Nait 5SI AV Bypass vs. Supernait 3 AV Bypass

I have a Nait 5SI integrated. For digital, streaming/CD player, I run a Chord Hugo DAC through the AV bypass, the Hugo acting as preamp as it has a volume control. (Why? It just sounds to me more exciting/right that way.) I need to be careful to turn the Hugo volume down before playing music, as even at Hugo’s default volume it will be very loud coming through the AV bypass. OK…

I borrowed a Supernait 3 from my dealer. I ran the Hugo through the AV bypass, and turned the AV switch (which Nait 5SI lacks) on. The light on the Supernait volume control went off, as it should, indicating that volume control is completely out of the chain. However, that seemed to have no effect on the Hugo volume control, as at default volume Hugo was “not too loud”. In other words, I don’t believe the Supernait preamp was completely out of the chain.

So, what’s the issue? The Hugo did not sound as exciting through the Supernait AV (with Hugo at default volume) as I am used to hearing through the “lesser” Nait 5SI (with Hugo volume turned down below default). So, am I missing a step when connecting Hugo to the Supernait AV?

Why is this a critical issue for me? If I had based my buying decision only on hearing my Linn Majik through Supernait, deal done. However, I do a lot of streaming, as well, so I reluctantly returned the demo to the dealer.

So, in short, is there some step I’m missing when using the Supernait AV input, that would completely defeat its volume control in the chain?

Just so I understand, are you saying here that even when you set the Supernait 3’s AV input to unity gain that you can still control the volume of that input through the Supernait’s volume control?

With my 552 I find that the Hugo generally sounds best when its volume level is set just a little below maximum output (turquoise) and not to use it as if it was a pre-amp, so to use the Naim 552 pre-amp’s volume control and input into the Naim pre-amp just like a normal source.

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Hmm could this be something to do with the fact that the 5si gain stage is built into the power amp and the SN3 has a separate active preamp stage that you are bypassing (or maybe not bypassing, I’m not sure) when using AV mode. Maybe the 5si’s gain stage is adding something that works well with the Hugo pre. I’d assume that you should be using the pre amp in the SN3 for best effect.

Thanks for your reply. Good question, and it certainly makes sense to have done that, but actually I don’t remember if tried controlling the volume of that input through the Supernati’s volume control.

The Supernait was so spectacular with the Linn, I’m surprised as anyone that the Hugo did not give the same impression, at least to some degree, and regardless of the input. Over the years, I’ve found that first impressions (I only had the SN3 for two evenings) are often wrong. Perhaps my dealer will allow me to borrow a second time.

Thanks for your response. I believe I need more time with the SN3, my dealer is fantastic and may allow me to borrow a second time.

In the meantime, I’m going to do some listening with Hugo through my Nait 5SI switching inputs. Maybe “more exciting” through the AV is not necessarily “better”? I should also mention that using the Nait’s pre amp to control volume, the Hugo’s volume control is still in play and is not “too loud” at its default volume level (green color).

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