System Upgrade After 11 Years - Feedback Appreciated


Well, after 11 years with the same “entry level” Naim system, I’m ready to upgrade. I wanted to share a quick summary of my current system and then what I’m thinking for the upgrades. I’d greatly appreciate any thoughts and feedback - it’s been a while since I went down this rabbit hole. My current system was purchased soon after I graduated from school and, at the time, it was a sizeable investment. I enjoyed it for 5-6 years before marriage/kids/house etc. and it’s now spent most of the past 5-6 years in boxes. I recently unpacked and setup - while it sounds like what I remember, I’m ready to re-engage in the hobby and feel like I want more especially in a larger space.

Current system:
-Power: Nait 5i (bought new in 2011)
-Source: Arcam rDAC (bought new in 2011) → streamed through Apple TV via optical (I know, this is the weak link in the system)
-Speakers: Totem Sttaf (bought second hand in 2011, but they were and still are in excellent shape)
-Other: I’m running Naca5 speaker cables and cheaper RCA cables

Current proposed system (planning to phase in over next 12-18 months in these steps, but knowing me, I’ll get impatient and move more quickly):
-Step 1 Source: Chord Qutest - will either connect via USB from my phone/Mac unless I can figure out a decent streaming solution. Thoughts?
-Step 2 Power: Supernait 3 - seems this should last another 12 years if not much longer
-Step 3 Speakers: this is where it gets tricky - I’m thinking I want to stay with Totem. I live in Canada and really like what they (Totem) stand for. I would easily go for Totem Forest Signature but am concerned about floor-standing towers with young kids running around. So, I’m thinking Totem Signature 1 bookshelves which I can prop up on a long and deep built-in shelf in the man cave so they’re not likely to get touched or knocked over.

We will probably move houses in several years. At that time, I’m thinking I could add the Totem Forest Signatures in the man cave paired with the Supernait and then move the Signature One’s into the office with a Naim all-in-one.

Am I taking a reasonable approach here? Any blindspots? I’m filling a fairly large room in the man cave which pairs as the movie room in our basement. I would assume the Signature One’s can fill the sound, especially with proper Supernait power - but unsure?

In terms of music, it’s varied but spans rock, alternative, pop, acoustic/vocals, jazz… anything except country and classical. I do like my music loud.

Greatly appreciate your feedback. I need to get to a local shop to demo some gear.

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Having a SN3 and a Chord Qutest linked to my ND5XS2 I can only say, half of your plan is already great! You will not regret it.

The SN3 and ND5XS2 is a match made in heaven. You could maybe add a separate DAC later, but it’s not essential. A Naim HiCap DR is also worth considering/auditioning for some extra welly (or oomph, if you prefer), and would help to get the best out of the Totems. Again, that could wait.

I’m not familiar with the Totem Forest Signature, but Mr. Google suggests they’re pretty sturdy. Bookshelf speakers generally (and I do say generally) don’t sound as good as floor-standers.

Will your dealer let you audition at home?

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That’s interesting. Why is that? Did you lose interest in music or good sound?

I only ask this because you say you recently unpacked it and are ready to re-engage. My advice is don’t rush into anything. Give it some time before spending serious money. It may just be a novelty that you lose interest in again. Just a suggestion that’s all.

Anyway your amp and speakers are excellent. No great pressure to do anything there. Yes the rDAC and Apple TV are certainly serious weak points. The Qutest is superb value for money and really excellent - I use one myself with my Melco library/player. It should work very well indeed with your Mac. Going forawrds you could consider something from the Melco range. I have an N100 and with the Qutest it sounds superb. Or just stick with the Mac.

I would do the above first and live with it for a while before deciding on amp/speakers. It will be very substantially better than what you’ve been used to. You’ll then have a clearer idea of where you want to get to.


I infer that you only have one source - streaming – and that you don’t have any ripped
CDs. Also from what you say it seems that you may be using Apple Music/ITunes as the source for streaming. The reason to ask is that Apple have not licensed most streamer manufacturers to embed Apple Music as a source (I think Sοnos may be the exception). This means that if you were to buy a Naim streamer, unless you were to change to another streaming source such as Qobuz, you will need to use other connection methods. Of course if you have bought a lot downloads from Apple, changing source would be another issue.

@JanW Really appreciate the feedback. Given you’re using the Qutest, is the ND5XS2 limited to purely streaming? Is the Qutest that much better as a DAC than the XS2? Would you recommend I start with the Qutest or XS2 in that case? Thanks again.

@bhoyo Yes, I need to audition the bookshelves ideally at home. TBH, this idea of bookshelves is pretty recent as I’ve been concerned about kids knocking off speakers. Not entirely sure if they’ll get the job done but the woofers on those Signature One’s are pretty beefy! Thanks for your feedback :pray:

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You can always stream via Airplay 2 to the ND5XS2, or there are options from Eversolo and Fiio that can do it natively via the Android version of the software

@PJL 100% agree. Plan to start slow by fixing the source, which is relatively inexpensive. And then we’ll take it from there. I’m honestly so excited to see what difference a source can make (well versed in the Naim approach of “source first”.

To answer your question, I didn’t lose interest - we moved into a house with no practical space for a system and then constant noise/distraction with toddlers really took me away from music. I would assume others with young kids might relate. We’ve since moved into a much bigger house with a decided space in the basement and I’ve been setting it up as my space and it seems to be working well. There was a time when my system was literally on and playing all the time.

