Naim SBL Mk 2 - Active vs Passive

Has anyone gone from passive to active with this speaker? If so how do you compare the two in terms of performance?

I preferred to improve the power amp rather than get two lesser amps, Snaxo etc. I also dislike the extra cabling and boxes. With this in mind I preferred a single 300 to two 250s. The counter argument is that the Paxo is not great and the Sibbles come alive when activated. Hard to dem these days so you might just have to go for it and see what you think.


Lots and lots of us have done this. Might be worth searching for ‘active SBL’?

I did things a little different to most, going active ‘early’ with SBL 2x140 and fairly low level source/pre/power supplies. That was a long time ago. I have never regretted it and you will see in my profile the system I now have with active SL2s has become more hi end. Every step along the way the SBL and later SL2s just got more and more satisfying. I still have the SBLs passive in my second system.

I think active does something special to these Naim speakers but you do need a good ‘chain’ of components to really make them fly and this is complex, and can be pricey.

The word I would use for active v passive is ‘alive’ which is not terribly analytical I am afraid. I a bad at ‘reviewspeak’.



As been mentioned, lots of us will have done this, plus lots still doing this.
For sure it makes the sbl’s better, but at a cost, these days you could easy argu over, if it’s the best way to go.
If I still had my active sbl’s these days, I think rather than 2 amps, snazo, power supply, all the cables and boxes, I would get one good amp and better crossovers for the sbl’s, or different speakers.
But as said the old way still works, but remember it won’t turn the sbl’s in to something they are not.

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But what are they though? In my view, utterly magnificent.

Good luck to the OP, I only ever ran mine passive so can’t otherwise contribute.


Although very many years ago, I went active with SBL’s. I was running them with 1 x 250 and the change to 2 x 250’s was a revelation. Better control, deeper bass, improved mid-range, clearer vocals - simply better in every way.
The thing I particularly remember hearing was “Get Here” by Oleta Adams, which whilst sounding amazing on the passive SBL’s, came alive in a way I couldn’t believe on the active system.
Incidentally, I listened in my own home, with my dealer not telling me which I was listening to, so it was a “blind test”.

I am sure you know what I mean.
You are not suddenly going to get earth moving bass, a huge sound stage etc.
But after hearing some Sl2’s running a different crossovers to standard, this inpoved things and I guess it would be the same for sbl’s, plus much cheaper and easier, etc

Performance of my NBLs improved immensely active. Greater presence and clarity over passive. Low level resolution is enhanced and is very worthwhile. Downside is complexity of the system and additional components required. The speakers were designed active so this is the optimum without moving to better Naim amps. SBLs may be the same.

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Lots of past testimony of one passive NAP 500 better than a four pack of 135s, with SBLs.

Going active with like for like amps will probably bring improvements, however once one gets to 500 series level the equation gets complicated with the prospect of spending huge amounts of money on another NAP500 to go active which maybe a step too eccentric for SBLs, or to put another way, more gains would most probably be brought by upgrading the loudspeakers.

The answer probably is that in most arrangements active is better, however with one solitary NAP500 there is the benefit of enjoying the simplicity of less box count of a passive layout, and which brings unequivocally satisfaction.


I went active with my SBLs many years ago - variously with two 250s and then four 135s. Active was much better than passive - but I don’t mind boxes and cables. My wife has other views, of course.


No, you’re not - but you are getting something much better than the passive version. But if you want lots of really good, fast, accurate bass, go for active DBLs

Absolutely agree - the SBLs were good, but there are better speakers available. I went from active SBLs (4-pack 135) to passive S600 with (eventually, because the ANP300 didn’t really cut it) NAP500. I would, though, love to hear the system with another NAP500 or two, and active. Can’t afford it, so no point hearing it.

They still are! :grin:

My room does benefit with a boundary speaker, and the sibbles do an excellent job.
Although it maybe fair to say that if SBLs are the end-game speaker, a NAP 500, even of the non DR flavour, maybe overkill, but i don’t think it really is a case of the Sibbles bottlenecking but rather the size and shape of room.


Nait 5 & hicap driving sbls here. Both recently serviced. Looking for the best CD player now.

SBLs can give a lot having high level source and amplification, but they can perform well if driven by entry level amplification.

Oh and the most important thing: solid walls. We have thick old stone solid walls. Other loudspeakers are too happy in our room and get boomy easily.

That brings me to the point that I like SBLs most for what they not do: too much earth shaking bass. It’s just precisely right.


I’ve found a great improvement in sound by reaping the paxo. I wonder how good they would be with a higher quality crossover?

I have no shortage of bass, but I have spent a lot of time making sure they are set up as well as I can get them.

Yes. CDX, Allo Signature streamer, nDAC+XPS, Sondek, NAT05, 82+SC, SNAXO+SC,250 x 2

Just better.

We have gone from passive 250 to active 250, on SL2 with a SNAXO/Supercap - both had 552 upstream and CDS2, NAT01, Phonosophie P3 as sources. We have in the past also had a 300. In our view no contest active wins by a large margin, so much more detail, refinement, volume, less noise, no distortion, just unbelievable at every level. We have SBLs upstairs and can only imagine that the changes would be similar. SBLs are totally awesome and I would say active all the way!


Sitting on the fence again Dev? :sunglasses:

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