Yeah, saw that one.
I should probably clarify a bit - as “essentially” implies, they are not exactly equal, the 222 is better … but that is really in a careful and dedicated A-B comparison. I had 2 home auditions before I finally bought the 222 and that was not just for the sound quality but my overall setup (and of course Steve Sells and his wonderful helpful contribution here to blame!). When connected through the SN3/SCDR i.e. with a second preamp, they were next to identical and I would challenge anyone to make the difference in a blind test. Directly to a power amp the 222 was better in A-B but they are close, having a very similar character and both just so hugely enjoyable.
… and by the way I would be surprised if I liked the 272 more than the Atom HE (a while since I listened to the 272 so memory is fading) but it seems I do like the Atom HE presentation and may be what people call the “new sound”?
The problem is that there’s so many different views and also quite opposite , so it’s quite impossible to rely on them.
A guy recently wrote that Nd555/552/300 is not that much better vs 222/ 300/250.3.
Other found Ndx2/ XPs dr / SN3/ hicap a bit better vs 222/250.
One guy preferred 272/555 dr and found it more musical vs 222/300.
Another one thinks that 222/300/250.3 outperforms his past CDS3/ XPS dr/ 252/300.
Then there are the hyperboles for the new 250, leaving the 300 dr in the dust.
Only one thing seems to be shared by all: the new 250 is really better vs the 250 dr.
Great summary there Sweetie. Difficult to see the wood through the trees with all the hyperbole.
Yeah agreed. FWIW I spend too much time on the internet to take any one statement as absolute. And especially when it comes to hifi.
Of course, since I have two HE’s and one of them into a 250DR I have been following those discussions. Everyone is searching for that giant killing bargain, but the reality is that good stuff usually cost more for a reason.
But I am satisfied with what I have and the only way to scratch that very small itch about what the 222 would give, really, is to demo one at home. But that is not a road I want to go down right now as those roads invariably lead to spending more cash or being unhappy with what is standing at home.
So comments here, like the one from @garcon and other folk who have listened to both, is good information to read. Puts into perspective what I am hearing from my system in the space that I have, without having to walk on the edge of “Upgrade Cliff”.
However, your attempt to bring balance to the discussion force is also very much appreciated.
A very interesting thread. My takeaway is that my own musings on the HE were close to the mark and going forwards it will be HE or 222 + NAP 250, not an NDX2. I have never aspired to the 500 series, the world is too interesting.
Or perhaps I just go 222 and active ATC SCM40a?
As other have pointed, the 222 has balanced connections. So it’s a plus for going to active speakers, as balanced cables are better for long cables.
I had missed that point, thank you. Ironically, I use balanced cables with my studio monitors, so definitely a benefit.
I think same for HE (balanced pre outs)
There are differences between 222’s pre-amp and Atom HE’s pre-amp.
- Atom uses op-amps (compact small-signal audio ‘operational amplifier’ chips), 222 uses discrete transistors
- Atom uses a chip based volume control, 222 uses a resistor ladder and reed relays
- However they both have the same headphone amp circuit. With small changes to some parts.
The sum means the 222 is better as a headphone amp than Atom HE. It is significantly more expensive and doesn’t not have the array of headphone sockets.
Thank you for that, much appreciated! The OP was/is debating which Atom, standard or HE, would be the better preamp, DAC and streamer.
Hopefully I was correct that the HE is a technical improvement over the non HE Atom when comparing them as preamps? Does the HE benefit from the same output stage reuse for the preamp output as the NSC222?
New headphone amp that doubles as the output stage. This is like a mini naim power amp and being small it has speed and agility. As an output stage it runs class A and when it drives headphones it slides into class AB for the peaks. The headphone mute relays isolate the headphone Zobel network when not used.
The headphone amp is the last stage of the pre-amp section.
It doubles as both the output stage and the headphone amp.
Thanks for the info!
I have recently combined an Atom HE → NAP250.3 → B&W 703S3
I’m very happy with the combination.
I demoed the following:
ND5XS2/SN3 → 705S3, lovely mids/vocals, forward presentation, airy, bass extension too limited.
