Is it Insane to Pair a Pair of Focal Kanta 1 with an XS Stack?

Hi All

New to NAIM and looking to build a new system around an XS stack ( XS2 and FlatCap in place with ND5 XS to follow). I had originally budgeted 2-3k for speakers but I have to say following reviews and research I’m rather taken by the Kanta’s if I’m not planning to upgrade anytime soon (I know we all say that ) then is this pointless in that the speakers would outclass the source to such an extent that I wouldn’t benefit and would I be better off going with the Aria or some Kef R7?

Thanks in advance



Yeah a bit. 4.5k speakers is 5 times the amount ive ever spent in one go on speakers.
A good match would be proac tablette 10 for about £1200. Even those would be good for eg 282/250. I think a more balanced approach to the budget split between source / amp / speakers would be advised.

I’m not going to say it’s insane and I’m not going to use the M word, even though it’s sorely tempting. Let’s say the ND5XS2, the amp and the speakers is an £11,000 system. In my view you could do so much better. An NDX2 and Supernait 3 would cost £8,800. Add some £2,000 speakers and you’d have something far, far better.


In the nicest way possible , I think it’s a mismatch - and that whilst the Kantas are lovely speakers -you need speakers more compatible with the XS stack.

I have a Nova and would be more than happy to replace with XS - provided I could match the speakers to the system

Hi Matt,

I think that one of the most difficult things to get right is a pair of speakers that gives of their best in your room. I HOPE you will be working with a decent dealer and so can try variations in your room, in which case you can feed back your own impressions.



I do agree with that, but it’s not just the room. Personal preference plays a big role too. It may turn out you love Focal speakers (I don’t) but the only way to find out is to listen. No amount of reading can substitute for listening. So I’d strongly recommend waiting until you can hear some alternatives, initially at a dealers but ideally at home too. If we stick to the roadmap out of lockdown, you won’t have to wait too long.


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Insane pairing? On the basis that my dealer happily recommends Focal Sopra 1s with a N-272 and NAP250DR, then maybe not. Your proposal shows a similar price imbalance.

However I would wait til you can get a home dem of the Kanta 1s to satisfy yourself that it is the right move for you, as others have said.

I’d be looking at a pair of Neat Motive SX2s for that system. A classic match up.

Hi Matt,
I can vouch for the NDX2 and SN3 combo, although I have added a Hicap to mine. I am currently home testing speakers (ATC and FYNE 500/700series).So far the ATC 40s are the best to my ears.

The answer is simple: you have to hear them, powered by your system. If they sound good it is not insane, if they sound bad, it is!

Apart from anything else, you may find you dislike their character, which is rather critical for enjoyable listening.

If they work well enough to sound good to you, you know that whenever you upgrade your source, and amp, the system is likely to sound better still. Some people subscribe to the ‘source first’ principle, but there is no fixed rule: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, while cost is not a good indicator of link quality. (E.g. a good full range speaker is inherently a lot more expensive than one of similar quality that doesn’t extend to the bottom octave or two: to someone for whom low bass is not important, speakers can be a lot less expensive than for someone for whom equally good low bass is important for musical enjoyment.)

Many years ago I bought speakers costing way above the rest of the system, about £2.5-£3k in today’s money. They transformed my listening, and did me for about 15 years years, only changing because their big brother, equivalent to about £5-£6k today became available at a too good to miss price secondhand, having been way out of my reach originally - and those lasted me very happily for 25 years or so. Only in the latter years did the value of the rest of the system start to get close.

If your question was “is that the best use of the money, today”, the answer includes the above, but also begs questions like how much do you like the sound through the speakers you have now, what other speakers have you heard, and importantly is it a one off upgrade with nothing else intended or do you expect at some point to upgrade pther components (if the former, then your question should be what is the best balance of system can I get spending X - all on speakers, all on some other component, or improve all a little?).


Interesting conundrum to say the least. I won’t get into components as a (re)consideration, because I assume two of the three parts of the stack is already in situ with a third to look forward to (as you rightly should). If we’re to address the idea of the Focals as being too far out of the Naim XS’s league, IB and some others have it correct that an audition might be in order with as close as a similar system as possible. You may not like them, or you may like other speakers.

If you are like me, maybe you simply can’t audition the speaker you have your eye on; but hopefully you’ve really done your research, and as best as you can figure the Focals have what you’re looking for from a consistent report from other owners/auditioners. This is what I did and it happened to work out in a way I was not quite prepared for in that they exceeded expectations and then some.

With regard to the Focal pairing with what you’ve got—who’s really to say? I’m not certain I completely understand the perspective that they are (a mismatch). Would a ‘better’ Integrated or separates and PSU improve their performance? Likely, but how much is in the ear of the beholder. As you move up at some point, sure, more accomplished components will reap greater sonic benefits from the Focals. I’m assuming that part. Some could say my SuperNait 2, HiCap DR and ND5 XS2 combo isn’t up to snuff for my speaker choice, either, for all I know. In my room and with these ears they couldn’t be more wrong from a performance and overall balance perspective.

