The role of a modern pre-amp

I’ve just taken delivery of a NAP250dr which now takes my system to NDX2/XPS dr/NAC282/Hi-Cap dr/ NAP 250 dr/ PMC TewntyFive.24. I am very happy.
Inevitably, barely have you warmed up your latest piece of kit your mind starts wondering and asking ‘where next?’. The three-way .26’s are tempting - I couldn’t afford them when I bought the .24’s so that’s a possibility. The other area is the pre-amp and this is where I have a problem as to the role of a pre-amp in such a system. Gone are the days when I had several different front ends with different output levels; turntable, tuner, MacMini, Cassette (for recording). These days literally everything passes through the NDX2, whether I’m listening to music or watching tv etc. So in effect the pre-amp is taking the signal from just the NDX2 and acting as a very expensive volume control before feeding it to the 250. And that really is all I now want from a pre-amp - a high quality volume control. It feels like an upgrade to a SuperCap/ 252 would be a very expensive outlay when a lot of the facilities you’re paying for will never be used. A simple solution please Naim I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about this.


A 272 replacement ?

I was at round about this point when I bought Fraim, though I wish I’d just bitten the bullet and gone full fat from the off. It does drive the box count home though.
You’re stuck with a preamp for the foreseeable I’m afraid unless you ditch Naim or downgrade.

A Lumin P1 will do everything you need, but probably works better with a non Naim amp.
I own one, love it, and may be biased, but I once owned a 272/XPSDR/250 DR with SL full loom.
The P1 eliminates the need for separate boxes, shelves, AVR, fancy switches, and sound very good to my ears. The P1 is basically an entertainment hub, everything plugs into it, including the TV.

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Linn DSM is another option

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I future model will probably address this but it won’t represent any saving. Most of the cost of a pre-amp is in designing the signal path. The cost of additional inputs and buttons to access them add very little. I’d not expect a 6 input 282 to cost significantly more to make than a 2 input 282. It only drastically changes the production cost if it becomes a 1 input gain control with no relays at all.


That sounds like a nice idea :slight_smile:


It’s a good idea for sure. Wonder why it’s never been mentioned before :wink:

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Are you sure? When I peeked inside my 52 there was extra input cards with buffers etc. on each input. At least two different types. Add the tape- monitor loop. They probably each needed their own regulation. You could hack off up to 2/3 of the circuit board.

And with fewer cards in the preamp you could do away with the Burndy. Even have the PSU in the same box.

I tend to think that could be a pretty substantial saving.

Personally I would like a streamer/dac in an olive/cb box. I still have the 72/HC/135s up in the attic. Like an NDX2 without the bling (the LCD) and only network-in, analog out. Top it off with a few scratches and dust so it matches old olive/cb units.

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Naim’s recent thinking on pre amps from a clean sheet produced this.

Audio Inputs
Analogue Input
3 X DIN, 3 X RCA, 2 X Balanced
Audio Outputs
Audio Outputs
1 X Balanced, 2 X Unbalanced (4 pin DIN sockets)

So no tape loops, as one user found out to his chagrin after receiving his, but still the option for multiple sources. The lack of these would be a deal breaker for me in any pre amp and even the Uniti’s digitising analog inputs and inability to power a phonostage gives me pause. To please those bleating about inputs they don’t need would cost Naim customers with other requirements and if a few extra inputs don’t cost much it makes sense to include a few.

You’re paying for the sound quality the box produces, not the cost of the components. In this context - for me - the 252/SC is better value than the 282/HC…

I went through exactly the same reasoning last year, and briefly owned a Townshend Allegri pre-amp as a possible solution. While the Allegri did some things very nicely, it didn’t feel quite ‘right’ – not to mention having to get off the sofa to change volume.

I ended up with a used 252 (both boxes recently serviced). Haven’t regretted it for a second, or spent any time fretting over unused inputs / box count.

As I expect the 252 to quietly (and magnificently) get on with the job for another 10 - 15 years before needing any attention, I don’t see it as a huge expense in the overall scheme of things.

I took this very same thought much much further. I love my system but in maybe the next 5 years or so I’ll be seriously looking at something like the new Dynaudio focus 30 or 50. No boxes at all!

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A couple of previous threads may be relevant to consider here - I have nothing to add further than my contributions I made in them.

An interesting choice. As a passive preamp, the Allegri is comparable to having a passive crossover versus an active crossover. A pre-amp performs bandwidth limiting and and other normalisation functions so performing this actively versus passively (current supplied by signal itself) is bound to each offer significant design trade offs. Hence the comparison with active versus passive crossovers as there is some commonality.

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Hi, @andybob.

You are not alone. I noted back in the 70s that McIntosh offered more than one preamp, and the difference in switching capabilities did not seem to justify the cost differences.

It was a revelation to me that source switching is usually a secondary function to overall preamp performance.

My first separate system was a NAC112/NAP150, which easily outperformed my Denon 5.1 system.

Then, I swapped in a NAC202 with NAPSC. The improvement from “already awesome” was another revelation. I returned the 202 immediately and found a used 552 at an attractive price within a few months. Brilliant without any quibbles — the 202 made the sale, and the 552 did not disappoint as a top-tier piece.

Not everyone has time and patience for this level of discernment, much less the fuss. There are wonderful one-box options for simpler or more constrained requirements, economic or practical.

When I no longer have room or capacity to manage separates, I will have few regrets either for my time spent negotiating them, or for the inevitable downsizing adventure.


If I didn’t have a turntable to consider I’d probably dispense with a pre.

An all in one source with a good quality phono stage that can draw pier from a power amp would be my holy grail

Two boxes - One cable with NDX2 level streamerDAC and a super line level phono stage powered off of a 250 level amp - no hi caps or such would be a mint simple system.

You could always just relax and enjoy your new purchase for a while :smiley: What shortcomings in your current system are you looking to eliminate?

Indeed. The Streamer / DAC has replaced the preamp as the hub of the system, dealing with the multiple digital sources found in most homes. I’m sure the multiple input preamp still has its uses if you have a number of analogue sources. Good to have the choice still.

The streamer/dac/pre-amp in one box is a market segment that is growing as you just add a power amp or active speakers. The better ones on the market also offer multiple analogue inputs in addition to multiple digital inputs including HDMI to offer a complete AV solution.
After doing loads of research and demo’s I just bought a Lumin P1 and am burning it in using its pre into the AV input of my SN3 as professional reviews really rated the SQ performance of the P1 pre so i am trying it in this configuration first. I will then compare later with its fixed output into a pre/line input of the SN3 and decide which sounds best. The SN3 has a HiCap DR on it so gives the SN3 pre inputs a lift in performance so will be interesting to hear which input option sounds best.