NBL vs SBL in 500 level system

Hi friends,

There was a few posts on the SBL MK1 vs Mk2 thread about NBL’s and without wanting to derail the thread I thought a new topic would be better! I am considering trying (buying as no home demo is available) some NBL’s in my system. The SBL’s are great but with a complete 500 series system I am wondering what the SBL’s maybe holding back! As good as they are, and they are good, I can’t help but think a speaker that Naim designed to be a flagship model at the time would be better. The NBL came out around the same time as the NAP500 so I assume they are a good match. I could be wrong of course! The price is ok I think at £2k for a later pair in great condition, boxed etc. Running them active is out of the question right now due to space for all of the extra equipment (and cost!)

My system is CD555/555DRx2, 552DR, 500DR, 2 Fraim stacks, Full SL cabling.

The SBL’s do sound fantastic on acoustic and vocal based music. Poor recordings are highlighted ruthlessly. Some music just sounds a bit muddy and tiring, I put this down to the recording quality as this is always more modern releases. Remasters usually sound worse than the originals. Great recordings sound out of this world but I wonder just how much better they could sound with a speaker that is on a more similar level to the electronics…

I am looking for a bit more bass weight without it becoming bloated, I would love to keep the vocal qualities of the SBL, a bit more impact would be nice for classical recordings and maybe a wider soundstage would not go amiss.

Right now I can afford to buy the NBL’s and could get the cross over serviced by Naim, buying a similar level speaker new is out of the question.

I would be interested to hear from people who use the NBL speakers with relation to my musings above and also those who have moved away from them and why that might be.

Thank you in advance!

I bought mine when I had a 282/Hi/250, now on a full 500 series but still passive crossovers. I’ve very satisfied with them but I don’t run SL cables and where we optimised the speaker to wall distance at 5.5cm in my room, there isn’t space for anything except the Naim speaker plugs fitted to my NACA5 so SL speaker cables at least are out. I think @Michaelb had a pair with SL but in a longer room than mine (judging from his system pics) so the same might not apply in yours but I’d suggest A5 for setting them up if you kept some. Of the ex owners I’ve heard reports of or from a couple have gone for Kudos 808 titans, one for S800s and one for Audionote Es (not sure which but not the base model).

Bass isn’t at all bloated by the way.

I found playing around with the setup could broaden the soundstage, even down to which input the second row of buttons is parked on but plug order was a big one two and this had a big effect on coherence. I use a linear block with from the power in: ND555,TTps, Supercap(for superline), 552ps, DVD5 (used digital out to 555) and 500ps with a NAD tuner plugged into the second wall socket. I would expect your optimum to differ from this, everyone elses seems to but experiment.

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I think @michaelf has recently changed from his much loved NBL’s to Kudos 808’s, so Michael may be able to offer some comments.

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Well it’s one of them anyway.

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As below, michaelf. I had SL2s with NACA5, now Shahinian Diapasons with Mogami 2972.

Sadly, I’ve never heard NBLs.

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Pretty sure its the Michael i mentioned as i walked in in the end of his 808 demo at Signals, prior to his home demo. It was the only speaker that he felt might replace his NBL’s.

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Hi Steve,

If you like what the SBL’s do, then you will love the NBL’s, they are a more mature pair of SBL’s but bigger in size and scale. They go a fair bit deeper in the bass but without the bloating you mention.

For £2k, they are a bargain, its a heck of a lot pf speaker for the money.

Just be aware, they need a fair amount of space to work in, the bass fire sidewards therefore keep them out of corners which could boom.

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Steve it would be a very natural progression from the SBL to the NBL for all the reasons you mention. They are indeed a wonderful match for the 500 as they were both developed at around the same time. I believe there were only ever just over 230 pairs ever produced and in their day they were very well priced. I run the same system as you and as long as your room works with them I think you will be delighted with them. They give a very clean bass but if recordings have deep bass such as a pipe organ you will certainly hear it on the NBL. At 2k you really can’t afford to not give them a try.

It has taken me 18 years to find a speaker which I preferred to the NBL so that tells you how good they are. I have now moved on to Kudos Titan 808s which of course are in excess of £20k so for a lot less you will get a fabulous speaker!

Sound quality apart the NBLs are a beautiful speaker visually and no visitor to you house will be able to resist running their hands over the beautifully contoured tops. Don’t try to put a vase of flowers on top of them though!!

