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

As others have written about here, deciding on a relatively costly pair of speakers first then trying to squeeze the budget to find the minimum level of electronics to adequately partner them, is a recipe for long term unhappiness, or much, much, more spending not far down the line.

When I was answering emails and calls from customers at Naim, I’d say that with the majority of mails expressing dissatisfaction with sound having just spent a great deal of money on a system, most had a common denominator; the customer had set their heart on a set of speakers, doubtless having heard them sound fantastic on the end of appropriately capable (and costly) kit, and had thought they could get close to similar sound by spending the lion’s share of their budget on said speakers, but with bare minimum on the electronics to get any kind of performance out of them. There were also a good number who had not gone quite so far, but the email would start off on similar lines; “Dear Naim, I’ve just bought a pair of (insert name of big expensive speaker here) and was wondering what would be the minimum level of CD player, amp to partner.” I think most reading this can imagine the answer, and it mean’t spending much more than they wanted.

I recall a visit to hear such a system; the speakers were B&Ws Nautilus 801s fronted by a CDX2, NAC202, NAPSC, HICAP and NAP200. On the face of it, it sounded quite impressive with a big room filling sound. However, it was clearly obvious that the bass was all over the place, and couldn’t be tamed by re-positioning, and music was just a bit of a mess overall. If I had spent that kind of money I would have been very disappointed, but i could see how someone might be impressed with a quick demo on the right kind of music that would not reveal too many of the system’s limitations. What was fascinating was how the system was transformed when we substituted a much less expensive, and much smaller pair of speakers; a pair of Linn Katans on stands. The Katan are not my favourite speakers by a long way, they can sound overly dry and a bit mechanical. However, the transformation was remarkable. Immediately the sound shrank, and the frequency extremes receded. The sound came rather more forward and much less “lush”. But, all of a sudden the music started to really become interesting, and you could properly follow what was being played, by whom, and you really wanted to just go on listening, whereas before, I just wanted to switch off after a while. The Katans cost just a small fraction of the Big B&Ws but it was obvious that the system was now working so much better in conveying the music. It was a most instructive experience and one I wish I could demonstrate over and over. The best I can do though is to relay it here.


But you are talking about a completely mismatched system in terms of power requirements.
I Reckon I can say with some certainty that the xs2 will power an 88db 6” bookshelf speaker with ease and probably sound really great too.

Assuming they are listened to beforehand of course. Although Naim and focal are supposed to go together pretty well I thought.


Correct and one of the Naim Focal offerings is a Uniti Star with the Kanta 1’s. Personally I rate the XS range higher especially when there is a flatcap xs.

The matter if the OP likes the Kanta’s and whether they work in his room is far more important.


I think Innocent_Bystanders post above gets it about right.

Yes source first is a good idea and probably works most of the time , but its not a rule to be blindly followed.

There are times and situations where it can and should be ignored.
Maybe in this situation the Op should follow it , but maybe not. The only way to discover is by personal listening.

When I was wanting to change speakers i was informed by one very well known dealer that the amp I had wasn’t good enough for some speakers i was interested in demoing. Had he heard them together - no. All he was going on was how much my amp cost. He never asked about why I was interested in them or my room .
Needless to say he never got my business.
I actually ended up with my usual current dealer who couldn’t have been more helpful.

Without going into long useless explanations my system ended up with a £7,000 amp driving £25,000 speakers.
A mullet system - no.
The best system ive heard and completely satisfies - yes.


There are just no hard fast rules on this. It’s down to synergy and that includes the room speaker interface. If a particular pair of speakers, whatever the cost, work well in a particular environment and with the available electronics and are affordable go for it. In the course of a few weeks back in 2019 I heard a full on Naim 555/500 series with a big pair of Dynaudios and Life on Mars sounded truly awful (and normally I like Dyna speakers), and then a pair of Kudos 505s with a Linn Selekt which sounded sublime.



