Dynaudio Special Forty and looking for an Amplifier. SN3 or XS3?

I spent some time chatting with folk a while ago in one of the SN3 threads. However I am also contemplating the Nait XS3 as well as the SN3.

I am leaning toward the XS3 for one reason, and the SN3 for another. Hence really struggling to make a decision.

I think the best solution would be to audition. It’s because with the XS3 in some reviews, bass comes into question. Like I think e.g. the HiFi News review of the XS3. It suggests the XS3 delivered bass level only hinting at the slam the Supernaits would do.

On the other hand, some reviews say the XS3 has a substantial bass upgrade over the XS2. Both in level and quality.

At the moment I have Rega Brio 2017. It’s paired with Dyaudio Special Forty, and Either a Chord TT2, Hugo, or Qutest. Th Brio is easily the weakest link, but still a stonking amplifier.

For total critical listening, I can power the speakers straight from the TT2 outputs. It has quite a few watts there. About 8w into 6ohms single ended, and about 20W into 6ohms from the balanced outputs.

Having an amplifier is about convenience. It means I can use the Qutest (line out) for more menial computing tasks. (Plus PC gaming.) Then I can switch to the TT2 when I want music. Or I can go to the TT2 directly driving the speakers. It means swapping the speaker cables from the amp, to the connectors I made to attach to the TT2.

It means I really don’t need a real mind-boggling amplifier. To be honest I could cope with leaving my Brio there. However I know I am pulling down the DACs and the speakers with that amplifier. I think it’s obvious I will upgrade the amplifier.

The reason for an amplifier is for easy switching between DACs; TT2 and Qutest. It’s bliss to just swap over. Alternatively I could leave my TT2 straight to speakers, and leave it like that. However It means I can’t use the Qutest. I like using Qutest for more menial work, thus preserving my TT2. Having TT2 on all day, is not comfortable.

Cost of SN3 vs an XS3 and maybe a PSU for it later. Some say get the SN3 now instead.

Having a better amplifier would make using TT2 with an amplifier easier, (compared to TT2 direct to speakers).

Can I ask please, for anyone with experience of both amplifiers, your top of the head thoughts. Your immediate impressions. I’d maybe like to move this weeks before Naim up the prices. I honestly think the XS3 would be right I so many ways. However if it’s bass is quite a bit less compared to SN3, that makes it a hard choice.

One last reason that swings me toward the XS3, is like the lower power output in Watts rating. There isn’t a vast difference. However my Brio at 50W into 8ohms, 73 into 4 ohms, is a bit loud sometimes when listening whisper quiet. The output on the TT2 a can be variable, so I can drop the input to the amp, but that’s not ideal.

The Special 40 are a special speaker; like most Dynaudio designs they aren’t a particularly easy load and benefit greatly from a stronger power amp.

The RMS output power is a red herring for two reasons, first it tells you nothing about the volume control, and that’s what control the volume at anything less than the max power of the amp, secondly the difference between the 50W of the Rega and the 80W of the SN3 is barely noticeable - in fact the difference between 70W and 80W is actually right at the limit of detection for loudness differences.

By far the best thing you can do is to take your speakers to a Naim dealer and listen to both amps…
Decide with your ears rather than with your eyes (i.e. not by looking at what other people have written - you don’t listen with your eyes!).


Not an exact match but i have just swapped a XS (with FC 2X), for a Supernait 2.

The first thing to say is that they are both excellent amplifiers, i cant comment on how well they would work with the Dynaudio, but i am sure you would be very happy with either.

The SN2 definitely feels a lot more powerful than the XS, and definitely has better bass. It also runs a lot louder and i actually find myself turning the volume down a fair bit and certainly a lot more than i did with the XS. That said i never found the XS to be lacking in bass. Its one of those where i am sure you would notice the extra bass in a side-by-side test but you wouldn’t feel short changed if all you had heard was the XS.

In short, and not meaning to be unhelpful, i am sure you would be happy with either. No reason why you couldnt go for the XS now with the option of the PS, and the option to upgrade again to the SN as funds allow. If money is no object then i think the SN is a better amp.

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Well at 86dB, I did sort of expect the Special Forty to be a bit hard to drive. It was an experiment as much as anything. I bought some cheap RCA sockets, and some female speaker sockets from Amazon. Then used a bit of old single core copper wire, and made up some adapters.

I was to be frank surprised how much quality and power the TT2 was capable of driving is this fashion. I have never heard bass like it. (Means it would be a shame to some some of that bass on an amplifier.) It took me a good week to adjust to the new sound with the TT2 like that. Then weeks longer to really get the hang of what was happening completely.

While it doesn’t go loud, the room it’s in is relatively small. When I set the volume to what is 3V out, the TT2 is loud like that. Nothing like blast you against the back wall, but easily loud enough for anything.

