Thoughts re new system (XS separates or Atom HE and AE1 actives

Hi DiggyGun,
Thanks for your reply. I’m not sure I’ll have sufficient disposable income in the future for any significant upgrade. So what I get now may be my ‘end game’.

Thinking about it like that I may need to spend a little more if I possibly can, but not much more, to get the best I can now.

Cheers Paul

Thanks for your reply,
I’m not sure I’ll be significantly upgrading in the future so maybe I should push the boat out now for the Atom and better speakers - good for thought.

Cheers Paul

Thanks for all the responses - there’s plenty to consider.

I don’t think I’ll be signicantly upgrading whatever I buy next week in the future as I probably won’t have the disposable income to do so. Retirement - plenty of time but not enough cash.:slightly_smiling_face:

Annoyingly I keep switching my preferences and at the moment I think I’m leaning more to the Atom HE with better active speakers if I can afford it.

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Hi HungryHalibut,

Thanks for your reply. With option B I’ve factored in better headphones (Focal Clear Mg) and a separate photo stage so overall the cost of each option is similar.
Cheers Paul.

@afgverhart ”slightly more” does not tell us very much. Let’s say someone listened 51% by headphones and 49% by speakers, which might fall within “slightly more”, then Is that sufficient to select the Atom HE option?

Hi Jaybar,

Thanks for your reply. I’d say 75% headphones. I’m in the house alone during the day but I’m usually too busy to listen to my music. It’s mainly evenings when I listen but my partner is also home and I prefer not to subject her to my music which is generally not to her taste, hence headphones. Fortunately, I also enjoy headphone listening.

Cheers Paul

not sure where ‘depressed’ came from. I meant ‘seperates’.

@Dipper Sounds like the Atom HE may try hen be the best choice.

Hi @Dipper

With you’ve said, Option B would be the best as I think you’ve perhaps decided on that.

To help with the costs, check with your dealer about pre-owned items, you may get more bang for your buck.


@Dipper My only concern with Option B, is the streamer. While some have said it is very good, you need yo ask yourself about whether you might ever want a better streamer? I would also consider other speakers and perhaps a better amp for the Atom HE.

I think the Atom HE is a surprisingly capable box. I remember, soon after the Atom HE was introduced, one of the Naim staffers who occasionally post on here commented very favourably on using it with high end active ATCs (SCM50s, IIRC).

And I don’t see that an Atom HE closes down upgrade possibilities, at least with New Classic. If the OP’s finances permit an upgrade at some point in the future, a NC222, possibly with power supply, could take over very nicely from the Atom.


Having listened to an HE and compared it to an ND5XS2/XS3 at my dealers, the sound from the latter was quite clearly superior when used with loudspeakers, so I’m sticking to my opinion, thanks.

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Is that with passive speakers, as opposed to active as the OP is considering?

A Chord Hugo (Portable DAC of decent quality and a head phone amp included), isn’t anywhere near the internal headphone amp in a Nait XS3…

I’d want qualifications as to music genre and which headphones… (Utopias maybe, I am reading…?)

I didn’t find much between the headphone amp section in an XS3 (vs heavy home hifi dedicated headphone amps); if not running super hard to drive headphone (ie Sennheiser HD800S); the actual Nait XS headphone output held up ‘very equally’ in a few complex and varied test tracks.

The included headphone amp is actually really good, and included Naim house sound…

Atom into actives, whilst I would love a system like that for bedside, etc; I’d never forgo seperates for an all in one…
in my eyes, even if price were the same, I’d choose the larger ‘proper hifi’ parts.

small chasis are a whole bucketload of compromise (as is nost every consumer hifi part),… but having wifi AND a power supply section AND … altogether isn’t my thing.

My uncle, a man who’d been connected with my countrys’ music scene (making concert venues 'sing), when I was twenty something, on auditioning my system, simply stated how much better multi power cable (hifi seperates) sounds.

anything with a Bluetooth or wifi antenna in it is temporary in my install.

