Greetings, but am I going mad?

Hello everyone and thank you for having me! i’m Chris and I’ve just joined. This is my first post.

I’ve been into hi-fi for a long time and have had various equipment from non Naim brands over the years, but recently succumbed to the (very pleasant) infection that is Naim and bought a Supernait 3 having auditioned quite a few other brands. I’m over the moon with the sound but there is a ‘but’!

I’ve been running it regularly for approximately 4 months now and recently I’ve noticed a slight imbalance between left and right channels even though the balance control was slap bang on 12 o’clock. Maybe it was there from the start, but now I cant be certain. I think I subconsciously put it down to my room not being perfectly symmetrical until earlier this week when I got my head close to either speaker and realised one speaker was definitely slightly louder than the other. They are PMC Twenty5 22’s. Then I adjusted the balance control and got it perfect, but the balance control is now almost in the 3 o’clock position!?

I’ve swapped the speaker cables around and it didn’t alter anything. If I simply swap the left and right channels on the back of the amp I move the imbalance to the other speaker so I’m pretty certain its the Supernait 3 causing this. Unless my speaker has damaged the Supernait 3?

Its very old cable now. Its CableTalk Talk4 cable, and its length is approximately 2.5 metres. When I read the instructions about having at least 3.5 metres I honestly thought to myself ‘yeah its about 3.5 I think, besides, what does it matter?’. But no, its shorter. Having had a scout around the forum, I’ve now seen the FAQ on speaker cables and how particular Naim amps can be with them. I’ve seen ‘damage’ and ‘over heating’ is mentioned if incorrect cable is used on some of the older power amps.

Honestly, I’ve never encountered this before. My dealer never mentioned it to me. In fact I loaned a Supernait 3 from two different dealers before committing to buying and not one of them asked about my speaker cables or mentioned this topic. I don’t seem to recall having to adjust the balance control on any of the demo models.

I guess I’m hoping I haven’t damaged my Supernait 3 by using these cables? But if I haven’t, is this normal that I should have my balance control in almost the 3 o’clock position in order to hear an equal sound from each speaker? I did read a thread on here where someone mentioned moving to Naim cable of sufficient length cured his imbalance issue? Would that be the case with my situation?

Any advice or input on this from experienced members would be most welcome.
TIA
Chris.

Welcome Chris. It sounds like you’ve done the usual tests and from what you say, it does sound like either the balance control knob is misaligned or there’s an issue inside. Best contact your supplying dealer and explain the issue - they should be able to investigate for you and rectify.

By the way, the Cable Talk 4 cables are fine, even though 2.5m per channel is slightly less than the minimum Naim would recommend. Your Supernait though is more tolerant here than the power amps so I would seriously doubt that they have caused the issue.

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Hi, welcome and good morning,

I don’t know your speaker cables but I would suggest you talk to your dealer and think about something that is well matched with Naim amps, most obviously Naca. Otherwise I wouldn’t worry Naim amps typically can be slightly off balance.

Regards,

Lindsay

Yes, is should add that, as Lindsay mentions above, at low listening levels the ALPS Blue volume pot can have a degree of imbalance at the start of the pot travel. This is one reason why Naim combine it with its matching balance pot so you can always compensate for this low level imbalance (the others being down to room effects and imbalances at source). So if you’re testing you need to raise the volume and then see whether the imbalance remains. If so, then it’s either a misaligned knob on the pot shaft or some other issue.

Mines the same although I don’t have to go all the way to 3 o’c.
It’s interesting that all the amps that have this issue, and there’s a few, seem to be all low on the right channel and never the left.

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What the others said. If you want to read old discussions about the various possible causes in detail, simply search for Balance and Pot and you’ll find more than you want to read :wink:

Hi,not to alarm you,but I initially had the same problem,for me it was the left channel that needed balancing up. I lived with it for a week or so,and then the left channel disappeared altogether,switched speaker cables over,and the right channel disappeared. It turned out to be a sticky relay,amp went back to Naim,and was repaired,no problems since,balance knob now fully centered,worth talking to your dealer.

My first Naim amp was a Nait 5i into PMC 20-23 speakers, and did the same thing. It’s awfully distracting having the image so far off beam and it never did go away, not until the amp became a 250.

It’s back now with the 552 preamp esp at low volumes where the image is almost exclusively left channel only at very low volumes e.g. late-night listening. I know people on here love Naim for all they’re worth but tbh it’s another one of those things that clouds my view of Naim - brilliant gear but let down by the most basic of things sometimes. If it was one amp in a million that wasn’t quite right it’d be the right thing to let it go, but it’s something that people have raised on here since I first found this site what, 5 or 6 years ago? And the suggestion above that it may be that the balance knob is misaligned is a bit rich. It’s one of the regular suggested causes / fixes, which suggest that the manufacturing process errs a bit towards the that’ll do mindset.

