SN2 and Headline

This is one for @Richard.Dane via John Vivian, who says hi.

Set up is SN2 with HiCap and NDX2 with XPS DR. Headphones are HD800.

Firstly, given that the SN2 has a Class A headphone amp, would there be any benefit in running a Headline with the HD800"s. The headphones actually sound really good from the SN2, one just wonders, what if?

If so, can the Headline be powered of the power out of the SN2? Or is a second HiCap required (would go for this over the NAPSC anyway).

Can the Headline then be connected to the NDX2 using the variable volume output with the volume knob on the Headline left at a fixed position? Would then toggle between fixed and variable sound output on the app when listening through speakers or headphones (might be a bit pants UI wise). The app for the NDX2 also has a hybrid setting, though no ones seems to have any idea what it actually does…

So, what’s the low down?

Mike, please give John my very best wishes. Being hosted him and his family while in Auckland was always a highlight of my trips to NZ.

As for the Headline vs. the headphone stage in the Supernait 2, first I must qualify anything I say here by admitting that I haven’t used the stage in the Supernait 2. I am though familiar with the Headline, and certainly in theory it should be a step (or two, or three, depending on the PSU partnership) up on the internal HP stage of the SN2. You will need a dedicated PSU for the Headline - at least a NAPSC, otherwise, you could use a FLATCAP, SNAPS, HICAP or SUPERCAP.

The Headline can be used straight off the back of a NAIM source with the addition of a Headline adaptor - this is a short lead that essentially reverses the pin connections to allow this.

I guess it would be possible to feed the Headline directly with the variable output of the NDX2, with the Headline set at a fixed volume level, even though it was probably not designed to be used this way. I don’t know what performance compromise this may bring, if any, but you could certainly try it out and see. I would be careful to set max volume so that no damage could be done to the headphones should the worst happen…

Or one’s ear I suppose!

Thanks for the reply. Is running a Headline of the SN2 an option for volume control?

No, the connection to the Supernait is via the REC OUT pins on one of the record input/ouputs. This is a fixed level signal that bypasses the Supernait’s onboard volume control. Volume is hence controlled independently via the Headline, which is in essence a high quality Naim pre-amp in miniature specifically dedicated to powering high quality headphones.

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One variable here that’s worth considering is that if you’re contemplating making such an investment in headphone listening, then consider just how much time you spend with headphones. I would want to hear how the Supernait 2 performed, both via speakers and via headphones, when a Hicap is added. I don’t know how much this might boost HP performance, but it’s certainly worth a demo to find out.

Okay, thanks. So, just to confuse myself, if a Headline is connected off the NDX2 and the SN2 is connected off the NDX2 with speakers connected of the SN2 which is always power on left, what would happen?

Unfortunately, in NZ, a Headline is a made to order scenario, which really points to staying with a HiCaP on the SN2 and using the headphone stage. Maybe someone else who has compared might be able to chip in? Headphone use is >50%, hence the questions.

You’d probably have the NDX2 connected to the SN2 via the usual DIN and then the Headline connected via the RCAs (you would need the RCA version of the Headline, but note this then cannot be used off the SN2 as that requires the DIN version). You would need to switch back and forth between each output. It’s not ideal and probably a bit off a faff. Better by far to connect from the Supernait2.

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Yes, looks like Headline off the SN2 would be the way to go, but sacrifices system automation and remote control that you get by using the SN2 headphone stage. A future Headline with system automation would be nice please.

Hi Mike, when I had a SN2, I did a comparison with an outboard headphone amplifier through the tape-out against the built-in one. There was a huge improvement over SN2’s headphone amp, with better bass weight, texture and soundstage. The built-in one sounded quite flat and “grey” though it was probably OK in isolation, and if you were not listening too critically. Subsequently, I moved to a 282 and did a further comparison with a DAC V-1 (from NDX), Headline 2 and NAPSC, Headline 2 and HiCapDR, and the outboard headphone amp I already had. This was using Grado RS-1e’s and Focal Elears. In all instances, I preferred the HL2 and NAPSC - it sounded great. Sound quality with the DAC V-1 was similar (at a higher cost). I could have lived happily with both but picked the HL2/ NAPSC combination. HiCap was good but a bit too much “in your face” and less relaxing to listen to.

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Thanks, that’s really helpful.

When I had my sn2 with hicap dr I was fairly underwhelmed by the headphone socket. My old hugo headphone was appreciably better so I’d be pretty surprised if a dedicated Naim headline wasnt better

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With my Sennheiser HD800S, I prefer the Hugo 2 over the DAC-V1. Obviously I don‘t know whether this says more about the Hugo‘s DAC or the V1‘s amplification.

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The HD800 developer, apparently, likes Violectric very much, and used their V100 (in the meantime discontinued) when voicing the HD800. I have never heard Violectric or seen them mentioned in a UK hifi forum – probably since these are rather uncommon in the UK. That’s at least my impression. If I was in the market for a headphone amp, I would certainly consider Violectric. They are quite well regarded in Germany.

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Am I correct @Richard.Dane then that the Headline can’t be used with system automation or the SN2 or NDX2 remotes or the Naim App for volume control? Seems to be a fatal flaw for me unfortunately and I’m not keen on mixing brands and sound signatures.

The Headline is wholly manual and doesn’t integrate with any app or automation. The idea is that you are sitting next to it and can reach over and turn the volume knob. Which doesn’t really seem unreasonable.

Thanks for the clarification. Though it only works if your configuration of system and furniture enables you to reach it, which in my case, it doesn’t. Seems a bit of an old school set up really given the UI of streaming with the App. SN headphone stage it is then.

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If you look at headphone amps there are a few that do offer remote control. But emphasis on a “few”. Even at price points above a HL2/HCdr, most are still strictly manual devices.

If it is a deal breaker, no need to get married to Naim here. But as mentioned, there won’t be alot of remote control options. It’s just of those things. Most headphone amps at that price are aimed at a dedicated headphone system demographic. That equals one easy chair in a corner with a headphone amp next to you.


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