Do I need a preamp?

So, I’m in the middle of upgraditus after getting a 333 a few months ago.

I only have a single source, the 333, which has some form of digital volume control.

So, given the 333 can control the volume - one function of a pre amp, and given I’ve only got one source - input switching being the other main function of the pre amp… do I actually need a pre amp and what is it actually adding to the mix if I do?

I’m unclear if the 333 volume is harming the signal in some way, that a pre amp may deal with better.

A 333 is meant to be used with a preamp yes, the nac 332 was made at the same time to go with it. I would definitely demo one if I could afford it and see how it affects the sound.

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sure I understand the various devices available… my question is why do I need one, if the 2 key functions of a pre amp are not required.

I have a volume control on the 333, and I don’t need input switching as I only have a single source.

The 333’s digital volume control is there solely to get accreditation with Apple or Spotify or suchlike. It’s not a full spec volume control like you’d get in an preamp, and the 333 is intended for use with a preamp or integrated. But just because it’s not intended doesn’t mean you can’t try it and then you’ll know what a dedicated preamp brings to the party. You don’t say what power amp you intend to use with it, but the 222 streaming preamp may be a better fit for you. Maybe a 222 will sound better than a 333 when the latter is used without a preamp. It would be an interesting comparison.


Thanks halibut I always get nervous of getting into the specifics of tech in case I make a mistake and confuse someone :joy:.

There’s more to it than that of course: a preamp has output stages designed for use with a power amp, whereas the 333 simply had a variable level line output.

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ok… that’s the bit that’s missing then… I figured there had to be something! thanks

didn’t like the 222 into the 250… not clear which bit I didn’t like but the pairing was a lot less likeable to my ears than the 333 into my SN2

Yes, I can quite see why you might prefer a 333/SN2 to a 222/250. The simplest solution is just to use the 333 at fixed output into the SN2 preamp. If not already done you can use system automation to control volume from the remote or app.

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SA doesn’t work properly with the remote control. The app can control the SN2 volume but the remote can’t. Naim support are looking into it.

Looking to replace the SN2 in the new year though hence my perhaps stupid opening question…


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In that case, a 332 and either 250 or 350s are what you need. I can see the attraction in trying to save the £7,900!

its the boxes that bother me most, although 20k for the 300 combo is probably too steep.

I’m leaning towards a Gryphon Diablo, but listening to Pass Labs INT-60 next week too.

If only Naim would make a really good integrated, around the £10,000 mark. It would suit so many people. I have a feeling it will come at some point.


In the interests of reduced box count I tried eliminating my 282 preamp between NDX2 and 250DR a few years ago. It didn’t sound awful, but it definitely wasn’t as good, and I strongly suspect you would find the same with a 333.

I also tried a passive preamp instead of the 282, and that didn’t work well either. Eventually I started using the digital control on a Chord DAC which worked much better than the NDX2 volume control, but that’s another story.

A brief word of warning: there’s no harm in trying the 333 in variable volume mode if you’re curious, except that if you accidentally set it back to fixed volume you risk blowing your speakers and your eardrums. A factory reset or firmware update could also do this. So be careful.


I’d be all over this… the SuperDuperNait

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Thanks Chris… interesting to hear someone else has tried this.

I use the 333 in variable volume given the system automation bug I noted above - I haven’t noticed any overt difference between variable and fixed in terms of SQ. I’m going to sit down and do some back to back comparisons now, albeit somewhat challenging to align volume across the two modes unless variable is set at 100%. I guess the SN2 pre is still involved even in variable mode though.

I did get a shock putting it back into Fixed when the SN2 even at 25% volume gave my ears quite a battering!

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I tried boxes with digital volume controls but never got along with any of them in the long run.

You could try a 72+HiCap (after having them serviced by naim). Half-size so both fits on one shelf. Olive boxes so they may (or may not) be a good sonic match with a 333. One that pushed my 135s very nicely was the Holo Serene preamp that also include a very good 3W headphone amp. Fits nicely on a single Fraim shelf - very transparent possibly adds a small amount of extra punch in the bass (it is a balanced class-A pre built with discrete components, about EUR 4000 from magnahifi).

As much as I want to reduce box count the SNs were never convincing enough for me which is why I chose the other compromise of streaming preamp. 222/555/250 is max optimization of box count for me. Hopefully Naim will get to a point where we can get the same SQ with two or only one box either with a SuperDuperNait or 500 series all in one. I won’t hold my breath though.

there are some very good integrateds out there these days, so nothing stopping naim doing the same. its definitely a gap in their product range, but agree probably not a priority, whereas an SN4 and a refresh of the XS or SI range seem more likely.


And they are off to a cracking start with the Nait50, but alas only 1973 of them