Best and Worst Upgrades

There used to be a thread on this, now long closed. Would people be interested in another?

I am interested in part because the old thread showed a possibly surprising commonality about what worked and didn’t. A cynic would say that lots of Naim-ites (many with LP12s) means Groupthink, but it seems likely to me that upgrades that lots of people agree are big may well be more worth exploring by others than those that disappointed a lot of people.

I have changed a lot of things over the last 5 years, with most of the big stuff happening in 2020. So I made a list and ranked them all in terms of significance.

Very Big
52 replaced 82.
Karousel and Lingo 4 replaced Cirkus & Lingo 1.
Superlne replaced Linto.
B&W 804 D3s replaced Shahinian Compasses.

Big
XPSDR for NDX2.
Supercap replaced 2 Hicaps on 82.
Witch Hat cables (on early listening evidence only).
Isolation/ support changes, inc HRS bits.

Real but not huge
Airplug Z in Superline.
Tellurium Q Black 2 speaker cable replaced Naim A5.
Superline power from 52, not Hicap.

No Consistently Detectable Improvement In SQ
Ethernet switch and cable to NDX2 to replace using wi-fi
Cable dressing/ tidying
Old grey interconnect versus new lavender
Tellurium Blue replacing Naim A5.

Does any of that (apart from the HRS stuff) look surprising? How does a similar list look for anyone without an LP12 and/ or making up their own upgrade path?

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Very big- kore and karousel- fitted at same time so not sure which made the most difference

Changing my phono preamp to a stageline

Moving my speakers around and adjusting the toe in- probably the biggest of these 3 and cost nothing!

Big- Hicap DR for my sn3
Fraim lite
Lingo 2 from Hercules

No discernible difference - glass with Naim ball and cups for LP12
Krystal cart to replace AT mc cart
Hercules ps from valhalla

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Thanks Endon,

That list makes a lot of sense to me.

FWIW, I spent some time a few months ago moving speakers around, waiting until I was used to the sound and then moving again. I am not a great listener so it took an age - and in my case ended up pretty much where the dealer planted them 2 years ago. You may just be better at it than me…

Most interesting to me is your cups-and-balls experience. We tried that on a wall stand, hoping it worked because it was cheap and made some kind of sense, and in that context (so not on a Fraim) the SQ was considerably worse than not using them.

I know what you mean about double-upgrades too. My Core is old but I got Lingo 4 and Karousel together last year. I guess the bearing made a bigger difference based on what others say, but have no way of knowing.

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Agree re speaker placement. Luckily I had help from @crispyduck and having 2 people listening helps enormously.
I also blind tested my stageline (on loan) and my previous phono preamp- a Leema essentials with @crispyduck and we both agreed that the stageline was considerably better.
Alcohol helped the process too…obviously….

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For Me (IMO - YMMV…) - and limited to just Naim components -

Best - 2 candidates -

  • NAP250, replacing NAP110
  • NAC82, replacing NAC102

Worst - just the one -

  • NAC102, replacing NAC72
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All in last few years;

Very big
XPS-DR on 272
150x to 300 (not surprising)
252 to 552 (no slight on the wonderful 252, but the 552 does give a good bang to buck)

Big
SCM11 to 606
555/272 to 555/NDS
HiCap on 42/110
272 to 252
QED speaker cable to Witch Hat N2. It showed up the QED silver anniversary as far too bright for the system.

Real but not huge
Hard wired Ethernet Cisco router versus Wi-Fi

Can’t think of anything that disappointed.

Hoping to get dedicated mains installed very soon. Intrigued to hear what effect that has.

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Best - One of the best and most reasonable upgrades was having my my Nait2 serviced. I was expecting a minor improvement, but I wasn’t expected to be somewhat slack jawed at the result. Also, adding a Hi-Cap to a 62/140 set up was a bit of an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. The step up to a NAC52 was also very impressive.

Worst - Even though I really enjoyed the sound my my Musical Fidelity kit, it was plagued with reliability issues and ended up at the dealers for most of its lifespan, so not the worst ‘upgrade’, but one of the most frustrating. Also, I didn’t care for the Linn Intek much either, bought unheard due to the reputation of Linn.