An Atom IS a flavour of the moment tech toy that is well reviewed small niche category of lifestyle parts, usually benchmarked against similar, propabaly wins LOTS if awards too …

Bow I DO have some Nakamichi lifestyle products, and love my Cambridge ‘the One’, and stuff like Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelins…

I understand the joy of active monitors (easy/simple to integrate(matching)), and they ARE flexible and often neat…

but if space isnt the issue, and Sound Quality is the end goal, the hifi seperates path has real legs, real resale value, and like holdibg a large bodied camera (with a big ass lens and battery grip onboard); the psychology if the shot: people pose.
Serious kit says to the brain, “relax, I’ve got this”; and if placebo works, then…

seriously though; both pathways are great.

The Atom might be a lifestyle part (connectivity), so may offer more …

I’d buy an XS3 over an Atom HE to drive headphones too, if speaker use AT ALL was on the cards…
buy none of my headphones are seriously hard to drive. (and I do not listen exclusively to loud volume reference orchestral recordings as 100% of my headfi time)…

The headphone amp section is an XS3 would FLOG a Chord Hugo, an iFi Diablo (absolute volume capabilities, certainly)…

When comparing vs ‘better’, once you get to ‘this level’ it is a lot of actively listening (with a trained ear) and listening to super familar tracks to play ‘spot the difference’.

If not fast A/B switching when comparing the above setup, unlikely to notice the differences vs really nice headphone amps.

For me all the electrical stuff the Atom HE has to overcome isnt what I would pay top dollar for…

(if it was CHEAPER/equal price point, and I was only looking at two second hand systems to choose between…I’d not even shortlist it…

a traditional amplifier driving any SPEAKERS from from five decades plus of manufacture is easily going to find a better total sound quality if flexibility in matchup is wanted…

I love second hand speaker finds and is only reason I have had my hifi schooling…

When I look inside Naim parts, the ‘all in ones’ are from a different era with different goals in mind.
they bullet point well/review well/drive a lot of new market segment sales etc .

Seperates for the win, as trad advice, pretending I know nothing about your options and just running with time proven hifi wisdom.

Freedom to change modules is seperates, but brings with them a hobby of ‘matching stuff’ for superior sound…

A couple of things.

The HE is not a flavour of any sorts and not an all-in-one. It’s a headphone amp by design, and a serious one at that. Many compare it favourably to others 2x the cost and if Focals are a consideration, then the HE is comparable within up to the £10k mark according to some. Then on top of that, while may be not the main expected use initially, it turned out that the HE performed superbly as a streaming DAC and I believe it’s still under appreciated as such (it’s truly in the same class as the NC line, which I also have at home to compare to).

To compare the HE to the XS3 is a bit strange as they only have a preamp in common and the XS3 is apparently a lovely integrated amp. In fact they can be successfully used together (as I have used my HE with a SN3), but pairing the HE with even the NAP200 (or as I am now using my HE with 250), takes it to another level.

My HE is an end type, final purchase so to say. I would consider replacing it only if its streaming platform becomes totally obsolete or Naim comes up with exactly the same size super pretty and super upgraded improved thing, and the curiosity gets the better of me.


I’ve found a discontinued ex demo NAP 250 DR at a reasonable price.

If I’m leaning towards the HE might that be better with my LS50’s than going with the AE 1 actives?

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I guess 300 NC series will lose a lot of £k in the used market compared to retail pricing when time pass while HE maybe just 1k.

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HE with NAP 250DR and LS50’s should sound excellent and give you the best headphone option

Thanks @crispyduck, I think this is my new pre demo favourite option but am I right in thinking I’ll need a custom made cable to connect the HE to the 250DR? I don’t think I would with the new 250, which is out of my price range, but believe I would with the DR. If that’s the case I may not be able to demo next week.

I’d need a phono stage as well though. Hmmmm.