Thanks for your feedback and great to get more confirmation on the Qutest. Need to check out the Melco but yes, will likely start with Mac and go from there. I also have a spare M1 Mac mini which I might just make the dedicated storage device and wire into the DAC permanently.

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@CliveB Yes I’m just steaming from Apple/Spotify. Appreciate the heads up on Naim streamers. I need to look into this further - don’t understand it well enough. I also have a large CD collection and will figure out how to incorporate at some point. Maybe rip to a dedicated Mac Mini and have connected directly to the DAC. Thanks for your feedback and thoughts.

@Maryland Yep, the ND5XS2 is on my mind. Seems a pretty pricey device but the reviews seem consistently positive. I guess my decision is - start with the ND5XS2 or the Qutest. If that latter, I’ll need to plug straight in via USB from Mac/iPhone.

@Billie-Ray I own a SN3. I had an ND5XS2. I really liked the pairing. I added a HighcapDr to improve the SN3. I further upgraded the streamer to an NDX2+XPSDr. Big improvement. If I did not have the funds I could have easily lived with the ND5XS2.

Regarding speakers. I am not sure that floor standing speakers are any more child proof. It depends where the center of gravity is. Bookshelf speakers with sand filled or led shot filled stands might work well with kids. You might also consider Focsl Bookshelf speakers since they bolt to the Fical stands.


As Maryland says, you can stream from Apple to Naim via Apple Airplay, which I have done from my MacBook to a Naim Muso. However at hifi SQ level I am not sure that Airplay is as good as embedded sources or wifi. Someone here can no doubt answer that for you.

Whilst the drivers are probably equally vulnerable if not protected by grilles, or strict understanding that fingers and cones/domes should not interface. I do have first hand experience that bookshelf speakers not rigidly fixed to stands, can easily be knocked off. I apologise in advance, this image is disturbing, it’ll probably be removed as being too graphic:

The stand remained (standing), unless you bolt them together then stand mounts are a bit more prone to this than floor standers IMO.

Thankfully the youngster was not harmed and has now forgotten all about the incident. The speaker in question remains perfectly functional.

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I’d have thought a Chord Qutest and SN3 based system would sound epic. I run a Hugo MK1 and XS3, and it sounds way better than I deserve!!

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Indeed i only stream music and listen to digital radio. I would certainly go for the Naim streamer first. Qutest is an improvement but not day and night (althoug significant). An nDAC would work great as well.

Hi Billie-Ray, you haven’t mentioned it, but getting a good quality support shelving unit makes a huge difference to the sound of any system. When I first did this years ago, the improvements were amazing in areas like detail, space and much more PRAT that just changing boxes won’t deliver in the same way. (At the time I had a Quad power amp and it started sounding so much better than my friends Naim power amp that he immediately bought the same supports). What you will know is that whenever you do decide to change boxes you will be getting the best sound from them. Best wishes Amer


I have two suggestions that may be of use:

  1. Please consider Tidal as your streaming source - I too listen predominately to streaming and digital radio and I can assure you even with my aging hearing, Spotify is grating when compared to Tidal; the “problem” is that when your instruments are of high quality, they reveal everything (good and bad). My favourite analogy is 4K TV: you can see all of the flaws on the performers faces that would otherwise go unnoticed when watching at 1080p :slight_smile:
  2. Please consider PMC speakers (especially if the bookshelf option is more practical for your circumstances); with the transmission line design, they can reach down to the lower octaves more impressively than other conventional bookshelf speakers - there is no court of appeal in the laws of physics :slight_smile:

I hope these suggestions help.

All the best.

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Greetings fellow Canadian. Torontonian here.

I highly recommend starting with the Supernait 3. I upgraded from the XS3 and its a massive upgrade.

Regarding streaming, I’d recommend starting with a Wiim Pro streamer and a Tidal subscription. For a dac, you can even start with a Topping E30 II, and then build to a Qutest or other solution later. I’m using the Wiim Pro + E30 II combo and it’s incredibly good for under $500 cdn total. To upgrade on the cheap, I picked up 2 ifi ipower2 5v power cords and they made a big improvement and can work with the Qutest in the future. Also, a blue jeans coaxial cable to connect the streamer and dac works well.

For speakers, if you like Totem, the signatures are good. The new Bisons are fairly well regarded. You may also consider a pair of 2nd hand Harbeths on a certain canadian audio forum. Oh, and if you’re thinking about placing your speakers on a shelf close to a wall, consider the Neat Iota or Proac Tablette. They are both designed for near wall placement, whereas Totems and Harbeths are known to sing when further out into the room.

Also, highly recommend proper Naim cabling. Naim NAC A5 speaker cables (which you’re already running), and a Powerline for the Supernait 3. These both made everything sound just right with the SN3, regardless of source, so maybe invest in a Powerline when you can find one.

Personally, I’d love an NDX2. Maybe a 2nd hand one will fall in my lap. Also, considering a Rega P8 turntable. That said, my system sounds incredibly great, so living the dream : )

Supernait 3 is a forever amp for most people… myself included.


@Jaybar thank you. I have a long shelf where the bookshelf speakers would sit to keep them out of reach. But I’m also going to take a proper look at floor standers to see if I can get comfortable that they’re unlikely to get pushed over. Will also check out the Focals in addition to Totem Forest.