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Worst mistake
Selling my original pair of Allaes and going AE301s what was I thinking

Best upgrade
552DR by a mile with the Dave right behind

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I look forward to the mains news. I have a 6-way block and a Hydra from Grahams plugged into the only 2 sockets available.

I have generally assumed that there’s nothing much to be done (e.g. no Powerlines) in what is a long and probably inglorious supply, given that I have little interest in getting someone to tear things up to give me a dedicated spur. Mind you, I do occasionally wonder how I’d do an AB test on that…

Having you do a possibly-relevant test and telling us the result can only help.

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I will certainly report back. It will be a simple matter to switch between an old circuit socket and the new to compare…

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Very big
Chord Aray Ground Plug

Kidding

G

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I made a lot of small tweaks to the system in a short time, and I am finding a cumulatively surprisingly clear effect:

Rega P3 / Elys > P10 /Apheta 3
Phone with Bluetooth receiver/DAC > NDX2/555DR
Rotel RC1070 > 252/SCDR
Built-in phono of the 1070 > SuperLine
Rotel RB1080 > 300DR
Monitor Audio Gold GX200 > Sehring Audio S913

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Small?!

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:smiling_imp:

Worst? Probably the Musical Fidelity pre 8 I bought as a set with MA65 class A monoblocs. Sadly the pre was not in the same class as the lovely, albeit coloured, power amps. Eventually replaced front end with a Meridian set.

Best? Always the most recent. OK, then the ATC SCM40A which replaced PMC Fact 3/Nap 250DR. Less money, improved sound.

Roger

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Worst:
Replacing the CDX2/XPS2 with HDX-SSD + DAC/XPS2.

Best:
Replacing the Linn Sara with SBL

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so just in terms of fairly recent changes

P6/Ania/Stageline to P8/Apheta 3/Aria was the most significant jump for me recently. I did the TT/Cart change first and then a couple of months later the stage change and both were about equal in terms of impact. So in that sense, the Phono stage change I feel was better VFM.

The next biggest improvement would be my recent retiring of the 202 in favour of a NAC82/HicapDR, though nowhere near as much as the Source upgrade was. As this was essentially cost neutral this is probably the best value upgrade I’ve done.

The cheapest was three cheap rubber feet ($10 bucks each) attached to an offcut of Kwila Kitchen bench under the Turntable. It made a small but noticeable difference. I mainly did it to bring the height of the TT up a bit to make it easier to change records so the isolation effect was a bit of a bonus and has got me thinking maybe a better isolation platform, an Isoacoustic Zazen or Delos or some such might be worth a look.

The worst was an Achromat on the P8, the music just sort of fell apart, hard to describe, like a pile of bricks instead of a wall if that makes sense. I’m prone to static cling so ideally would not use the felt but it sounds much better than anything else l’ve tried.

I also briefly had a lightweight metal and glass rack in play recently which I think was a small improvement but our lass couldn’t stand to look at it - it was sinfully ugly so fair enough.

Next for me is probably to look at upgrading the 155xs to something gruntier as I reckon my speakers would take the extra power (Totem Hawks) or find a better racking solution.

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Changing QED XL25 speaker cable for NACA5 was a huge mistake. With QED NAP150x with Kef Q550 sounds much better. Made someone very happy with the NACA5.

Worst. Tarantula mains cable and power block. The most detrimental affect i have ever had from a cable destroyed the timing and the balance. Standard extension from Argos was better!

Mistake, buying a Sub, didnt need it, got suckered in by media hype, Took room measurements for me to realise it was totally over loading the room. sold now!

Best, just about any Atlas cable i can afford!
The Holo Audio Spring 3 DAC, stunning performance for the price

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I often hear pros and cons to upgrades, even ones that everyone raves about, so rarely get to hear a massive upgrade. However, one that’s always stuck in my mind was going from a worn Arkiv B to an Akiva - just music music music, not a trace of a HiFi at work. That was wonderful.

Worst would have been as a teenager when messing around with all sorts. I once bought a Mission Cyrus amp to match with a hard sounding Marantz CD player and some thin AR speakers and that was bloody awful.

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