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Naim haven’t stood still here. Witness the volume controls on the Statement and the new Unitis. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this Statement tech trickles down in the next generation of Naim separates. Of course, the reason Naim have stuck with the ALPS pots is because they sound just so good. I recall the NAC552 development many years back and a range of alternative volume controls were evaluated, which included cost no object resistor ladder controls among many others, to see what was what. Overall the ALPS Blue triumphed. So Naim have kept with it despite it’s idiosyncrasies, especially at very low levels.

As for checking the alignment of the knob, this is definitely worth doing as it can slide on the spline if the securing nut is not done up tight enough (but not too tight!) or the knob is rotated beyond the end stops of the pot.

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Hello,
While it isn’t untrue that I like the Naim sound and even prefer it to my recent home trials of very high level Accuphase and McIntosh amplifiers, I do believe that the use of the Blue Velvet ALPS pots is absolutely perfectible and a source of frustration for many Naim users.

On my Supernait 2, the volume pot was more or less functional but the balance post was off by nearly 90 degrees. No sane person in his or her right mind could listen to music with an image that far off center. I thought for a while that my room was a contributing factor, until numerous REW measurements did not conform this and the addition of 8 (!) GIK acoustic panels did not solve it either (but certainly did improve general imaging, first reflections and bass resonances, by the way…). My only solution, which indeed worked, was to carefully pull out the balance knob from its spindle and reposition it while taking into account the imbalance to the left…This equates to a form of “cheating” by allowing the brain to see the green light in the vertical centered position while the pot is functioning with a compensated imbalance. Result? Perfectly centered image.

Next up…I decided to upgrade to a brand new SN3 and a HCDR. This time the volume pot was totally decentered to the left at low volume. This is much more difficult to address than for the balance pot. I couldn’t live with that because it equated to poor engineering and QC in my mind so I returned everything, hence my subsequent home demos with Accuphase and McIntosh.

Guess what? The less costly and simpler technology of the Naim equipment were/are 10 times more satisfying musically than the big-name boys.

Now, once again, I plan to return to Naim but my first anguish will be to see what kind of pot imbalance I will be dealing with at first run straight out of the box. I really do think Naim should rethink this and make them precise and stable. Brgds.

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Hi @joy_boy you’ll soon find everyone here is slightly mad.

To check if your balance knob is misaligned turn it completly right and completly left.

If the left/right turns are not even distances then the knob is misaligned. You can have it fixed, my 252 is well out but I turn the lights off anyway and just forget about it. Until now…

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Indeed. That seems to be the answer, even though it’s still there at the back of your mind. At this level of expenditure it’s really not good enough to have to implement shonky workarounds to convince yourself that it really does work ok.

On a box that’s just a handful of months old and went straight from carton to Fraim and where the balance has never been beyond 10/2 o’clock, suggesting that it’s either loose or has turned on the spline only really adds to my supposition that Naim treat £21,000 worth of preamp the same as a £900 Nait. It’s not a good look tbh.

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It would be most unusual but I wouldn’t rule it out, as no matter how much you try to ensure everything is just right, sometimes things go wrong. That’s why there’s a guarantee.

Thanks for all the replies, its very much appreciated. Hello to you all.

I’ve had a days holiday booked today and have been playing around enjoying some music. On reflection I’d say it seems to be that approximately 2’oclock on the balance control that seems to be the perfect spot. Although I’m not an electronics engineer (I’m in a different field of engineering), I can appreciate the nature of the Alps Blue Velvet pots and what’s occurring here. I’m just glad this is considered normal and not a fault.

Perhaps returning the unit could be considered in future if it really does bug me and this imbalance could be ‘refined’ somewhat by the wizards at Naim, but for now I think I’m comfortable with it. It just sounds so good once its positioned perfectly.

I suppose my only observation here is why Naim didn’t take the opportunity to brief their customers, via the instruction manual, that due to component selection and/or room acoustics, some offset in the balance control to ‘perfect’ the stereo image maybe necessary and is considered normal. There’s very little regarding the balance control in the manual.

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I don’t think you will find any manufacturer of anything anywhere implying potential problems with their product in the manual!!

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Tbh a balance pot shouldn’t need any explanation, and it’s difficult to imagine Naim adding a comment to the effect that despite their best efforts they can’t guarantee a centred image on your shiny new Naim box.

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This is true. Maybe I should return it and see if it can be ironed out?

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If it’s not the variable low-volume imbalance but the LED is consistently off center, it’s just a question of re-aligning the knob like Richard said in his first answer.

Would checking/ adjusting the balance knob be a DIY process on a 552?