How good is NAIM? "Cat approves"; must be alright then ;-D

I have come to learn the benefits of having animals ‘approve’ of various technologies.

It started, for me, more than a decade ago; when at a workmates house one evening- the fascination their dog took with the TV. It had its’ nose against the screen and chased many objects, visually speaking, across the screen.

Pure joy. (akin to hanging a head ‘out of the window’/'‘over the tray’ (ute))

Sticking with ‘visual’ mediums before I move this musing over to audio; I have owned a few methods of reproducing light over the years… starting with Cathode Ray Tubes -and upgrading to wider colour screens like the Sony Trinitrons, and higher refresh rates (again, a Sony that did 240hz in the 90s) I have seen some of the best the planet has offered.
Micromirror array projectors (and their ‘rainbow artifacts’),… LCDs, OLEDs and Plasmas; if it shines light I have often gone out of my way to test it, and typically try to own it for a ‘reasonable stint’.

Watching the cat interface with the TV again as we migrated AWAY from Plasma (silly), and moved towards OLED was a joy to partake. The cat now hung out with us and enjoyed nature documentaries. (well NOT all moments perhaps; but like us humans - we ‘enjoy’ a small scare sometimes!)

The same could be said with regards to audio.
I am not unfamiliar with a Sound Pressure Level meter, and have enjoyed setting up home theatre systems (sometimes professionally); and whilst I enjoy outboard power amplifiers and ‘dedicated processors’ (and nice DACs etc etc)… the cat does not always partake my hobby.

Sometimes some kit just involves them.
A reference setup; Sansui AU919 and some Acoustic Research LSTs, for many many years simply had me believe that sound was always engageable to animals. I took this belief ‘for granted’: but it wasn’t always true.

A stint in an apartment by the sea, and it was time to move those precious electronics away from the salt, and let them be used by someone who could literally run them… (in apartments you sometimes feel a loud set of HEADPHONEs could double as a usable stereo system- and I have had friends have the Police called on them for ‘noise complaints’ when running 3Watt computer speakers at ‘mild’ volumes)
For awhile I walked the desert of unsatisfactory audio.
I played with processors by Parasound and Integra and Outlaw and used ancient flagship surround receivers as ‘power amplifiers’ etc…
Sure I tried to live with regular surround amps (generally ‘very nice units’ or flagship parts themselves), but their were clear advantages to using dedicated processors and trialing a range of power amplifiers.

Nothing seemed to stir the cat much though… my nature CDs filled with bird chirps seemed to just fly over the cats head. Either the sound was non engaging or perhaps the cat was depressed (it had, after all, previously lived in the country and had ‘free reign’)…
These many systems did not all happen in the apartment. We had moved the family out into the suburbs; a house selected in no short measure due to the wonderful sideways grown tree in the front yard that no doubt indicated some underground water/energy flow, but also looked like a 10/10 rated scratching post! (It was cat approved instantly)

With the changeup to having multiple living zones again;
a) surround gaming zone for the child with a ‘two channel setup’ running sideways across the space; using an Onkyo TX-DS989 as a ‘stereo amp’ from an outboard phono stage, and my childs’ early introduction to Vinyl sound; setup intentionally poorly so that they could investigate sound and ‘how to improve’ (speaker placement being pretty critical at this point)
b) den setup for my critical need to have a ‘real’ hifi system
c) projector setup / sound for the missus who had, in her fifties, decided to learn how to play Skyrim/‘gaming’ with dual analogue sticks.
d) the ‘theatre room’; which had great dimensions and eleven speakers, three subwoofers and a run of processors and surround amps to try and compare various technologies and setup practices…

From these various ‘music’ systems scattered around the house (including Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelins’ and other point sources); the cat only took task with one of them.
The valve stereo in the Den setup.
Whilst the valve monoblocks were ‘relatively new’ Danish units, the speakers were B+W domestic monitors (DM1) and Castle Acoustic (Kendal version 1) affairs from the seventies.
The DM1s had a super tweeter in them, which gave me reason to think the cat was into ‘extreme high frequency’, but the Kendals did not, and were quite standard affair with regards to their frequency response.
It was either the Hugo DAC or the Valves.

I started to pay attention to ‘what hifi got the cat involved’.

Spin on to the addition of other valve parts and a few class A parts coming through my hands, and I had come to realise: just like the TVs- some tech is not the right speed for the cat to see, and some amps hold a pure soundwave in a way that a cat might engage with.
Class A/B designs didn’t seem to do it… but the valve and class A would consistently prove the engaging experience for my puss without boots.

