Help with putting together a Naim "system"

I have had a Uniti Star for 2 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed it, but feel now might be as good a time as any to upgrade. However I have to say that I get very confused / lost within the Naim website. A “Compare” section would be very helpful …

The ability to use Roon & Qobuz (or Tidal) is essential, as perhaps 80% of my listening is via those services. Finances are inevitably constrained, so that probably means focusing on a Supernait 3 (£3.8k), an XS3 (£2.5k) or a 5SI (£1.4k); not hugely sure what the key differences are, or whether I would “need” / benefit from a getting a separate power supply - and if so, what and why? I often read others here talking about flat caps and dr’s, but have no idea what they are!

For a streamer, the ND5 XS2 (£2.5k) appeals more than the NDX 2 (£5.5k) on price, but again, other than the screen I am not really sure what the differences are. FWIW I very rarely use the remote or the screen on the Uniti Star.

Having ripped all of my CDs to FLAC with the Uniti Star I don’t think I really need a CD player, but accept that this might be a bit short sighted. (CD5si (£1.4k)).

I currently have a Rega P6 c/w Ania MC cartridge and a Rega Fono MC, but could be tempted to upgrade them. I also have a pair of KEF R5 floor speakers (c/w NACA5 cables) which I could change but even though some Focals sounded better 2 years ago, the KEFs do at least pass the aesthetics police.

My room is ~ 5m x 7m.

Any thoughts? TIA

I use supernait 3 with Nd5xs2 and its superb, despite its natural partner bring the xs3. Depends on your budget but if a sn3 is in reach then it’s a fit and forget amp that will have enough power to give you a solid choice of speakers if you change those. A hicap dr is an add on power supply that upgrades the preamp side of the sn3 and is nice but not essential. A future upgrade if you wish


I think what you do next really depends on your endpoint. Are you intending to go for a separates system eventually or would the Supernait 3 be your endpoint? A Supernait 3 and NDX2 is a highly regarded system by a few on here. I think a Supernait 3 probably needs more than an NDX52 as a front end.

I downsized my naim system to a Star but am now moving back to a higher spec system and currently using the Star into a 250DR, which is not ideal and is the weak point of my system but works OK. I had hoped Naim would have released the 272 replacement by now. I am now in a quandary about buying a second hand 272 as a stop-gap or pushing the boat out and investing in a 282 with a power supply and an NDX 2 and getting a power supply for that at a later date. Buying second hand is a way of cutting down costs a bit but Naim gear does hold its price so real bargains are hard to find and then you have to factor in service costs for older gear. There are lots of threads about servicing and secondhand gear that might help you in your decision making process.

Hi Haffle. It’s true that many people here swear by the awesomeness of the NDX2, but you need to trust your own ears.

I compared the NDX2 with the ND5X2 in 2018 (I think) on my SN2 at home, and with a Naim Big Boy system at my dealer’s place. I honestly couldn’t hear much difference, and certainly nothing that was worth the extra wodge of dosh. And the screen might be nice for some, but is irrelevant to me. I still love my ND5X2.

However, your experience may differ. Many on the forum couldn’t disagree with me more!

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Maybe “just” a Nova would do the job ?

Otherwise save some money for other priorities and get a second hand SN2 or 202/200 with psu’s as amplication.

For sure the ND5 XS2 is an excellent streamer and may be all one ever needs. But it is not able to be upgraded with a power supply if that’s a consideration. As the OP was asking about differences between the two, that is one of the big ones between it and the NDX 2.

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I use the ND5xs2 along with the nait 5si and it goes great … It’s on all day on Swiss jazz or jazz groove and it’s a sight thanks to new power cords and bamboo platforms underneath …


Regarding the CD player: If you continue to buy the occasional CD instead of the download files, get a USB player from Dell or similar for 80 euros and rip it on your computer. Invest the £1.4k elsewhere


Thanks to everyone for your replies - very helpful. Possibly an impossible question to answer, but would the cheaper unit with an external power supply still sound “worse” than the more expensive unit without? My gut feeling is yes, but then I have never got in to the realms of external power supplies.

With regards to a CD player, I have sort-of gleaned that in general more expensive players are “better” because they have better timing; if I ripped a CD with an el-cheapo CD machine to FLAC and then played the file back would the less good timing still be noticed?

Also, why do Naim amplifiers “only” come with a MM phono input? I had always thought that MCs were generally “better” than MMs. But this makes me think I must be wrong!

Quick additional question: The XS3 doesn’t have a balance “knob” on the facia, and the in the manual it says “Note: The NAIT XS 3 does not incorporate any facility for channel balance adjustment.”

But in the same manual the NARCOM5 remote does have balance buttons. Presumably one adjusts the balance via the remote then?

You can’t adjust the balance. The remote is also supplied with the Supernait 3 and can be used to adjust the balance on that.

No- there is no balance pot in the xs3. The remote is used for all products so caters for those with balance knob

The ND5XS2 cannot be used with a separate power supply, but the NDX2 can.

Think of the ND5XS2 / Nait XS3 and the NDX2 / Supernait 3 as two perfectly matched setups. The latter is considerably better than the former but costs twice as much. Both are a good step up from the Star so it’s really a case of trying them in order to decide.

