Atom / Nova home testing… hints?


I “accidentally” passed by the shop I bought my Atom (and speakers) 2+ years ago and “wondered” about the difference to a Nova.
Now I have a Nova at home for testing until Tuesday or so…

First impression (after 1+ hour or so, just quickly swapped all cables; luckily functionality is the same on the network/inputs):

  • Who needs that many physical inputs? :wink:
  • Can both analogue-out on Nova be used in parallel? (Just wondering.)
  • I adjusted “max volume” to 50 on Nova (like I have on Atom). So likely you will have other displayed values when using default 80 or 100.
    With that, the Nova seems to have a different “curve” - it stays very silent until 30/40 (where Atom starts “normal listening” at 25/30). Then at 40-50 it gets quickly louder, and at 60-70 I have it as loud as I remember from Atom at the same numbers. Haven’t proceeded beyond that point. (Hasn’t happened anyway earlier; with neighbors and stuff.)
  • Seems I found the bass. Very often lacked that on Atom (with B&W 683S2; speakers the dealer had given me during initial demo for “I want some some bass”; adding a DB4S did not much help, except in some movies) but it was hiding somewhere. I can now understand, why the manual on the B&W noticed, not to move too close to walls (which I did, searching for bass) and why there are some foam-thingies in there for people, who want less bass.
    For some music it’s now for me actually “just enough” (won’t get 100% disco feeling, I guess), but good to know, there would be easy measures to reduce it.

I’ll see to some more listening; but I might not notice more subtle changes/differences. (I don’t think my ears are very well trained.)

Question: Any ideas on how to best perform a comparison? Ideally “back to back / direct A/B”?
I only have the 1 set of speakers here.
The (test) engineer has thought, whether I could power up both units, sync them via multi-room, and connect 1 speaker to each. And then try 1:1 comparison with the same music playing in sync. (E.g. using the balance setting to “turn speaker on/off”. With 2 iOS devices I should be able to control both in parallel.)
(Of course system will be powered down, when connecting the speakers. Hence I don’t see, how else I could to a “live” comparison, if otherwise I need to power-down/-up to change speaker connections.)

Any other suggestions on what I could/should do these about 2 days?

(Decision on “upgrade” and checking options on swapping the units will come later. Also the question, whether I’d keep the Atom for secondary system and add other speakers. Though I currently have no room lacking some sound system… hence no immediate need to add systems to the flat.)

I find the best way to test new gear is to just use it for perhaps a week. Don’t try to analyse what you hear, just enjoy it. Then put the Atom back in and see what you’re missing.


I like your approach, sir.
The KISS law. ( keep it simple st****)

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( sorry OP / not trying to kidnap the tread)

Chris , just curiosity:
Before the combo NDX2/250dr, which system did you have?
When did you feel the need to add a DAVE to that? And speaking about him , how good is it?
Finally, did you consider your current speakers your weakest point of the group?
Thank you for your time. :sweat_smile::wink:

Unless you are delighted with the Nova and happy to shell out, why not throw the Star into the mix? If you think the Nova isn’t worth the extra cost, maybe that is.

Not saying you should get the Star, but it seems strange to me to skip it the middle of the range and just compare top and bottom.

Maybe because the Cd drive Is irrelevant for the OP use?

It’s not an Atom with simply a cd drive added. So not sure what you mean.

Not saying it’s Equal to an Atom, With a added drive, but the margin of sound quality isn’t big enough, because part of the money spent goes to a drive that gives you more flexibility, but just in case you use it.

( but I’m just supposing/ let the OP answer.:wink:)

Hmmm. I’d say the Star is closer in performance to the Nova then the Atom. But regardless which it’s closer to, it is in between, so it makes no sense to leave it out when considering both the Atom and Nova.

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Points of view. But probably the middle ground Is gray area. And is preferable white or black? :joy::wink:

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Hmhh. I’ve been told before, that I try to be too analytical “sometimes”…
… I’ll give my best, to let my brain subconsciously assemble a “feeling” for the decision. :wink:
For today, I very much enjoyed what I heard. (Nova only; including my own music, a(n action) movie, and some iRadio).

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Thanks for the consideration. Actually, when I started with the Atom 2.5 years back, I thought the Star/Nova were “too expensive” and actually did not even compare them in the shop (not sure, they had them for demo at the time).
Maybe my decision making (for music setup) wasn’t optimal at the time. (Process and result.)

