Supernait 1 to supernait 3

I might be ready to make the leap to SN3. Please advise.

I have two sources:

  1. stream hires qobuz from node → ares 12th dac → SN1

  2. Sony Oled tv optical out → area 12th dac → SN1

My node has an external PS, and my SN1 has a hicap. Speakers are Audio Physic Tempo VI.

Since I will (likely) always go through an external dac, my need for the SN1 built in Dac has been made redundant.

Question is, will the SN3 be a significant enough upgrade/change to justify the price?

I have not heard your speakers or DAC, but I have owned a SN1/HC and like you I did not use the internal DAC.

If I were upgrading your system, I’d look first to the front end rather than the amp. Your SN is well capable of benefiting from source improvements and I’d be considering the DAC. The natural CD partner of the SN1 was something like a CDX2, at least as suggested by Naim at the time, so I’d be looking for a source of that quality. In my case that was a Naim DAC which was a great match for the amp and I’d seriously think about seeing it you could get one to replace your current DAC.

The other move you could make is swapping the HiCap for a DR version. I had my non-DR HC upgraded to DR when Naim offered that and it was one of the most significant improvements I have made to my system.

If only a change of amp is acceptable, you could save some money by going for a SN2, at least if you don’t need a phono input.

I’m assuming you have access to a decent second-hand market. If not it’s the SN3, but I’d still consider source improvements.



Supernait 1/2/3 it’s not a “leap” from one to another.
Ideally I would add a hicap.
Your “leap” would be to 282/hicap/250.

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If you check out some of the Supernait threads on the forum, you’ll see that there is not a lot of difference between the SN2 and SN3 other than the phono stage on the SN3. There is some, but not a huge amount. From the SN1 to SN2 however, there is a significant difference in SQ and an SN2 can be had for peanuts these days. One of the best deals in the Naim legacy range. The nDac is the other excellent item for the pre-owned prices.
Perhaps a pre-owned SN2 (with the HiCap you already have would leave enough funds for an ND5XS2 also pre-owned if you like, and adding an nDac to it later on would give you a very good sounding system at an affordable cost.
It can take a good long while to grow out of the SN2 and by then, as robert_h said, the 282/250 may be in your sights.
Also DR’ing the HiCap would improve SQ as PeakMan pointed out.

I have an SN2 with an NDS which sounds incredible from the cash outlay, but the power supply for the NDS may put it out of your current budget.
Just some thoughts.


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No way

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I owned the SN1 briefly and just couldn’t get on with it, even with a SC2 it was just okay. Some years later I spent some time demoing the SN2 with NDX2 and thought it was a pretty good improvement sound wise. I hear the SN3 is even better but if you’re looking for a leap you’ll want to upgrade your source and/or move on to separates. If you’re wanting to keep the box count down 272/250DR wouldn’t be too much of a stretch from where you are and is relatively inexpensive now and adding a XPSDR, even better a 555, the SQ is pretty damn good. But you’ll need to do the workarounds to get lossless formats into the mix which may not be appealing. Alternatively ND5XS2/nDAC/SN2 (or separates) is an option and doesn’t require all the workarounds for streaming formats. Current OC s/h prices opens up a lot of options if you get on with the SQ and box count isn’t a concern.

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The OP already has a HiCap (non-DR).


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The Supernait’s digital input section begins with a Crystal CS8416 receiver chip, which identifies the incoming datastream as 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, or 192kHz. Conversion is handled by a stereo 24-bit/192kHz D/A chip from Burr-Brown. As the owner’s manual states, the Supernait’s digital circuitry is designed to recognize stereo PCM data streams only.


Using the Naim’s digital input to play the Del McCoury Band’s cover of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” from Del and the Boys (CD, Ceili Music CEIL 2006), my impression was of greater-than-usual musical precision. Mike Bub’s acoustic bass line was a model of pure momentum and insistence coupled with truly metronomic accuracy. Bub’s intonation, too, came over as dead right—and I dare say that pitch uncertainties were banished to such a great extent that more timbral clarity was able to come through as well, despite the darker tonal signature.


