Source or Pre-amp on a Budget?

Due to financial constraints I am having to develop my system in incremental steps.

I started with a Naim SuperUniti connected to small speakers and have since swapped the speakers for more demanding floor standing speakers and a pre-owned NAP 300 amplifier to drive them. The power amp has since been serviced and upgraded to DR specification. I am currently using my SU as my source/pre amp to drive my NAP 300DR to reasonable effect. I find that streaming from Tidal makes up 90% of my listening, with access to my NAS and phono making up the remaining 10%.

I have now reached a critical point in my system development where I can consider replacing the SU. I cannot afford to replace the SU with a new streamer source and a pre amplifier. Do I buy a pre amp or an upgraded source next, and what might each of these be?

My budget for my next step is £3,000, I am open to all ideas including new or used, including Olive series components and brands other than Naim which might serve as an improvement over the SU, whether that be as a source, as a pre-amp or both!

Yours confused. Roog

Have you thought about a 272 ?

I have thought about a 272. I wondered if that would be simply protracting my break away from ‘all in one’ style boxes?

Given the new generation of Naim streamers, I have considered the ND5XS2 into the SU as an interim step.

Back in the day when I embarked on my Naim journey, source was king. I had a thorns, then LP12 followed by a Roksan. First they went through a Nait then a 52. Then I added a Nat02 and a cds. Returning to the UK saw me drop the cds and replacing it with a NDS. I still have my 52 and Nat02, but also have UnitiQutes doted around the house. Facing your dilemma today I don’t think I would go down the separates route … unless I had been seduced by an active system. Mind you I don’t envy people starting from scratch …

Hi Camphuw,

Part of me agrees with your comment, “I don’t think i would go down the separates route” to me this seems like a path hell bent on emptying one’s wallet.

I could sell the bits i have and buy a Vitus or Goldnote or a Devialet, but that wouldn’t be Naim. Plus i tried an £8k Devialet system and i wasn’t impressed.

So do i solider on and take the next step or just give it up as a bad job?

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Hi Roog
I would have thought power wise the SuperUniti would drive most speakers, the 300 is obviously a step up in quality and guess that’s where your current dilemma comes from in terms of moving forward. Either you go down the 272 route, which would make a great system or go ND5 XS2 and save up for a preamp, again a great system and improvement.
Your superuniti will sell or trade easily as still a demand. Or you can go with something like the Nova which will give you the power but not the quality of the other alternatives, but will save you a lot of cash as you can sell the Superuniti and the 300.
Nice choices to have , good luck.

Thank you for your reply glasnaim. It is the hankering for ‘more’ or ‘better’ I guess which led to me buying the 300, and very good it is too. And during my auditions of speakers I tried to use my SU, but when that wasn’t practical I usually settled for the dealers Nova.

I would agree it is an excellent piece of kit, especially when you add a nap power amp! Lol. You see no matter how good it can be bettered. I suspect this is why we have a thread about HiFi Mental and Illness

The strength of the separates route is in a situation where you can’t afford the system you really want, so you can start at a lower level, and upgrade in stages, one part at a time, however big or small those stages might be. Another potential advantage is that you can ‘mix and match’ components from different manufacturers, for example one manufacturer’s sources better than another, but amps vice versa - something that seems particularly prevalent in the fast evolving streaming/digital world.

But if you find an all-in-one system that is perfect for you, either with no expectation of wanting to upgrade, or accepting what a step up would involve, then you also reap the benefitsof convenience and simplicity.

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The SU preamp will be a massive bottleneck, and will hold back the system enormously. The trouble is that with your budget, whatever you get will be an almighty mullet with a 300DR on the end of it. I think I would either look for something like an olive 52, or go for a 272 and then start saving for a PSU to upgrade it.

I’m with Chris here.

Personally I went with a 272 + a used 555DR with a used 300DR, but then streaming from a NAS is my main source and I don’t use a TT. The 272 / 555DR combination balances surprisingly well with a 300DR and isn’t really a mullet.