I’ve found, that though I enjoy the Atom often, there’s something missing; especially for electronic (dance and other) music I’m enjoying, but also with some guitars and stuff. The “something” has to do with bass/oomph/drive, I think. (I’m not the expert on such descriptions.)
So, after that time, it itched enough to check, if this goes better. (Sure it does; but “how much” and “within some reason”.)

Long story short: I did not put the Star on the list, since I won’t use the CD option. And I would be likely even torn between more options (this can happen to me… :innocent: ). This way, I’ll get a first check, if and how much the difference is “black and white”. If I decide for the Nova, I’m done with the process. :wink:

(And yes, I haven’t checked on how to mitigate the cash impact, e.g. by a swap or something. But adding Nova instead of Star won’t make a whole world of a difference, it’s not that they are 2x / 3x the Atom cost. Or what happens later along the ladder of Naim products. I’ll be able to take the hit, if I can justify the upgrade in the first place. Otherwise I would/should not to the audition in the first place.)


But thanks for the comments and hints! :slight_smile:

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Hi, I had a 282 in the system, also a Hugo which I found to be a small improvement over the NDX DAC. Then I saw an ex-demo Dave at a good price, and managed to get it for a months trial. I really liked what Dave did to my system, I then discovered that connecting the DAC directly to the power amp sounded as good, to my ears, as it did with the 282. So I sold the 282. It felt a bit odd, like ripping the heart out of a Naim system, but I trusted my ears, and was glad to be rid of 3 boxes.

As for my speakers, yes, on paper they are the weak link, but they work well in my room, and have been quite capable of showing up changes in my system. I am thinking about what I might buy to replace them, but there’s no rush.

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I am a very happy Nova owner and could hear a clear and immediate improvement over an Atom. Having said that, if you can’t hear that clear and immediate improvement then I wouldn’t bother to upgrade. The price difference is substantial and the functionality is the same. I’m fine with marginal gains at marginal cost but am amazed at the way some people are willing to spend huge sums on upgrades that they have to strain to hear the effect!


Thank you for your words / time.
Dave must be a wonderful DAC. I love Chord a lot. (a cousin of mine has a Chord system and is the best).
Your opinion about the speakers is right: sometimes we (or i) tend to complicate: why do we try to solve a non-existent problem ?! :sweat_smile:
It works / sounds good / carry on.
Thanks again dear sir.

I agree. The price difference between the Atom and Nova is substantial and if the improvement is not marked and obvious, I query the wisdom of making the move. In all but one of the changes I have made to my system over the past decade or so, I have had no hesitation in making the change. If I was reluctant to let the demo piece go back and could afford it, I went for it. (The exception was when I had to choose between SN1 and 200/202 and there the difficulty was differentiating them, but both were significantly better than what I had before.)

@PhilippVH, I would agree with ChrisSU: don’t try to analyse things too deeply. Listen to lots of music and if, when the box is due to go back, you don’t really want it to go, you will know what to do. The only spanner I’d be inclined to throw in the works is if you’re not wedded to a one-box solution. At around the same price as the Nova is the ND5 XS 2/Nait XS 3(or 2). I have not made the comparison, but several have and some preferred the XS boxes. This setup also makes moving on easier if upgraditis strikes in the future.

Have fun auditioning.


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Intermediate update and comments:

There’s surely a clear difference. I don’t know, how to describe it well (trying to express a bit, how it feels)) - it’s a bit like, the Atom paints a very clear, nearly ephemeral picture of the sound. It’s significant more clear than other things I have here around. The Nova retains that clarity, but adds a… physical presence, I think I’m lacking with the Atom. Like a beautiful 2D picture getting partially 3D. Some additional energy, which I think is mostly in the lower frequency ranges and which I “feel”.
I’m not sure, how quantitive the difference is (or how to measure it), but interim thought is, that it’s a clear qualitative step up.

I could not help myself but do a quick test with both units; also interesting, since I first time see the Naim multi-room and cross-unit UPnP sharing function in action. Timing seems to be precise enough, to perform A/B comparison. :wink:

Ah, let’s see. Some more listening and then I’ll see how it feels, when it’s going/gone. (Which I think is a good advice: check, how it feels to give it back / what’s missing afterwards.)

Other systems: I plan to stay with one-box. The IT person tells be, separation of IT and analoge equipment might be a good move across the decades - but for music I think the current platform should be sufficient for some time to come. (Only thing I see beyond is multi-channel/surround systems; consumer electronic market will always find something new to sell; but that would be totally different setups.)

for me is always a case of: does “this new feeling” justify the cost? :wink:

A somewhat subjective question? :wink: