Best Pathway to SN3 & ND5 XS2

Hello Naim Community,

I was introduced to Naim about 6 years ago when I purchased a UnitiLite all-in-one streamer. I didn’t know the brand before that. It was a big step for me at the time as my hi-fi budget had always been limited. I’ve loved the UnitiLite and had it paired with a set of Harbeth P3ESRs in a small room. Following a move to a new house (and larger listening room) I moved up to Harbeth Monitor 30.1s as I’ve enjoyed the Harbeth sound. I also have a Rega Planar 6 turntable connected to the Unitilite via a Mk 3 Rega MM Fono phono stage.

Now my goal is to work on the source and amplification side. Obviously auditioning equipment will be key, but now that I’m sold on Naim and the enthusiasm for the brand by other owners, I’m inclined to work towards the Supernait 3 and ND5XS2 streamer.

Here’s my question: I can’t buy both at once. Assuming I like the sound of these devices paired with my speakers, what is the best upgrading path for me? Add the SN3 and use the amplifier portion on it only, driven by the UnitiLite as a preamp/streamer for now, or upgrade the streamer/preamp portion to the ND5 XS2 and use the amplification portion of the Unitilite.

I’d welcome your thoughts.

Iain

P.S. If I go to the SN3, do I need to change my speaker cable? I see a lot of talk about Naim amps needing cable of a certain specification or the amp can run hot. My current speaker cable is nothing high end so perhaps I’ll need to upgrade that if I go the SN3 route to protect the amp?

Either way is possible, but personally I would get the streamer first. It should sound better than using the Unitilite streamer, but also it opens up a range of new services such as AirPlay, Chromecast, Roon, and Qobuz, and some iRadio improvements. It’s then a simple matter to swap your Unitilite for a Supernait when you’re ready.
I would try to listen to the final system before you commit, and a decent dealer should be able to demo this for you. Maybe consider some alternatives, such as NDX2/NaitXS and see if a more ‘source first’ approach appeals.

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Ref speaker cable - the sn like other amps in the current range are not particularly bothered by speaker cable except for one type; don’t use litz ie anything woven such as kimber. Also electrofluidics/ Townsend isolda can be troublesome.
Naca5 is the obvious “no brainer” choice and longer is better but you don’t have to conform to this with a nait xs or sn.
Maybe say what you have here so members can comment on its suitability.

I’d get the ND first, use it as a source in to the Unitilite. Your amp choice may adapt as well, unless you really need a built in MM phono stage, you can get an almost new SN2 for around £2k and they are lovely Supernaits, I’ve owned all three and would recommend a SN2 without hesitation especially if you’re someone who can be satisfied with just a few boxes doing everything!
I’d concur with the comments on speaker cable. I’ve used Naim NAC A5 on multiple NAIT’s, it’s a safe bet, NAIT’s aren’t so fussy on speaker cable length but anything between 3.5m - 8m is ideal, many owners centre on 4m or 5m typically. You can get them used fairly easily, even new a pair at a suitable length is about £200-250 from memory.

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What do you mean with woven ? Can you elaborate on that?

Like this is a “no no”

Are you totally committed to buying brand new items? Because these are both items that folks will trade up from. If you are patient, and let a good dealer (or 2) know what you are looking for, you may very likely be able to buy each “gently pre-owned.” In which case I would buy whichever pops up at a good price first! This is a very cost-effective way to acquire almost-brand-new Naim “stuff.”

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@Bart, used is certainly an option although Naim isn’t as common in Canada so it may be a bit of a wait. I have no problem with the SN2 and, while I’m sure the phono stag. e is good in the SN3, perhaps its no better than the Rega Fono Mk3, given it is integrated into the amp?

@Mr.M and @ChrisSU, thanks for the tip on going with the ND approach first. Chris, interesting suggestion on going with the NDX2 and NaitXS – or at least trying it. I had not thought of that combination and perhaps wrongly assumed the amplification difference between the two would be more significant than the streamer differences.

I would think that you can get items shipped from the States without too much hassle? If so, I would highly recommend my dealer, Tyler of NextLevel Hi Fi in Illinois outside of Chicago. He does a lot of used equipment taken in trade as his clients upgrade.

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@Bart thanks for the referral-it’s always good to get a reference. Much appreciated.

I had almost exactly the same situation as you.
I began my Naim journey with a Superuniti, and after a year or so, and a whack of posting and reading on this site, I realized I was going to need a separate streamer and integrated amp. This forum is a little dangerous at times …
I first purchased an SN2, and used the SU as the source and bypassed the SN2 preamp. That sounded very good for a while until six months later I happened upon a steal for an NDS.

So, I think your choices would work very well either way you go about it. I was also trying to offset the purchases for cash flow reasons, like yourself.

Now, I’m just working at maxing out the system I have, thru a Hi-line cable, good power cables, proper support for the black boxes, solid electrical supply, and of course, power supplies.
Best of luck with whichever you route you take.

Dave

I’m not specifically trying to steer you away from the Supernait, and I’m sure your Harbeths will like the extra power it delivers. Still, the XS is a nice amp too, and some prefer it.

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I’m in Canada, and I’ve had no problem getting used Naim gear when necessary. Try CAM.
Cheers.

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@david1111 I’ll have a search for CAM. Thanks for the suggestion. You’ve had good luck buying used gear over the years? I’m always worried, in case something goes wrong, but Naim gear seems well built and reliable.

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Hi TO. I usually find that over a 2-3 month window, there’s a few to choose from. I specifically pick the one that’s in the best condition. If the unit doesn’t have any marks on it, and the sharp, top front edge isn’t chipped or scuffed in any way, then the previous owners have babied it a little.

I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Plurison, the Canadian affiliate. I haven’t had to use them yet myself, but if sending a black box back to Salisbury was too much of a cost/problem, then I wouldn’t hesitate to use Plurison.
My pre-owned pieces have come from CAM.

And I’m so appreciative that I switched to Naim gear. I was getting so tired of poor mixing and matching of components, always wishing it sounded better; y’know, like Naim sounds …

I imagine that Ayre products sound excellent when used together, but they are just as costly as Naim, and even more so; and there are very few pre-owned Ayre items available.
Cheers.

Dave

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I’ll echo david1111 comments on finding Naim gear in Canada. I live in the States and have found a couple of Naim items on CAM. Even with shipping across the border, no issues whatsoever.

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Hi Bart. Man you wouldn’t believe all the extra cash we have to dole out when we get something from the USA.
With taxes, and the ridiculously high import duty, and the exchange rate at over 30%, and then shipping. And shipping isn’t so bad of course, except that those 3 extra charges I listed, even get applied to the shipping charges. Compared to the fact that the seller will ship it for free, anywhere in the contiguous states.
It’s a real rip-off for us, and it’s perpetrated by our Government to ensure that we just buy from Canadian sources, and pay the exorbitant Canadian prices. It doesn’t matter who’s running this place, they all have a protectionist governing mandate.
So anyway, buying from the states isn’t an option because the price almost doubles.

Perhaps you know this, but Plurison is now Focal Naim Canada.

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It’s well built, reliable, and service is easy to obtain in Canada or the States. Naim North America seem to get good reviews for their service, although here in the States I prefer to use the independent AV Options in part because of a long relationship with them in addition to their stellar reputation.

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Yes, I had heard something about them being bought. Nice to know the official name now.
Thanks.