Why write all of this as a topic starter?
Simple- my first days of setting up a Nait integrated amp, a design tuned by Naim to focus on second harmonic distortion (pleasant to humans it is said, vs third harmonic distortion that, to quote a highly detailed electrical engineering document I was reading last night; is ‘vomit inducing’)…
Naim house tuning has made a class of amplifier that ‘sips power’ and built for longevity, with all the bonuses of being actually musical.
How do I know?
The cat keeps stealing the listening position, and now lounges on the massage table running through the middle of the room (in the triangle between speakers and listener), it now bathes relaxingly in this spot.
It is a subtle but noticable change in behaviour that came with the Naim box being brought into this house.

Naim (seem to) make home hifi that is. (HiFi)
The cat approves so it cannot be placebo or bias’.
I must admit I think the cat is right on this one too.

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If you’re so inclined, maybe you could share a pic of your cat approving of your NAIT?

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Not quite doing her ‘fake it’ thing; where she pretends to clean herself but in the optimum spot to ‘take in’ what is going on…

My sitting spot is about equidistant to the speakers as they are each other… (the ‘triangle’)

So, this is ‘looking forward’:

The slightly purrturbed look on her head is because Peter Gabriel “3”(album) is playing -“No self control”.
This is a DSF ‘hi res’ file that has a lot of high frequency panning.
The cat is attempting to ‘take it in’. (it is designed to make the brain feel something)

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The song over, and a slightly more mellow song on,… she has ‘relaxed’…

Generally she only jumps up on this table if the partner and I are using the massage gun. (at which point she likes to place herself between us and ‘have a turn’)

this is a street cat, rescued… (Zelda GiGi)
She escaped my partners ‘cat cottage’ (a self built dwelling that house cats with ‘cat walkways’ and an atrium, and ‘cat TV’ (a guinea pig in a cat that liked to torment and showoff to the cats)… My cat escaped that house withing 24 hours when we were moving into the big smoke (local city).
Nearly three months later she turned up 18kilometres down the road, having made it back to the local township (in the country) where we had lived together.
It was the last possible night of me renting that house (on the off chance this cat would come back)… at 2am there was a small “mew” from the back patio - this cat had crossed rivers and challenged ‘who knows what’ to make it home.
She climbed all over me and, for the first time ever, was a social cat that craved human touch.

Only a few people she will be in the room with.
She is “pretty cool” (I feel as much as this cat can love, she has learned to ‘put up’ with us humans, … and loves being massaged by the gun!)

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That’s amazing. I love the happy ending.

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It is funny watching the cat engage with the hifi;
it is certainly select discs/tracks.
as an example, putting on Enigma “Seven Lives, Many Faces”; there is lots of high frequency panning effects and ‘soundscape’ (that envelops).
These seem to be the sort of recordings that get the cats attention.

With 550+ hours on the Nait, the ‘break in process’ mostly done; the amp now does a massively better job with placement/positioning and most importantly: ‘panning’.

The cat is ‘into this’!
photos are dark because it is the 5o’clock hour. (apols)

As an aside- talking technical about the amp in question- I’d definitely recommend at least the 500hours from ‘out of box’ state. It is a different beastie for some time letting the electrons flow.

and one more so that I can shed some light onto this ones’ face (actually sunrise illuminating here; “free of charge”)

Glory day!

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Well, you get my vote for thread of the year 2023 and I’m not even a cat lover!

.sjb

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“Aw, ‘shucks’!”

smiles with’ (thee) :smiley:

Wanted to tack these onto my last message using ‘edit’, but alas, ‘no such pencil’.
it like a magic trick; “now you see me, (now you don’t)…(ouch!)”

Here is me being as ‘silent shutter’ as possible and cat enjoying some Sabbath :wink:





(no peaks louder than around 67dB at the listening position.)
(don’t know what that is in CAT dB!)
Favorite Sabbath track so far is WASP /Behind the wall of sleep/Basically/ NIB; although trying her on WarPigs right now… (tail was INSTANTLY flicking!)

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first part of the thread title (/question) is “How good…”?

When I first landed my baby Naim integrated amplifier (end of last year); it was a planned downgrade from the kit I was using; with the intention being to buy a ‘small amp that can be used as a power amp for the Anthem processor/“AV Bypass”.’

