Maybe switching to Naim? SN3, XS3 vs Sugden

I’ve had a Sugden A21 SE Signature for the last few years powering a set of Neat Motive SX2 speakers. I’ve always felt it was a good combo, but maybe not the best match. The Sugden had to go in for a repair (transformer issue covered by warranty) and I found a great deal on a used Nait 5i-2 to get me through the wait on the repair. I really love this thing, love the Naim sound, but just want the better more refinded version of it so now I’m considering jumping to a Supernait 3 or XS3.

I love the Sugden, but don’t want to spend more on the “right” speakers for it as I like the Neats a lot and, especially important, my partner likes their looks! I also don’t love how warm it gets. this 5i is cold to the touch, and something about that seems more refined. Am I crazy to go Naim from the Sugden? My sources are Digital: Innuos Zen Mk iii to Chord Qutest with Sbooster LPS. Analog: Rega P6>Dynavector 20x2 LOMC>Dynavector P75 Mark IV phono pre. I listen to ambient, jazz, rock, synthy stuff, post punk etc. Feel like I’m going to the darkside considering naim, but i guess, I came to the Naim forum, kind of expecting some positive reinforcement lol! Also- would you go XS3 or SN3 in my case? I like the slimmer box of the XS3 visually, otherwise seems like I’d just get the grunt of the SN3!

Hi,

I can’t comment on Sugden but one thing is accepted and that’s the Naim/Neat synergy. Either the XS or SN are going to be a great match.

Good luck.

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No complaints about my Chord/DV front ends into XS3 into Neat SX3s here :slight_smile:

What’s your budget? And are you looking new or used?

If budget allows either then why not just go for the SN3. If budget is an issue then the XS3 isn’t slumming it. eBay prices are getting tempting for used SN3s - if you’re in the UK and don’t mind used - 2400 seems the likely used private sale price. That’s only a bit more than I paid for my XS3 new a year or so ago, and is a lot of amp for the money I suspect.

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I’m in the US- I haven’t seen used prices that good! But still thinking of going used, which does seem to make the prices for the SN3 a little closer to the XS3.

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I’ve loved the Sugden gear since the 1960s! It does have a characteristic sound signature and if you don’t like it, then you may be happier with something quite different like the Naim. At this level, it’s all down to personal preference and system matching.

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I had an XS3 and it was really good. I snapped up a SN3 about 6 months later at a really good used price and found the SN3 a bit more in your face and quite a bit livelier. It definitely had the feel of an older brother, if you get my meaning. More weight, more confidence, more brash, almost. The XS3 was no slouch at all though and I felt like it was a good 80-90% of the SN3 on it’s own. The half sized box is a nice benefit if you want to keep things small. Probably the biggest problem I had was keeping the nagging feeling of what the SN3 might offer extra at bay. If you’re not the type to leave yourself always wondering then the XS3 is really good as is. If I was sensible, I probably would have stopped there. Two years later and I have a 282/250DR though, so apparently sensible is not really in my wheelhouse.

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My poster amp from my youth is the A21a (well, that and the Musical Fidelity A1) I still keep an eye out on eBay for the black fascia, round orange power button version :wink:

Good luck deciding.

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When I bought my SN2 in 2016, I tested it against the Sugden A21 – and it was a close thing. I had two audiophile pals with me, and they both preferred the Sugden’s lusher sound. The main reason I went for the SN2 was because I’d hankered after Naim for so long, not necessarily because it was “better”.

I still love the SN2 with my Neat Motive SX1 speakers. But I suspect I would have been just as happy with the Sugden. Difficult decision. Let your ears be your guide, as they say a lot round here.

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If I bought the XS3 it’d leave me a little more room to maybe keep the Sugden, and build a second (or first depending on how you look at it!) system with better matching speakers, when I can afford them. The thing with the sugden is I really feel it needs something like AudioNote or Devore’s which aren’t in my reach at the moment.

Do the XS3 and SN3 run as cool as the 5i-2 i have? I know it’s silly but as I mentioned in my first post, the heat the Sugden produces really bugs me.

Yes, the XS3 and SN3 run pretty cool. If the heat of the Sugden bugs you, why think of keeping it? Just get shot and move on.

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The Sugden is a Class A amp hence the lusher sound but the trade off is lots of heat and added power consumption obviously. Nice amps though.

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If you can afford it get the SN3, it will work well with your Neats and if a bout of upgraditis strikes when you have some money floating around you can spend it on an additional power supply.

