I notice that the NAC 22 was launched in '76 which was two years prior to the NAP 120. Any idea what Julian had in mind for the 22? Was it supposed to be an entry level pre-amp? If so, do you think it was more voiced for the 160 than the 250, or was he already developing an early 120 in the mid-70s?
I’m familiar with both combinations (and indeed, still own some sets of the 42/110) but have never done a head to head comparison.
I recall that @Adam.Meredith has a lovely Naim restored NAC22 and NAP120 so he could probably give you further insight as to performance.
The NAC22 was introduced in 1976 (the NAC42 in late '79) and was less sophisticated than the NAC12 and designed to be a more affordable offering, with high level circuitry on the main board and plug-in phono boards (NA222s at the beginning, then NA322s from '77 onwards).
I was told that the NAP120 came about from a still-born active speaker project for someone else, where Naim were to build and supply the internal amplifcation. It’s why the first series of NAP120 looked pretty rudimentary and inside used a laminated transformer. Later NAP120s had improved casework and a toroidal transformer.
Both the NAC22 and the NAP120 were replaced by the NAC42 and NAP110 in 1979. Note that these first 42/110s were in a shorter chassis and extruded case than the later ones, but not quite as short as the upcoming NAIT.
That was my first Naim system as well, in 1983, the only difference was that I needed to buy a used snaps to go with it in order to get the interest free credit of £35 a month for 10 months. Without the snaps I wouldn’t have borrowed enough to get the credit. It’s was a simply wonderful system; the amplifiers were supposed on an audiophile stand - breeze blocks borrowed from a building site down the road.
My first Naim amp was a 22/120. I had Spendor BC1s. It was a very early one, with the power switch on the heat sink panel. Huge step up over my Spendor D40 amp.
Next Naim was a 12/160, (bolt down), still with the BC1s, then very soon after a huge leap to a 32/SNAPS/NAXO/3x250/PMS.
Then came an 1982 42/110 with Kans. (I sold the stereo and bought a BMW AND a house).
The guy I sold the 22/120 to came by my home and we compared the two shoebox combos on my Mk1 Kans.
The conclusions were interesting. I had liked the 22/120 on my BC1s. But on the Kans it was pretty raucous. Surprise surprise. Yes back in those days we weren’t really into the effects of aging capacitors, and I was a Naim dealer and all. So a circa 1977 22/120 absolutly untouched, against a 1982 42/110 was not really fair. But to me the clearer, more immediate Kans revealed the 42/110 as the better combo by far.
I didn’t have a SNAPS at that time. But it made a huge difference to the 42/110 when I put my antipathy aside and stuck one in. I never got to try a 42.5/HiCap/110 at home, but did have several clients who loved that combo.
So my vote would be find a 42/110. And be aware I am reaching back nearly 4 decades in memory.
I already use LP12/Ittok/Karma/42.5/110/Kan 1s in the study so I don’t think I’ll bother with 22/120 if I ever see them come up for sale as I’ve also found that Kan 1s can easily sound a bit ragged with the wrong kit, especially when 30+ years old.