‘NDX2/Supernait 3 vs Uniti Nova’

I know how much everyone loves these X vs Y threads… My system is based around a Supernait 3 and an NDX2, with the very small ProAc Tablette 10 Signatures for speakers.

As some may know, my hearing is pretty bad; my left ear doesn’t work at all and my right isn’t that great, so I use hearing aids whereby the left hearing aid sends sound to the right. The brain copes with this very well and usually I don’t notice that everything comes from one working ear.

I only include this as background. Having recently sold a 555PSDR that powered my NDX2 and finding that I didn’t miss it at all, I was wondering whether my hearing was so hopeless that I wouldn’t notice the impact of swapping the NDX2 and Supernait 3 for something more modest. I don’t need to downsize for financial or any other reason, so it was very much an experiment to see if I could hear the difference and, if so, how big that difference would be.

I tried a Nova in late 2020, when I had Naim SL2s, and didn’t feel that it was up to the task of driving them properly. Would things be different with the little ProAcs I wondered? To find out, I’ve been comparing my NDX2/SN3 and a Nova that I have very kindly been lent by the ever helpful Audio T in Portsmouth.

It’s been a really interesting experience. The good thing is that my hearing, even with one ear and the aids, can easily tell the difference. I won’t use the term night and day, or even chalk and cheese, but the differences were very clear to me. Whether using aids shows up things that others wouldn’t notice I don’t know - maybe others would hear a bigger difference, or a smaller difference, or maybe different differences.

The Nova gives a hugely detailed sound, with everything rendered very explicitly. Very rhythmic and engaging. But on the downside I found the sound rather thin and anaemic, and the bass was much less and didn’t go anything like as low. This rather surprised me, as both amplifiers have the same rated power output.

As well as listening to music we use the system when watching TV, using an optical cable. Watching David Attenborough’s wonderful Green Planet, as well as a thin sound, there was a very pronounced sibilance in his voice, which I’ve never noticed with the usual system.

Listening to Achirana by Vassilis Tsabropoulos, Arild Andersen’s bass, which is hugely deep, was a bit thin and weedy with the Nova, and much of the wonder of the album was lost. Switching to the NDX2 and SN3 immediately gave an enormous improvement in bass depth and definition. The biggest difference was that instruments became much more natural and everything sounded much bigger and more solid. Music flowed in a much more natural and organic way and was just much, much more enjoyable and engaging.

Now, I fully realise that a Nova costs £4,800 and an NDX2 and Supernait 3 cost £9,300, so the latter jolly well ought to be better, whatever ‘better’ means. What has been really interesting for me is to discover that I can still tell the difference, and also that my little speakers can easily reveal the difference. I suspect my hearing is impacting on me in a way it may not with others, as I know that many people love what the Nova does.

Maybe with bigger and fuller sounding speakers I wouldn’t have noticed the difference. In terms of the greater fullness and depth of sound, I’m pretty sure this is the impact of the Supernait, despite it being rated at the same 80W, but of course it’s impossible to isolate exactly what’s doing what.

I really rather wanted the Nova to work for me. I’ve warmed to its looks; it’s lovely to use and the volume control is an absolute delight. I think it’s fantastic value. But with my ears and my speakers it just didn’t work out, and the NDX2 and SN3 are back in and doing their thing.

Hopefully someone may find this useful in some way, so I thought I’d share my findings, just in case.

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Thank you for this. I’m a hearing aid user myself (although luckily both ears still have some function), and I wondered much the same thing. Could my SN3/ND5 XS2 be replaced with something a little less obtrusive? Your experience reassures me!

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Yes indeed, your post ticked off a possible change consideration later this year, thanks.
My plan now is wait until (if ever) a 272 replacement is released & hopefully at a ‘5’ level & this together with one or other ATC active speakers
As it stands now, service the Supernait (ASAP), wait for 572 or go NDX2.

I’m glad you could tell a meaningful difference, given how much we ought all to appreciate the fact we have the senses we have, it is all too easy to forget how fragile that may be. 'scuse awful sentence there!

Given you made audition based choices when upgrading phono stages and cartridges, why did you think the Nova Vs SN comparison wouldn’t be so apparent?

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Things may be different for you of course, certainly for me the reassurance is well worth the time taken. As hearing aid wearers, we must make the best of it.

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That’s a good point, I don’t know really. I simply felt that the results were worth sharing in case others were facing a similar dilemma. As regards ‘audition based choices’ when choosing cartridges, I confess that I didn’t audition before ordering. It just seemed the right thing to do to get the setup that Rega sell as a matched package. How reckless!!

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In hindsight though, I’m sure you wrote how much the cartridge upgrade was worth it!? Plus, I’m not sure many here get to be the audition police :slight_smile:

I guess we know now though, through your process of elimination, that Naim power supplies make less of a difference than a choice between primary amps or source upgrades. Should make the next x vs y thread much shorter :wink:

Glad it was a positive experience too, fwiw

A very helpful summary. I am sure that there are sonic benefits to the NDX2/SN3 over the Nova. It’s just that after years of multibox systems I just love the simplicity and lack of faff/tweakery with a one box system. Bring on the Supernova

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I wonder how will sound the Aria into Nova. As you seem to enjoy vinyl a lot actually, it’s a thing to consider, I feel.

for whatever it’s worth, I (very clearly) preferred the Nait2 to the SN3, with the very same speakers - perhaps you could consider to try? Perhaps, indeed not too surprisingly, the Nova is just not able to give equally (or negligibly less) of the same as the NDX2/SN3?

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Really interesting conclusions HH.

I recently trawled a similar concept with my dealer who indicated that the Linn Selekt DSM Network Music Player With Integrated Amplifier And Katalyst DAC might offer a more satisfying all-in-one solution than the Nova, albeit perhaps not so appealing to dedicated Naim fans.

But, then again it’s more expensive and, perhaps, more profitable……although their recommendations in respect of my Naim system have always been sound.

ATB, J

An interesting and helpful post. Firstly I am pleased that your hearing is still good enough for you to tell the difference between the two and enjoy your listening. Secondly, I am unsurprised that the SN3-NDX2 delivered a better SQ than the Nova but it is good to have this confirmed. Thirdly, I would be really interested in finding out if someone has done a comparison of the SN3-NDX2 against an AtomHE and 250 which are more closely matched price-wise.

I’ve sort of got both, in so much as having a SN3 + NDX2 in one room and a Selekt with Katalyst currently in my office.
I don’t have a Nova so can’t comment on how they compare but chose the Linn DSM over a Nova because I could adapt and grow in to it over time, mine has internal amps for 5.1 for that use. I’m using it as a 2 channel amp currently.
I like and enjoy both systems but then they are in different rooms and used in different contexts.
If I had to chose only one of the setups I’ve got I’d always pick the SN3 + NDX2 over the others, to me it performs the best and I would say I enjoy it the most, it’s not however the one I use the most often!

Thanks HH for a very useful post, I have been wondering for a while why I have the big rig for my second system (chord 2qute/200/200), and would a Nova be better to get rid of all the boxes, cables and every thing else.

I guess the big rig stays and thoughts of Nova are now gone.

Much, much appreciated.

as to why you may have found these differences, the Nova employs a digital volume control at the lower volumes, whereas the SN3 has a full analogue volume pot.

the NDX2 is also a beast of a streamer, so source first also applies.

Can’t be long now before the call for the 500 series Nova goes up!

Thanks. For me, what was interesting is in what way the two boxes are ‘better’ than the Nova. Both are rated at 80W, yet the Nova sounded much more anaemic and bass light. Very detailed but lacking in the organic sound and natural flow. A lot of jazz relies heavily on the upright bass and with the Nova it was unacceptably diminished. Maybe it’s the amp/speaker combination, I don’t know.

I wouldn’t want my findings to put anyone off trying a Nova. It’s hugely accomplished and lovely to use. With other speakers and decent ears it could be the perfect solution.

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I think Clare said the Nova was closer to ND5XS2 and XS2 , however the Nova does seem to have slightly more power. The cost of the two is much closer to the Nova than the SN3 and NDX2 , which is almost double . The Nova retails at £4800, the Nd5xS2 & XS3 at £5,000.

The ND2 retails at over £5 k and the SN3 at just under £4k . I don’t see how a sub £5k product could compete with £9k plus of boxes .

I too have downsized box count (and box volume) as well as smaller speakers and like you am, very happy (now I have had CD player serviced and added Powerline)

When I auditioned the SN3 , it was in a much larger room - and suffered when compared to a Rega Aethos .

I switched for reasons not associated with sound. The night and day moment for me was the Power-line . The uplift to the Nova when the Power-line is added is significant.

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I switched from 200/202 , HiCap , NAPSC and phono stage to a Nova.

Very pleased , as I have said before the important thing is a Power-line and good speaker cable/interconnects

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interesting. I do agree the nova benefits greatly from good speaker cables

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I think that’s a really important point. HH has given excellent and valuable feedback on his experience of the Nova in one specific context, which is really useful for people considering downsizing. My experience is different. I use the Nova in my second system powering PMC 25.23s. On a direct comparison with my ND555/52/135s into B&W804S it’s clearly less proficient in the bass and lacks the fluidity of the bigger system, but given the disparity in cost, box-count and speaker size that’s hardly surprising. I wouldn’t describe it as bass-light, driving the PMCs in my 4.3mx4m room it’s got tight fast bass response which does go low, and I really enjoy listening to music on the system when I’m in that room.

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