Naim XS 3 Phono v Rega MM phono

So having entered the world of naim in April with the 5si, I have already been tempted to upgrade and will shortly receive an almost new xs3. I have a 8o’s Rega Plana3 with an audio technica 95sh m cartridge. Having had to buy the Rega phono for the 5si, I wondered what anyones thoughts would be on
keeping the Rega phono or relying on the xs3 phono? I have yet to receive the XS3 but presume if I use the Rega phono I can continue to use a 5 din connection as opposed to the rca leads on the xs phono connection. Would the 5 din give a better sound in principle? All and any comments welcome.

Hi Griot – yes, you can use an RCA-to-DIN cable to connect your Fono MM to one of the Nait XS3’s line-level inputs, or you can run your Planar 3 directly into the RCA sockets for the XS3’s on-board phono stage. The manner of connection will not matter nearly as much as which phono stage you use. As to which stage is better, I wouldn’t want to “prejudice the jury”: please experiment with both and tell us what you think!

All the best,
Joe

Congrats, @Griot.

I am keenly interested in your observations on the comparison.

I am sure the phono stage on board any Naim pre is not a half-hearted offering; yet, an external phono pre can be an affordable upgrade, if it actually accomplishes being more sympathetic with the specific deck + arm + cartridge.

I found the Rega Fono performed “as if designed for” my c. 2000 Planar3 + Exact1, which it was! (into my NAC 112 and NAC 552; I liked the Fono better than the Stageline with my particular deck etc.)

At this level, it is relatively inexpensive to know the answer.

Your fellow Rega/Naim fan,

Nick

I connect my P8 direct into my XS3 phono stage and am very happy with the performance. As said, its not an afterthought phono stage. I actually dispensed with a Graham Slee Reflex M external stage as the internal one was, to my ears, on par.
It also tidies things up, one less box to have to power up and less leads.
Myself and @hungryhalibut are believers in keeping things simple,as often less can be more.
But as others have said, compare the two options and go where your ears send you.

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Yes,I shouldn’t worry too much about the Din or RCA inputs,if the internal stage sounds best to you? Then go with that.

It’s just a case of connecting the Rega Fono to one of the XS3’s Din sockets. Then you can connect the deck either to the Fono or to the XS3’s internal Fono stage. The best one is the one that you prefer. There is no right answer.

That’s really interesting on the Graham Slee. I’ve heard great things about them and was certainly curious about giving one a try at some point

I’ve run a XS3 for 6 months or so now, a lot of time with a Stageline N, and more recently with the inbuilt stage. I like them both, couldn’t really say which I prefer. As you have the Rega phono stage already @Griot there’s no harm in giving them both a very good audition before deciding. Have fun choosing :slight_smile:

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All, thank you for your responses. I should be up and running tomorrow, and will let you know my thoughts. Will be interested to see how the xs3 gets more out of the Rega, either way.

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The AT has a recommended load capacitance of 100 - 200 pF, the xs3 has an input capacitance of 470pF. Cables will easily add another 100pF, so it looks like the XS3 isn’t a good match. You’ll likely experience rolled off highs with a boost just before.

The rega’s input capacitance is specified as 100pF so much better suited.

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I ran a Rega Aethos for a while , so it needed a phono stage. Prior to that it was a Naim Stageline for my Clearaudio Emotion . This is a nice turntable, a little above the Concept and on a par with a Rega P8 - when fitted with a good cartridge

IMG_0433

First the dealer suggested a Rega Fono, that didn’t last long, next up was a Pro-ject tube

IMG_0501

*Excuse the flashing lights

I was rather underwhelmed by it - I felt it was trying to hard to cover all bases i.e MC and MM , I think if it had just been MM it would have been a much better product

Then came the Graham Slee Reflex and super duper power source. It was only then I felt I was back or above the Naim Stageline

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Hi n-lot thanks for this information. I know little about capacitance but having done some basic research, could you tell me why it matters and should I also get a stylus that matches the x3 phono for a true comparison. Also could you explain roll-off. Many thanks in anticipation.

…Is there some confusion between capacitance and resistance loadings here?

image

This is an example of what happens with different capacitance. You see that the treble gets boosted and then quickly rolls off (i.e. the level decreases compared to other frequencies).

If you google “Hagtech loading” you’ll find a page with a nice calculator that will show this (approx.) where this will happen for a cart with a certain capacitance. AT luckily lists all required specs for their carts. Please note that the capacitance your cart “sees” includes the cabling as well. Likely 20-30pF for the tonarm cables, and another 60-70 or more for the actual phono cable. So say another 100pF on top of your phono stages spec.

To compare phono stages it would make more sense to get some high capacitance cabling to use with the Rega and keep using the same cart. That will also allow you to experiment with the audible difference for you between high and low capacitance. If you then prefer the XS3 you can see if you can find a cart that’s more suitable for the high input capacitance. If you prefer the Rega keep using the cart you have.

No, it’s an MM cart. Resistance for MM is standardised at 47k, I don’t know of a single phono stage that even allows configuring that.

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…in any case, I do find that Naim MC phono stage loading values do not seem to make sense to me…unless there is another resistive load running in parallel?

The Naim MC resistive loads on the Stageline and the NA323 and NA523 Phono cards came about through extensive listening tests and were optimised for the most commonly used cartridges at the time; S at 470ohms was optimum for Supex, Linn Asak and also subsequently for Dynavector, K at 560ohms was optimum for Linn Karma and Troika.

The Superline has interchangeable plugs and so can of course have any load you care to use as well as any additional capacitance should you feel the need.

…thanks for this Richard…the thing is, though, that I read here of these seemingly high figures being used with more contemporary MCs, this being why I thought that there must be something running in parallel.

These loads work well with a number of more contemporary cartridges as well - the S type is a particularly favourite with Dynavectors of all kinds, as just one example of many*. Only real issue is where you have a cart that needs to be loaded to 100 ohms or less, but even here it shouldn’t take much for your dealer or someone like Darran at Class A to swap in some appropriate resistors.

*there is of course more to the difference between the S and K than just the small difference in loading; the S rolls off earlier and steeper in the HF which suits some carts better.

…I guess that if it sounds right, it is right! My previous DV XX-2Mk ii was always a mystery to me, internal impedence 6 Ohms but seemingly needing much more loading than you would have thought.
My Apheta 3 works best at 100, sounding not right at 200 and totally wrong at 400 on the Aura. Ears are best!

Indeed they are!

fwiw - nice post, and interesting article on Hagtech loading, going to read that through a few times!

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