→ Decided against
ND5XS2/SN3 → KEF R5 Meta: Awful. Translucent, masked sound, as if my ears were blocked. No detail anywhere
→ Decided against
Unknown Moon Audio streaming pre/power into Kudos Super 10A Standmounts
→ Warm, well rounded, well balanced. Bass extension surprising for the size of the 10A’s. High’s/Mids not detailed or forward enough for my taste. Soundstage presented far backwards. I prefer a more in-your-face soundstage. (Probably because I’m a long term Etymotic ER4 lover)
→ Decided against
ND5XS2/SN3 → 704S3: Resolution/detail great, bass extension improved, airiness of 705’s gone. Very nice generally.
→ went for the speakers. Pondered on form factor of SN3 vs. New Classic ranges
I bought the 704’s with an Atom HE and a NAP250.3, and in my room sounded pretty good, but I missed the airiness of the 705’s and found the bass extension of the 704’s still a little lacking in my home.
Tried the following in-store;
NSC222 - NAP250 → 703S3
NSC222 - NAP250 → 702S3
→ Both of these brought the open airiness of the highs back that the 705’s had which I really like. Bass extension on both of these much lower than the 704’s. These had very similar sound signatures, so I swapped the 704 for the 703. Picked 703 over 702 as my room is not huge, and the 703 is rear-firing, so is more adjustable for bass response via positioning than the 702 (which is downfiring with a 360degree spread), even though the 702 is the top-range speaker of this line up.
→ Atom HE/NAP250/703S3 is now run in (and maybe continuing to) in my room and is sounding great, with an expansive soundstage and oodles of clarity. There are some room node issues with the bass response…so that remains my challenge…positioning and run-in has improved this a LOT! There are furniture changes planned to my room…so I will do these and then potentially consider looking at room tuning approaches…which I’ve put in another thread.
…but that aside…this setup sounds fantastic to my ears and I would recommend the combination. It’s certainly more towards the analytical/critical listening signature than the dinner table music signature…
Put much shorter for the OP:
I’ve listened to both the Atom HE → NAP250.3 with B&W 700’s and also the NSC-222 → NAP250.3, and have heard little to trivial differences to my humble ears…
It would have to be a long term A/B with my speakers in my room to hear any differences between these setups…and we are talking very small differences…
No dealer was going to long-term lend me both an Atom HE and an NSC-222 for a month so I could take my pick…so I’ve just stuck with the Atom HE → NAP250 and will have to wonder about the NSC-222…buying one is not high on my list with the difference’s I’ve heard. My Atom HE/NAP-250.3 setup makes an elegant rackless side by side setup on an antique side table…so I’m very happy with it.
Interesting! With NAP you can take advantage of the balanced output of the Atom HE or NSC-222. I’m now using one of the Atom’s few advantages over the Atom HE - bi-amping my B&W 705 Signature. The results are surprisingly good. I shared the experience in another post. Surprising results from bi-amping the Uniti Atom and NAP 250.2 with B&W Signature 705 - #6 by robert_h. I assumed the experience would be similar to what you heard with the 705S3. But the bass is definitely there because I use the 250.2 to drive the LF specifically. For my style of music, which is mostly jazz and small-scale classical (not symphony), the bass is never too weak. It would be nice to have all the different combinations at home to see what the best combination is…
I had an atom, and i swapped for an he as i wanted to be able use headphones at night, stellias. Which is a wonderful combo. I also have 805 d2s that i am powering with a nap100. The detail and soundstage exceeds the regular atom as i believe the preamp linestage of the he replacing the power section exceeds that of the regular atom. I tried it with the mentioned 250.2 and it worked nicely. If i had bigger speakers id have gone bigger ampwise. Is this combo better than a nova? Maybe. Both are very good.
Given above comments would it be a safe assumption that Atom HE + NAP 200 / 250 would be better combo than XS3 and external DAC(say Chord Qutest)?
Is preamp section of the Atom better than the one in XS3?
Dacs are a matter of taste! Now amplification wise I would say yes. But if possible I would demo both and let your ears make the choice.
My or others better may not be yours. But either combination is a great choice.
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