There are loads of reviews on line and much written about them on the Forum, so it’s worth doing some research to help you understand the differences.

Regarding the ripping, you use a dedicated CD drive connected to the computer. It’s not a CD player as such. The ripping program will check for errors against an online database, so you can rest assured that you will get a perfect copy of the CD. The better the system you play it on, the better it will count, just as a CD sounds better on a better system.

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Because MC cartridges produce a very low-level output and require very strong amplification, which is sensitive to emissions by other parts. Putting an MC phono stage into an integrated amp, which has a large transformer and a power amp in close proximity, is difficult to impossible at the level of Naim’s expectations.

In addition, people using MC cartridges usually are serious about their vinyl playback, too. In most cases they will want a choice of phono preamp.

The built-in MM stage could be realized at high quality for an integrated amp, and without exploding costs. Good MM cartridges exist, which are a good fit at the price level. Naim does produce MC stages, but they are in separate boxes (StageLine MC and SuperLine).

In addition, anyone who wants to use the MM amp of the integrateds with an MC cartridge still has the option of adding a step-up transformer in between, such as the Ortofon ST-80 SE / ST-70 MC / ST-7, or the Shelter 411 II)

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Again, many thanks for some very helpful replies. But I am amazed that - if I have understood correctly??? - it is not possible to adjust the balance at all with the XS3 - surely not everyone is able to change their listening position to be exactly central to the speakers? Even moving from one end of a 2 seat sofa to the other means I like to adjust the balance on my Uniti Star slightly. Without that ability (even if it offends the purists :grinning:) means that it is a non-starter for me; but paying the additional £1,300 for a balance knob on the Supernait 3 is going to take some getting used to … :grinning: :grinning: :grinning:

@haffle by your own words 80% of your listening is streaming. With that being the case I would be allocating resources accordingly. For the money being spent on cds and upgrading the turntable/cartridge put that into the better steamer with the separate ps when funds allow. If 80% of your listening is one source, do you really need 3 different sources? By the way this opinion is worth what you paid for it.

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I would suggest finding a local Naim dealer to demonstrate the various options to you.
At least then you are more aware of what is possible.

There’s a bit more added to the SN3 than just a balance control over the XS3 :wink:

The pre amp stage is powered by a DR module, the DIN/phono connectors are hard wired, and it’s rated at 10W more too. I’m pretty sure you were joking too :smiley: ??

I don’t miss a balance control on my XS3. Mine replaced a NAIT 3, with a balance control, and to be honest it’s one less thing to fret about adjusting! I get that one can be useful though, so totally fair enough to use it to help your decision making process.

You’ve talked about budget for individual items, all new prices, and mentioned all the main Naim options. Is the SN3/NDX2 actually an option? Do you have an overall budget here?

My only additions to the debate are to think about second hand. Used SN3s seem to start at c.£2.5k and NDX2s do turn up occasionally at £4.5 ish. If overall budget doesn’t quite stretch for new items, I’d just wait for second hand items to come along.

I’d also forget a CD player if you already have ripping and storage/local streaming solutions.

Are you selling on your Star as part of the process, and how does that affect available funds?

Just to throw in my comments on XS3 vs Supernait 3, you very much get more than just a balance knob! I have recently upgraded from an XS3 with a HiCap DR, to a Supernait 3 with HiCap DR, so I can tell you my thoughts on the two. I ran both through a pair of ProAc DB1’s with an Auralic Altair G1 streamer and a Rega P8 (Ortofon 2M Black MM cart) for sources.

For me, the XS3 was very good, really good, but I did feel it was lacking just a touch. Before I had the Naim, I had a Rega Brio-R and whilst I thought the XS3 was a step up in sound quality, it didn’t seem to warrant the huge price difference to me. I wasn’t disappointed, just maybe I had my expectations tempered.

Then I got the HiCap DR and honestly, I thought that that was what I was expecting from the start. Much better and a very impressive sound. Then of course, I started hankering for more and got a good deal on a gently used Supernait 3 so I had to grab it.

The Supernait 3 is not lightyears ahead of the XS3, but it is much better. In my opinion, you get 80-90% of the sound with an XS3, but that extra 10-20% in the Supernait counts for quite a lot. The bass has more grunt, and by grunt, I don’t mean boom and bang, it’s well-controlled bass, it just has more weight in the Supernait, the same goes for the midrange, which was particularly good in the XS3, but just pristine in the Supernait.

The built-in phono stage is particularly good in both in my opinion and you can save some money not having to worry about a phono stage for now if you stick to the high-end MM carts.

If funds are tight and you can’t just waltz into a Naim dealer and click your fingers to make magic happen, I’d suggest a couple of things. Firstly, have you considered used? You can buy a gently used Supernait 3, usually 1-2 years old max for the cost of a new XS3. Secondly, does the streamer have to be Naim? I appreciate you want a Naim system and that’s the point of the thread, but if you are willing to bend on that point then some excellent and usually cheaper options open up to you. That said, I demo’d the ND5XS2 and whilst I didn’t go for it in the end, it was very very good.


You can’t upgrade the ND5 XS2 with a power supply but you can add an nDac to it which I have done recently and very pleased with the sound (you can pick these up for around £1k depending on condition). The ND5 XS2 is very good on its own but this does provide another option later on.

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