The TT2 sets to 2.5V in DAC mode, when feeding an amplifier. Or in amplifier mode, I can set it to ~2V if I want, or 3V.

It means that any amplifier that I buy will mostly be used in the very lower end of the volume dial. Hence the lower power output, the better. However I take on board what you say about how those few watts more will make little difference.

To be clear though, when using my Brio, I will sometimes set the TT2 output quite a bit under 2V. (Considering it’s line-level is 2.5V, that’s quite a change.) What that does is give me a more sensitivity with the amplifier, when listening ultra quiet.

E.g with the SN3, at 6ohm, it would run at about 105W per channel. Vs Brio at about 63W per channel at 6ohm. That would mean yet more reduction in output from the TT2. Possible though.

One thing I must not forget though, is I would be listening at those volumes not too often. The rest of the time, I’d be running a few watts, so TT2 output at about 2V. Then a bit more occasionally.

NB: While we do hear some folk talk about the Special Forty being quite a load. I have to disagree with some that some folk say. They drive straight off the Rega Brio, or the TT2. Straight off the TT2 is bewildering. Once you adjust to it, it’s something totally new. Of course if you push the volume too much, you’ll run into trouble. Either clipping, or run out of power. The TT2 stores power for when needed though, in supercaps.

That’s a really interesting post.

There is some text in the HiFi Choice review of the Nait XS3 that says the new XS3 has bass now. In comparison with previous models which were a bit soft and less bassy.

I am tempted as Xanthe says go to audition, and maybe take a DAC along. I would not take my speakers. I would pretty much trust a good set. The principle to asses the difference between the amplifiers as much as gauge the amplifier. Some of the new B&W are well received, so they would do.

Setting the TT at 2v (RMS peak to peak) is often a good choice when using the line level input of an amp.

Again the sensitivity of a speaker is no indication of how difficult a load it it, that is only a measure of how loud it is with a 1kHz sine wave, at a given power level. To establish how difficult a load a speaker presents requires full knowledge of the impedance and phase responses plotted against frequency - very few manufacturers are prepared to release this information.

The main difference between these amplifiers (and the output of the TT2) is the amount of current they can supply from their output structures (specifically at frequencies where the speaker has a particularly low impedance or a very high phase margin), the slew rate (rate of change of voltage at the output) and in the rate of change of current they can supply from their output structures at constant voltage.

None of these factors can be determined for quoted specifications.

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Why are you using an integrated amp? Do you have an analog source?

If not have you considered Hugo TT directly into power amp. TT has preamp built in.

I use SimAudio Moon 330A power amp. I tried quite a few and this was my favourite of the lot. Never tried Naim power amps as they need a Naim pre and I have no need for dedicated pre.

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I’ve been using the XS3 with the ND5 XS2 since October/November 2019 approximately. To my ears the bass certainly doesn’t lack any slam, it’s rhythmic and full of punch. For now I’m using a pair of Dali speakers which are 6 ohms 88db, bar playing vinyl, I’ve never had the volume beyond 9 o’clock.
Extremely happy and content with the XS3.
Hope this helps!


Yeah, the difference between the load of speakers and an amplifier, is actually something I worry about. However having said that, the TT2 is designed to power headphones too, and really difficult to drive headphones too. The output from to the ports (RCA) on the rear of the TT2 is identical to the headphone ports. Less one factor, that volume controls are separate for the headphone sockets. The TT2 headphone port volume is set independent of the output on the rear ports. It remembers what volume you last had the headphones set at.

More importantly, the TT2 manual says that the TT2 has enough power to drive sensitive speakers. My speakers are not considered sensitive at 86dB, therefor I get less volume. (Enough volume for what I need though.)

I still worry though. Plus I would like a better amplifier to run both the Qutest (which I use too) and TT2. I think without being vain, the reason is because of sound quality. It’s not that the Rega Brio is not a good amplifier in is own right. Plus it’s capable of running in this set up really well.

The Brio however will be missing out on many small details in the music. Just because it’s not that high a quality as the rest of the kit. To further illustrate that, the difference between driving speakers with the TT2, and using the Brio, is substantial. I know any amplifier is going to mean a downgrade from driving speakers with the TT2. A great integrated with low power is really my only option. Unless I do away with an amplifier and only use myTT2 in this set up.

You are unquestionably right.

The best possible solution in fact, would be just to leave my TT2 driving my speakers. I actually don’t need more volume at this point, than my TT2 can supply. Leaving me in the position where if I need more power, I should consider a power-amp.

It’s just that I use a Qutest too. I use it for other work when I am not listening to music. I could consider not using the Qutest. I do that when I drive speakers from the TT2. However I end up often with the TT2 running all day, because I have left it on. I may have only watched a video on a web-page, and had to power up TT2 to do it. Then forgot to turn it off. If I am to leave anything on all day, I would rather it be Qutest.


