Time to upgrade the Nova?

This time of the year always give me time to spend listening to potential upgrades and the start of 2020 is no exception. I currently have a Nova with Marten Duke 2 speakers and I’ve started researching where to go from the Nova.

Yesterday was a vey interesting first step at my dealer and the session went something like this:

Mission was to compare NDX2+SN3 with Chord Hugo TT2+Ttoby and if time allowed, show potential future paths with PS upgrades on Naim and M-Scaler on Chord.

First up, NDX2 and SN3. It was obvious from the start that this combi bests the Nova, which is no surprise, but after about 30 minutes or so, I was a little disappointed as there wasn’t the uplift I had set my self to expect. My impression was that the uplift would not be worth the 4-5k it would cost to change, although we’ll come back to this.

Next the Chords… that’s more like it. The clarity of the TT2 is immense and brings a realism I could easily live with. The little Ttoby was very impressive considering its size and rated power and had no trouble driving the speakers to a level comfortably in excess of what would be needed in my little room. However, after 20 minutes or so I felt there was something missing with the overall way the music made you feel. A bit sterile maybe…

As a left field contender, we tried the YBA IA 350 with the NDX2, whilst its bottom end was very strong, I just kept wanting to turn it down, overall the top end was too spikey for my liking, although it may not have been on long enough to show its true colours. So back to the Chords, where I found myself enjoying it more and more as time went on.

Next add the M-Scaler…. Blimey, that is a revelation. Whilst the sonic signature doesn’t change much, there is more of nearly everything, detail, imaging and soundstage improve massively, but the bottom end seemed less inclined to show the same scale of improvement. Which was a real shame.

So, back to the SN3 and NDX2, although I had already decided it was unlikely to be for me. But wait, now it sounded much, much better, nothing physically had changed, maybe it had warmed up a bit, although the SN3 had been off whilst listening to the Chords. This is more like it, everything was sounding right, the overall balance, the low end was full and controlled, mids were strong and the top end was clear and detailed. Nice…

But I hankered for the TT2 with M-scaler… I know, try the Chords with the SN3. This was the best combo of the session for me. The SN3 trouncing the Ttoby and providing everything we know and love from Naim and the TT2/M-scaler bringing new insight into every piece of music I played. I started to lose myself in the music and just wanted to try another track to see how it would sound. I eventually ran out of time but would have stayed all day.

When I got back home I immediately listed to my Nova and was pleased that it still sounded great, albeit comparatively sounding more compressed and enclosed than the higher level kit. Of course the other kit is better, but they cost at least twice as much… but I doubt that will stop me upgrading.

Thinking about my preferred combo, the TT2 includes a pre-amp, which got me thinking that maybe a 250 DR would be more sensible than the SN3 as I don’t use vinyl and it would only be for streaming via Roon.

Interested in any views or suggestions from others who use the TT2 or on the the NAP 250 vs SN3 route.



Hi, it’s good to see someone enjoying a proper demo of some different options, rather than spending a load of cash and then posting on here when trying to sort out problems, which we seem to see all too often. I guess the next step should be to see if your dealer will let you do a home demo of your chosen system, as things can often sound very different (better or worse) when you get them set up in your own room.
A Chord DAC with Naim amplification is a tried and tested setup, so perhaps it’s no surprise that this came out on top. A few years ago, the original Hugo was all the rage, and made a very cost effective upgrade to some quite expensive Naim systems.
Regarding the TT as a digital preamp, many regard this as wrong with a Naim amp, and insist that a Naim power amp must be used with a ‘proper’ analogue Naim preamp, complete with an external PSU (or three) and all those unused (by many of us) analogue inputs. All I can say is that you should trust your own ears. The 250 is a much better power amp than the Supernait, and if it works for you, and sounds better than alternatives for similar money, go for it.
For what it’s worth, I tried a Mk1 Hugo between my NDX and 282, and thought it was a nice improvement for the money, but I didn’t experience the big uplift in sound quality that many reported here. BUT…then I spotted a Chord dealer selling a DAVE for a very attractive price, and foolishly took it home for an extended demo. That was more like it! I hadn’t really planned for such an expensive purchase, and didn’t have room for yet another box, so I tried it direct into my 250DR instead of through my 282. It was a little different, and arguably better without the 282, so I sold the preamp and PSU to help fund the DAVE.


Home demos are dangerous things. Same sort of thing happened to me a year ago, had an Atom, went in to listen to a Nova, bought it and a pair of speakers!

I do plan to try at home, but I’m a couple of months from having all the funds, so will see how much I miss the sound from the demo and how well the Nova keeps me entertained.

One thing for sure, I daren’t listen to the DAVE…


Great demo by the sounds of it :sunglasses:

I’m not familiar with the Chords, but Chris’s journey has been very interesting.

I have the SN2 and NDX2, but with power supplies, and they make a big improvement. Not sure how that would compare cost wise.

Enjoy the journey, it will be very exciting.

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What brand of interconnect are you using to connect the DAVE to the 250DR? Thanks

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Initially I used a Flashback Premiere cable as I didn’t want to spend a fortune just to try it out. Currently using a DNM solid core cable.