DAC linearity error, assessed with 24-bit data, was negligible (fig.3), and the Naim’s reproduction of an undithered tone at –90.31dBFS was superb, with good waveform symmetry and a clean depiction of the three DC voltage levels (fig.4). Word-clock jitter, assessed with the Miller Audio Research Analyzer, was quite low, at 367 picoseconds peak–peak.

In many ways, the Naim Supernait offers excellent measured performance. Its D/A section is also good, and not just an afterthought.

(Stereophile, Jan 2008)

For my analytical listening session, I set out to compare the internal DAC against the performance of a budget friendly DAC and a more expensive DAC. The price of the SUPERNAIT is not insignificant, and one can purchase many integrated amps sans DAC and add a good DAC to arrive at the price of the SUPERNAT.

I purchased the Musical Fidelity V-DAC ($299) as the budget contender, and the higher end unit purchased was the Benchmark Media DAC-1 USB ($1295). All comparisons were through SPDIF connections. The DAC-1 and V-DAC were connected via RCA to the SUPERNAIT, white noise was played and relative volumes marked with tape so I could level match them as best as possible.

This DAC comparison would also help me determine what part of the SUPERNAIT’s sound is attributable to the DAC and what is the sound of the “integrated” portion of the SUPERNAIT.

The NAIT’s built-in DAC was both more detailed and smoother overall compared to the V-DAC. The musical fidelity put up a good fight but in the end the SUPERNAIT’s midrange was not only more insightful but clearer with less grain and distortion. The treble on the V-DAC had a trace of digital hash and didn’t feel as extended. The V-DAC bass felt more stressed than the NAIM DAC. The V-DAC didn’t go as deep nor did it sound as fast. The bass lacked the articulation of the NAIM.

Moving up the scale to a comparison with the Benchmark DAC-1 USB, the SUPERNAIT had a harder time. In many ways the SUPERNAIT’s DAC is the equal of the Benchmark. Midrange was equally fluid and detailed, the level of grain/hash/distortion was equally low. Bass was fast and taut, detailed, and with a great percussive attack. The SUPERNAIT bested the DAC-1 USB in terms of that sheer slam factor and leading edge definition. Where things really differed was in the treble. The DAC-1 USB had a noticeably sweeter treble. Cymbals and Hi-Hats had a truer metallic ringing without being grainy or sibilant. There was just a tad more definition and detail in the highs versus the NAIM.

(Home Theater & High Fidelity, Oct 2010)

Just make sure you have something better than the SN, DAC included, before ditching it for something else.


Using your Hicap with a SN2 or SN3 will effectively cancel the DR tech that they contain. It may bring other benefits though.

Someone techie will be able to explain…

However if you were to get a HC-DR too, it could be just what you are looking for.

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I’m no techie, but yes it may bring other benefits. If the DR in the SN2 and 3 is a single rail PSU for the preamp section, then a HiCap2 will cancel the benefit of the better regulator but add the benefit of a dedicated transformer, large capacitors and dual-railed voltage to the preamp.

If the HiCap is a DR, all the benefits will be retained. DR technology is important, but the main reason for a HiCap is larger, dedicated stuff and dual-rail supply.

For similar price as the SN3 I would consider a separate preamp and use SN1 as a power amp only. 82/SC or 282 (since you have HC already) are both going to be significant upgrade to SN3/HCDR. I am currently running 82/HC/SN2 and it is such a different animal to a SN2/HC, as a matter of fact the latter combo was almost identical to a bare SN2, but when I put the 82/HC in front of the Supernait, the difference was very noticable. I have never heard the first SN, but I suppose it is more or less similar to the second and third iterations when it comes to the power amp section, meaning it is the strongest part of it and responds very well when fronted with a better preamp than its own.

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The Supernait could really surprise, especially when used with a Hicap and fronted with a CDX2 - a really well balanced combination that complemented each other perfectly. Adding an XPS to the CDX2 was the cherry on top. When ever I used such a set up I told myself I could live with it quite happily ever after…,

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At my fourth Supernait and with at least three CDX2s behind my shoulders, I cannot but enthusiastically second this opinion…


Agreed :+1:
Currently using our SN3, in power amp mode. We were pleasantly surprised what this brings to a NAC72 and HiCap DR, for three box solution.

One conclusion was how good the power amp is within the SN3.

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