If you do try them let us know how it goes.


I always wanted to hear some NBLs. My one comment would be to keep your SBLs, at least for a few months. Just to be sure you have a long period to adjust and be sure they work well in your room. I am also sure you will get your 2k back pretty quickly if not delighted.


Firstly, thank you all very much for taking the time to reply, it really is much appreciated. Some great points about my room have been raised so I will attach some pictures showing what I am working with. The front on view is from the listening position with a stud wall behind. The sofa is about 2ft off the rear wall. The room measures 4.5 x 5m with a ceiling height of 2.3m! Almost a square but not quite. There are patio doors to the right hand side where the curtains are and a further 2 internal glass panelled doors in the rear left of the room, 1 leading to the dining room on the back wall and another leading to the hall way on the left wall. Not an ideal room I know but the house is ideal for my family so that’s a compromise I have to live with right now!

let me know your thoughts based on the room. The SBL’s do make bass in the room, the room is a touch bright but not overly considering the lack of soft furnishings.

The Ikea cube thing in between the speakers could be relocated out of the way, I was always planning on doing this but have not got around to it yet! I suspect that NBL’s would prefer free space between then?

The chair in front of the door is not always there (usually in front of the patio doors) but works to break up the sound waves I guess!

Hopefully the visual material helps to make comment on if the room would be ‘potentially’ suitable based on your experiences.

Thanks again :slight_smile:


LOVE the way you have used the speaker cable as a trip hazard to stop some b*****d running of with your HiFi


Good looking system.

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Hey, thats very nice as its currently decked out…hope things work out👍

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Nice set up Steve :grinning: Its easy to look at a room and make assumptions, mine would be that NBL’s could boom in those corners and may be affected by having the power supplies right next to them.
However, my advice would be sod it, buy the NBLs, get them home and see how they perform in your room. My guess is they will be a fair bit better, in the unlikely circumstances that they sound worse, then you can always sell them on again. At £2k, you’re not going to lose anything other than carriage, maybe!

Kind regards


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Before I purchased (recent purchase) my SL2s I was looking at the NBLs and found 3 pairs online but they all had tweeter issues and this put me off, not sure if this is a common issue.

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Here are my NBLs in situ, I know I broke the rules by having them near the corners but they worked!!! It goes to prove that you really don’t know how they will sound until you try them in your room.

My room is approx 19 feet long and 13 feet wide and I had them firing down the room as I prefer not to sit too near to listen.

I wonder if it is my pair seen here that you are interested in buying! If so they are in excellent condition now replaced by 808s.


Nice one Michael, it goes to show what I know about large speakers lol. It also goes to show the importance of home dems and how you can manage to make a good speaker work in most circumstances. I see there is plenty of damping around the NBL’s and with a bit of hard work I am sure Steve can get the NBL’s to work well in his room.


Wonderful pictures of both speaker setups Michael the NBLs look like Allaes on steroids.


And here’s mine, no problem from the corners here either.

I’d move the system out from between but that would put it in the bay and my wife keeps a load of plants there behind the side sofa. The junk on the coffee table helps break up reflections from it :grin:.

You mention a stud wall behind your sofa but I trust the wall behind the speakers is suitably solid.
You need to be able to slide the speakers so get some Herbies gliders or maybe a couple of bits of inverted carpet or even towels and remove the spikes until you settle the final positions, they’re a bugger to move otherwise and you don’t want to be tilting them much without the transit screws in place for the mid/treble enclosure. You can put them on Fraim chips once in place.


@MichaelF your pictures have been very helpful, thank you. The speakers are not your ones however are yours Cherry? I do like the Cherry SBL’s I have and the Fraim is untainted Cherry so they would be a nice replacement! I think I should add some ‘clutter’ to the room to help tame the system a bit as my room is quite stark looking back at the photographs I just posted!

Your post makes me wonder how the Kudos 808 would perform… That one I can do on a home demo! Not for this year though as I spent enough which is why I am looking at the more modest NBL! Did you try the 606 or 707? I only ask as I thought some 606/707 would be worth trying as I wrote off the 808 as being too big for my room.

Did you run the NBL Active or Passive?

Sorry for all the questions!

@Polarbear I tend to have that approach to most things when I think my losses will be less than a few nice meals out! There is an element of fun in the unknown!

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