I have no serious experience with multiple Naim box systems, although I tend to agree that the price point (per ChrisSU) or depth of the rabbit hole (per Mike_S) has a correlation with sound quality and overall enjoyment.
That said, I’d like to chime in with the other Nova owners / fans to encourage you to keep it on your list. I upgraded from a SuperUniti, which I really enjoyed, and this is simply “a bit more” in all the good ways that make it fun to listen to music. Plus one box, latest platform, excellent system integration and optimization…
I have the Nova playing into Kudos S10 stand mounts in a very large open concept main floor and enjoy a balanced (perhaps bass light? I don’t know / can’t decide, tbh) and controlled presentation. I listened to a few “recommded test tracks” specifically to double check imaging and tonal balance given your comments about what you want to look for in your demos. I googled and liked the list of 10 Favourite Tracks from Lifewire (although they bumped Aja for Rosanna for reasons I cannot fathom; they need to join the forum and catch Richard Dane and others on the merits of this track and this album!) and, in a rare return to audiophile critical listening (per the worst view of Alan Parsons, again discussed here on a recent thread) I tried using songs to listen to the gear instead of the other way round.
Two standouts that really impressed. First, the great balanced tones including credible but by no means overly weighty low bass, gorgeous vocals, inky blackness (!), plus delicate and clear tinkling bells from the beautiful Holly Cole “Train Song” from Temptation (stick around for the heart stopping Jersey Girl…).
Second, and to me much more surprising, the easy-to-locate four saxophones quite distinctly placed and imaged across the soundstage but also clearly separated front-to-back on World Saxophone Quartet’s “The Holy Men” from Metamorphosis. Perhaps imaging has more to do with positioning and toe-in, perhaps it’s not a main focus for Naim tuning, but it was very clearly done well and easy to follow (and this in a test track that came with the following caveat : “You’ll want to be able to pick out each saxophone individually and point to it (yes, in the air). If you can do that, then you’ve got a fantastic system. If not, don’t worry too much, because this particular listening test is pretty hard!”)
So, thanks for inspiring me to revisit technical capabilities here in my living room! I’m happily back to letting Aja play through its hip lush story now. But please keep the Nova on your list and even if you spend your way further up the ladder (or down the rabbit hole), you’ll have a modern baseline for comparison and evaluating what extras you are acquiring.
Best wishes with your search and enjoy whatever you end up with!