SN3 + ND5 XS2 vs. NAC-N 272 + NAP 250 DR

I would appreciate any thoughts. I am a delighted owner of a Uniti Nova/Focal Kanta No. 2 for my main system, and am thinking of moving that to my office and acquiring a new streamer/pre-amp/amp for my main system. Most of my listening is via NAS or Quobuz, but I do have a Rega RP3 that I use a couple of times a week.

I was thinking SN3 + ND5 XS2 (about $9,700 USD) as a good next step up the Naim chain, and paring that with the Kanta No. 2s and maybe putting some Kanta No. 1s or ATC SCM-19s with the Nova for a smaller office system, but I just came across a bundled NAC-N 272 + NAP 250 DR for $10,205 USD, which is a significant savings of about $6,000 off the list price for that combo.

Given that these are about the same price, it appears I have some options. What say you? I haven’t auditioned either yet, but if I am going to take advantage of the bundle, it appears I need to move pretty fast.

I would definitely go for the ND5XS2/Supernait3. Having said that, the 272/250 has a superior power amp which will control the speakers better, and the ATCs will certainly like that.
The limitations of the 272 other than sound quality are that the streaming board is a much older design, doesn’t support Qobuz, and has a number of other limitations.
Also the SN3 has a decent built in phono stage. With the 272 you would need a separate one.

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I’d go with the SN3/ND5 XS2 option. As you like the Nova, the reduced streaming functionality etc of the 272 would be frustrating, unreliable wi-fi, screen failures etc and the SN3 with the Kantas should be a good lift over the Nova.

Just be sure you’d be happy without the remote and screen on the ND5 XS2, though you’ll have the same functionality of the Nova using system automation with the SN3 and the Naim app, or Roon.

Good luck.

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I had the SN3 with ND5XS and after this got 272/250DR. That was a magical transformation to my ears. The overall feeling was more headroom, control and a relaxed feeling. I would 100% chose 272 and 250DR with tough to drive speakers. Streaming compatibility can be solved if needed and if you later add a power supply to the 272 it will be glorious. I never had WI-FI issues with my 272 and display work great even if I dim it after few seconds to save on it and reduce interference. Going from SN2 to SN3 I never really liked SN3. It sounded bit flat and boring to me. 272 and 250 is match in heaven and even though I moved to 300 later there are things with 250 and 272 I still remember as better.

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I am quite sure that 272/250 will sound better. A better pre and power amp, and a slight inferior source. My intuition.

I really think this would be personal preference. I’m minded towards the ND5/SN3 based on what I heard quite a while back. Can you demo?

What have you compared Lindsay?

ND5XS/SN2 and then NDX/SN2 vs 272/250 all into Sopra2s. I thought both SN systems had the edge but it really was personal preference and perhaps with different speakers who knows?

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Thank you all for the thoughts. I may be able to demo these. My dealer is a smaller shop, and only has handled Naim for a couple of years, so he doesn’t have a large range of products on hand. However, I get it now - I see that the N 272 has been discontinued, and of course no Qobuz. Maybe I’m the last person on this board to realize that!! It seems like I would be purchasing a streaming engine that is likely obsolete if I went that direction. I know Naim products last forever, but streamers seem like they might be the exception to the rule, just given how rapidly computers and networking are changing. I have a Mu-So v.1, and of course there are things it can’t do that the the v.2 can. If I’m going to spend $10k I want to have something that is going to have the best chance of handling what comes down the road. So, I suspect that the N 272 isn’t the direction I will go. So, when does the next streaming pre-amp come out?!!

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That is a little odd. As all of the magazine reviewers say the opposite. Removing the cascode circuit livened things up a little, giving the latest Supernait more speed and immediacy.

To quote Naim:

“ The second gain stage transistors have been optimised, so they no longer need to be shielded by a cascode stage transistor. Removing the cascode means less amplifier stabilisation is required: that doubles the slew rate and delivers an uplift in sound quality”.

SN3 does have more speed and immediacy but it also lack the warmth and feeling of power that I liked with SN2. I just found SN3 bit thin sounding but can probably be adjusted with other speakers. SN3 became more HIFI which IMO is not always the best direction.

" So, when does the next streaming pre-amp come out?!!"

I think it’s fair to say that is an oft asked question, my guess is that it should have been out last year, but has been stymied by the chips shortage and CV19 issues

Same though here, my dealer mentioned that this was and still is in the pipeline … no more information than that it has been delayed but will be coming …

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Networks as such haven’t really changed since the advent of Ethernet and TCP/IP, which was several decades ago. What changed are the online services on top of these, and for their first generation of steamers Naim underestimated this and the necessary hardware power and headroom.

But this is essentially just software that is running on a hardware computing platform, and for the current generation Naim learned the lesson well. By all accounts, the new streaming platform has sufficient capabilities for software updates to continue for a very long time. In addition, the online streaming technologies seem now pretty mature.

In summary, the existing products that are based on the new streaming platform will be supported through software updates for many years to come and there is little pressure for updating their hardware.

Of course there is currently no streaming preamp, but when it appears it will be based on the same streaming platform for sure. Naim have said clearly that they remain committed to the concept of a streaming preamp, but the timing of its release depends mostly on the Covid developments and the associated supply chain problems, so nobody knows. Some people hoped for Bristol 2022 hifi show, but its cancellation illustrates the unpredictability.

Either go with what is available or you have to wait for an unspecified time for the 272-2, and it may well come in the new design

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Well at least you’ve tried things for yourself, can’t argue with that. I’m hoping to one day move to a Naim pre and regulated power amp myself. Still really enjoying my SN3 though, so i could be some time yet.:rofl:

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I have heard both, and they do sound different.

My personal preference was for the 272 / 250DR combination, but there’s enough merit in both for it to be a personal choice. By far the best way to decide is to listen to them both.

If listening really isn’t possible:

If midrange purity is more important to you than absolute signal detail, then the 272 will likely sound better
if absolute detail and resolution are more important to you than midrange purity, the ND5 XS2 will likely sound better.

For me personally, I couldn’t up up with the slight upper-mid harshness present in the ND5 XS2, however for many other people this isn’t such a problem, and some people don’t even hear it. However, as I said, this is a very personal view based on how I listen to music.

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