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Dear jpneat,

Looking at the specifications of your Neat XS2 speakers. Specs gained from the Neat website:

I tried placing spacing between the description and values, though it did not come out in the posted message.

ENCLOSURE TYPE 2-way bass reflex.
DIMENSIONS. 765/160/200mm (HxWxD).
PLINTH FOOTPRINT 220 X 260 mm. (WxD)
WEIGHT 12 Kg. each. (SHIPPING WEIGHT: 26kg. pr.)
SENSITIVITY (2.83v/1m) 87 dB/1 watt.
RECOMMENDED AMPLIFIER POWER 25 to 100 watts.
IMPEDANCE 8 ohms

With an SPL of 87 dB and a recommended amplifier from 25 to 100 watts by the manufacturer.

From my experience with low SPL speakers and not having done the maths before purchasing my XS 2 amplifier. I should have purchased the SN 2 at the time. Once, crunching the numbers later on, many years later on. My speakers have an SPL of 84 dB. Your speakers are 3 dB more efficient and should allow for the allowable headroom required with an XS 3 amplifier. That is 14 dB above quiescent listening levels for classical or with your selection above being 10 dB headroom for everything else, rock etc. Having said this, I never missed anything with my XS 2. As mentioned, it was years later that I crunched the numbers, and I never noticed the XS 2 to be lacking. Though in the back of my mind, I have a niggling that I should have gone with the larger amplifier. (My dB quotations, i.e. Headroom, are gained from spreadsheets that are available online)

In a nutshell, I think you will be very happy with an XS 3 with your current setup. If you purchase new speakers down the track and they are less efficient, you may regret not purchasing the SN 3. If you purchase more efficient speakers, it will be a walk in the park for the XS 3.

Others may wish to add that the SN3 is a better-sounding amplifier than the XS3. I can not confirm or deny this as I have not listened to either amplifier. Though I truly enjoy my XS2 with my 84dB speakers. The volume pot sits between 8 and 9:30 o’clock. The amplifier is not being taxed at all.

Trying to reflect on my listening experience at the time. I did not discern any difference between the XS2 and the SN2. This was my ears with my speakers at the HIFI dealership maybe 10 years ago or so.

I hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Mitch in Oz.

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I had a Sugden A21SE before my Naim Supernait 2. They are both great amps and wonderful at connecting me with the music being played. The Naim is better at preserving the rhythmic nature of music, with more focus on the attack at the start of notes. The Sugden was more lush and better at preserving the timbre of acoustic instruments and the decay of notes, but definitely not slow sounding. Both are special with strengths and weaknesses and it’s a matter of priorities for the buyer. They are two of the most enjoyable of the many integrated amps from various manufacturers that I’ve owned over the years. I haven’t heard the XS3 or SN3, but did own a NaitXS before the Sugden and SN2. Both were a step up from the XS for me.

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I’d suggest you just get the SN3. If you buy the XS3 you’ll always wish you’d gotten the SN3

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The Sugden class A amps, sound quite different to the Naim class AB amps… the design is quite different… and in the limit class A amps offer lower distortion and greater accuracy… for a cost of efficiency… hence why they get so warm.
However musical enjoyment isn’t all about accuracy … so you choose the quality and design you like, that matches your environment.

I would suggest though that speakers are more sensitive to rooms than amps… and you may find your Sugden class A is more wideband than your Nait 5 so your Sugden is exciting the room more with your speakers…

I am afraid it’s a voyage of discovery with many interactions…. I do however suspect as you drive for refinement with your Naim integrated… you will get a wider band sound, which may well increasingly interact with your speakers/room.

I would focus on getting the speakers sounding good with your Sugden in your room. … once there I would explore other amps if you want. Otherwise you might be chasing your tail with frequent disappointment… unless by chance you have found a sound with an amp, speaker and most importantly, room response, you are happy with with no alteration.

I love the Sugden sound as well as many Naim NAIT sounds… though I consider them somewhat different in feel… with the Nait50 and Sugden A21 (using my unreliable audio memory) possibly being the closest.

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I’ve just replaced an Arcam A28 with a Naim XS3. I deliberated between XS3 and SN3 but, for a variety of reasons, went for the XS3.

I have so far paired the XS3 with Piega T-Micro 60 AMTs (4 ohm/90db) and Tannoy Revolution Signature DC4t (8 ohm/87db). Both floor standers are used in conjunction with stereo subwoofers connected at high level. The XS3 has plenty of power and with either set of speakers easily fills a room 3.5m x 7m without ever going above 9 o’clock on the volume control.

