Frequent lurker, first time poster.
I’m making my first hifi steps and fell in love with the Naim sound at my local dealer.
I currently have an NAD C658 streamer/pre hooked up to an old AVR going into a pair of Focal Aria 948’s.
I’m looking to upgrade the amp and can get pre-owned XS3’s and NAP 250DR’s for roughly the same price (bit more for the latter).
If going for the former, I would fix the volume on the C658 and use the pre on the XS3 as much as possible.
Any recommendations or thoughts concerning this choice?
My concerns are that the former option doubles up the pre-amps, but the latter option might not give me the full Naim sound as it’s only the power stage.
Thanks in advance!
In Naim terms I wouldn’t be comparing the xs3 to the 250DR. The 250DR is the one to go for. The question then is whether the Nad can act as a good pre for the 250DR. I would find a dealer who holds both and get a demo before deciding. If it works well then go for the 250DR. It gives you the option for future upgrades should you decide that you want them.
There are 2 other options for the xs3; av bypass or power amp mode. But if you are looking to permanently use the xs3 as a power amp it might not be the best option.
You are also correct that you won’t get the Naim sound if not using a Naim pre.
Have you looked at other options for power amps eg exposure xm9 or the quad artera stereo?
Neither amp is ideal for the NAD; the XS3 would be half wasted and the 250 is far too good. One option is to sell the NAD and get an ND5XS2 and the XS3. Another is to sell the NAD and get a Uniti Atom HE and the 250. Another is to sell the NAD and get a Nova. Another is to add a power amp more in keeping with the NAD.
Have you heard the NAD? It is actually pretty decent. Before I returned to Naim I had it running into ATC 19a and it was great.
I never ran it into a 250 and personally would not as I feel the 250 may be better with a Naim pre but only trying it out would answer that question
Ive run a NAD C658 in fixed output mode for 4 years, initially into a SN2 + HiCap DR and later and still now into a SN3 + HiCap DR and with the full frequency Dirac RC and it sounds really good for the price point, a What HiFi Award Winner when it came out.
I would suggest the OP, to get the Naim sound uses the NAD in this mode with the XS3 or a SN2 or 3 if they can.
I dont think the NAD pre-amp will play well with a 250 power amp as the SN2 and 3 in AV Bypass using NAD in pre-amp mode sounded a lot worse than using fixed output into normal line level input of SNs.
Of course the most obvious partner is the matching nad power amp c298.
I just bought C658 and run it with Exposure 3510 power amp which for my ears is sweeter / warmer sounding than XS3 with much better bass control.
I tried Naim Atom with the Exposure and the sound was too warm.
The c658 and exposure is missing Naim organic slightly rounded sound however the bass control is much much better and the sound is more detailed.
Still testing however c658 seems bit flat sounding and siblant. Not using Dirac which might make nad /exposure combo better than naim.
My speakers are neat sx1 which I believe use focal twitter so you can expect similar results.
Is there anything in the sound from your current setup you want to change?
I generally like NAD gear, but the C658 certainly seems to be one of their least desirable offerings. Coupled to an old AVR, you are almost certainly a long way from optimal. I would suggest that you decide what you final system will consist of (HH above gives several suggestions) and then buy however much of it you can afford right now, then add to that as you go forward.