The balanced system

Hi all

Having a balanced system comes up a lot.

I wanted to ask others what advantages they believe this brings to the table, so to speak and what advantages it has over a system that mixes ranges.
I am sure many of us use combinations that Naim did not design to be used as we are.

It would be interesting to know how far Naim go with there listening tests, mixing ranges, if at all.


Popeye :+1:t2:

I don’t think a balanced system is anything to do with whether components are from the same range or even manufacturer, but rather a matter of no one component limiting the system more than any other, and all meshing nicely together in harmony - but that latter aspect might be more getting into ‘synergy’. In practice I think it is more a matter of perception than clearly identifiable fact, and all that actually matters is that it sounds nice - though a balanced system should be the best that is possible for any given cost compared to a non-balanced system using at least some of the same components. (All of course to the ears and preferences of the listener.)

Of course, whilst perfect balance would seem to be the ideal, finite resources and a desire for a particular level of system may often limit best balance to the endgame, with steps towards the goal variously swapping the limitations of the system between components on the way there.


There is quite a bandwith in having a balanced system.
72/140 is balanced, but 72/hi/2x135 is balanced too.
Lets make it active!
72/hi/hi/snaxo/2x250 into SBLs is balanced too.

Dreaming of it

That works because you have a capable pre at the front (and source presumably). 102 and 135s might be less successful.

Is it? :slight_smile: The 72 is capable indeed, but if people do compare a 72/180 vs a 102/180 it seems to have an equal number of fans. It might be that quality becomes more obvious having a higher spec source / backend.

Not compared Ardbeg but my money would be on the 72 in that comparison. What is true in my experience is that in Naim world a better pre will always give you a better system. Being a source first guy the idea of balance only presents itself towards the end of the system building process. Lots disagree of course…


I was thinking as an example a system like;

NDX2, XPS DR, NAC282, HiCap DR, NAP250 DR

Against a NDX2, 555PS DR, NAC282 , HiCap DR, NAP300

The second example isn’t balanced. Does it matter and does it only enhance?


I’d consider the second one defo balanced if the loudspeakers are more difficult / more expensive.

I’d say a system is balanced when there’s no obvious weak link. Hence the main advantage of a balanced system is keeping the upgrade bug at bay :slight_smile:


The balance comes down in part to compromise versus performance gains by putting space between components. It’s also probably fair to say that the preamp is the critical heart of the measure of balance and which dictates how well everything else works going in to and out of it. Then you have further improvements that are achievable by isolating the AC to DC power inputs and mitigating sources of noise as far as is possible hence having to budget as much if not more for that isolation and power source as the rest of the system.
Then you have budget and lifestyle choices to factor in. If you have the means and the time to pursue the higher levels of balance then you probably place listening to music high in your list of priorities however most of us have to treat it as a hobby and often an expensive one at that, and fit it in to the rest of our lives somehow.
Something like a Uniti is a compromise overall but also desirable as it gives you a lot of listening quality at an acceptable level of compromise, if you go beyond that as many do, myself included, you typically reach a point where either your budget constrains your system aspirations or your spare time for music doesn’t justify the complexity and cost outlay.

A balanced system is one that can make you listen to the music and not the equipment. That’s not always easy especially if you have dropped say £10K on a component. You expect a result, only human after all.
Then some recordings sound better than others. Obvious but relevent.
I wonder, do Statement owners strive for more?


My system feels balanced now after a series of upgrades- with no one component compromising the performance adversely of another component.
For me the joy of balance is that it is a medically proven (temporary) cure for upgradeitis…
I know that if I change any component now I will be left having to rebalance again…

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Balance also depends on presentation requirements of a listener. E.g someone who is content to omit or seriously curtail the bottom couple of octaves may find it easier to achieve than someone for whom that Is unacceptable: the former requires less of the speakers, which then might demands less of the power amp, both to achieve balance.

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So the consensus is that having a completely matching setup doesn’t really stand for much? :thinking:

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Matching and balanced may be different, or the same. Well matched? Well balanced? A balanced system is simply one that works well together and where no component is obviously much worse than another. It’s a different approach from source first or speakers first and is usually a sensible way to get good performance for your money. The components can come from any manufacturer - say a Linn steamer, Naim preamp and active ATCs. It doesn’t matter so long as it is well matched and well balanced.


You should have seen the debates on the original forum between the 72 and 102.

Have had both, I think the 72 noticeably better musically.

Fancy mullet party at the back. Fancy beard party at the front. Keeping it tight in the middle.
This is our ideal balanced look.


You look different to how I envisaged you Toby!


The beauty of ‘separates’ is that you can choose the best of each component (that you can afford), not limited to one manufacturer, though the onus is on you to ensure compatability. That’s the reason I’ve been a ‘separates’ person from the start. Aiding compatability is the reason for conventions in various things (like signal levels and input impedances), though that doesn’t necessarily cover everything.

The advantage of sticking to a single brand is that compatability is usually assured. Also more often than not you can get matching design, though not necessarily if bought at different times.

Just a thought…consider a situation where you use a ‘balanced’ system…as you make upgrades, unless you make these en masse, your system will become unbalanced until such time as all of the components are back at the same ‘level’. I, for example, am from a generation, where there was much advocacy for having a fully specified (at that time) LP 12 with a very inexpensive integrated amp and inexpensive speakers. It all depends on where you want to end up I suppose.