Naim XS 3 phono stage specs

I’m looking for an integrated amp with a phono stage and the Nait XS 3 is at the top of my list.All of the reviews I’ve read are positive and the amp is highly recommended.The review in hi-fi news also had a lab test by Paul Miller and he reported the phono stage has a gain of +56db and a 47kohm/100pf load is this correct?

I don’t know about the gain. According to the website, it has 47 kOhm input impedance and 470 pF capacitance (ignoring the typo on the website where it says “impedance” instead of “capacitance”), and as far as I know 470 pF is correct. (And this is making @n-lot unhappy :wink: Make sure to choose a cartridge that works well with these specs)

100pF actually makes a lot more sense than 470pF. Perhaps that’s then a typo as well?

From a quick scan of the article it’s not really clear to me where the 100pF numbers comes from, did he measure it?

Maybe it does, but as you know from many dicussions, 470 nominal is what Naim MMs traditionally have.

Maybe Naim 470 pF is real-world 100 pF? If only we had a Naim website without confusing typos! Who knows, I would also like to know where the article has the value from :slight_smile:

That said, the nominal values are only part of the story. E.g., on my Superline I run my Apheta-3 MC with 500 Ohms and 1000 pF (thanks to @Cymbiosis) instead of the Rega-recommended values of 100 Ohms and 1000 pF, and it sounds much better this way, to my ears (more radiant treble, as you would expect; probably a bit lower impedance would be even better as a happy medium). It always depends on the whole amp design, I guess.

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47kΩ / 470pF is a very common input impedance for MM stages. It suits a number of MM cartridges to a varying degree. However, too much capacitance is usually preferable to too little, and cable capacitance + 470pF at the amp input tends to be erring somewhat toward the ‘easier’ / ‘softer’ side for most cartridges.

One notable exception is AT, their optimal load is usually specified as 100pF. Without going to quite expensive solutions (and inappropriately so for most MM cartridges), getting to this including tone-arm cable, external cables and the phono stage is very hard to achieve in practice.


And Nagaoka as well. Ortofon, albeit higher, still specifies something far lower than 470pF. I think that’s three of the main MM/MI manufacturers.

Can you share which cartridges are well served by 470pF at the amp (say 550-600 once we include the cabling) ? Genuinely interested, as I’m not aware of any.

I’m assuming he measured the load and gain. He also has quite a few other measurements that I haven’t seen before.Maybe someone from Naim can comment on his test results.

Ortofon 5 series go to 500pF, so not that far out (and 600pF would simply be a rather conservative load for them rather than being unreasonable).

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I’m not sure of the specs of the XS3 stage, the Stageline N specs are on the website, 35 dB gain, 470pF. I have a XS3, and a Stageline N (long story, don’t ask!) I could tell small differences between them, but not huge ones. I swapped between them, slightly favouring the Stageline.

I run a Goldring (sadly bumped from the top cartridge makers list by n-lot :wink: ) 1042, recommended load capacitance of 150-200pF. Partly as a result of @n-lot 's single-handed awareness raising campaign of the impact of load capacitance on MM cartridge performance, I just chanced my arm on a Graham Slee Accession. It offers 100, 220, 320 pF loadings. Running my GS at 100, allowing for some from the cable, sounds mighty fine. I very quickly tried the higher loadings and could tell a change, but did not dwell long enough to characterise it.

Richard D repeatedly emphasises the dark/earthy character of the Stageline N, matching well with bright cartridges. I would say the largest change of the GS stage is a brighter sound (plus bucket loads of separation and image improvements).

All that said, the XS3/SN3 built in stage receives a lot of praise, and I enjoyed it. I demo’d a new TT through mine recently and it could easily resolve deck differences. I’d definitely demo before buying. What cartridge do you currently run @Steamnyc ?

This thread should be useful:

According to Steve Sells, the capacitance chosen by Naim was selected after much listening.

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Unless you are using a well setup top line TT, arm and cabling, then using too low capacitance can easily and quickly become quite unpleasant, for this reason 470pF is a good compromise for practical use.
No one “in their right mind” intentionally selects a MM cartridge for use with a top line LP12 unless there’s a very peculiar and very specific reason!

I haven’t decided on a cartridge as of yet, I was thinking about a Grado or a Soundsmith. I reached out to Grado and was told the 470pf wouldn’t be an issue. Soundsmith thought I had a mistake with the 470pf and looked up the specs on the Naim website to confirm. He said it wouldn’t be a good match for his cartridges.


What TT and arm are you using?
The cantilever suspension of the cartridge also needs to be in the compliance range suitable for the arm.

my AT vms95e sounds mighty fine on sn3 stage which i assume is the same.

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Thanks. That’s the closest I’ve seen, and indeed, although still impossible to match with an 470pF stage, 550pF should in some cases be doable, 600 most certainly.

Let me just clarify that I wasn’t talking about quality. But the most common ones. If I look around it’s mostly the three I mentioned that are readily available at most dealers. And hence used most, which is confirmed if I have to trust my impressions from different fora.

Of course there’s others that are known to be really good, like Grado, Goldring, Soundsmith and a host of others.

Rolling off the highs would be a characteristic of running (too) high capacitance, so this does make sense. And if one prefers this it’s of course not an issue at all, it’s about preference. But it is a form of EQ, changing the frequency response from what the cartridge maker intended (talking cartridges like AT etc. with low capacitance specifications).

I do wonder if this is (still) true. MC’s advantage has been quoted as having a lighter cantilever assembly, but that’s no longer true with modern MM, and of course MI has been around for longer. Both are lighter than that of an MC.
But I must admit I have no personal experience of top MC’s. Only lower (mid?) end ones and top MM/MI’s. From that experience my takeaway has been that it’s mostly to do with MM/MI’s being loaded “wrong” that gave the MC the edge. (Not saying MM/MI is better by definition either BTW, as mentioned I haven’t been able to properly compare). This is not helped by many MM phono stages not allowing you to configure the load and cable (inc. turntable/tonearm) manufacturers not specifying the capacitance of their cabling.

Then there’s also the fact that Grado who invented the MC cartridge (the concept/technology already existed) now makes MI exclusively as I understand it. Including low output ones. And Ortofon markets it’s 2M MI cartridges as MM. So do we really know what’s what any more, and are MM/MC just used as synonyms of low and high output?

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Hah, sorry about my wording, I was only trying to gently pull your leg, I didn’t think you were overtly excluding them :slight_smile:

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My understanding of MC is that by using larger (and hence heavier and more powerful) magnets, it’s possible (in theory at least) to create a more linear magnetic field, and hence have less distortion across a wider frequency range than can be achieved with MM.

MI also shares this advantage, but in contrast to MC and MM, MI suffers from greater non-linearity due to magnetic hysteresis. In practice, with better magnetic materials this non-linearity can be controlled to be the same as or even a little less than the non-linearity in MM caused by the non-linear magnetic field.


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