New to the NAIM brand - £4k budget

Hi there. Couldn’t see an ‘Introduce yourself…’ thread so am jumping straight in here.

I’m looking to spend about £4k (not necessarily all at once) in the new or used market and looking for recommendations on how to get the most bang-for-buck. Happy to follow an upgrade path in a few years’ time but don’t really want to start on the very bottom rung for now, A couple of question if I may:

  1. Would you recommend starting off with a SN2 and then upgrading from there? A quick Google search returns these at £2,199 which I’m guessing is a pretty good price.
  2. A ex-demo SN3 can be had for £600 more – is this worth the jump?
  3. If I was to go down the separates-route what would you recommend? Happy to purchase ‘used’ here from a well-known auction site / ex-display.
  4. Will the Chord Qutest play nicely with NAIM amps?

Current system is as follows in 6x4m lounge with wooden floor – listening mix is typically 90% Tidal streaming / 10% vinyl:
• B&W CM6 S2
• Cambridge Audio CXA60 (this would be moved into my office)
• Cambridge Audio CXN streamer (I would be looking to keep this and use it with the NAIM)
• CHORD Qutest DAC
• Project Debut Carbon

Looking forward to peoples responses as this Q has likely been asked a few times here before by noobies like myself who are just starting to delve in to the world of NAIM and its many offerings.

1 Like

I’d say with a £4k budget and most of your listening is streaming then SN2 + ND5 XS2 makes the most sense.


I think the OP plans to keep his CA CXN streamer.

Remember that SN3 has a moving magnet phono stage so you can plug your TT straight in. With the SN2 (or going for separates) you will need to buy a phono stage as well. Depends on how many boxes you want!

1 Like

I saw that but figured that as most of the listening is streaming a ND5 XS2 would be a big improvement on the CA. Sell or trade in the CA

1 Like

Yes, that I do agree with. The XS2 would be a marked improvement on the CXN.

1 Like

It also depends on how much faff you want. To mix a metaphor - the further up the ladder, the slipperier the slope. You can spend a lot of time and money trying to get the ‘best’ out of a system.

A couple of thoughts though…

What phono stage are you currently using?
What speaker cable are you using?
Are you bi-wiring?

If the thought of four box amplifiers, two box streamers, multiple racks, and endless cable dressing is not your idea of fun, bear in mind that an ex-dem Nova is probably about on budget.


I bought a 6 month old Nova via eBay for under £2.5K recently.



Thanks for all the responses so far. It seams a SN2 could be a good idea with a separate phono if needed. TBH I don’t listen to huge amounts of vinyl so an upgraded phono stage can be purchased further down the line.

What makes the XS2 that much better than the CXN please? If its only the DAC then a Qutest will be in between the streamer and the amp.

In response to the following:

  • Phone = Cambridge CP1 but will likely upgrade
  • Speaker Cable = QED Silver Anniversary XT
    Note: The only reason I chose this is because I have quite a lengthy ‘under
    floor’ cable run as my equipment is in the opposite corner of the room to
    my speakers. When the new NAIM kit arrives I will be positioning the
    equipment nearer the speakers and will happily purchase some NAC A5.
  • Bi-Wiring = No

Having three or four boxes isn’t an issue to me, I obviously won’t be buying the lot in one hit though.

If you don’t: :point_right: Nova


If you do, I’ll back @elverdiblanco +1


I think you are on the right track then. SN2 would be a good choice.

ND5 XS2 would likely be a bit pointless as a transport only - although it is Roon Ready if that’s attractive. Chord gets a good rep feeding Naim.

202/200 might be an option if you want to go for pre/power, but that really can be a slippery slope. It would sidestep what could be seen as a slightly odd upgrade route through the SN.

QED cable should be fine - I think that was loaned me by a dealer at one point. Bought the A5 though.

1 Like

Welcome to the board @gav_sw20.
I can’t comment on your current streamer but I agree with @elverdiblanco the ND5XS2 can be a top notch transport for your Qutest. SN2 or SN3 is a tough call as some say one sounds slightly more mature than the other. You may not be able tell the difference however. Audition if you can. Again welcome to the board.


I think demo’s will be the order of the day especially if I look to introduce a new streamer down the line.

@AndyR - are you saying that it’s better to go down the 202/200DR vs. the SN2 ? I suppose I could upgrade the pre/power accordingly then farther down the line.

Id start with an sn2 and go from there (add hicap etc).


Not necessarily…

I guess I’m floating the idea to encourage you to think where you might want to go, although I think you already know. In my mind the SN is a good place to stop, the 202/200 a good place to start. If you think you are likely to go the pre/power route and the budget will stand it, you should probably at least get a demo of 202/200 before buying an SN2.

In the end you have to pick what works for you, not what anyone else thinks. I traded an Audio Vois (anyone remember them?) pre/power for a NAIT 5 nearly 20 years ago… I only occasionally wish I hadn’t!

1 Like

Last year I built up a CDX2 fronted active system comprising NAC72, 2 hi caps and SNAXO242 with NAP180 power amps feeding SBLs for a little over your budget, really wish I had kept hold of as it sounded glorious

It was a bit a faff with cabling etc but the fun factor of both the build and the end results was well worth the effort and if you were keeping your exiting streamer it would be well within £4k…

1 Like

Hi, & welcome.
Having owned a CXN & now using an NDX (ND5xs on the route), although there is a big difference between the two, I didn’t think the 5xs was better or worse than the CXN, just different. I found the CXN had a much ‘deeper’ soundstage & could hear ‘more’ of the music far easier, but sounded a little ‘HIFI’ rather than real people/instruments (different when going up to NDX).
The point is: if you like what you hear with the CXN; stick with it & get some good amplification. If you are a ‘upgrade bug’ person: get the best pre/power your budget will allow, if you’re quite happy to do a ‘one off’ purchase: you won’t go wrong with a SN.
Go & have plenty of auditions (if possible) before making your choice - but above all enjoy the journey, & again welcome (to the madhouse :rofl:)

1 Like

Thanks for the welcome.

I’m thinking the pre/power route may appeal to me as I can upgrade each bit as I go along.

Looking on an auction site I can see this combo could be a cheap way to go but so I need to worry about separates being 10yo+ in most cases?

@JR007 - thanks for the CXN feedback. I know I can run the CXN in ‘preamp’ mode - Is it possible I can connect this directly to a NAP200 (and use the CXN to control the volume) and do without a NAC for the moment?

The power amp will definitely need servicing after 10 years. Darran at Class A is very reasonably priced and is an authorised service department.

If you get a 202 200 combo more than 10 years old I would get them both done.

Personally I would get Olive 82 with 250CB or 250 olive and a hicap to start out.

It’s the route I took and I have a mix of CB, Olive and black boxes all doing their amazing things!

Would be a better system than the 202 200.

Worth checking out on auction sites prices and looking on the forum what members have.

Good luck with your decisions!

1 Like

What @elverdiblanco said. I had an old XS pre/power combo (which pretty much added up to SN2) and ND5 XS2. It was a great combo. In fact I’m pretty sure they used an SN2 to demo the NDX5 XS2 to me. Really great combo.

1 Like