I knew that moving from ~300Watts of power from some behemoth boutique to a tiny one box integrated was always going to be a downgrade, but figured that some aspects may be at parity and generally be in the zone of ‘good enough’ (musical)

The first 20 hours of the Nait (integrated) being in place was HARD.
Aspects of the music and some instruments were improved, vs the outgoing part(s), but the massive reduction in stage /spacing and the dubious headroom that just didn’t seem capable of throwing music clearly ‘outside of the listening space’ yet sounding physical and ‘real’ made me feel like I had bought too much of a downgrade

had I dropped tiers of quality? (I had figured maybe a small step ‘backwards’)

The first week was the hardest; acclimatising to a much smaller soundstage that seemed to be ‘too far forward’ and not have ANY depth beyond the front wall (etc).

Hundreds of hours of burn-in and the stage size started to fix itself.
The noticable improvements were really as the nuanced high frequency low (volume) level effects that gave environmental cues as to the ‘recorded listening space’ started to come through…
By six hundred hours on the wee beastie, the staging had moved back through the front wall (substantially) and now did a terrific job of imaging left to right AND front to back.
Height too…

So-

a couple of days ago I reconfigured the setup to ‘be the part I bought it to be’.
well; not quite!
I put the Nait integrated into AV Bypass mode, but left it in the den (and haven’t relocated it to be with the surround preamp/processor).
By using the DAC as a preamp (volume adjustable output), I could have the ‘AV’ input on the Nait integrated amplifier bypass the Nait preamp and simply use the Nait XS as a ‘psuedo’ power amp.

MASSIVE SOUND QUALITY IMPROVEMENT!!

Today, putting my go to reference test track for ‘stage depth’: T J Eckleberg “Inches of Darkness”, I was instantly surprised to hear it sound as good (imaging) as much of the best times I have ever heard this track. (musically it was still held back a little vs the megabuck amplifiers and valve monoblocks I have auditioned previously)
Incredibly it pushed past what I thought it would ever be capable of…
-Out of the box I would NEVER have thought it capable to change as much as she has shown me (this morning) as being capable to do.
Todays rendering of a few CDs (so far) has revealed that she is indeed the amp I needed her to be; if I had to choose between my last ‘den’ amplifier or ‘this one’- I’d choose the Naim Nait (integrated) amplifier.

Whilst I understand not everyone may have played with their setup since, erm, ‘setting up’; I can confirm that a little maintenance/attention and being willing to experiment can pay dividends.

Many Naim users buy power supply upgrades, and largely, by choosing ‘AV Bypass’ this is in some ways what I have done…
The amp doesn’t need to power dynamically the ‘pre amp’ section; that power is now on tap to allow ‘springing back’ from peaks etc.

The preamp in the Nait isn’t equal to my dedicated seperates, but “wasn’t bad”.
The reason I saved pennies beyond the entry level 5si was due to the XS series stuff being ‘upgradeable’.
Knowing this was a long term purchase, I was willing to go the extra length give me legs to grow.
Today I removed the shoes and relaxed with ‘what I have now’.

Very impressive.

Thankyou to those who have raised discussion (over a few threads) regarding the audible improvements of running in AV Bypass mode.
Whilst this WAS the reason I bought this wee lil integrated; actually now using this part ‘as intended’- wow!!

Again:
Three months ago- I’d never imagined this Naim Nait could sound THIS GOOD.

Three days ago I changed my setup and have now spun twenty plus albums and heard big/vast improvements on many many tracks, and overall I’d qualify this ‘uptick’ in sound quality as equivalent to jumping a tier of kit. (huge)

To swap between regular use and ‘using my DAC as the PREAMP’?
Takes less than twenty seconds…
That being said- I did lookup the manual, again, AND rechecked my DACs literature AND put some headphones into the Nait and engaged ‘Mute’ whilst I flicked the appropriate levers and switches (“buttons”) this first time. Overly cautious? Yes! (very much)

Having now used AV Bypass (and heard the SQ difference), I’d not hesitate to do this change, and believe that I could get the task down to ten seconds or less.

That being said, for many users this is a ‘set once and forget’ affair… easy to do, and, as my testimony here suggests, might be worthwhile.
As usual- Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV)

Why post this post here?
Cat was the one that made me aware the changes were for ‘the better’, simply by the level of engagement that the change created in her behaviour.
As a family we really enjoy music.
Even more so presently, having tweaked the parts we have…