NSC 222 and an external headphone amp

I’m thinking of upgrading my current setup (centered on the Simaudio Moon 390). The NSC 222 looks like a beautiful product with nothing but excellent reviews. One feature that seems to be missing is the ability to use an external headphone amp. For that, a fixed line output needs to be available. The 390 has one and I’m not sure about the 222. Is it possible to configure the 222 so that the XLR output is variable (to be connected to, say, a NAP 250) and the RCA output is fixed (to be connected to a headphone amp)? This way, when listening on headphones, one would turn the power amp off and use the headphone amp’s volume control.
Of course one could use the built-in single-ended headphone amp on the 222, which everyone says is decent, but I’m sure you could get more from a separate headphone amp.

According to this post, you can fix the output but not separately for xlr/rca.

You might consider the atom headphone edition instead. It’s a streaming preamp designed to be used with a separate power amp like the 200 or 250; but also a dedicated headphone amplifier.


Would a 222 really be an upgrade over the Moon? On paper they look well matched, reviews are positive, and the Moon offers a few more features.

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As mentioned in the post quoted by Robert: the 222 does have RCA outputs (along with the XLRs) but I believe that, just like the XLR outputs, the RCA output level is controlled by the volume knob on the 222 (i.e. the RCA output is variable and not fixed). I would encourage you to listen to the headphone output of the 222 because it is really quite good if it can drive the specific headphones you prefer. I typically use “studio” style headphones from Sennheiser and Beyer Dynamic and these work fine although I imagine there are headphones that are more difficult to drive and may not work as well with the 222 headphone output.

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Thanks for your answer. That’s what I thought. As for the atom HE, it is claimed that the headphone amp circuit in the 222 is similar to the one in the Atom HE, though if I had to guess, they may have one half of the circuit, as the HE is balanced whereas the 222 has only a single-ended output

You have a valid point - is the 222 an upgrade over the 390? Maybe not, though I’m sure it would be if I just used the headphone outputs of both. The Moon could not drive my headphones nicely, so I had to connect an external amp. I didn’t hear the 222, but I did audition the atom HE and it sounded very good

I’m sure the 222 is very good with headphones, but it’s always a good thing to have the option to upgrade with a better headphone amp (e.g. a Violectric) or even just an amp with different characteristics (e.g. tubes). I wonder whether Naim could allow the feature I was looking for (simultaneous variable XLR and fixed RCA outputs) via a firmware upgrade

TBH… its maybe not likely anyone here will know… :thinking:

Unlikely - will probably sound very different but not necessarily ‘better’.

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