Sound levels in 'fixed' volume mode

Dear All,

Recently I’ve accompanied my SN2 with ND5XS2 streamer. All seems to be very nice apart of one issue. After choosing a ‘fixed’ setting in a ‘volume mode’ screen under Naim App, I am experiencing very loud sound levels even at the lowest positions of volume control knob on the amplifier. Even if a knob is at the minimum position I can hear very silent sound when putting ear to the loudspeaker. Then by slightly turning a volume knob, I got big increases in the sound levels. In the end I can only move volume knob between two, very close to each other, positions. Similar if I operate via SN2 remote control - it’s the matter of 2 or 3 short presses of volume up button until sound level is too much.

Any idea what is the reason? What I can do to have a better control over sound levels?

I would rather keep the ‘fixed’ setting as ‘variable’ setting degrades performance (what I learned here in the forum).

Interestingly I didn’t have such problems with other, non-naim sources.


Much of this stems from two issues. First was the Red Book standard output level for CD, which was set at 2V - much higher than line level which was less than half that. Naim’s digital sources all comply with this 2V output standard.

The second issue came much later at the mastering (and remastering) stage where it became fashionable, particularly with rock and pop releases, to push levels to the maximum, even using so-called “brick-walling” and compression to reduce dynamic range and ensure the maximum output.

Of course, if you listen to mostly classical music then you may wonder what all this is about, but for modern rock and pop releases and reissues/remasters it’s a serious issue. One way around it is to choose releases with a decently wide dynamic range, or else if it’s an older recording, look for an earlier CD release. This is not so easy with streaming services, I would guess, as it’s difficult to know the source of their music.

I would add a third reason to Richards explanation. The Alps volume pot is chosen by Naim because they say it gives the best sound quality. Unfortunately it has a great deal of gain in the first few degrees of rotation which can make colume control very difficult in some systems.
The problem will be much worse if your speakers are easy to drive, and more so if they are in a small room. With much more demanding speakers things become much easier.

Richard and Chris - thank you for answers and comments.

For sure there is some truth in what both of you are saying however this volume control behavior seems awkward to me. I would still suspect some kind of problem in the amplifier or Alps.

Today I was speaking with the owner of the shop where I bought ND5XS2 and he was really surprised. This exact streamer was used in the shop with Supernait 3 and it was no problem to have a volume knob at 9 o’clock position. I wouldn’t dare to turn volume so much. Please check the following pictures presenting zero and max volume in my conditions:

Notice also ‘balance’ that I need to have turned as the left and right channels are not aligned when volume knob is in the low levels.

When it comes to the loudspeakers, these are bookshelf B&W with 88db sensitivity.

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I was going to assume that you have speakers with a very high sensitivity but clearly that’s not the case from what you have said.

Have you tried the other inputs to see if they are the same volume wise?

That looks most odd. I would have it checked by your dealer.

Are you actually using the “fixed” volume mode in the app for the ND5 XS2? I’d first try using either “variable” or “system automation” by connecting it to the SN using the 2.5mm jack connections on the back of each unit.

Isn’t system automation implicitly “fixed” anyway.

I agree that the picture and description seems very odd FWIW

Speaker sensitivity figures are a rough guide at best. For some time I used a pair for Kudos X2s with a Naim preamp and the volume control was bordering on being unusable. Their quoted sensitivity is 86.5db. So perhaps not so different from your findings.
For me the solution came in the form of a non-Naim DAC with variable output. I didn’t buy it as a solution to this problem, but it’s a popular upgrade route for Naim streamers. Dialling down the DAC output allowed use of a much wider range of the volume pot which solved this problem.

It almost sounds like it’s in AV bypass mode, but this should disable the volume control and only work on the AV input….

I’d make sure the AV bypass switch is set to off and then reset the SN2 to factory default just incase it’s got itself into a strange mode and then try again.

To restore all SUPERNAIT 2 programmable settings to the factory defaults press and hold the remote handset disp key while the unit is in program mode. The SUPERNAIT 2 will exit from program mode following this operation

Yes, I tried CD and Tuner inputs on amplifier but there is no difference. Also I temporarily switched from DIN to RCA connection but this brings no change either.

With “variable” mode I can also set up the maximum volume level in Naim App settings menu and then I have better control over volume level with a slider. However this setting uses DSP on streamer level which introduces sound quality degradation (as I learnt here). I would like to avoid that as I really hear the difference.

With ‘system automation’ there is no difference. There are two buttons in Naim App (instead of slider in ‘variable’ mode) that act similar like ‘vol+’ and ‘vol-’ on my remote control.

Well, my previous experiences with non-Naim DAC confirms exactly that. Previously I was using RME ADI Dac that has variable output and I could operate nicely with volume knob.

I bought ND5XS2 to have a matching device for SuperNait 2. Sonically I am very impressed and satisfied with sound quality. For my ears it’s better than with RME ADI in terms of sound stage and tone saturation (RME ADI seems to be more detailed for me but with ‘weaker’ saturation).

No, I’ve just checked that - it’s not AV bypass mode. Also reset SN2 to factory default doesn’t bring any change.

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Again, it looks odd. Get it checked by your dealer.

Ah well it was worth a try. I’d follow Richard’s advice above.

Yes guys, I am going to do that next week. Let you know if there are any interesting findings…

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A Chord Hugo between my NDX and 282 was the solution for me, as well as being a nice sound quality upgrade. These things are always subjective though.
Your balance control does look a long way out though. Is your room layout very asymmetrical to cause this? If not I agree you should get your dealer to check it out.

Will try with my RME ADI Dac between SN and ND5XS tomorrow. Actually when it comes to the sound I like the current setup without additional Dac.

The balance control position is connected with the volume problem. At the low volume control levels (like the ones I need to keep) left and right channels are not aligned equally. So starting at zero position, with the first degree of rotation of volume control I hear sound only in one loudspeaker, with the second degree of rotation the second loudspeaker joins the party but it’s not as loud as the first one. The more degrees the better i.e. this effect is gone after certain degree but as you know I often can’t have such degree because it’s getting very loud. Hence I need to compensate with balance knob.

I heard (or read) that this channel misalignment at low volume control levels was a common problem with SN2. It is corrected in SN3.

The low volume imbalance can affect all amps with the Alps volume pot, I don’t think the SN3 is exempt. However, this should all happen at low volumes (very low in most cases). Based on your description it seems very odd that it seems to become so loud so quickly. But difficult to say without hearing, best to have your dealer check