Honestly I think I an audition would be the wise thing to do.

I have volume similar to yourself. It never goes past 9 o’clock, when I use my Rega Brio.

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Could help fund a shiny new power amp…

I used to have Special 40s with a Nova and they were a very good match. Have now moved to SN3 with Evoke 50. The SN3 is a good step up from the Nova and IMO would work very well with the Special 40s.
Audition before you buy as we all seem to have different preferences when it comes to sound.

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Yeah, but I think for the time being, if I only used TT2, I would drive speakers from it. It’s a tough decision tough, because as Xanthe and myself discussed above, that’s a bit worrying. It’s more than likely fine. The TT2 manual states the TT2 has easily enough power for sensitive speakers.

I worry because my speakers are not so sensitive. It probably doesn’t change anything other than the volume that can be got from the TT2. However we never know unless we understand everything, or in words are an expert n this field.

To be honest a smaller amplifier like the Nait XS3 seems kind of ideal. It’s such a pleasure swapping between TT2 an Qutest with my Rega Brio. Whereas when I had my TT2 driving speakers for quite some time recently. The thought of swapping speaker cables over to the amp to use the Qutest was a nightmare. (Nightmare to think of swapping over every time.)

To be totally honest though. I am probably worrying too much. I should more than likely be thinking about only using the TT2, and driving speakers from it. Then remembering to turn it off when not in use. That’s possibly the main reason for wanting to use Qutest, for menial work. Or rather not wanting to wear out the TT2 sooner rather than later, because it’s a treasure.

On my life, running speakers from the TT2 is almost beyond words.


Thanks. Thank you everyone for your thoughts.

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As said in the post above. Maybe I should relax and let my TT2 do all the work and remember to turn off when not in use. It really bugs me when I have left it on for 24-hours, but maybe only used it for an hour.

The reason for thinking about buying an amplifier of course is sort of for many reasons. It means when I am using both TT2 and Qutest, ‘which I like doing’, swapping DACs is easy. (Point one.) Buying a nice amplifier will also mean better sound from either TT2 or Qutest, when I am running an amplifier.

Running TT2 driving speakers is the ideal situation from an audio quality perspective. However as I am arguing with myself over having the Qutest in use too, a better amplifier would be great. I am sure that a Naim amplifier would greatly improve fidelity over my Brio, with either DAC. …. That’s where I am at. If I must have an amplifier sometimes in my set-up, let it be a beauty. One that is not holding back my DACs and speakers.

I do think it is worth your while auditioning a SN3 to see whether the better drive capability benefits the Dynaudio speakers at low volume as well as high volume.


That’s exactly how I feel about my Moon 330A power amp.

I’ve never compared it to Naim amps. However, many years ago I previously owned SN2 but feel Hugo TT directly into 330A is another league. Just a wonderful combination with enough juice to drive just about any speakers. Class A output for first 5 watts.

Quick review here:

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Well admittedly, the Moon 240i is on my wishlist. I think Simaudio are exceptional amplifiers, which I have learnt from reviews. I have never heard one.

Niam is easier to audition though, and the two new Naim integrateds are very nice by all accounts.

What HiFi was actually the only magazine to effectively give an indirect impression of Naim vs Moon 240i. The Nait XS3 replaced What HiFi’s category which the 240i held last year. No idea how accurate that is though, or of they had an XS3 next to a 240i for review. (It must two years since they reviewed the Moon 240i.)

I guess they do it from memory. Memory of how hifi performs is not that accurate though, or at least I think that. That might not be the same for everyone. However I almost always forget how good my equipment is, and it surprises me everyday.

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Why are you swapping the TT2 and Qutest ? Do you have multiple USB sources ? If so, you could convert these to SPDIF with a USB/SPDIF converter and connect to the TT2 via SPDIF/BNC or even optical. I have 2 USB sources going towards my TT2 and one of them is converted in this way.

I have run my TT2 direct to speakers (ATC SCM 11 standmounts) in the same way that you have for low volume listening but I do prefer going via my 250wpc @ 8 ohms power-amp or a pre & the power-amp as I already have these and they seem to drive the speakers better. I run the second unbalanced outputs from the TT2 to a pre & power in a second room using an 8 metre run of BJC RCA analogue cables. I use the low gain amp output setting, although the DAC setting works fine. The 3v high gain amp setting on the TT2 has the potential to damage a pre-amp at the next stage.

Absolutely, if I was looking for an integrated then XS3 or SN3 would be on my shortlist.

For a dedicated power amp though I looked elsewhere as Naim dedicated power amps require a Naim preamp which I have no need for having only a digital source and a third party dac/pre (Hugo TT).

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