Low level listening with the SN3

Hi to every one , most important to me Is the ability of amp to make a decent sound when low volume is involve, in the earlier morning and late nights, I do know that the amp will sound in his best on higher volume, but I request at least there will be some wight and strarcture to the sound. With my sansui reciver I mesare 45-50 db this morning and it sound very nice , not lean, I do know that the SN2 was good with low level listening, how is the SN3 please.

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Well i’d say that a lot will most probably depend on the characteristics your room and speakers of course.

Having lived with a SN3 for well over year now, firstly driving Neat Motive SX2s and now a pair of n-SATs, i’d say that the SN3 has no problems giving brilliant sonics at low level late night listening, probably more so than the other NAITs (5si, XS 2) i’ve used in the past. The SN3 has a more forward presentation, in that it manages to display the whole presentation/soundstage further out into the room (more round earth?), well beyond that of the fronts of the speakers themselves, and (from memory) more so than the NAIT’s did of old…

This makes for great low level listening IMHO. Oh and did i mention that the SN3 also sounds amazing the more one rotates the dial clockwise also?:grinning::+1:


How low is low? Be aware that the blue Alps pots in the classic amps have an inherent imbalance at very low levels - how low depends on the individual pot in the individual amp. This should not affect normal-low listening levels, but if you are looking for very low listening it might annoy you. If you search for volume & balance you will find lots of threads, several about the SN3

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My sn3 is on low first thing in am while I’m working, literally a couple of degrees off the stop and with my dynaudio evoke 10 the sound is full enough. Obviously better with vol a little more but the sn3 is quite warm n rich sounding so I’d not be worried.


Ho low is low ? I listen now on low volume , I measuring near 50 db , with my sansui reciver and the sound has body and weight. So 45- 50 db is quite enough for me

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I don’t have this problem with my SN3, at any volume. I wouldn’t get worked up about it, they are just isolated incidents that have happened to slip through the net, nothing to do with the SN3 in particular. All of the current NAITs share the same pots…and have all done for many, many years.


I listen to mine at low volume most of the time, at or around the 8 O’clock mark, and up towards 9, getting up to 10 O’clock is loud and beyond that rarely reached and even then not for very long.

If you have it really low on the volume pot it can present as imbalanced but as others point out, that’s a characteristic not a flaw.

The room and speakers will play a part here, if the room is small and you’re relatively close to the speakers then of course they’ll be fine at low volumes, if you’re 10m across the room from them perhaps not.

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I don’t know how accurate my iPhone decibel meter app is but sitting 3 metres from my speakers 45-50db is barely audible. Of course it is not early morning or late night now but mid 70s db is about right for some acoustic jazz.

What is the hour your volume dial pointing, 70db sound very high is it appropriate to late night or early morning. It sound to me aliitle bit strange

8 o’clock. Too loud for early or late listening but at that level the sound is nice and involving.

I have an SN2 and as @Stephen_Tate said, I don’t experience any issues with imbalance at low volumes. Obviously, some do, but there must be many Naim owners that don’t have this problem.


Not so few, but yes, it probably has nothing to do with the model but it is variation between individual pots. Whatever the probability, I would recommend unpacking the unit at the dealer and trying the pot at the desired level. That’s better than what I had to do, pick up the pre, drive home, install it, find a very unbalanced pot, uninstall, repack, drive to dealer, send back, and a week later repeat

An easier way, i would guess here, is to plug in some ‘easy to drive’ but also some revealing headphones and try to listen in a very quiet environment. I often listen to my Grado SR325 e cans via the SN3’s built in stage, and whilst i can hear a very slight unbalance at the most slightest bit of volume, luckily this isn’t the case through my speakers. Obviously this isn’t a problem with the headphones. Also one ultimately has the control of the balance rotary?

Another other thing to consider here is making sure that both speaker cables are working exactly as a pair, IME this is a lot harder to achieve than one would ever give the credit for. I cannot tell you how times this has caught me out, blaming the pot(s) in the amplifier, when actually it has always turned out to be improper connection, one way or another. At lower volumes the unbalance can become even more enhanced when this is the case.

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You are right of course, there are many factors. I just tried how my pot, speakers and room behave now:

At 50 dB and sitting 2.5 m from speakers, my pot is now balanced, however my speakers are just 86 dB sensitivity. At 40 dB there is a very slight imbalance that I can live with as I never use volume this low. That’s with the improved pot.

With my previous 90 dB speakers and the original pot, 50 dB were annoyingly unbalanced, and it started at higher volume already. Unfortunately, the balance knob is not a good solution in this case because what it does is attenuate one channel. This means that if the volume pot enters the unbalanced range and you use the balance knob, this lowers the overall volume. Then you probably increase the volume a bit, which changes the balance of the volume pot again, so you use the balance knob once more, affecting the volume, and so on. It’s no fun.

Of course if you always listen at very low volume, the balance knob doesn’t have to be changed as much, so that would be less annoying. However, for dedicated very low volume listening (without a need to ever go higher) there is dedicated hifi gear and I don’t think that simply dialing down the volume on kit that is predominantly designed for normal levels gives you the best result for the money

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I am not sure the imbalance has something to do with the level of the volume, my SN2 is somewhere at 11 o’clock on the balance knob and this is its permanent position, regardless of level of the volume dial.

This is a different thing. Sometimes the balance knob was installed with a bit of an offset compared to the actual pot’s center, then you get what you have. There was recently a poll thread about this particular kind of unbalance, whose only effect in practice is that the LED is not at 12 o’ clock. I.e. it is only unbalanced if you insist on putting the LED at 12, and the whole thing is independent of the volume.

There is a different thing where the volume pot becomes gradually unbalanced as you approach the lower end of the volume knob’s travel. This exists and it is well documented and much discussed. It is an inherent property of the blue Alps pot, and there is some variation between individual pots, some do it more and some do it less.

In most cases it is not an issue at the usual volumes, but if you happen to have a pot that does it more and combine it with the desire for explicitly low-level listening and maybe more sensitive speakers, it can become an annoyance

Yes i agree with you here that in these circumstances the balance control isn’t always the answer.

Well i hope we haven’t scared off the OP here as the SN3 for me remains a formidable amplifier and is capable of some serious music making, regardless of volume level. I can only fully recommend it and would say to those who are considering in purchasing a SN3 to go ahead with full confidence and to not be put off with some of the imbalance issues that have been reported here. In any case one always the dealer to turn to, and of course Naim themselves.


Sure, the SN3 is great and I don’t want to scare the OP off either. Just saying that there is a variance between individual pots/units - my dealer’s demo 252 didn’t do it at all and then my own did it -, so might be best to check before taking it home :slight_smile: Or maybe there’s an option to tell the dealer/Naim in advance that low-level is important.


Actually, my SN2 balance knob is always at about the 11 o’clock position as well, but that’s because my room is so badly unbalanced.

What’s a good iPhone app to measure dB please?