Debugging Supernait 3 Midrange Distortion

Hi there folks,

I am wondering if anyone with a Supernait 3 has ever experienced odd “distortion” or noisy hash deep in the mix of some busier recordings?

My current system is the SN3/HCDR, NDX2/XPSDR all on a Naim Fraim with NAC A5 cables and stock SNAIC. I have high efficiency horn speakers that are 100dB/sensitive.

On many tracks I am listening to, I am hearing an odd noisy distortion or hash deep in the mix of what sounds like the decay of reverb or electric guitar effects. It always seems to be harmonic distortion around that upper mid-range - lightly distorted electric guitars, some piano harmonics, reverb decay on vocals, etc.

For an example, REM’s extremely well-produced track “Everybody Hurts,” from Automatic for the People. In the pre-chorus of the song there is distorted electric guitar chords and then droning guitar wash/decay under the string arrangements. I have known this song very well for nearly 30 years on many different systems.

On the SN3, this distorted guitar sounds noisy and has dirty hash deeper in the mix that interferes with the smoothness of the guitar (it should sound like a clean wash and not a rattly noise).

That’s just one example of some of the kinds of things I hear in mixes these days. Other mixes like cleaner simpler mixes (trios, guitar/piano/vocals etc) it is clean and clear and has no problems at all.

I am wondering if anyone has experienced sound issues like this with the Supernait 3 and highly sensitive speakers. I did not experience this at all with the Uniti Nova and it is seriously impeding my listening enjoyment on almost a daily basis.

A few culprits I have wondered about - could it be cable interference or EMI/RFI, could it be a poor match between the SN3 and my speakers, or could it be my hearing has taken a rapid deterioration to cause these distortions. Finally it could just be the SN3 is better suited toward acoustic instruments and cleaner mixes and the Nova is better suited toward louder rock music at any level of production quality.

My cable management is “okay.” I have the cables hanging pretty freely behind the Fraim and I try to separate cables as best as I can although I do have ethernet and interconnects for dual subwoofers coming from the main Fraim system as well.

Any help is appreciated!

I know you say you didn’t have it with the Nova but do you have anything you could try in place of the Supernait3 now or even different speakers?

1 Like

I have tried a couple of different things - the NDX 2 into a Parasound amp - which was SO different from the Naim it was impossible to compare any noise or anything… and I ran the SN3 into a pair of Monitor Audio Gold 200s which was also VERY different sounding from the Volti horns I have.

I basically did a complete tear down of this system this afternoon. Reran all cabling and used pipe insulation to separate all cables in the back. I also did extensive experimenting with sub placement to improve subwoofer integration as well. I removed all my lighting and network gear and ran in the dark and wirelessly to compare and added things back in incrementally to see if it helped.

Too tired to listen to the results right now but it is possible that somewhere in that 4 hours of work something “clicked” to reduce the problem.

What are your normal listening levels like with those speakers? I’ve 16ohm/101db/W and a smallish living space. Push the amp and I get exactly what you describe. Nominal impedance of 6ohm for yours doesn’t tell us much. My source is a Zenith 3 into a Chord TT2 DAC. Naim amps don’t seem to really mate well with high efficiency speakers but the issue seems to be more about the mating of the impedance curves.

It’s worth experimenting with volumes of the various devices.

1 Like

Thanks I am using the Zen MK III as a server and Roon Core, with the NDX 2 as the streamer/DAC going directly into the SN3 via SNAIC.

I don’t have to turn it up much to hear this effect. I just ran a test and measured my volume around 82dB with peaks up around 87-88dB. This is with the SN3’S volume knob at 8 o’clock.

I used Alison Krauss’ song “River in the Rain” from the Windy City album. Between 2:30 and 2:50 or so there is a dynamic instrumental swell with strings, electric guitar, acoustic bass and other instruments as well as Alison’s voice. There is just messy hash all through that passage. The volume isn’t loud, but it is a dynamic section which could be putting stress on the impedance curve whatever that means.

Listening through Meze headphones in the SN3 headphone out, I do not hear this fuzzy hash (even though it’s clearly a busy passage).

It could well be that the SN3 and the Rival is just not a good match unfortunately. At this point I am so frustrated I have no pleasure listening anymore because I hear it all the time. Ready to sell it all off and buy another Nova.

Don’t read this if you’re satisfied with your Nait…

I’ve never heard a supernait 3, with both the Nait 5 and the original supernait there was something in the sound I couldn’t quite place but couldn’t settle with. I had the Nait 5 for a month and gradually became less satisfied by it. This was my first Naim amp and it may have gone on to settle with a bit more running in but
I had a month within which to exchange it for no loss as long as I was upgrading, cost wise. I replaced it with Rega Cursa/Maia.
I auditioned the supernait a few years later when I was looking to upgrade the Rega. I was considering a Naim amp again having had and enjoyed a CD5x for a couple of years and even added a flatcap 2x. A demo was set up of supernait against 202/200 with a PSC with the CD5x as source. When we went from the supernait to the separates it was like a noise I hadn’t really heard until then had suddenly stopped and I could relax into the music. The speakers this time were stand mount Dynaudios, with the Nait 5 they’d been modified mission 700s, neither high sensitivity. I took the 202/200/PSC home but my wife didn’t think it enough of an upgrade over the Regas so I changed over piecemeal to a 282/hicap/250.
There’s not a flood of people commenting on this aspect of the Nait sound, in fact I can’t think of one so I assumed it was just me, and it might still, be so here’s a couple of ideas to play with before ditching the SN3 for separates.
Naim take a great deal of care with signal earthing if you stick to all Naim electronics but switching mode power supplies don’t always mix well on the same circuit. If you supply the Naim boxes from a strip or even a double socket where the power feeds from one end plug them in next to each other with the streamer in the first socket, make sure it’s not set to “floating” on the back, assuming it’s your only source. If you have devices with SMPS plug them in somewhere else.
Remove the sub until you get to the bottom of this.

