth looking at too.

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Icon audio do a tube buffer amp it sits in between the source and amp to give a tube sound might be worth a look

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I’ve ran the Focal Chorus 726V (same speaker?) for many years, albeit with NAD not Naim. I must say that I don’t recognise what the OP describes. Also, cheap is relative here, most people wouldn’t spend anything near it on speakers. NAD is probably a bit warmer than Naim, so it might indeed be that different amplification could change the sound.

Of course upgrading those speakers could bring good improvement, but not convinced it’s the source of the issue described.

Having both a full Naim system and a full Luxman tube system, I can say that it is not a given that tube amps sound warm and tubey. That warmth that people like is generally from the distortion caused by having and amp designed to push the tubes a little harder for more power but generally at the expense of greatly reduced lifespan. Tube amps not designed that way probably won’t sound tubey at all.

Also, unlikely you’ll find a tube amp able to comfortably drive your speakers. It less about power and more about impedance curves and phase angles. Tube friendly speakers are chosen with care.

With all that in mind, have you simply considered you want something better than the atom/focal combo? Leaving your speakers unchanged, you could see how the Naim ND5xs2/Nait xs3 combo fares. But the focals have a reputation for being on the forward side which might be more the source of your “digital” sound.

I might be inclined to test different speakers. If anything, just to rule them out.

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As far as I know, the 726v was the previous model line to the 726, so looks like it’s about the same speaker. I agree that this speaker can change significantly with a different source: my previous setup (Cambridge CXA80) was sounding quite a bit different with it (more dynamic, a bit better separation and air). With the Atom, they now sound more polite and less expansive, but more coherent and a bit smoother overall. So, yes, I like this speaker and the synergy with my Atom but I just want to experiment it with tubes (or maybe other SS source) to get a more organic sound, without going overkill in terms of price. I also heard good things about Marantz Amps warmish home sound…

Yeah, tubes is like a world of its own. It’s about specs, synergy (and tube rolling)…

From the comments, pairing the Atom with an integrated tube amp doesn’t seems to be the best solution.

As I’ve mentioned above, my actual setup doesn’t sound bad at all, but I’m missing some of the organic touch of some male vocals and percussions when compared to my desktop-headphone-tubes-setup… Some of my old jazz albums actually sounds a bit “sharp” and can be a bit fatiguing for long listening sessions. I agree that my speakers (as some other Focal) are on the brighter side of neutral.

You’re right about the fact that not every tube amp will sound tubey… The Doge 10 Mk1 is a good example of tube amp which sound more on the forward side (not very laidback and smooth as other models). Again, it’s a matter of specs, synergy and personal taste. The Doge Mk3 is seemingly more forgiving than the Mk1 (but I have to dig a little bit more to confirm).

I also forgot to mention that I have a Denafrips Ares ii DAC (actually used in my desktop headphones chain) that I can bring in my speaker setup, if I ever decide to go for a separated pieces setup… I’ve tested it with a transport source to the Atom amp and, again, it changes the sound of my speakers significantly (way more rolled off on top, more soundstage depth, etc.).

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