Trying to understand what the natural pre/power combinations are. By that I mean, the partnering component/s that would have been primarily used during development and for which the final product would have been signed off against.
I know nothing is fixed and plenty of people mix and match, but I’ve found a little extra synergy with some early pairings but I don’t know the olive stuff onwards so well.
Here’s what I think so far, skipping out some of the rarer items like the NAP200 and NAC22. I also left out the more entry level products like 92/90 and newer XS combos. Items in bold were new that year.
12/NAPS/250 (1975) 22/160 (1976) 32/NAPS/250 (1977)
22/120 (1978) 42/110 (1979)
32/SNAPS/135s (1984) 32.5/HICAP/135s (1985) 42.5/110 (1985)
42.5/140 (1986) 62/140 (1988) 72/HICAP/250 (1989) — with 250 instead of 135s cos never meant to be flagship but 52 was delayed 52/52PS/135s (1990) 82/HICAP/250 (1992)
72 or 82/180 (1992) 102/180 (1996)
52/SC/500 (2000) 202/200 (2002) 282/HICAP/250 (2002) 252/SC/300 (2002) 552/552PS/500 (2002) S1/S1s (2014)
However, the pre-amp being the more important part of the pairing, such things are academic. For example, no problems using a NAC552, say, with a NAP250 or a NAP300 (or even a NAP110, as I have done very successfully).
The NAC72 was an updated NAC32.5 (new look and time-aligned boards), although it did lose the mono switch, which in my view was a shame and a bit of a backward step. Until the arrival of the NAC52 it was Naim’s top of the range pre-amp (as was the NAC32.5).
The NAC102 was part of the new generation “big box” pre-amps. I suppose the “natural” partner for the NAC102 was the NAP180, although it was also great with a NAP140, and if the budget was tight, you could even pair it with a NAP90/3, the 102 bringing a nice lift over the NAC92.
For me, there are times when the logical partner seems to provide a sense of synergy or balance that is not found by mixing in other ways, but this is the early boltdown and CB gear which is far less neutral so perhaps it’s more pronounced. I can imagine if gear is more neutral then any benefit is reduced. Also, some products don’t seem to have an obvious partner so it comes down to inside knowledge, although maybe engineers chopped and changed as they went along but I would have thought they would want consistency.
The beauty of Naim is that you can mix and match pretty much whatever pre-amp with whatever power amp and it will all work OK. Just remember that the shoe-box pre-amps were all developed around a vinyl (LP12) front end, whereas the big box pre-amps were developed with Naim’s Armageddon LP12 front end and alongside Naim’s in-house digital development (which brought forth the CDS). The latter is perhaps one big reason why the NAC52 development took longer than expected.