1 Like

Understand the frustration, but does your dealer have a demo SN3 that you could try at home? Just so that you could eliminate the possibility that your SN3 is faulty.


I have just been listening to both the REM track and Alison Kraus tracks via an NDX2 through a Supernait 3. I’m using Naim original interconnects and NACA5 speaker cables into Neat Momentum SX5i speakers.
There is non of the distortion you describe at all.
Both are as you said, beautifully made recordings.
I’d say there is either a fault with a piece of your equipment or possibly a mismatch with your speakers.
Or your hearing has taken a sudden dive! Have you asked someone else to listen to your system to see if they hear the same?


Honestly Naim and Hi Efficiency speakers especially horns don’t seem to work well together.Horns like Tubes. Even Class A amps like a Small Pass, or the Luxman. I owned an Ayon Spirit that would work great 60 watts Pentode and 30 watts Triode. All class A, zero negative feedback. Beautiful build quality and Sonics!


You may want to consider the Furutech NCF booster to eliminate the extraneous / annoying noises. It works to a certain extent. It is placed on the IEC plug that’s going to the amp, in your case the SN3.

1 Like

The image below shows the Furutech NCF booster

1 Like

Good morning,

I agree with those who are suggesting a speaker/ amp mismatch.

A leading industry figure whose opinion I respect once said to me that Naim amplifiers need something to push against.

Please let us know how it goes.

1 Like

I would have the NAC A5 looked at, and possibly re-terminated with new plugs, with the correct solder by someone that knows their onions.


I have also tried the Alison Krauss track through NDX2/SN3/NACA5/ATC SCM 19 and there is no distortion.

Although I do think I know what you mean. When I was demoing the ND5XS2/SN3 at the dealer alongside the NDX2/SN3, I noticed a very similar effect to the one you describe. The speakers were B&W (607?). I am still perplexed why it showed up on the ND5XS2 and not the NDX2.

Don’t discount completely, however unlikely, that your hearing has suddenly gone. Mine did although in a different way.

1 Like

I’ve enjoyed seeing your system in the system pics thread, you have a great looking system with a fair go at room tuning. Have you tried taking them out completely, just having a plain room and taking out the subs ? Maybe changing the speaker position closer together and further back towards the back wall.


Start back to basics, then add your treatments and subs. Could be helpful in finding out what’s causing your issue

1 Like

Thanks for all the replies. I am leaning toward impedance curve mismatching with the SN3 and Rivals, which are 6ohm but dip down to 3.26ohms at 110Hz. I don’t know how all that squares in the real world, but I do know that I would occasionally hear the same effect using my old Luxman MQ-88uSE. That amp is a 20watt tube amp. So I am not a believer that it is a tube/solid state issue with these 100dB/sensitive horns either because the Nova sounded fantastic.

Unfortunately I have no Naim dealer within at least a 3.5 hour drive and even those guys would have to order inventory from the North American distributor. No one is really stocked on inventory these days due to Covid. Ideally I would be able to compare the SN3 directly with the Nova, unfortunately that would probably mean buying one used somewhere and turning it back around if the problem was actually my ears for example. There’s just no way I could take a gamble on another $10K upgrade to the 282/250DR to see if it was any more of an improvement.

Yesterday I did take basically the entire system down and rebuilt it piece by piece/wire by wire to try and isolate the sound. I disengaged the subwoofers and removed all treatment before putting it all back in piece by piece. I even removed all of my lighting, suspecting maybe that the Phillips Hue lights were contributing to the noise in the system but that was not the case. Ultimately the noise is still there. It was also there when I had the speakers and the system in different positions and on a different side of the room. At the time I was still hopeful it was just burn in or could be solved with better power supplies.

I did fall in love with the Naim sound so it’s disappointing that I can’t sort this out easily. As a last resort I will probably try to find a Nova on the second hand market but I wish there was a way to know for certain what amps are a good match with these speakers. At the very last resort, I know there are certain boutique brands such as Border Patrol and Vinnie Rossi that the speaker builder shows with his speakers, so those are likely excellent matches with the speakers.

Here is a pic of the final cable management from behind the system… I feel confident that the system is squeaky clean at this point so it is either the amp/speaker or a rapid and catastrophic hearing anomaly, which doesn’t seem likely.

You said that your Luxman would give or gives the same effect with your speakers ?

3.26ohms at 110Hz in itself shouldn’t be an issue. But, I suspect this could be a crossover point between the drivers in the speaker that aren’t seemlessly blending with each other.
Perhaps the Nova and other amps that work better are plumping up this particular frequency and drawing attention away from it ?

Yes I did have the issue with the Luxman and I thought at the time perhaps it was underpowered or a tube issue. Since the problem went away with the Nova I figured it was tubes, but now it seems it could be impedance.

1 Like

Yes I wouldn’t think that dip would be much of an issue either, especially since the anomalies I am hearing tend to be much higher up the frequency range but I suspect much lower than the 6kHz crossover point of the midrange horn/tweeter.