I suppose my point is what’s on paper doesn’t always equate to absolutes or sometimes even, as in this case, ‘probably’; and it really gets murky when one throws in unique in-room characteristics, cables, etc. Outclassed? I dunno. I’d pair a SN2 with them without much thought to it, and many here prefer the XS2 over it, so there’s that. Of course, this is simply illustrative of what my opinion is on the matter.

I personally don’t see that your new system is somehow going to ‘limit’ the Focals. The only limit they may impose up-front is that you’re going into this already wondering if your system is outclassed, which I can’t help but predict will lead to constantly second-guessing if there’s better, thus diminishing your enjoyment of what is a world-class speaker from what I can tell. There’s enough of that going on in this hobby for many. If you’re going to start fresh, at the very least start it off right (e.g., with an audition to be certain they’re for you or perhaps others are to your liking) so you won’t be unnecessarily dissatisfied or prematurely itching to upgrade. I hate to hear when that happens.

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By all accounts the kanta 1 seems to make a very strong case for itself.
Not as revealing as the sopra and utopia line, and perhaps voiced in a particular way to get the best out of what’s behind it - rather than ruthlessly exposing any shortcomings.
If you like how it sounds in your system and room and gives you confidence to enjoy your music, that’s all what matters.
£4.5k is a lot to drop on a speaker. It could be possible to get the “performance” from something cheaper. Maybe second hand.

What @Innocent_Bystander says.

Go for it!
What do you get with expensive speakers?
Better quality crossovers, more rigid cabinets and better quality drivers. Not to mention all the other stuff like time alignment and crossover design.
This means that whatever you play through them will sound better than through cheaper speakers and most likely a lot less fatiguing and more coherent.
I build diy speakers because I could never afford the quality of speakers that I have become accustomed to.
You will also find that you may be more satisfied with your lower priced equipment for longer, as instruments will sound more natural with less resonance imparted by cabinet vibrations and reduced distortion. You will also be able to reap the benefits when you upgrade instead of questioning as to wether you need new speakers.


I’d say the complete opposite. With speakers that outclass the electronics you’ll much more quickly become dissatisfied with the system because the speakers are showing up the shortcomings in the source and amplification. If you look back over the forum posts over the years you’ll find far more unhappy people in that position than those who went for a source first or balanced system.


And why does the source first approach work?? Because you improve the quality of the signal passing to speakers. If we improve the ability of the system to reproduce the information as accurately as possible we just simply hear the system for what it is. Also we can later achieve a source first + speakers first approach when we upgrade. :smiley:
Sorry the advice against buying really good speakers doesn’t make sense to me…
I have witnessed the effect of upgrading a speakers cabinet and crossover to higher quality components and what it did was improve the detail resolution and lower distortion. It did not make me think my source was bad. It was simply an upgrade.


To me, it seems that you are putting the cart before the horse with your proposed system. Personally, I would spend more on your source and amp(s) and less on speakers. However, if after listening to your proposed system, you find it pleasing then go for it, it is your ears and money, not ours that will make and live with the final decision.

I would agree with this sentiment, it makes me think back to what i posted earlier in the Dynaudio thread:

Some 25 years ago i bought my first pair of high quality speakers, a pair of Dynaudio Contours (second hand), and it completely changed my musical experience. Man i loved those speakers, and even with my home-made passive pre-amp and decent but middle of the road NAD power amp at the time, they made listening to music so much fun.

When i got to know them better with time, the Dynaudios helped me to hear the weaker spots in the rest of the chain, which then led to a slow but adventurous journey to replace other components. All this time, having great fun listening to the system on a daily basis. My hearing wasn’t trained yet for all the tiny subtleties in the music, so i learned and grew along with the system.

I didn’t buy my first decent Naim amp until about 5 years ago, and while i loved it and has made me look a lot more at the input stage of the chain, the impact of that upgrade was a lot less severe (to me) than when i got that first set of Dynaudios. Buying those speakers has been the single most important upgrade in my audio journey, and for years i didn’t feel the need to upgrade other parts because the system was just so enjoyable to listen to.

When we are still untrained, our hearing is quite crude, so my personal mantra is to upgrade the ‘crudest’ parts of the chain first, which are usually the speakers. Start with the things that are most easily to differentiate for you, and work your way up to the start of the chain to gradually improve finesse.

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It may not make sense to you but it makes sense to me. I’m not going to get into a debate about why source first works; all I can do is to say that based on my own experience of building systems over many years, those I’ve been happiest with for longest have always been very much source first. I suggested an alternative setup to the OP in my first post on this thread and would recommend that the comparison be made. But if the OP goes for expensive speakers with the XS set, I won’t be surprised if they are very soon back and asking about source and amplifier upgrades.


I am definitely not here for a debate I am not into that.
Just simply imparting my advice based on my experience and defending it…:+1:t2:

Oh wait maybe that is what a debate is…:face_with_monocle: