Yes I “believe in” new component ‘break in’. (please NO posts needed on psychology and ‘brain training’ and ‘bias’ etc; I have the requisite science backgrounds and years of hobbying behind me… (I’m good, thankyou!))
This extends to snippy quotes showing “I believe in new component break in”('nuff said!)
For me break in is overtly linked to only the new pieces of hifi I buy, and not a thing for the majority of my purchases (being second hand)…
Some kit needs more time to ‘bake’ than others (Ultrasone Edition 5 with their metal, ‘small’ drivers took around 1200hours to sound good, and at least 800hours to settle).
This post is mostly about an entry level integrated amp, in this instance a Nait XS3, and what other users might wish to consider when looking for info on ‘expected break in times’.
I fully agree that most do not have the ear training to care about this stuff, nor the setup that might reveal ‘some of the finer aspects’…
but needless to say this should be spoken about…; why? because otherwise I would have been unlikely to have kept the ‘out of box’ sound… (I knew to wait, but some may not…)
Background: I have owned some nice (/top tier) kit. I have had it combined with matching ‘level’ (/quality/“tier”) hifi components and understand just how great a well configured room and setup can sound.
This has been a hobby for me for well more than three decades, and I have played with A LOT of amplifiers (and associated equipment) over the last few decades.
If I wasn’t attuned to some generalised impressions regarding Class A and Tubes and ‘flagship’ parts then I wouldn’t have an expectation for just how good stuff can be.
I have my test tracks sorted and know what I am listening to to test certain parameters.
I also (no comments please; as ‘off topic’) have my cables and power filtration etc sorted (to some extent)…
Best of all I have a familiar baseline system with speakers and sub being stationary, and the DAC having not been turned off for many many moons… (and it lives exclusively in NOS mode, being fed suitable tracks from a few different FAMILIAR transports).
The parts I have been rotating much more than usual this year is AMPLIFIERS.
On my search for ‘the right stuff’ I went down a pathway that is not what my brain would typically go down…
As someone who places soundstage and imaging as the top two criteria (above dynamics and ‘tone’) I chose a Nait XS series part.
I love high slew rate equipment… (nothing yet has touched the ‘speed’ of my old Sansui AU919), and was interested in what the removed Cascade ‘filter’ was going to have on the reconfigured XS line.
well; colour me impressed!
admittedly NOT with the out of box state of the audio…
around 80 hours it was digestible,… but around 250 hours it started to shine- enough to write some words here… (only around ~350 hours on this baby so far/‘as of time of writing’)…
I have read enough people quoting ‘around 400 hours’ that I put that as THE MINIMUM time to have one of these bits of kit PLUGGED IN AND TURNED ON
I generally will not listen to equipment until it has at least 100 hours on it, but as a few planar headphones have shown me,… 400 hours is a new norm that I like to reach.
Anyone who knows what to expect (ie ‘bass tightening’ , improved soundfield depth (and a little more L to R) etc) can start to plot where the minimum listening time should be… (there does seem to be some general patterns that can be observed in the break in phenomena)- of course EXPECTATION BIAS is ‘ripe with this one’ is no doubt what many/MOST readers will take from my post (and are no doubt seething with every word I write)… by all means if you KNOW EVERYTHING- move on - you have nothing more to ‘learn’ from this post
…if however a fun ‘experiential’ post on the topic of break in is what you are looking for…
well then- lets enjoy this thread. (upbeat posts please- only posts that reaffirm the biases contained within are warranted, and sought after… “lets tilt the boat” with a reaffirming crowd- many handshakes and ‘pats on backs’ welcomed here!)
So… grainy sound disappears first.
Fortunately before the grain has totally gone… the stage depth STARTED to happen.
These were the first two things that reassuringly were observable.
Grain at 370ish hours still present (but much much less) and depth is coming in, but nowhere near what an entry level Marantz integrated of the last decade offers once fully broken in… where clap filled auditoriums can erupt all around the listener; presently I have clapping extending ‘mildly’ into the room even though certain effects can reach holographic levels, I’m ‘not there yet’; but better than where I started…
Amp from box:
I made the mistake of throwing on a familiar Tori Amos track as my second or third test track.
Arguably a BIG MISTAKE!
Tori was front and centre, and the piano was mostly to the right… but SO FAR AWAY as to being played by someone else… or, arguably two people (at least) based on how far it stretched over the ‘stage’.
The amp had ‘no depth’ and, this sounded eerily like a Topping D90 DAC (the worst DAC I have heard in the last decade or so…)… it was a ruler flat ‘depth’ ie NO DEPTH and too many things were simply wrong with the ‘setup’ of the stage… as the track should have played.
For me this ‘freaked me out’: had I bought ‘the wrong amp’ for my usual sonic preferences? I had read that Naim kit (certainly the integrateds) didn’t do ‘holography’ well. (and coming from a Musical Fidelity NuVista M3, I had certainly jumped into nightmare territory with regards to “surely it cannot be THIS bad!”)
Spoiler alert: at only ~350 hours in- the stage depth and holography is coming along beautifully… I have sounds from behind me and well placed staging up front that gives a realistic image and plenty of front to back ‘layering’.
On first day use:
I didn’t mind that the treble was missing a LOT of high frequency detail… -the micro details that are the ‘all important’ echo information and 'room/space setup of a recording. (I knew this would come ‘in time’)
It was the fact that Tori had to be a freaking giant with exceptionally long arms and, herself, was speaking through a tunnel (her voice clear and sans room information).
Second Spoiler: at 100 hours staging started to come good, 250 hours the minute echo and ‘High Frequency’ details needed for excellent depth setup was truly COMING IN!! (YAY!)
Back to ‘out of box state’;
Private Investigations simply WASN’T.
T.J. Eckleberg “Inches of Darkness” was, again, an exercise in needing to exorcise the veil…
The drummer at the start of the song SHOULD NOT BE PLACED clearly to the right (at the speaker location),… rather, on a great setup, it should extend to the back of the room -far beyond the wall- I have heard 70ft back… (‘ladder’/R2R DAC via hybrid amp and some Bowers and Wilkins monitors in a tuned room), but 50ft is the norm for high quality setups. Good processors into power amps and flagship surround receivers are generally good for 30feet back.
The Nait integrated, in the first hour of use, made the drummer ‘to the right’ but, when an amp can place point sources ‘with depth’ the drummer appears more to the middle, albeit far away…
I didn’t expect the massive bowl of ‘nothing’ (regarding depth) that the out of box Nait delivered.
Yes I had been told they are ‘forward’ amplifiers (the Naim integrateds’), and that they paired better with soft dome tweeters (vs, say, ‘metal’)… The Krix towers (speakers) certainly fit this bill, and the R2R DAC in use had certainly rendered better than 50 feet back with a slew of amps in situ over the last few months. Not least of which was a ‘lowly’ Marantz PM64 mk 2 that had cost peanuts by comparison- “what had I done?”, “could I live with this?”(No!)- so, some time to bake…
Hang on… lets talk some ‘positives’;
Coaching requires reaffirming a few things that the part/player is doing right-
Their was a visceral talent to how music WAS being rendered.
Sure it was congested -ahem- but certainly had a musicality to it, that, a room away, sans any need for staging and holography, would still sound amazing… (hence the post title being ‘break in before I get a break in!’; sure the neighbours’ might be salty at me for taking out the venerable NuVista M3; a tube/solid state hybrid ‘integrated’ (arguably) amplifier… which no doubt puts out an analogue sound that is very musical. Flutes even!
The Pace Rhythm and Timing (PRAT) is a thing… what I have often encouraged people to give credit to, ‘toe tapping’, when selecting equipment,… is here in full effect.
There is a simple beauty in the delivery, even straight from box, that qualifies this part as ‘a keeper’ in anyones’ book; even someone like myself who connoisseurs’ traits that the Naim kit is not acknowledged as having strengths in, the consensus that NAIM gives PRaT to die for- well, “Yes”, “that is true”. (and totally covetable)
So here I am pushing 370 hours and listening to Astral Weeks Live via a lowly FiiO M11+ COAX output, something I like to generally run through a reclock box to improve the digital delivery (Apple Music through the M11+ is actually ‘CD quality’ equivalent to my -better- /‘good’ transports); but, straight to the AudioGd R28 DAC- the Nait integrated has depth… the soundfield is now one that can place Tori on a seat on ‘the same stage’ as the Piano she is playing (phew!)…
Private Investigations has phase shifting effects that roll over the auditorium and correctly runs THROUGH this listener (and hits the back wall/‘goes beyond’)…
I am not using a streaming service, yet… still enjoying only select rips and discs as I come to learn this beast of an amp…
It is PERFECT.
yes I say this knowing it is ‘hardly a Class A’, and that it is anemic by comparison to some parts that may need be left on for many hours to ‘get their sound’.