Agreed ChrisSU, this is my dilemma, the obvious response to replacing an ‘all on one’ is to replace all of the functions that provides, (apart from the power stage in my case). I can see that the standard Naim approach would be to sell the SU and buy a NAC252, Super cap and a NDX2, job done but as i cannot afford any one of these items, let alone all in one go, my enquiry is what first? An Olive 52 is certainly on my watch list but these don’t seem to come up that often and with a PSU is likely to exceed my budget.

I am reluctant to put more resources into older tech streamers such as the 272 as this is where the market is moving the fastest, i perceive older pre-amps such as the 52 are less of an issue, subject to condition.

Either way it is a pity as this shift from SU could take some time.

Good though the 300DR is, I would consider selling it and getting a 250 in order to free up the funds to get a balanced system. At used prices, you should easily get, say, an NDX/282/Hicap for that. Obviously, if you want the latest tech, you’ll have to pay for it, as it hasn’t found its way onto the second hand market yet.

This thread reminds me of the old joke about someone who asked an Irishman for directions to a town. ‘Well I wouldn’t start from here’ is the punchline…

Trading the 300 would likely result in losing money and if you aspire to a higher end system eventually I’d perhaps hang onto it. I don’t know much about the SU - does it have an analogue output you could run through a 282/HC into the 300? This would be a step along the way and should be in budget if you source pre-loved. You would then leave an option of trading the SU for a better streamer - NDX2? later when funds allow…

Agreed - especially if you have speakers you like and it takes the 300 to drive them well.

If you must have the latest tech, consider nd5xs2 + nac72 + hicap. This will allow you to do incremental steps later in various ways.

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There is no line out (pre volume control) on a SU, so it can’t really be used as a digital source. Even if it could, I suspect it would be a very weak source for a 300 with a preamp that was good enough to do it justice. Thus my suggestion to trade the 300 - however unpalatable that idea seems, it gives the OP the option of a balanced system, and that trumps a system with a weak source and/or pre in my books.

Given that pre amps are likely to remain constant for longer, perhaps it might make sense to sort the pre first, and by the time I get around to upgrading the streamer source we might be looking at the NDX3!

With regard to using the pre out on the SU I have tried this through a couple of big integrated amps and the result was very good, in fact fed through a D’Agastino progression the result was amazing. I don’t fear not having a fixed line out, especially as an interim. I also have a separate AN DAC which I could bring into service if I had a hang up about line outs. As I have said I can’t change every thing at once so I will make a change one at a time, whether that be a pre amp or a new source, the SU will probably have to stay for the interim condition.

This has crossed my mind, although judging a NAC72 vs a 82 vs a 52 is a tough challenge.

Do you think the NAC 72 would be a reasonable Match for the 300 DR?

I wish you were closer, I’d invite you over to listen to my PrimaLuna driving a 300DR. On your budget, you could afford that with enough left over to get a new DAC if you wanted (e.g. Chord Qutest) as a source for your streaming.

I was in similar position to you having just lost my mind and ordered an NDX2 (which I don’t regret!) and wanting to try a preamp, but not being to afford anything from Naim.

Good luck!

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Hi perizoqui, thank you for the offer, I noted your thread with interest. The more I think about this the right thing to do in replacing the combined source/pre that I have is to get the pre in place first.
Comparable Naim pre amps, even used, just seem to be too expensive for my modest means, leaving me considering the olive range.

Much has been said about the 72, 82 and 52 on this and other forums and I have had widely conflicting views on the nac72 generally colminating in: “great pre amp but I wouldn’t think it was suitable pairing for a nap300dr”
Ideally I would like a one box pre and your use of the Primaluna Dialogue is very interesting. I will have to find a dealer who has one to try. And preferably compare it to a current Naim pre.

I also quite like your idea of using a chord qutest with the SU as this might lift the quality as a source.

Many thanks for you thoughts all.