Are my expectations too high or the reviewers lazy?

Being owner of both a fine turntable and a SN2, I was curious about the SN3 on its own and especially the added phono stage. While I use a fairly costly MC cartridge and the phono input is MM only, there are things like step-up transformers.

Simply to get an idea about the differences between the two amps in general and the quality of the phono stage in particular, I looked out for the first reviews.

While each reviewer mentioned the phono stage as a new feature, only a single one actually used it. Of those who didn’t, most had turntables with MC cartridges only.

I am sort of disappointed with this. What are your thoughts? Is a review of the SN3 (or the XS) complete by simply mentioning the new feature or should the phono stage be a part?

I can see that adding a step up transformer or MM cartridge to an existing system brings another variable into the equation. And some components, like the dcs Bartok for example, have such a huge number of different inputs, filter and output settings, would lead to a print review with more than ten pages. But still…

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I don’t know I suspect there is a really long thread about built in phono stages and at what point you want a dedicated MM /MC phono stage.

I have just bought a good quality Graham Slee phono stage - it is MM only, my view is that a built in stage is goo up to a certain point. Once you reach say a Rega 8 or something t that price point with a MC then you need a good stand alone phono stage .

Personally I would point that point at around £2,000

I’ve also been conditioned to believe built-in phono stages are always weaker than outboard stages. I don’t 100-percent believe it, but it sorta makes sense: you can always buy a more expensive phono stage that will probably sound better than one put into an all-in-one unit at a specific price point. That said, the stage in my Cyrus 1 sounded better to me than my outboard did at the time…until I upgraded that outboard stage. I suppose it comes down to what your floor is for sound, and what your ceiling.

Because I’m almost strictly vinyl, I read reviews specifically for mention of phono stuff, so am disappointed when it’s not there. But time spent by the media on vinyl is definitely better now than what it once was.

On a side note, unrelated: how come no integrated amps come with a great MC stage or step up? It’s always MM, or MM/MC. When looking at a specific price point, I would think (though could well be wrong) that most folks would be using MC predominantly. (I’m sure someone has an answer.)

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I think the original Bryston integrated had a switchable Hammond step-up and MM phono stage, like their preamps.

The supernait 3 is still rather low down the Naim pecking order, at the bottom of the classic series and aimed at those with an aversion to boxes so a good internal MM stage seems appropriate and if you’re taking source first seriously it looks like it will power a superline from the AUX socket.

I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. My point wasn’t about the quality of the phono stage inside the SN3, just that most reviewers never even bothered to listen to it.

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A Superline fed from the Aux 2 of my SN2 sounds fine (I had a chance to try it thanks to my local dealer) and I think it would be the same with the newer integrated. No problem with the MM only phono stage, as well, just with the reviewers ignoring it.

I’m not sure that putting an MC phono stage in the same box as an integrated amp is such a good idea. That tiny weak signal is going to be so susceptible to even the faintest level of interference from the electronics in the same box, quite a bit more so than the signal from a MM cartridge. Lets face it, if anyone is going to tackle this issue by using a separate box, it’s going to be Naim.

If you are married to MC, there are now high output MC cartridges that should be used with MM stages rather than MC.

Of course, that does limit what MC you can choose and you may just not like the high output ones.

Added to that, the cost of adding MC support might not be beneficial if most customers at the SN3 level are using MM cartridges. I don’t think your expectations are too high. I just think it is as simple as the SN3 might not be the product for you.

You are absolutely dead right @Mulberry, given the importance of the inbuilt phono stage to the new range of Naim amplifiers all the reviewers should have tried the feature with a suitable level of cartridge and turntable.


Not sure when they were first available… but I had a Supex 901ev in 1981.

The other perspective of course is nothing to do with reviewers being ‘lazy’ but what brief they have from the magazine, which includes the length of the review and therefore the amount of time they are being paid for to spend on it. So an answer to the original question would have to include some analysis of the editorial policy within which the review was being carried out and the financial and contractual relationship of the reviewer to the magazine.

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Hope this helps - five free-to-read-online reviews of the Supernait 3, all of which reference the phono stage performance (albeit briefly in some cases, but it’s there!)


Thanks for all your thoughts!

Please let me clarify that I have no problem with the phono stage in the SN3 being MM only and probably not at reference level. There are good reasons for both and you pointed them out.

My point was and is that the only new feature was neglected by most reviewers.

@Naim.Marketing: Many thanks for the numerous links. The review by Jason Kennedy for HiFi+ was the one with listening impressions of the phono input. The ones without were on The Ear, fairaudio and in the German HiFi and Records magazine.

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