In fact leaving the Naim ON is why I bought it: If I leave ‘my good kit’ off (/standby), and factor the few hours before it ‘starts to shine’ (valves have costly runtimes and so get power cycled around here); the cost for a half day+ of Hifi sound is a whole month of using the Nait XS3! I can leave her on with NO FEAR… perfect for a future solar setup (which, truth be told,… the 1500VA Musical Fidelity was never going to run on…), and more so for the ‘bus’.
The future, if things align, will be the low heat output/‘no grills’ 7cm tall Nait XS lying underneath an Anthem receiver (for Atmos duties and surround gaming/movies), much enjoying the ‘Nait’ as a power amp and being able to massively improve the sound delivery for my surround sound, whilst being able to, with the click of a remote button, return to ‘perfecly liveable’ hifi stereo duty.
In this config the Nait integrateds’ are perfect ‘Home Theatre Bypass’ candidates (or even as a power amp straight from a ‘variable output’ DAC/preamp)… in ‘HT Bypass’ mode the preamp circuit is bypassed and all power is usable for the kit as a stereo power amp. Much sonic improvements. Due to wanting to break mine in I have to use the full circuitry and so am not making use of HT Bypass (/nor the headamp) as much as I want to.
Is this little integrated the equivalent of ‘the best I have heard’? No.
Is it an interesting enough listen to justify owning one? Yes- better than that- I’d go so far as saying everyone should hear a Naim piece of kit, and decide for themselves if musicality given is worth somehow shoehorning that ‘NAIM sound’ into their rig… (Absolutely, “Yes”!)…
It isn’t the best when compared to parts/pieces that might be many times more the pricepoint, or have MUCH MUCH higher running costs…
I personally see the Naim Value For Money factor as being exceptional and the sound quality, whilst second fiddle to the value proposition, is quantifiably ‘good enough’ to place this part heads and shoulders above other options at anywhere near the pricepoint. The housesound is certainly worth saving for, and the ‘lowly’ 5si is a doorway to musicality ‘uncommon’.
That being said, I reached above the 5si, to the XS3 due to taking up the same amount of space, but offering an upgrade path for when the setup does move out of the bus… where I can get a dedicated power supply for the preamp circuitry and leave the internal toroidal for the power amp section. (whilst not the equivalent of the three toroidals in an offboard box that my last ‘integrated’ amp uses,… will achieve some of the sonic benefits that this configuration naturally brings, and is what the Nait is being compared to here when I am implying it is in anyway ‘less than perfect’ -when up against one of the worlds’ best integrated (as some reviewers have said).
“Toe tapping”, whilst might send shivers down a few readers minds’, is a very real ‘thing’ that no doubt the incredible PRaT delivers with these boxes.
This one aspect makes this part my new favorited ‘go to’ box (in a house with more than ten options to go to), even sans ‘full break in’. That is really saying something’ - for those that are not reading between the lines- let me make this clear; the Nait sounds great, even ‘unbroken in’. Break in will make it sound better, sure… but if after a couple of hundred hours you are not liking a piece of kits’ rendition - it may not be the piece for you… (although the aforementioned Ultrasone headphones, “Edition 5s”, got horrible after 300 hours and didn’t return to musical until north of 800 hours- but they are an exception and ‘not the rule’, and, being speakers, have actual mechanical components that are affected greatly by some excursion/‘run time’)
Spec sheet warfare is the death of the audio hobby - it is what has let ‘made for phone’ DAC chips (sip power/‘who cares’ audio output) own the market, in a world with sound so homogenized that class D is ruling the market (need less heatsinks, so ‘cost efficient to sell’ after a world financial crisis)… consumers who only benchmark against everything else are not factoring “what if everything else is, erm, ‘yuk’.”
Stereo audio was at its’ height prior to the year 2000, and then the market went home theatre, and then, around 2005, went with ‘Beats’ (/Skullcandy) and now, we have remasters for spatial audio, and earbuds rule the airwaves (literally).
Class A and Tubes are ‘top of the tree sound’ generally (conductor friend can confirm this bias’), but the Nait series tuning to be solid state that has tube sound (and not via a digital chip emulating, ‘poorly’, second harmonic richness) is cost affordable, and servicable for a part that lives in a system long enough to matter.
This is the heart of the system that has heart.
and mines not even ‘broken in’ yet
well wishes with’
tbc, discussion welcomed (cheers)