NAC-N272 vs NAC 202 & ND5-XS2

Have a ND5 XS2 streamer/DAC which I use with a Creek 100A integrated thru KEF R7s (front) & R3s (side). Am wanting to add a pre-amp to improve SQ (My Creek100A integrated accepts a direct line to the power amp section). Was thinking of a NAC 202 with a NAPSC or other PSU. Budget is tight. ND5 XS2 still holding good value (I got it new a year + ago for £2k) - was thinking about (part)exchange/swap etc of the ND5 XS2 for a (used or old stock) NAC-N272 + PSU (2nd hand probably). Was wondering how sound would be in comparison. Reviews of the NAC-N272 I’ve seen are very good - particularly for the pre-amp section. Also, (as & where it might help) … I have a Bluesound Node 2 (1st Gen) that has been modded to accept external PSU (have a cheap one I bought from the Polish outfit I got the PSU interface from). Intend at some point to get a used Chord Qutest DAC & decent PSU for that … to improve overall sound further. Any thoughts/ideas/input on possible ways for me to go would be very much appreciated. Many thanks, Simon.

Hi the 202 also needs a hicap if you’re not going to power it from a Naim power amp eg nap 200.

On my 102 (predecessor to 202) I found the HiCap made a massive difference to the soundstage, and was very flat before hand

If purpose is later getting a Nap Poweramp + Napsc + Hicap then it makes sense to buy a Nac 202.

Others may correct me but here’s my thoughts

272 Old streaming technology no longer supported so no new features / firmware

ND5-XS2 New tech better buffering Qobuz etc
So why swap it for old tech

Alternatively how about
Atom HE new tech streaming with pre-amp (just add power amp or active speakers)

For me 272 preamp (without power) is better than the HE and it is better than the 202 even with a hicap, I had all three (with 250.2 and Focal 1028be) so I could compare, without comment with an XPSDR…

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quite surprisingly.

If SQ is your priority then 272 though I’m not sure with your amp. But you’ll have to do some work arounds for lossless integration for Qobuz/Tidal/etc/. Or use your Node. But if you’re going the Chord route then I don’t know if I’d bother.

You can get a 272 and 250DR for pretty reasonable second hand prices these days. That combo is pretty good without a PS. But you can add a XPS later for a pretty reasonable outlay as well. It’s one of the better SQ/$ options out there now.

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I recall reading that a Naim employee stated that the 272 numbering meant it was intended to be seen as sitting between the 202 and 282 in Naim’s hierachy.

That said I’d think carefully before trading in a current generation streamer for an old one.

I have owned a 272. It paired nicely with a 150x.

Ah right … thought that HiCap might be further along the upgrade route as far as power supply concerned (re. NAPSC* ) … * if that wouldn’t fly . I’m not fully sussed as to the vagaries of Naim powering. Just have the ND5-XS2 & a 1st gen Mu-so. My sound quality varies a great deal, it seems though, depending on whatever unpleasantness is coming out of the mains wall socket - so makes sense to me to power up as ‘cleanly’ as possible. My attempt with budget mains filtering seems to have made little difference ! (… and always the fear, of course, of that being to the detriment of SQ !)

Certainly would want HICap if could afford. Presumably old (PSU) models on the 2nd hand market would work, for the most part (?)

Don’t know if I’d be going with Naim power amplification (unless maybe in the future if could get 4 old Naim monoblocks) Point being … like to have additional speakers at the side, so can add in to the mains (fronts) when listening at low volume or moving around (not sitting down). Also have the Mu-so plugged into the (Creek) integrated’s pre-output & use the three (R7, R3 & Mu-so in conjunction as to what sounds best, the time of day, what I’m doing etc. This might sound a bit mad to the Purist, but works for me. Generally just use the main speakers (R7s) on their own, when turning it up and sitting in the optimum listening position (middle of the sofa).

… interesting. This is why I considered swapping ND5 XS2 for NAC N272 in the first place … as 272 is supposed to sound very good, have a very good preamp section and be power-upgradeable (which, of course, the ND5 XS2 is not). Main point, I guess is how much SQ I’d lose from not having the ND5 XS2. I do have the Node 2 & could improve with a better PSU (it already having been modded/converted for) … and there’s always Limetree etc, etc (other bridging) possibilities further down the line. Before I bought the ND5 XS2 I was thinking about the N 272 & was advised to go for the streamer & use the preamp in my Creek integrated until I could afford a NAC 202 … but if the 272 preamp is already considerably better than the 202 ? !! Any thoughts ? (… anyone !)

Personally I would keep the ND5XS2 much better streamer than the 272 (I’ve owned both)

If budget is tight how about a used 82 with either a NAP140 or 180 no need for a HiCap at this point as the NAP will power the 82.

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Ah - one of the old ‘olive’ jobbies … right. Will look on Hifi Shark etc. Have noticed old stuff often sold WITH a PSU. Cheers.

In generel using Naim preamps with other brands poweramp is a no-go (for me anyway)
Tried, tested and no success at all.

Another vote here for keeping your modern streamer, for not mixing Naim & Creek, and for old olive boxes as the value for money Naim option.

Ebay and patience should offer: -
72 + 140 for about £1100.
72 + 140 +Hicap for about £1600.
82 + 140 for about £1600.
82 + 140 + Hicap for about £2100.
82 +250 + Hicap for about £2600.
If never serviced, olive boxes benefits from it, but age itself won’t make enough difference to change what you should buy.

I have not compared any of those to your amp - my guess is that 72 +140 is would at least compete with the Creek, with the other options considerably better, but you will want to check that with your own ears.

If you want to get a meaningful upgrade now and can sell the boxes you’d be retiring to make the bill acceptable, a 72 +140 would not cost much more than a 272. And, if you want to keep improving in future, there’s an easy upgrade path here.

A new-ish Supernait 3 integrated is another option, but would be very roughly £2K second hand, less natural as part of a later upgrade path, and (most of us would say) audibly bettered by the 82 + 140 combo.

Would pairing Naim preamps with other brand power amps be considered as a bit of a no-go because of the way the Naim units are linked and powered to reduced extraneous noise etc ? I still don’t get how it all works. Have tried online queries such as ‘How does the Naim PSU & system component-linking approach work’ … but get very little from any kind search no matter how I phrase it. The (integrated) amps I’ve used in the past, (Luxman, Yamaha) … like my current Creek 100A have the capability of driving 2 pairs of speakers simultaneously. I’m not interested in a surround system, but like having a pair (generally standmounts) on the side or at the rear to add-in to the main front floorstanders when/if I so wish (generally when listening at lower volumes). Is this likely to be problematic to implement well with Naim (pre/power amp & PSU) equipment ?

Why Naim route the pre-amp signal through the power supply

Not really. Naim preamps require a power supply and depending on the model, this can either come from a Naim power amp with a preamp supply built in (like a NAP200) or one of the Cap type power supplies (Flatcap, Hicap, Supercap). If using another brand power amp, you’d need a Naim preamp, a suitable Naim power supply for it and a suitably wired DIN4 to 2xRCA cable to take the signals from the power supply to the power amp. As shown in Robert’s link above, Naim route audio signals through the power supply which tends to cause a bit of confusion.

Naim power amps tend to work best with Naim preamps, but Naim preamps can happily work with other suitable power amps from other brands.

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