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I have the NDX2 and SN3 but I paired them with an XPS DR and Hi Cap DR.
The addition of the power amps makes a world of difference to the sound.
I wouldn’t have gone ahead with the purchase without the PSs as it wasn’t a big enough improvement over the Nova without.

That’s kinda where my head is, that the SN3/NDX2 combo, whilst better, is not leaps and bounds ahead. It’s really interesting re the power supplies, but then that of course moves it up another rung (or two) up the money ladder.

My current thinking is:

  • Get a TT2 and play via the Nova and/or driving the speakers directly
  • Then, either enhance the source with an m-scaler, or add a NAP 250
  • Then get the one I didn’t get in point two.

Thus ending up with TT2/Mscaler and NAP250, with the NAP forming the basis of future upgrades, eg by adding a PS.

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I’m running a bare NDX2 & SN3 and it’s a big step up over the Nova IMO, takes a few months to get there though


Do you mean from a running in point of view?

I used to own a 272/Xpsdr/250 DR with Superlumina full loom. I borrowed my Dealers Dave and used the 272 digital out as a source into the Dave, using it as a Dac/pre. I did not have a cable to connect my 250 DR, so I used my home theatre amp Anthem MCA 50, at that time I was using Focal Sopra 1’s. To me, this sounded a LOT better than the Naim stack driving the Sopra’s. I could not afford a Dave, so I bought a TT2, with intentions of adding an Mscaler later. I traded my 272/250 for a 2 year old NDS, to improve the source, it did. Just before Christmas I went to my dealers home with my TT2. I connected it to his Blu2 (Mscaler) and connected the TT2 to a Belles 150 reference v2 directly. We drove a pair of Neat Ultimatum MF5’s, a pair of Harbeth P3esr’s and another speaker I don’t know the name of. Absolutely stunning sound, and this is the direction I am going now. A work injury delayed things for a little while, but I should have the Mscaler in a month or so, and the Belles amp in a few months. Point is, don’t be afraid to try non Naim amps, usually they work better with a Naim preamp, or so I am told here, but I did not try it myself, since I did not have a cable.By the way, I am currently driving speakers directly off the TT2, and it works great, but I want more power.

I am surprised the dealer did not add a Xpsdr…it could have been a clincher. You mentioned the Chord being sterile…a bit harsh, but its not the Naim sound, for sure. I would ask for another demo with ndx2 and power supply.

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Yes it would have no doubt helped…

The Chord sounded sterile when using the TToby amp, but much better via SN3. I’m planning another demo mid Feb so will try to line up NDX2 with PS…

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So interesting how people experience things. My original NDX/Supernait2 was a significant improvement in sound quality over my Nova. The noise floor was what stood out for me initially.


I’ve been reading your posts here and elsewhere as you’ve been through a similar journey and have great insights. I like the punch and drive of Naim with the clarity, detail and layering of Chord DACs, hence the TT2/NAP 250. However, in the end it could come down to TT2/Mscaler vs NDX2 and XPSDR as the latter does come highly recommended. More demos to needed…

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Yes, I have it 4 months now and it’s considerably better then the Nova, although I did add NACA5 which I didn’t have with the Nova, the bass is much improved, I suspect a lot of the improvement is down to the SN3 as I think the amp may be the weakness of the Nova, good as it was. I’m going to try and get hold of a demo XPSDR and see what it brings to the party

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Not really, the TT2/Mscaler still need a source to play music through them, such as the NDX2 with or without the XPSDR.

…when you bring the XPS DR to the party, be sure to have the cash on hand to pay for it so it does not have to leave. By far, at least for me, it was the biggest improvement in the system. …of course I was running the SN 2 vs the SN 3 so there will be a difference.


I think using the NDX2 for streaming only would be too rich for me and I’d spend too much time comparing its DAC with whatever else I had. In the demo I used the Pro-ject Streamer S2 Ultra which came highly recommended and is well reviewed. Trouble is it’s another box, another power supply and a whole world of which USB cable is best.

Returned to my dealer to listen to the TT2 into a NAP 250, but unfortunately they didn’t have a suitable interconnect so we ended up using a Chord SPM1200. Also couldn’t get the Project Stream Ultra to work so used an NDX2 as the source.

Unsurprisingly, it sounded mighty but would be over the current budget and probably too much for my small listening room.

When I got home and listened to the Nova, I still found it hugely enjoyable, but I still have a niggle that it doesn’t sound as good on the latest software. This led me to start experimenting and I used my Mojo and iPad as a source into the Nova to compare. It wasn’t half bad but too much of a faff for limited, if any sonic gain.

However, I recently bought a Project Stream Ultra and tried that into the Mojo and was astounded at the improvement over using the Nova DAC and over the Mojo/iPad combo.

The most notable improvement is how fluid it now sounds, with a huge reduction of digital hash and improvement in bass, although it could probably still do with a bit more level and control at the lower frequencies. It is now very enjoyable to listen to and my ultimate test is whether I skip tracks or not. Needless to say I’m listening to whole songs and albums and loving it.

This experience, and the demo of the TT2, has convinced me I prefer the Chord approach to digital but will stay with Naim and get a NAP 250, should have both by the end of the month.

And a quick nod to everyone who posts here, there is a wealth of experience and knowledge and although I don’t post often, I absorb a lot and it all helps guide one through the maze that confronts us as we work out what does and doesn’t sound right to us.