Compared with the A28 the XS3 is more upfront, has more texture, is more musically cohesive and has stronger rhythm. The A28 was more spacious with a deeper soundstage, seemed to have a lower noise floor and possibly a slightly more natural tonality. Unfortunately, the output stage of the A28 failed (why I bought the XS3) so I can’t compare them back to back but those are my impressions. Power-wise they are broadly similar (both produce power above stated according to a Polish website that I’ve found that lab tests most things they review). I do plan to have the A28 repaired at some point as I still think it is a good amplifier.

Just one thought, if you keep the Sugden to pair with more efficient speakers and you have the skills, then building a pair of DIY single driver speakers could be a really good option. Alternatively, Omega build some very nice single driver speakers in the USA - Feeling Zen has a pair that are partnered with Luxman equipment. I don’t think they are as expensive as some of the Audio Note or Devore speakers but I might be wrong.

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XS(3) user, and ‘yes they run cool’!

Was a large factor when shifting to Naim (from a range of class A/hybrid and tube mono blocks etc).
As a consumer who hasn’t leaned heavy on Class A/B - the Naim way of tuning has really got me - I would happily choose a Naim Nait (Super or otherwise) as the sound is spot on where it should be.

Crazily, I have always favoured soundstage/depth and ‘metrics’ the XS / ’ Naits’ are not known for having as their strong suit.
I did find after 600 hours of ‘burn in’ that the staging changed significantly, and the steering of the amplifier, in terms of building a soundstage, is completely different after some break in.

ElvinJones post above succinctly observed some of the differences between a nice class A and Naim using a clever A/B bias.
Normally I’d go the ‘class A’ everytime route,… but being summer time over here, and having enjoyed leaving my Nait on, nonstop, for the entire length of summer… is not an option ANY other amp in my house would be given.
Amazingly the running costs on the Nait are so small that the advanatages that a switched on and already running amplifier has, is the Naits’ blessing -EVERY DAY!

Even texture/tonality and sustain… aspects that A/B might not win out with over pure Class A, hold really well…

for me the difference would be choosing the Supernait vs Nait XS(3) based on preferred stage size.
The last amp I was using (easily worth much much more than the Naim low price point offering) had a vastly larger soundstage to work from, and I grew to know/like that stage… even if it was overly large on a few recordings,… I accepted it and grew to like it.
It took me two months to adjust to the more intimate staging of the Nait XS3
When I am in any room around the Den,… I don’t hear staging (size) differences and the music just sounds ‘the best’ ever listened too…
When in room, the recordings that used to push past the rear walls now land neatly AT the rear walls, the stuff where imaging went past the boundaries of my 10 metre wide room, now just gets close to the walls… I actually prefer the voicing of the Nait, but with the caveat that it took 600hours to own the space it uses. (out of the box I’d have returned it based on being way to ‘in my face’ and really enclosed soundfield)

Some talk about the Supernait being everything the XS is but ‘bigger’ and that infers soundstage, to me…
So I am not sure… I LIKE the XS. In quite a few ways I feel that anything ‘more’ would be overkill… (I do not feel a Supernait would be well matched for me, even though the Naits traits that they are the weakest; “stage size” is something I typically seek to have ‘huge’).

What the Nait has done for me is allow me to experience Naim housesound.
I love their tuning; believe that at least one in four of every song I play is improved so much by the Naim playback experience (some instruments’ notes and many vocals just seem better than much other kit tried); that I am a convert.

If I had a nice Class A amp, would I sidegrade?
yes

Naim sound is truly ‘a thing’.

Would I buy the XS3 and keep funds towards having TWO systems; yes- that would be my path forward!

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To me this is largely determined by the speaker and room (real sound stage and positioning) then followed by amp having low phase distortion across the audio band and good subtle hf extension.
In my experience the Nait50 does however excel here compared to the unreliable audio memory I have of an XS2 which I really liked. In my experience I would put Nait50 stereo field imaging on a par with the 252DR, possibly getting close to the 5552DR… it is one thing that almost jumps out at you (pardon the pun) when you listen to the 50.

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Simon refering to the ‘good subtle High Frequecy extension’ is the reason that the break in/burn in time with the Nait integrated made such large difference to the perceived staging space.
Out of the box, there were little to none of the microcues think ‘echo and decay’ in the high frequency zone that allowed ones’ brain to CORRECTLY interpret the space.

After enjoying using the amp for a ‘good wee while’ the stage size that it comfortably rendered was spot on. (to taste)

The overt change in that time of run in was certainly in the microdetails and ‘small sounds in the high frequency space’ that now comfortably came through.