Help me understand Naim amp heirarchy

I’m looking to upgrade my circa 1999 102/180 and would like to get a handle on the various options.

On the power side I understand the current 200/250/300/500 heirarchy, but I’m less sure about the discontinued models, eg, where would the NAP 90 fit? Would a 90/3 represent a good step up from the 180? Or would I better off looking at something more recent? If the latter, how would a 200DR compare to a 250-2? Or, given that I think there’s no point changing for a modest improvement, am I better off just going for a recent 250DR?

Similar question on the pre side re 52, 82 and 92.

If you want a simple ranking, it would go:
82 or 282/250
52 or 252/300
Some might argue the toss with 102/180 vs. 202/200.

The general rule of thumb is that those pre/power combinations match, but if upgrading, it’s best to go for a higher preamp rather than a higher power amp.

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My Nac 72 feels ignored.


You have to bear in mind that beyond a 200, you cannot drive the pre from the power amplifier. You are into the world of power supplies, Flatcap, hicap, supercap etc. Remember to factor those into your costs.

Depending on budget I’d move to an 82, Hicap and 250. If you want the new boxes it’s 282, hicap 2 or DR and 250.2 or DR. You can do either in stages: add the Hicap, change the preamp, change the power amp last. Or the least cost option: service the 180, add a Hicap and napsc to the 102. This may be all you need. The 20 year old power amp is long overdue a service - Class A in Sheffield is your friend here.


As always it comes down to budget. Are you happy looking at ‘pre-loved’?

Almost impossible to answer your question in one sense as your ears rule, but no chance of listening to all the options - but I started with 102/180/napsc in 1999 and around 2010 I moved to 52/250 olive and a supercap (added a hicap in there around 2006)

I would choose a non-dr 300 over any 250 (replaced my olive 250 with one a couple of years ago) but would want something better than a 102 in front of it

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Thanks for the replies, a few things to mull over here. Definitely will be looking at used.

I agree with @hungryhalibut an 82, 250 either CB or olive with a hicap would be a big lift from what you have. It will also give you opportunities to make further upgrades should you wish. I had that system and then added an extra hicap, switched the 250 CB for 2 135s CB and finally added a Supercap 2.

I have also found that when I have decided to sell on Naim gear I have pretty much got what I paid for it less auction fees!

Best of luck with your decision. There are plenty of good used examples out there and that way you get the best value for your money!

When I took my 1999 NAP180 to Class A a few years ago, Darran told me that the main caps were good for 20 years.

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Don’t forget the NAP100. It’s probably closer to a 140 in performance than it is to a 90.

So if I stay with the 102, would I need a napsc AND a Hicap? What does each box do (I know they’re both power supplies)? If I go with 82/250 or similar, is the napsc dispensed with?

The NAPSC powers the display and logic circuits, the HiCap provides the flat DC for the pre amp circuits.

You can have either or both. Just keep the NAPSC away from the 102, it’s an electrically noisy little thing.

The 82, from memory, should come with a NAPSC. A HiCap will be required immediately if you go with a NAP250 or ‘higher’.

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You don’t “need” either. I remember when I had dem of 102/180 I said to dealer I needed to forego the napsc to save a few quid. He said nothing but played a tricky track with and without the napsc. I immediately added the napsc to the purchase. The napsc is fairly widely acknowledged as the best value item sold by naim - so it’s the nearest thing to a “need” perhaps but we’re heavily into first world problems here!


Ahh … the much maligned NAC102, but unfairly IMO. After 23 years of owning one I’m still amazed how well it can show changes whether up or downstream of it.
In contrast to the 72, the 102 is a wider bandwidth preamp with a ‘warts and all’ presentation. As said above, it really needs a napsc (preferably the latest one) to get the noise floor down to where it can show its abilities. After that a HiCap is pretty much mandatory, but go for a DR version as this really works well with the 102, allowing it to provide everything it can in terms of dynamics and faithfulness to the source. Experiment a bit with supports as this can fine tune its sound
more than with the smaller preamps.


Yep, the 102 is a great but of kit. I had one for 12+ years and replaced it with an 82.
Interesting comment about the NAPSC, is the later version better?

A borrowed early version napsc was a step back compared to a new one - the 102 seemed to lose some of its clarity and energy. Of course it may just be sample variation but others have reported similar findings. It could be that a recap/service of an early napsc would eliminate the difference. Many of them will have been on 24/7 for donkeys years so some degradation will no doubt be there.

Been perusing some values and looks like non DR 300s are going for £2500-3000 as opposed to £2k+ for a 250DR. 282s are £1600-2000+, 52s thinner on the ground but ±2500. Lots of choices but not easy to figure out which direction to go in.

The 300 is a great amp, but beware of falling into the trap of buying one because it looks like a great bargain, only to baulk at the price of the source and preamp you need to do it justice. You wouldn’t be the first! Also, if the 300 (or any amp) is getting on a bit, remember to factor in the cost of a recap/service. Also remember that setup becomes increasingly important as you climb the ladder, especially a decent rack.

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Good points, ChrisSU. I have a Roksan Xerxes and don’t intend to change it, but I am in the market for an HDX SSD or similar. Not sure if I would need better sources.