Nova vs Olive separates plus ND5 XS2

Hi and thanks for the add to the forum.
Question re an upgrade.
Currently running Olive 180/102 (with CD3.5 and flatcap that I don’t use much) and a Linn Sondek LP12.
TBH we mostly play Tidal through Roon these days, on a Squeezbox Transporter which is OK - but even with DSP still a little bit lacking in warmth, compared to the CD3.5.
Bought the Olives 15 years ago, and still love them - but want to get better set up to get the most out of Roon/Tidal.

So, considerations are:

  • Replace the Transporter with an ND5 XS2, keep the Olives
  • Sell all Olives and possibly LP12 too, and buy a Uniti Nova
  • In both cases will eventually need to upgrade the speakers from EPOS M12.2s, not sure what to yet.

At the moment am having the 102 serviced by Naim, and trialing a Uniti Atom - it’s super clear sounding - but I think missing a lot of depth and warmth compared to the 180/102.
I’m assuming the Nova is a big jump from the Atom, but would the 180/102 with ND5 XS2 be even better?

Any advice and opinions gratefully received!

Ideally, try a hicap on the 102 AND the CD player, plus a napsc on the 102. It will really sing, and even outdo the Nova. (I know, I have a 102/hc/napsc/cd3.5/hc, and a Nova). It might even improve your streamer. If not, then a Nova is a good choice and punches well above it’s weight.

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Thanks @Graeme.
How much difference does the napsc make to the 102?
I’m not really focusing on improving CD sound, rather streaming.
And ideally not adding more boxes :grin:

A surprising amount. I had my 102 on a hicap for twenty years before I recently added a napsc and it gave a smoother more open sound. I was very surprised by it.

If you are looking for streaming, and keeping box count low, the Nova is a fine machine, which you can hook your LP12 (keep it) and CD player to. Can’t speak to the ND5 XS2 as I’ve never heard one. Hopefully someone else can chime in on that.

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Unless you really want just one box, I would keep your amp and add an ND5XS2 rather than get a Nova. It really should sound considerably better. Either way, I would recommend trying Qobuz instead of Tidal, as I find their 24 bit material sounds quite a bit better.


@Graeme currently the 102 is sourcing power directly from the 180. So it’s not plugged into the mains itself. Where would I connect the napsc?

Mike - when looking at the rear of the 102 you should have a couple of link plugs attached when no external power supplies are present. If memory serves, the furthest left is a vertical link plug. The lower two-pin input is where you would connect the napsc. You would still need to connect to the 180 for power; the napsc is taking over power duties for the digital circuitry.

Not sure if the current napsc is compatible with the 102 - you may need an Olive napsc? Maybe worth checking or getting input from here.

I previously owned a 102 and saw subtle upgrade, personally, with napsc. I found more significant improvement with a Hi-Cap.

Back to your question, I agree with ChrisSU: if you’re not looking to reduce box count, add the streamer. In addition to potential sound benefits, you will have a more flexible upgrade path, if that is something you’re considering.

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@mook has described connecting a napsc correctly.

Since your 102 is with Naim for a service, I would be inclined to keep it for a while. The reason being that 102’s don’t sell for very much , and you might not even get the cost of the service back. Better to enjoy the fruits of your money for a while and if you don’t like it, then sell it later. I guess that means you need to go with the streamer.

Do try a hicap and a napsc on it, they will make a good difference to sound quality. Again, you can easily sell them on, probably for what you paid for them, if you decide you don’t like them.

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I have no experience of the Olives sadly but I do have a 500 system and also a Nova. The Nova is fantastic value and the comment above about it punching above its weight is very true. I found that adding a Powerline made a nice difference, I also tried a Sean Jacobs Power Black mains cable which was also great for MUCH less money! The EtherRegen switch really beefed up the sound as well, much more of everything. I use NACA5 but I suspect other cables may influence the Nova’s presentation to suit your taste. The Nova is of course only one box as well, limited upgrade options exist with a single box! This can of course be a blessing also!


Used to have olive CDS2/52/SC/135s and now have a Nova. I am very happy with my system and wouldn’t go back. The Nova is indeed significantly better than the Atom. If I were you I would definitely give it a try and see what you think. I agree a Powereline is a worthwhile upgrade.


@Graeme actually I think you can’t recap the 102 anyway, so service is just 150 euros to fix an issue with the volume control and balance.
Thanks for all the advice everyone.
I think the only sensible thing to do when my 102 gets back is demo both the ND5 XS2 and the Nova, and see which works best.
We live in an apartment not a house, so can’t let rip with sound levels anyway - but the open plan kitchen living room is 500 square feet so there’s enough space to enjoy a full sound.
Ability to upgrade is a double edged sword, I would be happy to be ‘one and done’ - but I worry there’s a greater dependency on having everything in one box.
I nearly got a NAPSC on eBay this evening, but I want to make sure my 102 is operable before spending out any more on the current set up.
And hicaps are way more than I imagined too.
Last question, my 180 probably hasn’t ever been serviced, should I rush to do this straight away (280 - 380 euros for Naim service in Germany where I live) - or wait another 3 months or so while I bottom all this out? How urgent is it?

Thanks @mook. Good perspective.

If it were me, at this point I’d see if I could demo the Nova, to understand which direction to go in. If the Nova “blows away” the 102/180 for you, in your space, then that gives you some information to work with, in terms of sound direction. You might then want to dig a little further on your concern of everything in one box - for example, and rhetorically, is this more a concern with upgrade flexibility or something else?

If the Nova is not preferred sonically in your space, then you have a path forward. At that point, and not before and assuming the decision was to commit to 102/180 with ND5 XS2, I would definitely look to get the 180 serviced. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

I wouldn’t consider getting the 180 serviced if you go in a different direction - personally, I don’t think you’d get that investment back on resale.

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Thanks @mook solid advice. am going to take this route.
The hesitancy over one-box is that streaming tech will probably evolve faster than amplification. So for example my 102/180 still sound pretty good. The logitech transporter, which cost £1,000+ and was class-leading in its time, not so much.

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I moved from a 202 / 200 / Dac V1 to a Nova last year and have been very happy with the shift sideways. I just wish it had included a phono stage. I agree with others that the Powerline makes a huge improvement, well worth it.

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