High sensitivity speakers with Naim

Has anybody tried high sensitivity speakers with Naim amps?

I recently visited the SW1X Audio Design workshop and listened to the new SW1X 963 monitors. They sounded very good indeed. It made me wonder if I could build a second system with high sensitivity speakers.

I’ve linked a couple of videos hopefully it doesn’t break any forum rules.

I have had demos of living voice speakers OBX RW3 with EAR Yoshino amp’s that work very well with them. My choice if I wanted to spend more money on HiFi gear. Also with a supernait fronted with my Auralic Altair G1 in a solid 3 hour listening session. Pretty good but the valve amps were better

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I have Living Voice Avatars, sensitivity at 94db which I usually run with my Puresound 2a3 18w triode amp.
I also have a Naim Nait XS2 as my second amp.

It works well with the LVs , though you only get the volume to about just under 9 o’clock or thereabouts and it’s pretty high volume.
So a little care needed but it sounds very good and I’m more than happy with the combination.

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Zu Soul Superfly here at 101 sensitivity. When it works well it’s stunning but it’s too inconsistent.

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Can you elaborate please. What’s the good. The bad and the ugly?

My speakers are 16ohm. My amp I believe is 4ohm although some Naim stuff is 8ohm. At some volumes with some music it’s fantastic. At other volumes and with other music it is not. Little point in analysing that further or breaking of down. The solution for we will be to move to an integrated that’s 8ohm and maybe low power. Possibly valves. Possibly not.

That aside, Zu and other high sensitivity speakers can be brutal at showing you what’s going on upstream. Have a cable out of place on occasions and you’ll know about it. For me personally that’s painful so I want out. I’ll be keeping the speakers but likely not the Naim.

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Yes perhaps I may just pursue that all tube and high sensitivity speaker system as my second setup. Only problem I don’t have a room to place it in😁

It may depend on which Naim, I remember @JSQT ran Volti Rivals with a Nova for a while and gave favourable reports. You can search out his subsequent moves or maybe he’ll chip in if still on the forum.
I’ve also met a chap at an ND555 event who had replaced his NBLs with Audionote Es and was delighted using a 282/250 (I think) don’t know which Es but the least sensitive are 96dB/W.

The balancing act is power handling. While it is far easier to damage speakers with too little power compared to too much, you certainly can burn out drivers if the balance is too far out of the speaker’s range.

I mention this because many high sensitivity speakers have maximum power handling well below current Naim amps except maybe the Atom.

I have a pair of Omegas rated at 98db but was warned the 50w limit is real. So I’ve never hooked them up to the 250DR.

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Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I didn’t know a speaker could be overpowered. Just understood that you shouldn’t drive high sensitivity speakers hard with a high power amp.

Some high sensitivity speakers have very high power handling. So it’s not an absolute. Take Klipsche for example.

You really need to look at the specs. I’d probaly not hesitate to connect a 75w amp up to speakers rated at 60w max. It is far more difficult to over drive them. But at nearly twice the rated power handling, I’d probably not risk it.

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Focal Sopra 2s have sensitivity of 91Db, Easy to drive. They are extremely well built speakers, beautiful finish.

I would recommend them very highly. Listened to more expensive speakers. And I am very pleased with mine.

Amazing ability to handle high volume with 135s.

Perhaps not to everyone’s tastes and some think they look too futuristic.

Worth a listen. You may be surprised at what they can do.

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When talking about high sensitivity speakers I think concern about over powering causing damage has to be balanced against sound level. Being high sensitivity, if used in a normal domestic environment suggests that one’s ears may well limit the volume control setting - but of course that depends on the actual sensitivity, actual power limit before damage, both continuous (rms) and transient, and on the room setup.

For example a pair of speakers with very high 100 dB/W @ 1m sensitivity (and some are higher) with perhaps a 20W rms max power capability, listening at 4m distance, would average about 104 dB at the listening position when fed with 20w per channel - Incredibly loud for music playing. Playing at a loud 90 dB average (ear damaging with prolonged listening) would only use just under 1W per channel average. (Amp power in most practical hifi situations is more about peak capability than average level.)

The lower the power handling capacity of the drivers and the lower the sensitivity, the greater the risk.

I had 93dB speakers for a short while in a small room. The hiss level with my naim system was a rather big issue in my small room so I went back to 89dB speakers. Huge difference. After this journey I would avoid high sensitive speakers at least with older naim gear.

Not all high sensitivity speakers will hiss though. Sensitivity is only measured at 1KHz which is below even the lowest tweeter rolloff. The tweeters might be far less sensitive.

Naim’s own speakers were fairly sensitive.

I’ve heard 92db speakers that have no audible hiss at 1m and 85db speakers that hiss from across the room.

There’s definitely a correlation with sensitivity and hiss but it’s not an absolute given.

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True. Tannoy have a special speaker design that likely expose hiss in the signal path more than many other speaker designs.

Mine have always hissed but it’s not annoying or noticeable to me. No idea what the power handling is but I’ve no sense of damage in 12 years.

Regarding hiss, the audible hiss in any given room and system setup (i.e. changing only speakers) is directly related to speaker sensitivity and speaker frequency response. Declared sensitivity is usually, or should be (though I am not sure that there is consistency between manufacturers) measured as an average across the full frequency spectrum covered by the speaker. If frequency responses are identical then the perceived hiss from a 92dB speaker will be 3dB louder than from an 89dB speaker and a 95 dB speaker 6 dB louder. 3dB louder is normally reckoned to sound twice as loud, 6dB 4 times as loud. But if, for example, the frequency response of of the nominally 3dB more sensitive speaker rolls off by more than 3dB relative to the frequency response of the lower sensitivity one (or the lower sensitivity one rises more in the HF sensitivity compared to the higher sensitivity one), then the hiss could be less from the high sensitivity one. And speakers can vary considerably in the evenness and levelness of their frequency responses.

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Mike, I’m intrigued with your current loudspeakers, Zu audio, and think they may be the brand I’m looking for.

If you are willing to, I’d be very interested to discuss them further and am happy for @Richard.Dane to pass on my email address, should you decide to. Thanks. Rhod

The Zu have pretty high handling. The current Soul are about 150w on paper so pretty much anything can be hooked up. My Omegas are crossoverless and 50w is about their upper limit. But my amp is 10wpc so not really a concern.

I almost went down the Zu route. They seem to go up against Omegas in a lot of discussions. Classic West Coast sound versus Classic East Coast.