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Thank you all for taking the time to think and write about this. Some different views here (inevitably) but they’ve helped me reach the following decision

  1. The XS2 is new (to me) so won’t be changing that for a while at least so it makes sense to partner it with something that compliments rather than exposes it I’ll revert back to my £1500 - £2500 budget
  2. I don’t have any speakers for this system which is why I was wanting to make a move now but I see now I need to be patient and audition carefully once out of lockdown, for now I’ll partner with a spare pair of KEF Q550 I have

Thanks All



Wise move.

Out of curiosity I’ve just looked at the Kanta 1s assuming they fit the domestic surroundings no reason at all they wouldn’t work with the XS, in the same way that the SN works brilliantly with the Sopra 2s.

The one situation in which it does make sense to me is where the speakers present a difficult load and the amp is unable to control them adequately, typically resulting in seriously wallowy bass, particularly if the speaker goes low. In such an instance they certainly could cause listening fatigue and dissatisfaction, whence buying the speakers and not also addressing the amplifier would perhaps only be sensible if they are a one-off bargain opportunity, and it is known that the amplifier limitation can be resolved before too long, accepting the negative aspects for the interim period.

Of course, getting any speakers whose character is not right for the listener is likely to lead to fatigue and dissatisfaction, no matter what the cost.

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Doubtless the Kanta would ‘work’ with the Nait XS2. The point I was making in my first reply was that for the money a different approach is likely to yield better results. The money saved on the speakers would allow an NDX2 instead of the ND5XS2 for example. As we all know there is so much more to matching speakers than amplifier power output and speaker efficiency. I’ve listened to Sopra 1s on the end of an Atom. Did it ‘work’? Yes. Did it go loud? Yes. Was it an enjoyable, natural and insightful experience? No.

I completely get that but the situation in hand was to me, clearly one that did not include that issue. They look like a pretty easy load and to me, look like a really ideal pairing.
I am not one for filling a reply with lots of irrelevant info. I looked at his question and answered it based on that info. I honestly think they would be a great pairing and offer room for upgrade later.

Sorry I didn’t mean by that, that I think your reply’s are full of irrelevant info I think your reply’s are carefully considered I just don’t spare the time to do the same… :smiley:

Balance is very important when assembling a system. Speakers and room interaction are crucial to achieving the best sound but the source cannot be improved by the speakers.

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Well, I own Kanta 1’s and having demo’d them last year against a variety of speakers. I find them to be insightful and musical. Not at all harsh, the soundstage is also surprisingly good.

I did demo them with a NDX2 front end into a Supernait and they were good. But at home I use olive gear (72/Hi/250 with a CDS/PS) which is considerably better. They are quite small speakers and not too difficult to drive. It’s not like you’re trying to hook up some big three way floor standers to a small amp.

They are worth a demo and may work in your room and with your amp. But if you do like then and your in no rush, Id hold out for a pair ex demo, they do crop up from time to time.

One way to waste money, IMHO is to chop and change gear regularly. You’d be better buying something to fit your room, and as funds permit make big jumps with temporary imbalances. Of course if this is a system you’ll have for years and years, then maybe a more balanced system would be better. It depends where your end game is.


FWIW I wasn’t in any way criticising your post, with which I generally agree, just highlighting what I identified as a possible exception. (I wasn’t specifically referring to the Kantas, how easy a load they may be being unknown to me.)

Yeah sorry, apologies. Was on the defensive a little there. Now I re-read your post I can see you were just adding a scenario.

Yes but Mr Fish you don’t like Focals at any level!

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That’s great to read since my goal is CDS/PS/72/hi/250 into SBL’s.

That’s irrelevant and I was only mentioning my Sopra 1 experience as an example. The speakers in question could have been anything. You only have to look at haydj’s post above to see a real buyer’s experience of the sort of system that works well with the Kanta 1. It’s a superb olive setup that I can see working well with the speakers, with the proviso that one likes them and that they suit one’s room.

For what it’s worth I feel the OP has made a very sensible decision.


They don’t seem too shabby.
My first proper speakers were the KEF cresta 1.
When auditioned at the dealers using a Wadia range topper cdp along with Parasound pre-powers I was completely blown away. I couldn’t wait to get them back home into my arcam and audiolab system. Being disappointed when I did was an understatement. The dealer in his cunningly evil ways knew I’d be back looking for kit upgrades.